In the Query Trenches

It’s been a while since I’ve made the rounds with querying. The last manuscript I shopped was Changers: Manifesting Destiny, which was eventually picked up by Evernight Teen and published *gulp* in August 2016. Has it really been that long? All the more reason to finish Changers 2!

With Manifesting Destiny I sent out 70 queries and received two offers, both from publishers, none from agents. Actually, when I queried The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller, I sent out 100 queries—I had vowed to stop at 100 and self-publish if I didn’t get any nibbles—and despite a lot of agent interest still only received two offers from publishers. (That one came out from Tirgearr Publishing in January 2016.)

I did send Brynnde to one well-known romance publisher. When they passed, I self-published it. I don’t really count that as a round of querying given that I didn’t try very hard. It was more like a shot in the dark.

So. Here I am with Hamlette. I’ve sent 46 queries, was briefly repped by an agent, but am now back in the trenches. I’ve had 19 rejections/non-responses so far, 3 requests for the manuscript, and am waiting to hear from the remaining 24.

I’d forgotten how difficult the waiting part is. I know I should busy myself with other work, but I keep wanting to check my email. Makes it tough to focus on my current WIP.

However, I’ve learned a lot from previous rounds of querying. Back when I was sending out Peter, I didn’t know you aren’t supposed to query agents and publishers at the same time. It makes sense when you think about it, but I guess I didn’t think about it, and therein lies the problem. So now, with Hamlette I’m focused on agents for now and may move on to publishers later, though given my track record, I may do better self-publishing. I think a publisher would have to be pretty special at this point to win me over. (Though of course Evernight will continue to get Changers!)

On the plus side, given how well my Peter query did (I had 17 requests for the manuscript based on the query), I at least have a good sense of how to structure a query in a way that gets responses. Though that may also just have been Peter; I’ve found writing queries for YA is a bit more difficult for some reason.

How about you? Ever run the querying gauntlet? Any tips or tricks? Or do you prefer to go straight to self-publishing? (I decide from manuscript to manuscript whether I’m going to query it or publish it directly.) Any small publishers you like? And if you’re not an author, does it matter to you if a book is self-published, small published, or comes from a major publisher? Where and how do you find/choose things to read? I’d love to know! Tell us in the comments!

IWSG: Schedules

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

This month—year—I’m mostly insecure about whether I’ll be able to finish all my projects! Which is why the question about scheduling is so apropos.

Question of the Month: What steps have you taken to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?

Answer: not enough!

I work from home, ostensibly as a full-time author. But with three kids in school, I really find my time split amongst errands, appointments, school functions, chores . . . It’s very easy to let the writing time slip away. That’s why this year I hope to rededicate myself to my work. Ideally, appointments and errands will be kept to just a couple days per week and the other three weekdays will be writing days. That’s not always possible, but it’s what I try to do.

I write on weekends, too. Usually one weekend day is a family day and the other is a writing day. Again, not always possible, but that’s the goal.

This year I’d like to pre-schedule anything I self-publish. Alas, I don’t know what will be finished or when! If Hamlette doesn’t find a home by April, I’ll publish it in May or June. I hope to have Faebourne done in time for a fall release. Somewhere in there, I’d like to get Changers 2 to my publisher as well. Ack! I’m feeling overwhelmed already!

Goals 2018

I prefer to set goals rather than make resolutions. Here are my goals for 2018, along with deadlines so we can check back in periodically during the year.

  1. Finish Changers 2. Deadline: 1 March
  2. Find an agent for Hamlette. Deadline: 1 May
  3. Lose 15 lbs. Deadline: 1 June
  4. Finish Faebourne. Deadline: 1 September

I’d also like to get started on Epiphanies, and certainly if Hamlette sells and an agent or publisher wants the next book in that series, Epiphanies would get bumped up the list.

For Changers 2, I have a great writing group that’s helping me get through it. For the weight loss, I’ll be participating in a study with 23 and Me that will ensure I stay active, plus I’m tracking my calorie intake. I’ve lost 6 lbs already, but do need to lose about 15 more to reach my ideal weight.

As for Hamlette, I have a number of queries out and some partials that agents have requested, too. Now that the holidays are over, I hope to start receiving responses (ideally of the positive kind). However, if I haven’t achieved this goal by 1 May, I’ll probably start planning to self-publish this book.

Of course, using the new year as a jumping off point is entirely arbitrary. You can wake up any day of your life and decide to make a change or set goals of some kind. But I think psychologically a new year is a nice feeling—the sense of a clean slate and starting fresh.

How about you? Do you set goals or make resolutions? What do you hope to achieve in 2018? I’d love to hear all about it!

Looking Ahead to 2018

I’ve been making a mental list of things to put on my 2018 calendar. Most of these are not writing related, but they’re things to look forward to.

