Hurry up and wait


So, I submitted a query to a “dream” publisher on May 30.  I received a request for my full manuscript on June 8.  I had one week to submit.

So, I got 5 sets of eyes on the manuscript.  I edited…read again…edited…read again…rinse and repeat until I couldn’t do anymore.  Around 2 PM on June 14, I held my breath, closed my eyes and hit the ‘send’ button.

Of course, after I submitted, I found mistakes.  It was driving me  nuts.  Several of my lovely writer buddies told me to put it away. It was gone. Nothing I could do about it. Still, I wanted it polished. I wanted perfection.  One side of my brain said there is no such thing. The other side of my brain said yes there is.  I’m conflicted, can you tell?

It’s been 4 days.  I haven’t received a confirmation e-mail that the publisher received the MS, and the website says don’t ask.

So now after all the hurry, I sit and wait.  My nerves are frayed. I may eat a finger or two, maybe a hand, before I hear anything. Pray for me.   My fingernails are already disappearing.

ahhh
Copyright: robodread / 123RF Stock Photo

You’ve Been Fast-Tracked!


You've been fast trackedLast night, I received something in my inbox I’d never received before:  2 back-to-back requests for 2 separate, full manuscripts.

I couldn’t stop grinning.  Afterall, I’d sent the first five pages off to the publisher with the only goal in mind to get a professional opinion, a critique.  I wanted to know if I was on the right track, and if not, what direction I needed to go.  What did I need to work on to improve the narrative and the manuscripts?  Did I grab the attention of the publisher in the 1st 5 pages?

I have to say I was surprised at the speed they got back to me.  BIG plus in their favor.  I also understand they have a three step editorial process once they accept a manuscript…another huge plus.  AND they have a great reputation as being amazing to work with and they pay well and on time.  (Yes, I checked them out before and after submitting the 1st 5 pages).

As to the manuscripts:  one was marked up more than the other, but only by a couple of suggestions.

The other, my baby, the start of my Y.A. fantasy trilogy that I’ve been hammering to perfection (if there is such a thing), got four MINOR suggestions and a compliment on a scene for its imagery and the feelings it evoked.  At the end was the following comment from the content editor:

“Your story has me intrigued—I want to read more in the worst way! I already feel a connection to the characters and setting. You are being fast tracked!”

I must have read that line a hundred times:  “I want to read more in the worst way!”  Even reading it now sets my soul aglow.  I think those words are what every author wants to hear, especially after a publisher reads those first crucial 5 pages.

To be honest, I’d expected so much more red-lining.  This was a publishing house.  Even though they are a small, indie press, they still see hundreds if not thousands of manuscripts, and from what I understand, they are quite selective. While I felt confident on both stories to an extent, I certainly wasn’t expecting requests for 2 full manuscripts.  Not only that, I’d been fast-tracked on both.  That’s like HUGE.  My foot is in the door.

To say I’m thrilled is an understatement.  Am I nervous?  Yes and no.  There is still work to be done on both before I submit the fulls.  I also want to throw my big baby out there to a couple more betas/critiquers for their comments before I let it go completely.

At least now I know I’m on-track with both manuscripts (according to this publisher), and I have to say the experience has been phenomenal.  Thank you, publisher and lovely content editor for your time and critique.  Thank you, Scrib sister who gave me the confidence to go for it, but most of all, a million thanks to my beta readers, (especially my Jersey girl.  You know who you are!)  I couldn’t have come this far without your keen eyes, your opinions, your sense of direction, and your blatent, hard-line honesty smacking me in the face, even when I didn’t want to hear it.  I would be lost without all of you.  I bow to your greatness.

Now the hard work begins.  I’ll keep you posted.

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The First 50 Pages – Part 1 – Staying out of the slush pile


Submitting your manuscript to an agent or publisher is a scary event.  By the time all is said and done, your hair and your fingernails may be gone, your nerves will be shattered and you may suffer from months of sleep deprivation.  Even after you hit that submit button or hand your manuscript over to the postal service, you still wonder what happens on the other end.  You wait and you wait and you wait some more.  Heh.  You thought the submission part was the worst?  Wait until the waiting begins.  Torture.  Pure torture.

