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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: query letters, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Answering Questions about Queries

people with questionsI get mail! My inbox is always filled with questions. Today I’m answering some I’ve received on the topic of Query Letters.

You’ve said on your blog, “don’t pitch a novel unless it’s complete.” Do you feel the same about query letters? Do we only query completed works, or are ideas fair game?

If you are sending a query to an agent, only pitch projects that are ready to go. If it’s a novel and you are not previously published with a mainstream commercial publisher, this means a completed manuscript. For non-fiction, a complete book proposal and two sample chapters will do. (But the more you’ve written, the better.) Think about it: If I read your query and I like it, the first thing you’ll hear from me is, “Please send a book proposal and sample chapters.” If that looks good and I’m seriously considering representation, I’m going to ask you for everything you’ve got. I can’t sell to a publisher without the whole shebang (unless you are multi-published and a proven commodity). You can’t query an idea, because ideas have no value without execution.

What about sending in a synopsis instead of a query?

Don’t do it. Some people send a synopsis and nothing else, not even a salutation or a closing. IMHO, it’s rude and unprofessional. In fact, I received one today. Just a one paragraph synopsis. Nothing about the author. Just a line saying, “Email me if you’re interested in seeing more.” I wasn’t interested, so I deleted it without responding.

I’m curious to know if there are any cliché phrases that you’ve found in query letters that writers absolutely, positively should avoid.

The thing about clichés is that in a few cases, when used correctly, they can be perfect in a query, especially if they make the reader laugh. In most cases, however, since your query is a writing sample, your best bet is to avoid sounding hackneyed or derivative. The best advice I can give about clichés is another cliché: When in doubt, leave it out.

I’ve heard about authors who strayed from standard guidelines and got picked up by a publisher or agent. Some people encourage us to do the same. We’re told to follow guidelines, then we’re told to stand out. I realize our writing will determine if we stand out or not, but what kind of things that stray from the guidelines would catch your attention in a good way?

I don’t expect you to be slaves to guidelines, I just try to offer tips to help you put your best writing forward. With all guidelines (on writing, pitching, querying, etc.) try to see behind the specific advice and get to the basic truth. With a query, the basic truth is that you need the agent/editor to want to see more, or you’re sunk. It’s up to you to figure out how to accomplish that goal. Use guidelines to help learn the craft of writing and the business of publishing… let them go when you don’t need them anymore. I can’t say “what kind of things that stray from the guidelines would catch my attention” because that’s as individual as the person.

Do you accept query letters for books that have been self-published? I ask this because I have one, but I’ve been seriously considering having it edited by a professional, rewriting it and then seeking representation for it.

Yes… no… maybe. It’s a common question these days but there are too many variables. The most important consideration will always be how good your book is, and how well it has the potential to sell. Most agents prefer you query with your next book, not the one that was self-published. But if you really want to give it a shot, I suggest a normal query to agents, including the self-pub information (release date, sales figures). You’ll find out soon enough if it’s catching anyone’s attention.

I know the importance of addressing the letter to a specific person, not just Sir or Madam or Dear Agent, however, even though I feel as if I know you from reading the blog, Dear Rachelle seems far too informal. Is Ms. So and So acceptable to most women who are agents?

Interestingly, I recently read some heated debate on another blog about the “Ms.” salutation. I was stunned to find that a few women seem to resent or dislike the term. Nevertheless, the correct salutation is Ms. Gardner or Mr. Smith. Once you’ve corresponded with the person, you can take your cue from how they sign their emails. I’m always just Rachelle and I’m okay being addressed that way. Personally, I don’t object to people querying with my first name rather than “Ms.” because I go to great lengths to be approachable by writing my blog.

Could you please provide the pronunciation of the word “query” that won’t make agents/editors wince? Does it rhyme with PRAIRIE or EERIE?

Leave it to an English teacher! Potayto, Potahto. Tomayto, tomahto. Your choice. Just make sure you use the preferred pronunciation of the editor/agent you’re talking to. (tee hee) As for me, I couldn’t care less how you say it. As long as you SPELL it right.

Questions, thoughts or comments about query letters?

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The post Answering Questions about Queries appeared first on Rachelle Gardner.

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2. What It Means When Your Writing Is Rejected

This is an excerpt from Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step Into a Career You Love, which is Pay What It’s Worth (meaning YOU choose what to pay) in the Renegade Writer Store.

I just did a rough count, and what I have to tell you isn’t pretty:

Between 1996 and 2015 I sent out over 200 magazine queries — each one to multiple publications — and sold somewhere around 60 ideas. That’s a 30% success rate — or a 70% rejection rate. If I sent each query to four magazines, that means I received 480 rejections. (And that’s not even counting the untold number of informal ideas I sent to my editors via email once I became more established that were rejected, or the letters of introduction I sent to trade magazine editors that went nowhere.)

So how was it that I’ve been able to write for around 150 magazines, with most of them giving me multiple assignments over the years? Top magazines like Redbook, Health, USA Weekend, Parenting, and Writer’s Digest? How was I able to make a living—a good living—mainly writing for magazines?

It’s because I was too stubborn to give up.

Even when I was failing most of the time, I kept pitching. And every time I made a sale, I wowed the editor so she would give me more work.

So how can you get over the idea of rejection? Here’s the thing:

Rejection isn’t about you.

If your idea or writing are rejected by a prospect or editor, it’s a simple business decision: Your offering was not right for the prospect at this time.

When you’re approached by a salesperson at the supermarket asking if you want to sample a new brand of pita chips and you say No thanks, does that mean the salesperson personally sucks? Is it a judgment call on the actual person handing out the chips? Or even on the quality of the product? No. Your rejection of the offer means you’re full because you just had lunch, or you can’t eat gluten, or you’re not in the mood for a snack, or you’re a vegan and the chips have cheese powder on them.

The product doesn’t suck, and neither does the salesperson. It has nothing to do with them.

It’s the same with writing. If a prospect says no, it can mean anything from “We don’t need a freelance writer right now” to “I had a fight with my spouse this morning and I’m in a foul mood.”

If you let the mere thought of rejection keep you from writing, then you’ve already failed. You’ve pre-rejected yourself!

[TWEET THIS]

The best thing you can do when you’re starting your career as a writer is to develop a thick skin to rejection. The good news is that the more you pitch, the more immune to rejection you become. Sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true: When you have one magazine query out there, it’s your baby and a rejection can crush you. When you have 50 magazine queries and LOIs out there, a rejection on one of them means you still have 49 more chances.

Now…get out there and pitch today.

This post originally ran in August 2013, and I updated it to make it more useful to you.

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3. 5 Indispensable Resources You Need When Ready to Query

We interview many agents here on AYAP, but it can be hard to keep everything straight sometimes! When you're ready to send out that query, you want to be sure you're doing it right and sending it to the right people, but how do you know? Here are five great resources (in addition to AYAP) every writer should be aware of:

1.  QueryTracker: An incredible resource where you can search agents who represent YOUR genre so you don't waste time querying non-fiction agents with YA Fantasy. You can also check out whether those agents are accepting queries and how to find out their submission requirements. You can also use QueryTracker to find lists of the most queried agents and those that are least responsive. You can even keep track right on the site and read comments about others experiences. The best news? It's free. You can upgrade, however, for even more.


2.  Predators and Editors: Want to find out if an agent you just heard about is on the up & up? Want to see if there have been any past issues reported? That's exactly what you should and can look up on this site. It will either give you peace of mind or something to ask about if you get to the phone call stage. 

3. The Writer's Digest New Agency Alerts:  A great way to see spotlights/interviews with new agents in the industry.

4.  Literary Rambles: A great writing blog with lots of agent spotlights to check out. You can read interviews and also find links to other sites where you can connect with them. Stalk the agents! They want to know you did your homework. 

5.  Publisher's Marketplace: I know that a membership is costly, but it may be worth it. Either way, you can get info on agents, agencies, and recent sales by browsing the list at this link. 