February – San Francisco Writers Conference; The Book of Mormon
MarchMonty Python and the Holy Grail + Q&A with John Cleese
July – family vacation in NYC

Those are the big things, the events that are already scheduled. There is also a chance we’ll be going to Paris over the summer, but that’s not settled yet.

As for writing, I’ve mentioned my goals for the year before, but to reiterate:

  1. Find an agent for Hamlette or else prep it for self-publishing
  2. Finish Changers: The Great Divide
  3. Finish Faebourne
  4. Write Epiphanies

I’m giving myself through April to find an agent for Hamlette. If I don’t, I’ll self-publish it. I’ve had a couple of agents pass on it but say they’d like to see Epiphanies when it’s done, which is why it’s on the list. I should get going on it, but I do need to finish Changers 2 and Faebourne as well. Hopefully I’ll have more editing jobs, too.

What are you looking forward to in the new year? Any plans? Goals? Tell me all about them in the comments!

IWSG’s 5 Year-End Questions

Find this list and more here.

  1. What didn’t you complete this year? Is there a chance you will finish before year end? If you don’t, this task will likely be at the top of the following year’s list.I didn’t finish Changers 2, so yes, it’s at the top of my list of goals for 2018.
  2. What things worked and didn’t work for you this year? If you have one, did you get your newsletter out on time? How did you do on the social media platforms you frequent? Is it time to think about dropping any and focusing your efforts in one or two places?Attempts to build my newsletter didn’t work. Social media was relatively stagnant. I think it’s time to focus mostly on getting more stuff written and published.
  3. What do you hope to achieve in terms of writing and publishing? This is the fun part where you get to document in black and white what you will be writing and decide on deadlines.To finish Changers 2 by May. To finish Faebourne for an October release.
  4. Is there any area or special skill set you’re interested in that you could take the time to learn to enhance your personal development? This could be learning a new programme or researching a genre you may be interested in learning to write.
    I want to learn to use Scrivener more completely. I have it and have tinkered with it a bit, but I know I’m not using it at its full potential.
  5. In all of the figuring you do, don’t forget your personal life. Do leave yourself some wiggle room to try some fun activity that’s new to you or simply time to work on being a better you!I have one great vacation planned and hope to add to that.

Crossroads

So I had an agent for Hamlette. She really only had one place in mind to send the manuscript. That editor/publisher passed on it, and the agent recommended I simply self-publish. There were a couple of reasons for that. 1. She knew I’d self-published with moderate success in the past. 2. She told me she was too busy with other clients to keep submitting my work. (Also, YA was not her typical genre, so I suppose her contacts might have been limited. I had suggested other places to submit, but she didn’t want to do that.)

I won’t pretend this hasn’t been a blow. It feels like quite the knock back, in fact. That same agent had told me she’d get me placed on some conference panels, but that seems unlikely now as well.

As for Hamlette, I have some queries out to agents. And I’m also still considering self-publishing if I don’t receive any nibbles. But I’m feeling bruised right now and very tender, so I don’t think it’s quite the right time to make any big decisions. I’m going to focus on my upcoming birthday, and the holidays, and try to find the joy in those things instead of dwelling on this particular morass. Maybe things will appear clearer and brighter in the new year.

Writing Where the Heart Is

Image courtesy of pexels.com
I recently had a conversation with a publisher who was interested in an older property of mine, something I wrote some seven or eight years ago. However, the book would need considerable revisions and reworking to suit them. That’s fine; I know the book isn’t publishable in its current format. (Long story, but the details aren’t important.) Still, the more I think about it, the more the piece of work in question feels like something I once had a passion for but no longer do. In short, while I could rework it, my heart’s not in it.

Whenever someone tells me I should write more Sherlock Holmes or, well, more anything really, I nod. Yes, I should. Readers might like that. Might. That’s key. And yet, if my heart isn’t in it, if my love for that character or subject has migrated, even temporarily, I won’t like it. And I’m pretty sure that will show in the work. Then readers won’t like it either, and what will I have written it for?

Part of this is my own damned easily distracted mind. I get bored and wander off from things. So while conventional wisdom is that an author should sit and write a series so that readers get hooked and keep buying . . . I struggle with that. I’ve written four Sherlock Holmes stories (if you count the Moriarty one, which I do), and while the first flowed, I had a much harder time with the others. I’m fighting my way through Changers 2. I have a strong idea for another K-Pro novel, though I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to it. Maybe, if I find that enthusiasm for it again. I had it once, but I don’t know where it went.