So how can you ensure your submission has the best chance?  Assuming you have done your homework and have submitted your manuscript to an agent/publisher who specializes in your genre, there are several things you can do to make sure you manuscript shines as much as possible.

Today, I’m going to give you a common list of things an agent or publisher looks for to reject a manuscript.  Remember, they are busy bees and they are looking for reasons NOT to accept your work.  It is your job as a writer to make sure you don’t give them a reason to reject your MS.  Arm yourself.  Be prepared, and even if your work is rejected, remember, it is not personal.  Publishing is a business.  Learn the business and you have a better chance at succeeding.

A published author gave this list to me at a writer’s group so I apologize if don’t credit the right person for the information.  If you wrote it, please send me your info so I can credit you properly.  This list was put together by agents and publishers and gives the primary reason manuscripts are rejected within the first 50 pages…most of the time within the first 2.

  • weak first sentence; lack of engaging hook
  • starting with a dream scenario
  • passive voice
  • stale story idea
  • prologues that don’t work
  • telling instead of showing
  • point-of-view errors
  • shallow characters
  • plot with no spine
  • too many stock characters
  • lack of beats for pacing and description
  • stilted dialogue
  • clumsy fiction craftsmanship
  • inadequate descriptions of characters and settings (or details arrive too late)
  • starting the main action too soon
  • too much back story
  • too many clichés
  • going into flashbacks too early in the story
  • story starts too slow
  • too many characters introduced at one time
  • jumping to a new viewpoint character to early
  • too little conflict
  • lack of stakes or a ticking time bomb
  • mechanical and grammatical errors

If your manuscript starts with any of these, you may want to reconsider another edit before sending it off.

Hope this helps.  Can you think of anything else that may cause an agent or publisher to reject a manuscript?  Please feel free to let us in on your rejection experience if you have one and what you learned.

“X” is for X (Ten) ways to avoid the slush pile


Ready to send out your manuscript?  Here are some hints that may help you avoid the slush pile.

– If sending out a hard copy of your manuscript, don’t print it on watermelon, bacon or any other scented paper.  The agent’s or publisher’s dog might eat it.

– Don’t submit your manuscript on Monday then call on Wednesday to find out when they’re going to send out the book and movie contract.  Wait at least until Thursday in order for them to process your awesomeness and send it to the correct repudiation department.

– Don’t send your friends dressed up as characters from your novel to the agent’s or publisher’s door in order to act out scenes from your book.  If you insist on doing something so insanely inventive, at least hire professionals. Make a grand impression.  The least you can do is go down in flames to an amazing Broadway-style performance.

– Don’t send your novel about the erotic love affairs of Cat Woman to an agent or publisher who represents books on cat training, unless you want your manuscript to end up as cat litter.

– Don’t claim your novel is a blockbuster, unless of course it is, then I suggest you have Steven Spielberg deliver it in person.

– Don’t address your cover letter to Dear Agent, unless the word “Agent” is followed by 86 or 99, at which point your novel better be about a bungling spy and his pretty sidekick.

– Don’t mention how much your family and beta readers loved your book unless you include at least 5-10 page dissertations on the similarities between your manuscript and the likes of Harry Potter or Twilight.  Agents and publishers have nothing better to do with their time than read about how great you are at emulating your favorite author.

– Don’t send sexy photos of yourself, unless you want to end up on the slush pile floor, but that’s a whole other post entirely.

– Don’t be cute and turn your cover letter into a pictorial scrapbook page of what your novel is about.  Hieroglyphics are difficult to read.

– Don’t ignore or publicly berate an agent’s or publisher’s advice unless you enjoy being referred to in editorial circles as “the one who shall not be signed.”

Fourth Writer’s Platform-Building Campaign


I’m always looking for ways to help authors promote themselves, their works, etc., and build their platforms.  The fantastic Rachael Harrie is conducting her fourth writer’s platform-building campaign, and I’ve decided to join in.  It’s a great way to meet other writers, find new beta readers, critique partners and contests/giveaways.  It’s not too late to join in.  You have until tomorrow to sign up.   Just go to Rachael’s site here.  You can read all about the campaign here.

Also, just a heads up.  I will be hosting a fun contest soon.  The winner will receive a line-by-line edit/critique of the first 10 pages of your manuscript.   More details to follow.