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4. When in Doubt, Pitch

Trying to make a decisionRight now we’re in the middle of a session of my Write for Magazines class, and I’m getting these questions/statements a lot from students:

How much should I research a magazine before I know it’s a good market for my idea? Right now it’s taking me hours.

I want to pitch this publication, but I can’t find their writer guidelines so I don’t know if they use freelancers.

I researched this magazine to see if my idea is a good fit, but they don’t have a good department for it/they’ve never run anything like it/Mercury is in retrograde — so I think I won’t pitch them.

I just want to tell all the writers out there:

When in doubt, pitch.

If you have even the slightest inkling that your idea would fit in a particular magazine, go ahead and send it.

As you know, I recommend sending simultaneous queries. (If you didn’t know that, you can read all about it here.)

That means you’re writing one query that you’ll be sending, tweaking as necessary, to multiple publications at the same time.

If you already have your query written, then it’s no skin off your nose to send it to one more magazine. It will take you only a few extra minutes to research the editor’s contact information and tweak the query as needed. If it ends up the pub doesn’t use freelancers, or doesn’t have the space for your idea, or doesn’t pay, then you’ve only wasted a few minutes — and your query is still under consideration by a group of other editors.

No problem, right?

And get this: If your idea is even a somewhat close match for the magazine (which it is, right?), you’re probably ahead of 90% of the pitches they get. I once heard a Family Circle editor tell writers that they shouldn’t pitch her articles on the sex life of frogs. She said that because people do it.

Let the editor say Yes.

You need to research a magazine only enough that you can be reasonably sure your idea will fit in it.

What you don’t need to do is spend hours poring over back issues and guidelines trying to figure out why your idea won’t work. Why spend all that time and effort thinking of reasons not to send a query?

Instead, give the editor a say. Editors are smart. They know a lot more than you do about their magazine and their audience.

And only the editor can know if, say, he’s about to start a new department where your pitch would fit perfectly, or he was just wishing he had an article on X (with X being your idea), or one of his freelancers just flaked and he needs another good writer pronto.

Or maybe your pitch will be so wonderful that the editor will make an exception for you. Carol Tice and I had one student in our recent Pitch Clinic class who sent a Letter of Introduction to a business she wanted to blog for. Here’s part of the response she got.

Ordinarily we do not accept guest posts, as they are almost always short and shallow. We receive numerous requests daily, but only post two or three per year. However, your email is better than most and touches on a few points that interest me.

We pay our writers and they work on assignment. Our top writer is off on baby leave so I’m looking for a backup. A few candidates are in the wings, but I’d like to try an article from you, if our terms are suitable to you.

This can only happen to you if you go ahead and pitch.

You don’t necessarily want to sell your idea.

Guess what? The goal of a pitch is not necessarily to get an assignment.

Well, of COURSE you would like to get an assignment. But what often happens is that your query or LOI doesn’t quite make the cut — say, the publication already has a similar article in the works — but the editor is so impressed by your pitch that she invites you to pitch again, or even assigns you a different article.

The goal of a pitch is to start building a relationship with a client.

If you hold off on pitching because you’re not fully, absolutely, 100% sure your ideas are a good match, then you’re missing out on the opportunity to start a conversation with an editor who may want to hire you down the road.

Your pitch shows what you can do. It shows you have great ideas, can write well, and are professional. Even if it’s not a perfect match, it can lead to assignments.

So the next time you find yourself spending hours researching magazines looking for excuses cut yourself out of the running, stop.

Just send that pitch.

P.S. Are you looking to leave your day job to become a full-time freelance writer? Then you’ll love my e-book Write Your Way Out of the Rat Race…And Step Into a Career You Love, which has 36 five-star (and 9 four-star) reviews on Amazon! It’s available in Kindle and PDF.

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5. I created this Query Writing Checklist for you…and it’s super cheap!

Dawn Witzke-checkmarkWhether you’re pitching your idea to a magazine, a website, or a blog — there’s so much to think about and remember when you write and send a query letter:

  • Is my idea timely?
  • Is my idea relevant to enough of the pub’s readers?
  • What sources should I approach about a pre-interview?
  • Oh man, what was that source’s email address again?
  • Could I offer this idea as a chunky format with lots of box outs…or a chart…or a quiz?
  • Did I nail the magazine’s style?
  • Do I have an enticing headline (and how do I create one of those, anyway?)?
  • Wait, did I follow up with editor X?

And even if you remember everything you need to so — inevitably, just as your query email to your dream publication zaps off the screen, you notice…a typo.

Ugh!

I had a HUGE brainstorm: How about a checklist that writers can use with every pitch they send, to make sure it has all the elements that will entice an editor to say Yes?

So I did it…I created a fillable PDF Query Letter Checklist that covers:

Stage 1: Developing the Query
Stage 2: Proofing the Query
Stage 3: Sending the Query
Stage 4: Tracking Your Query

Wherever possible, I also included links to websites and blog posts that will deepen your understanding of that particular query element — from developing a story idea that sells, to learning about the nut graf, to finding expert sources.

The Query Letter Checklist is a fillable checklist, meaning you can fill in the blanks and check off action items on your computer.

Download the checklist, and create a duplicate copy for each query idea…you can use the Query Letter Checklist over and over!

And even better — you can get this helpful checklist for just $1.49. I know…super cheap, right?

If you’d like a copy of a checklist that will help you develop, send, and track killer query letters — so you can get more assignments — here’s where you can get it.

Enjoy!

Drawing by Dawn Witzke.

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6. Query Essentials: What Exactly Needs To Be in a Query?



For an aspiring author, there are many steps on the path to publication. Finishing a manuscript and revising it until it shines is the first step. 

But what happens after you’ve made your manuscript the best it can be?

Read more »

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7. Can You Kill a Query in 5 Words? Winners + Hilarious Tweets!

killaquerySo the other day my husband Eric, who’s the news editor over at BoardGameGeek, told me about a board game publisher that created fun Twitter games like #BoardGameBand, where tweeters would come up with fun mashups of board game titles and band names — like “Frankie Goes to Hollywood Blockbuster” or “Dungeon Petzshop Boys.”

“Why don’t you do that?” Eric said.

Ding ding ding!

Together we came up with the hashtag #killaqueryin5words, and the premise was simple: I wanted writers to offer up five-word phrases that would cause an editor to trash their magazine query.

I launched the game on Monday morning, seeding my feed with such 5-word screw-ups as “I never read your magazine,” “You don’t publish poetry, but…” and “Google says you like chocolate.”

#killaqueryin5words took off! Writers around the web got a good laugh reading hilarious (but sadly common) query snafus. (In fact, contributions are still rolling in!)

Then I had another brainstorm: Why not pick my favorite #killaqueryin5words tweeters and offer prizes?

The #killaqueryin5words Winners


Here are my top picks. If you’re listed as a winner, please choose any e-book from the Renegade Writer Store that you’d like to receive for free (yes, even the $29.99 one!) and email me your choice at [email protected]

Most Prolific

I have to give props to @GiulianoDebra because she contributed more posts than anyone! (I think someone was procrastinating on their work yesterday. :) ) Congrats, Debra!

Most Creative

Next, I was super impressed that @NewJerseyWriter created the graphic you see at the top of this post just for the game. She used morguefile to find the photo and Canva to create the image. She also gave me permission to use her graphic on the blog. Thank you, and please choose your prize!

Most Insightful

Another winner is @justinrbannon for his insightful tweet about the game: “Perhaps the most concerning thing about #killaqueryin5words is that it’s provided more than one actual tip.”

Most Hilarious (But Sadly True)

Finally, I had trouble choosing just one most awesome #killaqueryin5words tweet, so we have five winners:

1. @danielcasciato: I’m giving you first dibs. #killaqueryin5words @LFormichelli

2. @BretteSember: “you’re probably not interested but…”

3. @sharonnaylorwed: #killaqueryin5words “my writing group loved it!”

4. @RitaMailheau: #killaqueryin5words To Whom It May Concern

5. @BillDavisWords: I’m here in your lobby #killaqueryin5words

These tweets showcase five fatal query flaws:

1. Arrogance.
2. Under-confidence
3. Unprofessionalism
4. Laziness and lack of research, not to mention a stiff writing style!
5. Stalkerishness

Congrats to the five of you…please choose your prize!

One thing I discovered is that Twitter doesn’t seem to save hashtagged tweets for long, so if you want to check out the funny feed, do it now! It’s at https://twitter.com/hashtag/killaqueryin5words

I have a great idea for a new writer Twitter game for next week…stay tuned!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the #killaqueryin5words game. It’s been a blast!

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8. Ask a Pub Pro: Author Bethany Hagen on Series, Deep POV, & Book Trailers

We are thrilled to welcome author Bethany Hagen to the blog this month as our columnist for Ask a Pub Pro! Bethany is the author of the Landry Park "Downton Abbey dystopian" series with her newest book, Jublilee Manor, just released. She's here to answer your reader questions on how to work necessary backstory into a series, deciding whether to use deep POV in a large-scale book, mistakes in queries, whether book trailers are worth it, and do we really need to know what your characters are wearing? Be sure to check out Jublilee Manor below!

If you have a question you'd like to have answered by an upcoming publishing professional, send it to AYAPLit AT gmail.com and put Ask a Pub Pro Question in the subject line.

Ask a Pub Pro: Author Bethany Hagen on Series, Deep POV, Book Trailers, and What Your Character is Wearing


1) In writing a series, what's the best method for working in the necessary information from a prior book into the next one?


Did you ever watch Lost? Lost was one of those shows (and Game of Thrones is currently another) that have those "Previously on" bits at the beginning. And of course, you always know what the show is going to be about based off the clips they show...like, "Oh, they showed Hurley winning the lottery, so it must be another Hurley episode." What I like about the "Previously on" bits is that they only reveal relevant information--and information that maybe wouldn't be apparent throughout the course of the show. For example, they didn't need to show us clips of Jack and Kate kissing for us to know that they have A Thing. While watching the episode, it would be pretty obvious that there's some serious romantic tension. Instead, they only remind us of the previous plot beats that would be essential to our understanding the plot developments of the current episode without being totally confused.

Read more »

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9. PODCAST: Earning Income as a Freelance Writer…and Respecting Your Worth

88cupsoftea_aboutI’m VERY excited that actress-turned-podcaster Yin Chang interviewed me for her iTunes “New & Noteworthy” podcast 88 Cups of Tea!

Tune in to learn:

  • The big differences between query letters for freelance writers VS. authors
  • I share exactly how to pitch a query letter and advise what to include in it
  • Why it’s crucial to avoid content mills
  • How I earned $40,000-$60,000 worth of writing gigs just from referrals
  • How being a professional “class-taker” can ironically hold you back from achieving your goals
  • Why it’s crucial to start pitching even if you feel like you’re not ready to
  • How diversifying my work helped me cope with moments of burn-out
  • How having your own website as a freelance writer can help your career and the important things to showcase
  • Why you should break the hard and fast rules in freelance writing
  • How to determine your own pay rate 

You can listen in here:

http://88cupsoftea.com/podcast/lindaformichelli/

Enjoy!

P.S. All the e-books for writers in the Renegade Writer Store (except one) are Pay What You Want until Friday…this is an experiment, and if we like the way it goes, we’ll make this a permanent change. That means, at least for right now, YOU choose how much you’d like to pay for each book (with a minimum of $1 each). SO far we’ve had about 300 orders, most containing multiple books. Some writers are picking up EVERY book at $1 each, some are buying just a couple at a higher price, and some are in between. :) Have fun!

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10. A Rose By Any Other Name or How to Choose a Title

By Julie Daines

The big question: Does the title of my book really matter?

Everyone knows that when you publish traditionally, you get little or no say regarding the title of your book. Publishers have marketing specialists lined up to pick a title that will grab readers' attention.

As a writer, my job is to grab the attention of an agent or publisher. The title is my first opportunity to sell it to them. If they see an awesome title in the inbox, they are more likely to take a serious look at the submission.

There are three basic categories of titles (with a lot of overlapping).

1. Character Titles: Romana the Pest; James and the Giant Peach, Keturah and Lord Death; Julie of the Wolves; Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day; Coraline

2. Plot Titles: The Hunger Games; Island of the Blue Dolphins; Princess Academy; The Lightening Thief; Speak

3. Mood or Subgenre titles (very popular now in YA): Paranormalcy; The Dark Divine; The Forest of Hands and Teeth; Daughter of Smoke and Bone; I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You

Some other things to consider while choosing a title:

Be Provocative Provocative titles (especially one word titles) are extremely popular. Just check the Amazon list of best-selling YA books. Choose words that elicit emotion or curiosity and phrases that make book browsers do a double take. The Perks of Being a Wallflower; Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; To Kill a Mockingbird; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; Marvin K Mooney Will You Please Go Now

Use Resonance Use words that bring to mind something evocative or reminiscent, and phrases that already mean something to the reader. Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Grapes of Wrath; Gone with the Wind

Create a Strong Visual The Color Purple; Where the Wild Things Are; Love in the Time of Cholera; Cry, the Beloved Country

Use Alliteration, Rhyme, or Repetition This makes the title catchy or memorable, like how we can remember a nursery rhyme we learned years ago as a child. Listen to the flow. I Capture the Castle; The Secret Circle; Maniac McGee; The Wind in the Willows; There's a Wocket in My Pocket 

Words that Contradict Beautiful Chaos; The Death Cure; Sacred Sins; Neverwhere

Above all, be true to yourself and your book. Go with what feels right to you. 

What are some of your favorite titles.

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11. 2 Ways to Make Sure Editors Are Impressed By Your Clips

surpriseBy Linda Formichelli

You’d think sending an editor a published clip or two would convince them that you can pull off the article you’re pitching.

But guess what? An editor may actually be leery of the clips you send.

Why? Because too many clips are actually crappily written articles that were edited to perfection by the writer’s editor. So the person you’re pitching doesn’t know if the clip represents your work — or the work of a great editor. Anyone can get lucky by landing a single assignment, so your clips prove nothing.

Then, you make things worse by sending a bunch of clips from different publications. You’re hoping to show off the fact that you’ve been hired by lots of pubs. But what the editor sees is that no one invites you back to write a second time.

So what to do? Can’t you ever make these freakin’ editors happy?

Here are my two tricks:

1. If you have them, send multiple clips from the same publication.


This shows that your writing is good enough that editors hire you to write for them again and again.

If you want to showcase your versatility, send a couple clips from one publication and then another one or two from other markets.

2. Send your final drafts.


This is a big one: Instead of sending in links to your published articles or PDFs with the beautiful layout and graphics in place, send the editor the ugly Word files of your articles as you handed them in.

That way, the editor can see that you turn in nice, clean drafts.

I came across this secret by being lazy. I wanted to send an editor a particular clip but didn’t have a PDF — and sure as heck didn’t feel like scanning it in.

So I sent my Word file and told the editor, “Here’s a clip from X Magazine. This is the article as I turned it in — so you can see what my writing looks like before the editor does his magic on it!” (Notice how I turned a negative into a positive?)

Believe it or not, the editor I was pitching loved this, and I started using this tactic regularly.

Clips aren’t about the layout and graphics. Sure, they look nice, but they’re just window dressing on what an editor actually wants — a snapshot of your writing.

But if you’re going to be sending ugly Word files, why not just send in unpublished work that you write up as clips? It’s because the fact that you were actually published shows that you know how to work with an editor, understand deadlines, and have been through — and survived — the editing process. So published clips are key, even if you’re sending in a plain vanilla Word doc.

How about you…have you ever sent an editor an unconventional clip? What happened? Let us know in the Comments below.

P.S. I’m thinking of running one session of Write for Magazines this year; if I do, it will probably be in May or June. This is the 4-week query writing class that has landed students in Woman’s Day, Spirituality & Health, GRIT, Washington Parent, E: The Environmental Magazine, Pizza Today, and more. If you want to get the details when I have them settled, become a member of my email newsletter list!

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12. Trolling

I'm not writing today to share advice. I'm asking you to share it with me (well, us). I have to admit that as a teacher of journalism, published journalist, playwright, and personal historian, I am pretty comfortable with my writing skills. Hey, there is always more to learn, but I feel like I have solid footing there.

What I am truly, desperately, profoundly lacking in is even the desire to query when it comes to some of my children's stories. I am so fond of them that I'm almost terrified to let them out into the world—the cliche overly protective mother. And thus, without having had to practice, I am still not happy with or comfortable with writing query letters.

Yes, I have the books. I know the structure. I know the rules and recommendations. But I would love to hear what you, Utah children's writers, my fellows in the trenches, have learned from your own experiences with query letters.

What was the best advice you received on writing queries? How do you decide whom to query first? Do you dare "menage a queri" (you know, in multiples)? What little tricks have helped you write or even want to write these nasty little oversimplified descriptions of your precious darlings? (Ahem.) That is to say, when staring down the Writer's Market, where do you focus your efforts?

When it comes to queries, what has worked, or conversely, what would would you never ever do again? Give us your best, worst, funniest query stories.

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13. If You Don’t Read Magazines, Don’t Try to Write for Them

Magazine stackThe other day I was chatting with my Renegade Writer co-author, Diana Burrell, and she mentioned something that horrified me.

Diana teaches the fabulous Become an Idea Machine workshop that’s helped students land in the New York Times, Parenting, Success and other publications. She told me that more frequently than you would expect, she’ll suggest a student read through some magazines to help spur ideas, and they’ll reply:

“Oh, I don’t read magazines.”

Or, even worse:

“I hate magazines!”

I know this is not an uncommon scenario because when I do query critiques, sometimes it’s clear to me that the writer has not cracked open a magazine. Believe me, you can tell! For example, they’ll be pitching an edgy men’s publication and their query sounds like a government report, complete with 5-dollar words, passive case overdrive, and footnotes.

I’m not even sure how to respond to what I’m seeing out there. Why would anyone think that magazine writing is the only job in the known universe where you don’t need to know anything about the medium you hope to make money from, your clients’ products, or the marketplace?

It’s like if you were applying for a job as an accountant and you told your interviewer, “Well, I don’t know what accountants do and I don’t much like numbers, but will you give me a job?”

Of if you wanted to work at McDonald’s and you told your interviewer, “Oh, I’m a vegan and I’m morally against eating meat. I refuse to learn about your menu or serve burgers, but I want you to give me a job.”

This sounds ridiculous in all contexts — except, for some people, when talking about a freelance writing career.

Why?

I think there are a lot of Internet-famous business “gurus” out there who like to plug writing as an easy work-at-home gig where all you need is a laptop and the ability to string sentences together. After all, it’s FREElance, as in FREE to do whatever you want.

And that’s true IF you want to write $10 articles for the content mills.

But if you want to earn some decent money writing for top-notch trade, custom, and consumer magazines, for the love of all that is good and holy, you need to actually familiarize yourself with the magazine market.

When you want to become a magazine writer, reading magazines becomes a full-time job for you.

  • You read magazines you want to write for from cover to cover and study the writing, the departments, how articles are structured, and even the ads.
  • You read magazines you don’t want to write for, just for the hell of it.
  • You read Writer’s Market in its entirety every year.
  • You browse magazine directories online.
  • You become known as the crazy person who carts away stacks of outdated magazines from your hairdresser’s and doctor’s waiting rooms. (Yes, I have done this!)
  • You ask your neighbors to put their old to-be-recycled magazines on your porch. (Yep…done that too.)

When you go to the effort required to get to know the market, eventually it becomes ingrained in your brain. It becomes part of you.

So, for example…

  • When your kid’s school bus driver mentions she’d like to get into writing, you say, “Oh, you should try School Bus Fleet magazine.”
  • When you have an article idea about how to handle your tween’s hormonal temper tantrums, you know Family Circle may be a good market, but Parents is not.
  • Your article ideas become sharper and more focused because you’ve read hundreds of magazine articles and know what’s been done and how you can do it differently.
  • You’ll know that Inc. magazine ran an article two issues ago on a topic you want to pitch, so you’ll need to come up with a fresher slant if you want to query them.

This is not optional, folks. If you want to write for magazines, you need to read them. No, you need to study them. Lots of them.

Here’s your challenge: Today, right now if you can, read a magazine from cover to cover, studying every part. Or, if you have a copy or are near a bookstore or library, start browsing through Writer’s Market and read all the magazine guidelines.

How about you: Do you love magazines? Do you read them? Why or why not? (Hey, does this sound like a high school essay question?)

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14. Querying Your Opening Pages to an Agent? Get an Insider’s Feedback Before You Hit “Send”.

gI_75614_LitReactor logoGuest Post by Shannon M. Parker

Hello, loyal Ingrid’s Notes followers! Most of you know that Ingrid’s YA debut, ALL WE LEFT BEHIND will publish in 2015 from Simon Pulse. My own YA debut, CRUSHING, will publish under the same imprint in 2016. And, as if being this Ingrid-adjacent wasn’t awesome enough, she and I also have the same agent. That’s right. It’s my whole promotional strategy for my upcoming book: To scream to the writing world that I am an agent and imprint sister to Ingrid Sundberg. Because she’s that awesome. And because I admire her writing SO MUCH. I’m certain you agree. And I’m certain you know Ingrid’s route to publication. Now, she and I want to help you with your road to publication. How? Well, Ingrid invited me to chat about my upcoming online class at www.LitReactor.com that aims to polish polish polish your first ten pages—helping them stand out in an agent’s inbox.

Perfect 10

10 Ways Aspiring Authors Can Benefit from “The Perfect Ten” Workshop:

1. Indulge in a Literary Spa Day: Literacy agencies typically request opening pages as part of the query submission process. They want to know you can write more than a query letter. They want to experience the voice in your novel, get pulled in by the tension of your story. Immediately. Or they will move on to the next query—and there are always other queries to comb through.

“The Perfect Ten” will be like whitening your manuscript’s teeth for an interview, giving it that spankin’ new, professional haircut. You’ll work with the instructor (moi) and other students to make your pages pretty. Well, beautiful, really—beautifully effective.

2. Find Community: LitReactor is an online resource for published and aspiring authors. This course will give you a chance to connect with writers who are at the same stage of the process as you, while enjoying access to articles from industry greats. Where else can you find:

  • Suzy Vitello, Goddess of Prose
  • Mandy Hubbard, Agent & Author Extraordinaire
  • Chuck Palahniuk, Industry God
  • You
  • People Like You

3. Get Validation: It’s HARD to send your pages off to an agent. So hard. You crave acceptance, but the industry is filled with rejection. And the nerves and the waiting and the nerves are enough to make anyone batty. This course will help you engage with classmates to see what’s working in your pages, what already has the reader clambering for more…

And what’s not working for the reader and why.

4. Gain Critiquing Skills: This class will help you with those opening pages, but it will also provide you with tools to help you edit deeper into your work-in-progress, as well as future manuscripts.

5. End the Loneliness: Writing can be a lonely business. No one thinks it’s healthy to be stuck behind your desk all alone. So, take an online workshop and be stuck behind your desk with other lonely writers who cling to their characters for social interactions.

6. Find a Crit Partner: While there is no guarantee this will happen, it happens all. the. time. Makes sense, really. After all, you’ll be connecting with other writers embarking on the same journey.

7. Make your Pages Sing: Tighten tension; invite us to love your characters instantly; build a believable world; perfect pacing.

8. Learn From Peers: Critiquing another’s work is a great exercise for helping you determine the strengths and weakness of your own work. LitReactor provides a safe, supportive community where we all upload our thoughts, fears, dreams and writerly hopes (as well as our pages) onto a shared Discussion Board. The Board allows you to pop on when it’s convenient for you, and it allows you access to see all of your classmates’ works and the feedback they receive from the instructor and each other. There’s always strength in numbers!

9. Indulge in One Week: It’s easy to say we’re too busy and prioritize other things over our writing. But one week? This intensive will allow you to do all that other pesky stuff (like parenting, working, breathing) AFTER the course if over

10. You wanna: I know you wanna join us. I just know it…

Ingrid discusses where to start with your query process in her blog post from September 1stQuerying 101. If you know who you want to query and want your pages spit-shined, join us at LitReactor for The Perfect Ten workshop. I can’t wait to see you there! For lots of details on the class, including a daily syllabus, head over to:

LitReactor Perfect 10 Workshop Info

Thanks for taking the time to read my guest blog today.

You can find me blogging at www.shannonmparker.com

And tweeting @shannonmparker

Come. Be. Perfect. (Don’t forget to bring your imperfections!)

Shannon_HeadshotShannon M. Parker is the author of the YA novel Crushing, due out in Spring, 2016 from Simon Pulse, a division of Simon & Schuster. Her short stories have been published and won awards, but she’s happiest when writing novels. She is a proud member of SCBWI, and a passionate administrator for The Sweet Sixteens, a group of remarkable children’s authors debuting in 2016.

Shannon is an educator who has earned degrees from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont, University of Massachusetts at Boston and University of Southern Maine. For nearly twenty years, Shannon has been dedicated to eradicating adult illiteracy and believes we should all have equal access to participatory citizenry.

 

 


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15. Querying Your Opening Pages to an Agent? Get an Insider’s Feedback Before You Hit “Send”.

gI_75614_LitReactor logoGuest Post by Shannon M. Parker

Hello, loyal Ingrid’s Notes followers! Most of you know that Ingrid’s YA debut, ALL WE LEFT BEHIND will publish in 2015 from Simon Pulse. My own YA debut, CRUSHING, will publish under the same imprint in 2016. And, as if being this Ingrid-adjacent wasn’t awesome enough, she and I also have the same agent. That’s right. It’s my whole promotional strategy for my upcoming book: To scream to the writing world that I am an agent and imprint sister to Ingrid Sundberg. Because she’s that awesome. And because I admire her writing SO MUCH. I’m certain you agree. And I’m certain you know Ingrid’s route to publication. Now, she and I want to help you with your road to publication. How? Well, Ingrid invited me to chat about my upcoming online class at www.LitReactor.com that aims to polish polish polish your first ten pages—helping them stand out in an agent’s inbox.

Perfect 10

10 Ways Aspiring Authors Can Benefit from “The Perfect Ten” Workshop:

1. Indulge in a Literary Spa Day: Literacy agencies typically request opening pages as part of the query submission process. They want to know you can write more than a query letter. They want to experience the voice in your novel, get pulled in by the tension of your story. Immediately. Or they will move on to the next query—and there are always other queries to comb through.

“The Perfect Ten” will be like whitening your manuscript’s teeth for an interview, giving it that spankin’ new, professional haircut. You’ll work with the instructor (moi) and other students to make your pages pretty. Well, beautiful, really—beautifully effective.

2. Find Community: LitReactor is an online resource for published and aspiring authors. This course will give you a chance to connect with writers who are at the same stage of the process as you, while enjoying access to articles from industry greats. Where else can you find:

  • Suzy Vitello, Goddess of Prose
  • Mandy Hubbard, Agent & Author Extraordinaire
  • Chuck Palahniuk, Industry God
  • You
  • People Like You

3. Get Validation: It’s HARD to send your pages off to an agent. So hard. You crave acceptance, but the industry is filled with rejection. And the nerves and the waiting and the nerves are enough to make anyone batty. This course will help you engage with classmates to see what’s working in your pages, what already has the reader clambering for more…

And what’s not working for the reader and why.

4. Gain Critiquing Skills: This class will help you with those opening pages, but it will also provide you with tools to help you edit deeper into your work-in-progress, as well as future manuscripts.

5. End the Loneliness: Writing can be a lonely business. No one thinks it’s healthy to be stuck behind your desk all alone. So, take an online workshop and be stuck behind your desk with other lonely writers who cling to their characters for social interactions.

6. Find a Crit Partner: While there is no guarantee this will happen, it happens all. the. time. Makes sense, really. After all, you’ll be connecting with other writers embarking on the same journey.

7. Make your Pages Sing: Tighten tension; invite us to love your characters instantly; build a believable world; perfect pacing.

8. Learn From Peers: Critiquing another’s work is a great exercise for helping you determine the strengths and weakness of your own work. LitReactor provides a safe, supportive community where we all upload our thoughts, fears, dreams and writerly hopes (as well as our pages) onto a shared Discussion Board. The Board allows you to pop on when it’s convenient for you, and it allows you access to see all of your classmates’ works and the feedback they receive from the instructor and each other. There’s always strength in numbers!

9. Indulge in One Week: It’s easy to say we’re too busy and prioritize other things over our writing. But one week? This intensive will allow you to do all that other pesky stuff (like parenting, working, breathing) AFTER the course if over

10. You wanna: I know you wanna join us. I just know it…

Ingrid discusses where to start with your query process in her blog post from September 1stQuerying 101. If you know who you want to query and want your pages spit-shined, join us at LitReactor for The Perfect Ten workshop. I can’t wait to see you there! For lots of details on the class, including a daily syllabus, head over to:

LitReactor Perfect 10 Workshop Info

Thanks for taking the time to read my guest blog today.

You can find me blogging at www.shannonmparker.com

And tweeting @shannonmparker

Come. Be. Perfect. (Don’t forget to bring your imperfections!)

Shannon_HeadshotShannon M. Parker is the author of the YA novel Crushing, due out in Spring, 2016 from Simon Pulse, a division of Simon & Schuster. Her short stories have been published and won awards, but she’s happiest when writing novels. She is a proud member of SCBWI, and a passionate administrator for The Sweet Sixteens, a group of remarkable children’s authors debuting in 2016.

Shannon is an educator who has earned degrees from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont, University of Massachusetts at Boston and University of Southern Maine. For nearly twenty years, Shannon has been dedicated to eradicating adult illiteracy and believes we should all have equal access to participatory citizenry.

 

 


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16. Marketing Time: Using a 12-Point List


Good news: The end is nigh! Finally, finally my current WIP, The Abyssal Plain, is just a few pages away from being finished. It's a great feeling, tinged, I must add, with a little sadness. No more exciting adventures for my characters. No more characters! No more figuring out how to get them from A to B. And rather than designing their homes and wardrobes, it's time to move on to marketing. Ugh.

Marketing has never been my favorite part of writing. Query letters, synopses, pitching--they've all been pretty scary to me. I know how small the window is for attracting the attention of an editor or agent, and I know how easily they can delete or ignore whatever they receive.

So that's why I want to turn everything upside down. I want to enjoy marketing, and I want to create marketing materials that will be read. My two main goals are:
  1. That I feel relaxed about writing my query and synopses (in all their wonderful forms, e.g., 1-page, 2-page, 3-page--you know how it goes), and,
  2. That whatever I write be easy to read. After all, who has the time to pore over pages and pages of convoluted story telling when all anyone wants to know is:  what is the story about?
To that end I've come up with a new approach: Before I write a single letter or outline, I'm going to brainstorm three types of 12-point lists:
  1. An ABOUT MY STORY list. This list will include whatever is relevant to sales, e.g., genre, word count, why I wrote the story, who are my potential readers.
  2. A 12-point EVENTS THAT HAPPEN IN THE STORY list, in other words, the top 12 plot points and why they matter.
  3. A 12-point CHARACTER ATTRIBUTE LIST for each of my major players.
Once I have my lists completed, I can then decide what is truly important in each, and what I can put into a single document to be edited and narrowed down even further until I hit pay dirt. 

I’ve always liked listing things in groups of twelve, (something I wrote about in my Take Twelve blog post) finding it a good way to focus and brainstorm at the same time. Aiming for twelve points on any subject seems to help me go beyond the obvious without going overboard and including too much information. My hope is that using the technique for my marketing will turn what has previously been a dreaded task into a good experience I'll look forward to. Wish me luck!

Tip of the Day: What are the top 12 things you can say about your current WIP?  Listing the most important points could be a great way to not only sell your book, but to get it organized before you write it, too!

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17. How I Broke Out of a Freelancing Slump by Breaking all the Rules

Call for you This post is by Deb Mitchell.

I’m definitely more of a “rules are there for a reason” than a “rules were meant to be broken” kind of girl. It just never occurs to me to buck the system, and frankly, that’s served me well all my life.

But when my freelance writing career stalled (despite the fact that I had 5+ years of experience with clips numbering in the triple digits), even playing by the rules top freelance writing experts teach wasn’t getting me anywhere.

“Send pitches to newsstand pubs and LOIs to trade pubs.” Check.

“Email editors – NEVER call them!” Check.

“DO NOT clog an editor’s inbox by attaching your clips.” Check.

“Whatever you do, take time to research each market and NEVER, EVER use a template email.” Check, check.

I was spending loads of time researching markets, ferreting out the appropriate editors’ contact info and meticulously wordsmith-ing every email from scratch. Despite my best rule-following efforts, none of the editors contacted me back. Not. One.

There simply aren’t words to describe how frustrated and discouraged I felt. Giving so much time and effort with nothing to show for it eventually took its toll. On a daily basis I was at best, fighting despair and at worst, sinking in its depths.

In the midst of all this, I started working with a writing mentor (the one-and-only Linda). She calmed me down and gave me a few pieces of advice which I, of course, followed to the letter. I got a few lukewarm responses from editors as a result, and I even sold an article to a new-to-me (but not great paying) market.

Sure, it was progress, which lifted my spirits to a degree. But let’s face it — I was still working long, hard hours for minimal payoff. NOT a sustainable pattern for any small business.

Then Linda gave me a tip that helped me think outside the box – and believe me, it was one I NEVER expected to hear from her or any freelance writing expert.

“Why not try calling some editors?” she said, “And write a great LOI email you can quickly tweak for each market. Ask if they assign to freelancers or if they prefer pitches.”

Um, excuse me, what did you say?? Call editors?? Write one LOI to reuse over and over?? Pitch to trade pubs?? Break rules?!?!

As if that weren’t enough, Linda challenged me to call 25 editors in one day.

The thought of doing things that are widely considered no-no’s freaked me out enough, but seriously, 25?! Believe it or not, the part that scared me the least was the actual cold calling. I have a background in sales and I’m good at talking to people and I like marketing myself. Maybe, just maybe, the reason my by-the-book efforts were flopping was because my approach felt inauthentic. Calling editors seemed much more “me” — I’d just always thought if I did it, they’d view me as unprofessional (and kind of hate my guts for bugging them).

But with Linda, a seasoned pro writer, saying it was OK, I didn’t hesitate.

Armed with a three sentence script Linda wrote for me and a short and sweet LOI template email, I started the challenge.

I didn’t even get to leave voicemails with five editors before my phone rang.

“Deb, I was just delighted to get your message!” Really and truly, an editor was calling me to tell me she was happy I’d called her — not “hacked off” or “appalled” or even just “annoyed.” It seems she’d heard my voicemail right after leaving an editorial meeting where she’d learned an article slated for the next issue had fallen through. I’d also thrown caution to the wind and sent her my LOI email with my resume and a clip attached. She’d seen something in my article that would make a perfect story to fill that empty spot. Could I get something into her within a couple of weeks?

I know, right?!?!

After all my nose-to-the-grindstone work and months of angst over doing things the “right” way, all it took was literally a couple of phone calls and I had a gig that paid more than triple what I’d been getting! Even better, the editor ended our conversation by saying this was “the start of a very beautiful working relationship.” Hello, future high-paying gigs!

I’m no expert when it comes to freelancing, but I do think there’s something to this whole “find what feels right for you” idea. Just because the freelance writing books and classes say “Do this” or “Don’t do that” doesn’t necessarily mean those rules are hard and fast. It took me having someone of Linda’s caliber giving me permission to break the rules for me to do something that in the end felt natural and comfortable for me. And it worked.

As long as your approach allows you to both be yourself and to “sell” yourself as a competent professional, it’s worth trying something out of the ordinary — especially if you’re feeling stuck. You can’t predict how editors will react, but if you’re being genuine and gracious to them, no reasonable editor would hate you just for doing something differently. If they do, consider yourself lucky to have been warned about their inner crazy before you got stuck working with them.

So what will you try that’s not in the books? Be brave and take a risk. Go ahead — run with a stick in your mouth! Jump on the good furniture! Call an editor! Take it from me — it’s good to be bad.

How about you? Have you ever broken a rule of freelance writing and benefited as a result? Or have you found a marketing tactic other freelancers would scoff at, but that works for you? Let us know in the Comments below!

Deb Mitchell is a freelance writer in Charlotte, NC specializing in writing about interior design and women’s interest topics. She also works with business clients to make their websites and client communications the best they can be and with students as a general writing and college application essay coach.

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18. 250 Words on Self-Promotion


I am a subscriber to Simon & Schuster's 250 Words daily posts. For those who don't know they are posts in which authors discuss what they've learned from a favorite business book (typically not their own) in 250 Words or less. As a business owner I love business tips and advice and I love it even more when I can get a great deal of new information in just 250 words.


A few weeks ago there was a post that directly referenced authors. The post, How Can We Show Off What We Know Without Being Labeled a Show-Off discusses how people respond to an author (or any person) when the author is talking about her credentials and successes. A study was done in which an author presented her own impressive list of successes and then an agent presented that same author's successes (read the post). Not surprisingly, people responded more positively to hearing about the author's successes from the agent. If you read the article I suspect you'll have that same reaction.

Well that's great for the agented author, but what about the unagented author in search of an agent. How is she supposed to talk up her great platform without looking like a braggart or like someone who is likely to become difficult?

The one thing for authors to remember is you need to talk about your platform. Especially if you're writing nonfiction. But how do you do that without making yourself sound like the kind of author no one is going to want to work with? The key is in presentation. For me the way that works the best is putting the book first. In your query you might want to mention one or two things that make you a stand out, but then you need to focus on the book. Like this:

Dear Rockstar Agent:
I have been a literary agent for 15 years during which time I ran a successful blog in which I gave readers loads of delicious advice on everything from writing query letters to making cocktails. The blog received, on average, 30 billion hits a day.
**see how I gave them some significant information, but wait, now you'll see how I've linked it all to the book so that information becomes about the book and not so much about me. 
Based on my blog I've written a book entitled Secret Agent. Secret Agent gives readers, all writers, the advice and guidance they'll need to make their book a surefire success in the market. Using the analytics from my blog I'll be able to write a book that contains only the most valuable and attractive information to readers. 
My blog has been running successfully for over 10 years. As I mentioned earlier, I receive 30 billion hits a day and will use the blog to cross-promote the book. In addition, I'm the youngest inductee into the Literary Agent Hall of Fame, I've appeared on Oprah to give my vast insights into why memoirist shouldn't lie and I've represented pretty much all of the top names in the literary world. 
I look forward to hearing whether you're interested in reading more of my book.
Sincerely,
Jessica Faust 

The key is to give enough information that you grab the reader's attention, but not so much you turn them off. How did I do?

Fiction writers probably don't have a platform necessary to sell a book. In other words, unless you're a doctor writing a book about doctors or something comparable there is not a lot fiction writers need to write about themselves. That's perfectly acceptable.

Oh, one last thing, whatever you do say about yourself must be true. You all know there's no Literary Agent Hall of Fame right?

--jhf




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19. Don't Judge a Book, or an Agent, by her Cover


While traveling the globe (this might be a slight exaggeration) speaking at writers conferences and talking with authors I learn a lot about myself. 


One day I'll hear from a writer how I don't read Fantasy and the next day I'll hear from a writer how I'm selling a ton of Urban Fantasy. The next week I'm passionate about YA and the next I'm only looking for dark, erotic paranormal mysteries. 


Here's the thing. We agents can be fickle. One day we're only looking for historical romances and the next day we've fallen in love with Chelsea Cain and want nothing but suspense. If you've heard a rumor about what an agent is looking for, or especially what an agent is not looking for, make sure you take the time to find out for yourself. Check the agent's website, Tweet the agent or simply send the agent a query. What's the worse that can happen? A rejection. At least you tried.

There's nothing worse to an agent than the feeling we're missing out on something amazing because five years ago, at a conference in The Middle of Nowhere, USA, we mentioned that we're not a fan of Historical Urban Fantasy Children's Books and like a game of telephone we now don't like urban fantasy, historicals, or YA.

--jhf

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20. How to Get the Most Mileage — and Money — Out of Your Writing by Double-Dipping

Potato ChipsBy Tiffany Jansen

Have you seen the Seinfeld episode where George accompanies his girlfriend to a funeral?

It’s post-wake and everyone’s at her parent’s place noshing on hors d’oeuvres and sipping punch. George finds himself in front of the potato chips, so he takes one, sinks it in the dip, takes a bite, and dips the chip again; much to the annoyance of his distraught girlfriend’s brother.

A knock-down, drag-out fight ensues before the very upset girlfriend kicks George out.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a double-dipper.

And why not? It’s the only way to really enjoy that French onion dip and get the most mileage out of your chip.

Freelancers should be double-dipping too. Not their chips (unless they’re into that sort of thing), but their writing.

Double-dipping is a golden opportunity not enough freelance writers take advantage of.

So how does double-dipping work in the freelance writing world? Here are five easy ways.

1. Sell reprints.


It’s been published once, why can’t it be published again?

How to do it: The first thing you want to do is make a list of publications that cover the topic of your article. Then, check out their website and writer guidelines to see if they accept reprints. If you’re not sure, ask. Send the editor a friendly email telling them about your article and why you think their readers would be interested. Ask if they’d like to purchase it as a reprint.

Keep in mind: It’ll pay a fraction of what they pay for original works and they may want you to tweak it a bit to fit their market. But it sure beats having to come up with a new idea, pitch it, research and talk to sources, and write a new piece.

2. Repurpose old content to fit new markets.


Not all publications accept reprints…but that doesn’t mean you can’t reuse old content.

How to do it: First, find a market that covers your topic. Go back to your research notes and interview transcripts, and write a pitch that covers a different angle of the story with publication #2’s audience in mind. If you quoted someone in the first article, paraphrase in the new one. Where you paraphrased, use quotes. Include information that didn’t make it into the original article.

Keep in mind: You may want to consider doing some additional research in case things have changed, or find one or two additional sources. But the work load is going to be a lot less than what it was the first go-around. Only this time you stand to earn the same amount of money… maybe even more!

3. Send pitches in batches.


When you come up with a brilliant idea, don’t save it for just one publication – share the love! There are tons of publications with audiences that would love to know more about the topic you’re pitching. It’s just a matter of re-framing each pitch to fit a variety of publications.

How to do it: Let’s say you’ve got a great story idea about traveling with babies. Of course parenting magazines would be interested, but so would travel publications, women’s glossies, maybe even custom publications for baby product companies. As you’re doing your initial research and collecting sources, think about what these various audiences would want to know and how/why they could use this information. Tweak each pitch to suit each market.

Keep in mind: Unlike the tactics above, here you’ll be writing completely different queries and completely different articles for each publication. While parents would want this information to help them in their travels, a pediatrician might want this information to help her advise parents who wish to travel with their little ‘uns. A women’s magazine might want to provide tips on how to have a smooth flight for travelers finding themselves on a plane with a baby. The difference is, you do the research once and get multiple articles out of it.

4. Send simultaneous queries.


The idea here is to send the same query for the same idea to editors at multiple publications. When you send out a query, you could wait months — or even a year — only to have the editor respond with a resounding “no.” Sometimes editors take a really long time to respond to queries…if they reply at all. Rather than wait around for them to get back to you and risk having your idea become stale or already-been-done, cast your net wide and find that article a home ASAP.

How to do it: This one’s easy — find a bunch of publications that fit your topic, write one query, and send it out to editors at all of those publications.

Keep in mind: You may have more than one publication show interest in the article. However, you cannot sell the same article to more than one publication. In this case, it’s a first come, first served thing. But don’t let those other publications go home empty-handed. Offer them the same story, but from a different angle. Or pitch them a few similar ideas instead.

5. Once you’ve got ‘em, keep ‘em.


The thing about queries is they can get a “yes” or a “no” or be met with silence. There’s not much you can do about the third instance, but you can turn a “no” into a “yes.”

How to do it: An editor might turn you down for a number of reasons: the timing’s off, someone else has already covered it, they’re not interested in the topic, they’re having a bad day… But just because they say “no” to one idea doesn’t mean they’ll say “no” to another. If they’ve emailed you back, you’ve got their ear. So take advantage by replying with a “Thank you for getting back to me. I completely understand. Perhaps [insert new idea here] would be a better fit?”

Keep in mind: That you suck as a writer or the editor hates your guts is rarely if ever a reason for a rejection. Odds are the rejection is based on factors you have absolutely no control over. If you get a response, thank them, tell them you get it, and offer up a new idea. This shows that you’re persistent and not just a one-idea dude. Then send the rejected query somewhere else.

When you have a chip — er, idea — get the most mileage you can out of it by double dipping, and you’ll get more assignments (and more money) with less work.

Tiffany Jansen is an American freelance writer and translator in the Netherlands. She is also the author of an award-winning children’s historical fiction series. You can find out more about her at www.tiffanyrjansen.com.

P.S. Carol Tice’s and my next Article Writing Masterclass starts in January, and we have THREE editors on board to critique your homework assignments and answer your questions: Current editors from Redbook and FSR (Full Service Restaurant) Magazine, and a former Entrepreneur editor. In this 10-week class, you’ll gain the skills and confidence to land lucrative article-writing gigs. Learn more and read raves from students on the Article Writing Masterclass website.

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21. Agent Lydia Blyfield of the Carol Mann Agency on What & What Not to Put in a Query

 Lydia Blyfield is originally from England where she studied PR and Communications, before gaining a B.A. in English and American Literature at New York University. Lydia is looking for edgy, modern fiction with a strong hook. She is currently on a  feminist crusade to find great female voices and characters. Email her with an intriguing query letter, short author bio and the first 25 pages of your manuscript. Follow her on Twitter @lydiablyf and take a look at her favorite books on Goodreads. Also visit the Carol Mann Agency website for more information.

1. What is on your wish list?  
Complex female characters, magical realism, something spooky, boarding school novels, stories ripped from the headlines, difficult issues that real young adults are dealing with.
2. What are some things you love to see in a query?  
A strong hook that grabs my attention and a taste of the voice I can expect in the manuscript.
3. What are some of the worst things you've seen in a query?  
Being told the author has written the next HARRY POTTER, THE HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT and will make me rich!
4. Are you an editorial agent?  
Yes! One of the benefits of signing with a young agent is the time and energy we have to work with you editorially.
5. Coffee, tea, wine, chocolate, or any other vices?  
I’m English so I have to say tea and chocolate, though NYC has given me a slight coffee addiction.
6. Why did you become an agent?  
Because the high of finding a story I love is like nothing else.

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22. Agent and Query Letter Boot Camp

Stephen King Query Letter

I sent my query letters out this month. It’s been a long haul of research, drafting the query, revising, throwing it away, and re-drafting again. Then comes the agent research, reading blogs, making a list, sending out the queries, and the dreaded waiting. Yes, it’s been a process. It feels a little bit like writing a whole new novel!

If you’re in the agent/query stage of your journey, I thought I’d share some fabulous blog posts and websites that have been helpful in this joyful querying campaign!

Why You Need An Agent:

Finding the Perfect Match – Researching Agents:

  • Literary Rambles: This is hands down the best site for researching kidlit agents. Use the list in the left-hand sidebar. This website has collected quotes, submission policies, and a plethora of amazing info on each person listed!
  • Query Tracker: A free database of literary agents.
  • Publisher’s Marketplace: Another great database to research agents and their deals.

Tips and Trick on How to Write and Amazing Query Letter:

When You Get “The Call”:

How to Deal with Waiting…and Waiting…and Waiting:

ellen-dory-finding-nemo-2__oPtDealing with Rejection:

Never give up! In the words of Dory from Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming.”

Keep on writing!


9 Comments on Agent and Query Letter Boot Camp, last added: 4/20/2013
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23. The Silent Treatment

Empty MailboxIf you’ve every queried an agent you’re probably familiar with the no response = not interested policy. This is when an agent/agency says if you haven’t heard from them within X-amount of time, they’re passing on your project. This isn’t a new policy. It’s been around for years.

Writers hate this policy. We get a little neurotic about it. Waiting to see if someone likes us – Ahem! I mean, likes our project – is hard. How can we know if an agent “just isn’t into us” if all we get is the silent treatment?

On the other hand, agents are busy. I mean busy! One agent reported getting 20 queries a day, and at the time of the blog-post, had 967 queries in her in-box. Is she supposed to send a personal email to all of them?

This has been a controversy for a while now, and there seem to be great points on both sides of the debate.

too much spamThe agents say:

  • Not having to send rejection letters means they can actually read more query letters, request more materials, and find YOU sooner!
  • An agent’s time is valuable! They’re busy. They have their normal day-to-day duties to tend to – like selling their client’s books!
  • It’s a business transaction. Do you get a response from every job you apply to? No.
  • There’s negative karma with sending out rejection letters.
  • Agents have the right to create whatever submission policy they like.

But… some agents also say:

  • Responding to queries gives them a “leg up” on other agents. Now they have the “kindness factor.”
  • They like to send responses because it allows them to feel like they have no loose ends.

Patience ImageMeanwhile the writers…

  • Find it discouraging. A no-response can feel harsher than a rejection letter. Does the agent not respect them or their time?
  • It can make a writer feel like they are in limbo. Did the query letter even get to the agent? Was it ever considered? Did it get stuck in the SPAM filter? (To combat this problem, some agents have created auto responders which let a writer know the query was received).
  • May the mass-querying begin! If a writer knows they aren’t going to hear from an agent for months (and possibly never at all), they may start to send out mass queries. Of course, this creates more letters in an agents in-box, and the cycle begins.

Is there an easy answer to this? No.

I think an agent has every right to conduct business any way they see fit. But I do have respect for those who have sent me a rejection letter in the past. It shows me they’re a professional and they respect me. Personally, I am more likely to recommend that agent to my writer friends (even though I was rejected).

As for us writers, I think we all need to take a step back and practice our skills of patience and perseverance. The right agent is out there waiting for us – and they will contact us when the time is right.

Patience

Want to read more about this subject? Check out these other interesting articles:

SCBWI Open Letter to the Industry

Agent Natalie Lakosil’s Opinion

Agent Rachelle Gardner’s Opinion

Agent Janet Reid’s Opinion


3 Comments on The Silent Treatment, last added: 4/27/2013
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24. Here’s a Successful Query for a Surprising Sex Article–And 5 Reasons It Worked

article_query_dojo_mojoMany writers ask me for examples of query letters that worked to land magazine assignments.

You can get a packet of 10 queries that worked by signing up for my email list, and a Kindle copy of The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock costs only $2.99.

Still want more? You got it! Below is a query by yours truly that sold to Women’s Health.

Dojo Mojo
Martial Arts Techniques to Kick Up Your Sex Life

Men often expect their lovers to be gymnasts in the bedroom — but it’s even better if they’re martial artists. Women’s Health readers don’t have to be able to throw someone over their shoulder to get the benefits of martial mattress training — in “Dojo Mojo: Martial Arts Techniques to Kick Up Your Sex Life,” I’ll tell readers whose only contact with martial arts is watching kung fu movies how to use elements of karate, tae kwon do, and other fighting arts to put the moves on their husbands. For example:

  • Use your voice. In karate, it’s called a “kiai” — a yell that focuses your energy, gives you power, and scares away attackers. In the same way, making noise makes you more powerful in bed (though it WON’T scare your sweetie). “When you hold back sound, you hold back sexual energy,” says Ava Cadell, Ph.D., a sex therapist in Los Angeles and a black belt in shotokan karate. “Making sounds lets your partner know you’re having a great time — it’s validating. It also releases sexual energy from way down in the gut so you’re able to feel a full body orgasm.”
  • Practice libido bushido. “Bushido” literally means “the way of the warrior,” and part of practicing bushido is keeping focused on the task at hand. “Sure, the kitchen needs to be cleaned and the laundry needs to be done, but a true warrior stays in the moment and doesn’t get distracted,” says Jennifer Lawler, Ph.D., a black belt in tae kwon do and author of Dojo Wisdom: 100 Simple Ways to Become a Stronger, Calmer, More Courageous Person. “In a fight, it’s deadly, and in the bedroom, it makes you quickly lose steam. Once you’re in the mood, make it a practice not to think of the other chores or worries awaiting you.”
  • Keep eye contact. Martial artists keep eye contact while sparring to prevent giving away their next move and to get in tune with their sparring partners. Use this same technique to get in tune with your man. “Eye contact enhances intimacy, which is a deeper form of lovemaking,” says Cadell. “I suggest eye-gazing. Hold eye contact as much as possible during the entire experience. This will keep the two of you in a place of union and help you tune into each other through the eyes.”

Other martial arts moves to use in the bedroom include using your hips for power, being flexible (mentally as well as physically), practicing “no-mind,” and tightening your muscles at the end of a move.

I’m a brown belt in Okinawan karate. Martial arts are hot these days — 12 million people in the U.S. are into martial arts and kickboxing, including Taryn Manning, Paula Abdul, Carmen Electra, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette — and sex, well, sex is always hot. May I write “Dojo Mojo: Martial Arts Techniques to Kick Up Your Sex Life” for you?

FIve reasons this query sold:

  1. Sometimes I think you can sell an article with just a kick-ass title.
  2. Notice how I gave stats to show how popular martial arts are, to prove to the editor that her readers would be interested in my idea. These were easy to find with a Google search.
  3. I interviewed two people for this query, and ended up using their quotes in the article once it was assigned. Jennifer is a friend of mine who happened to be perfect for the article, and I disclosed my relationship with her to my editor. The second person I found with a ProfNet search.
  4. I included three of my tips to give the editor an idea of how I envisioned the article working, and to prove I had good advice to offer.
  5. My experience in martial arts helped sell the article. So if you have any sort of background in the topic you’re pitching, let the editor know! (FYI, I didn’t include my publishing credits as I had already written for this editor.)

If you have a pitch that sold, and you’d like to share it with my readers, zap me an email at [email protected] Thanks!

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25. Minimize the Obstacles

boulder_in_road_obstacle
I’m blogging at Books & Such today. Here’s a preview:

When you’re a debut author trying to break in to traditional publishing, one of the most important things to remember is this:

Minimize the obstacles.

You already know it’s not going to be easy to break in, so you want to avoid making it even more difficult on yourself. This is why agents give so much advice on their blogs. Not every piece of advice applies across the board to every author, but we’re trying to help you have the best chance of attracting an agent and publisher.

Assuming you’ve written a terrific book…

What are some possible obstacles to finding an agent and publisher?

Read the post at Books & Such to find out. Click Here.

 

The post Minimize the Obstacles appeared first on Rachelle Gardner.

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