It’s weird because I used to have an obsessive nature. TV shows, movies, books—I would fall in love and fixate. But it seems I’ve outgrown that, or else haven’t found anything recently that calls to me that way. And while my own characters do sometimes bewitch me—I was in love with Peter Stoller for a very long time—they seem to be easily supplanted. A shiny new somebody knocks on my brain and tally-hoo, I’m off in another direction.

I’m probably not disciplined enough to be a writer.

Actually, though, I seem to have found a happy medium. Something that feels fresh enough to keep me excited while still hangs together in a loose way. 1. Regency romances. Because readers of the genre will happily read more, and yet the characters and situations I write can be all new. Which is why I’m having such fun writing Faebourne. 2. My Shakespeare adaptations. Hamlette was a hoot to write, and I’ve outlined two more in the “series.” Yet, again, the stories are all new each time, so I don’t lose interest with the work.

Still, I do promise to finish Changers 2. And I won’t rule out more Sherlock Holmes some day if and when the mood strikes. Or even more Peter Stoller, though I think it will be Simon and/or Jules that I focus on in the next go-round.

All I’m really saying (in very long form) is that I must write where my heart is. Follow my passion—for whichever character(s) have set fire to my blood.

When I look back at this old piece of writing the publisher and I discussed, I’m very proud of it. In fact, I think it’s some of my best work, and maybe that’s why I don’t feel compelled to rework it. But I think it’s more that I’m a different person now. That story was a part of me back when, is now an artifact of something past. I could drag it into the present. But do I want to? Or would I rather walk forward unencumbered?

I stop and look behind me, and the view is lovely. I can take a photo. But I can’t take it with me, and I have no desire to walk up the hill and rebuild a replica of what I’ve left behind. I learned a lot building those previous structures. Now I will use those skills to create something new.

WIP Wednesday: Motivation

Well, with Hamlette finished it’s now time to turn back to Changers 2 and Faebourne. I’m fortunate in that I have a writing group to help me focus on Changers 2. I have a second writing group to which I may bring some of Faebourne. That’s really one of the only ways to get me writing sometimes: hold me accountable. Weekly writing groups/deadlines definitely help.

Of course, with the holidays upon us, groups may not meet as regularly, and it can be difficult to find time to write when there is so much else going on besides.

Sometimes I get more motivated to write when I already have a cover for my book. That means I’ve invested money, you know, and therefore need to finish the book. Plus, a beautiful cover simply excites me. I want to have the book to go with it so that I have a reason to plaster it everywhere. (Yes, I know, I can do a cover reveal but then what? Once you have a book to market, you have so many more ways and reasons to show off that cover.)

Still, for books I’m hoping to sell to an agent or publisher, paying to have a cover made ahead of time makes no sense. So I do really need people to crack the whip over me to get me going. I can be such a lazy writer, especially this time of year. I need that external pressure. If no one else cares whether I’m writing, why should I?

The work is its own reward, sure. I like to write (most of the time), but I’m easily distracted. Yet I was always a good student, always had my work in on time. I was in journalism, and there was nothing like the high of getting something in at deadline. But I can’t set my own deadlines because I simply don’t take them seriously.

What about you? If you’re a writer, how do you stay motivated? If you’re not a writer, well, how do you stay motivated for anything you do? I’m always curious about what keeps people going. Internal drive? I have some, but it doesn’t always get me all the way to my goal. I usually need a push along the way.

Looking Back at 2017

I know, I know, there’s still more than a month left of the year! I shouldn’t be so eager to close it out, right? But I’m always a lot less productive in the final month of the year. Between the holidays and my birthday and the kids out of school . . . It gets harder to get anything done, at least in terms of writing.

So with the fair certainty that I won’t magically be finishing another book in the next 30+ days, I want to look at what I did accomplish this year. Because it’s quite a lot, and listing it makes me feel better about myself and the coming laziness.

In 2017, I:

  1. Published Brynnde, which went on to strong reviews, good sales, and won a cover design award
  2. Republished my Sherlock Holmes stories as a collection and simultaneously put out an audiobook version
  3. Finished Hamlette
  4. Edited books for paying clients
  5. Wrote a short script for an indie director
  6. Had a short story accepted to a fairy tale anthology; it was released earlier this month
  7. Wrote and published a new Sherlock Holmes story (really a Moriarty story)

That’s a pretty productive year, especially for me, someone who isn’t a very fast writer.

However, I didn’t accomplish everything I originally had on my list for the year. Though I made progress with Changers 2, I still haven’t finished it. So going forward, these are my goals:

  1. Finish The Great Divide (Changers 2)
  2. Finish Faebourne
  3. Write Epiphanies
  4. Write Merry/Annette (title subject to change)

Wow, that’s a lot of work. Deep breaths. I can do it. Might take a while, but it can be done.

How has your 2017 been? Do you think you’ll accomplish anything in the last month? Are you already looking ahead to 2018? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments!