May 26, 2013

Preparing For The Call

We all imagine the day an agent will call.  We don't want to see e-mails because we know those are no good.  Instead, we want The Call (and it's big enough to capitalize).

We live for the moment when we'll look at the caller ID and say, "Who could that be?  I have only given my number to one person and that was... to...that AGENT I QUERIED!" Shortly followed by a dizzy spell and palm sweating.  Then, you realize you better answer it before the caller reaches your voice mail.

But, wait a minute.  If you pick up the phone and it is that agent, what are you going to say if they offer you representation?  You can't just sit there!  Nope.  You better know what to say. I'm one to talk, I feel I may be ill-prepared for this scenario, but not for long.

Rachelle Gardner's Website  includes a very helpful list of items to ask an agent when they do call.  Use this as a starting point, and remember to spend a significant amount of time researching how to prepare for the call.  Remember, you will have to know more than the contents of your manuscript (which you already know, duh).  It wouldn't be a bad idea to print this list and keep it with you at all times.  I know I will, because I want to be prepared when the time comes.  And, it will.

May 22, 2013

Authors and Illustrators

Once picture books are written, is the writer completely out of the picture?  Do the writers have a voice regarding the illustrations?

So, I have submitted picture books to agents, and one day, one of them will be in the hands of an illustrator (like my optimism here?).  Will the agent ask me my opinions?  Will they ask me if I think anything should be changed?  Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of faith in illustrators, and I believe they know how to make details shine through their artwork, but what if I think they are missing key details?

Is that silly?  After all, I only write the words, but I have no clue what the rules are.  Do you?

May 19, 2013

About My Life

Tomorrow is Monday.  Monday and Friday are enemies.  I prefer Friday, for the most part. On the upside, the best part of starting a new week is hearing from agents.  I'm not sure if agents ever make that big call on a Saturday or Sunday.  Now, on to the real point of this post.

My life is not complicated at all.  It's quite simple.  I work at an 8-5, Monday-Friday job at a desk where I sit most all day.  The work I do is easy, and I never go to work filled with dread because I like the work and the work environment.  The hardest part of the day is the 18 mile drive both ways, in rather heavy traffic.  It's not Atlanta or NYC, but it's heavy enough.

My husband works the same hours and days that I do, and we usually arrive home at the same time.  Then, we spend the evenings together, eating dinner actually at the table, then watch a little Netflix.  We do not have children yet, so we have a great deal of freedom.

Before I began writing, the routine was to come home, make dinner, watch television, and then exercise for one hour before showering and going to bed.  Writing distorted that a bit...

When I started writing heavily this past October, I stopped exercising.  "That was a big mistake," say my blue jeans.  Over the past couple of years, I made a point to exercise most days of the week, but writing did something to my brain.  I wonder if other people feel a significant physical change when they are focused on writing.  I almost feel like a blob (but a good blob because I love to write kid lit).

So, after I started writing heavily, that's all I did in my free time.  I sat in front of the computer, and wrote.  If I wasn't actively writing a manuscript, I was brainstorming for the next one.  My Wii stepping board collected dust (it's my main source of exercise).

I find that writing causes me to go into hibernation mode.  I don't want to do anything but sit, wait, and write another picture book in case the one I submitted bombs big time.  I have completed neglected my exercising routine, but that's getting ready to change tomorrow. Why not today?  Because today I've felt like a big blob.  I hope I'm not coming down with something, because my throat really does not feel so good.  Luckily I don't need a voice to write (Oh, I guess I do!).

My goal for 2013 is to be represented by an agent.  Yeahhh, I think I've mentioned that on this blog before.  As of today, I've been in query mode for the past 6 months.  Half a year!  Half a year, waiting to hear the good news.  Well, not the whole 6 months, since there was some down time, but 6 months of thinking about getting an agent.  Oh, the dream!

Regarding my current manuscript I have out on the market... I feel really good about it.  Maybe I shouldn't since it's been rejected about 5 times now.  But, even with the rejections, I feel confident.  The hard part is finding the correct agent to match my work.

What does writing do you physically?

May 17, 2013

What Do Agents Want?

Yes, another post about rejection, but I'm not bitter about it.  I feel like I'm actually getting somewhere when I get rejected because I know there will be an acceptance someday.  I can feel it!

A few recent rejections have included the phrase, "Your book does not fit with our current list," or something similar.  My question is, "Sooooooo, ummmm, what's your current list?  Because I've reviewed the books you have published, and I can't write something identical to what already exists.  So, I'm not sure what you mean."

On another note, I haven't written a new picture book in a while.  Why?  There haven't been any stories aching to flow out of my fingertips.  I have a few ideas, but nothing that motivates me to type until my fingers bleed.

In the past, a few manuscript ideas came into my mind out of the blue, and I wrote them with ease.  These days I feel like I am unwilling to write unless I feel the manuscript is the next big thing.  Tonight, that will change.

I have an idea for a picture book, and I'm just going to sit down and write it.

Let the weekend begin!

May 16, 2013

Determining Books to Study

Every two weeks I visit the library and check out 5 or 6 picture books to bring home to study.

Before I drive to the library, I research picture books online, and usually aim to check out books published within the past three years.  It doesn't always work out that way, especially if something awesome catches my eye.  Also, members of my critique group review books, so I know which books they have suggested to read, and which books I should avoid.  So, I usually have a nice list to work from.

As soon as I enter the library, the first section is the children's picture books.  They have a rather nice display, and all of the new, catchy books have their own special display in front, sure to catch the eyes of children.  Oh, and me too!

The problem is that every hot book I want to read is always unavailable and overdue.  I can log into the library's Website and look up books and I can see when they are due to be returned.  Often, the books I really want are way overdue.  I'm sure the late fees pay the library's electric bills.

I normally head straight for the books I have written down, but a colorful book cover always makes me look twice.  The day I checked Hogwash! out of the library, I had not planned on doing so.  I grabbed another book near it, and accidentally pulled Hogwash! out, too.  The cover was cute, so I read the first few pages and decided the rhyming text was exactly what I wanted to read.

After I check out the books, I keep them a week, sometimes two weeks, and I try to document new things I learn.  One trend I have noticed is that many picture books on the market now are funny.  There are, of course, those serious topics out there, but children love to laugh, so humor is a safe element to have in any picture book.

May 13, 2013

Dealing With Rejections

Today I received two picture book rejections via e-mail, and you know what?  Not even those will slow me down!

Before I ever submitted a manuscript to agents, I researched everything about the picture book market.  Part of that research included comments from other writers stating, "You WILL get rejected.  A lot."  I, like many others, hoped I would be different, but in reality I knew rejections would come my way.

My first rejection came via e-mail, as I've only submitted via e-mail so far.  I remember reading the e-mail, and feeling my heart sink a little.  But, just a little.  I think I really prepared myself for rejections, and none of them have EVER made me feel like I should give up writing.  As a matter of fact, with every rejection I think I hold my head a little higher.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I keep hearing, "That's okay, Jessica.  Some will reject you, but there's one smart agent out there that will take you all the way to the bookstore."

I know some people get really mad when they get rejected.  They curse their inbox or the mail man, and blame everyone else.  I've never been like this.

What's your reaction to rejections?

May 7, 2013

Agencies and Professional Websites

Anyone promoting himself/herself professionally should have a Website.  A decent one, too, free of wacky fonts and neon colors.

As a writer, I believe I have great stories to offer, and sometimes I must search online for agents.  Hey, I don't know which ones are out there!  I've never once spotted a literary agency billboard beside the highway.

A few times, I have visited Websites and thought, "You have GOT to be kidding me.  Who designed this?"  As a person with a technical background with experience in Website design, I can always point out a horrific design.  When I see a poor design I begin to lose faith in the agencies talent.

It's a known fact that as soon as a person views a Website, they form thoughts about the agency (or business) before reading the content.

Do you have a professional Website design?

May 2, 2013

Save Your Manuscripts in Three Locations

I often visit the blog of literary agent Rachelle Gardner, and today she blogged about backing up your documents in more than one location.  Sooooooo important (yes, it's so important that I had to bold, underline and italicize it).  If you write anything, at least save your work in these three locations:

  • On your computer's Desktop or C: drive
  • On a flash drive
  • On an external hard drive
Feel free to save it somewhere else if you want to.  But, it's my belief that if you lose your work in each of these three areas (at the same time), and you have no way of recovering it, it wasn't meant to be published.

By default, I save my work on a flash drive.  I carry it with me everywhere, and I never, ever leave the house without it. The one I own now I've had for 6 years, so one day it's going to... you know... break or something.

In college, I had a major project due at the end of the fall semester.  At the beginning of that semester, I only saved my work on my laptop.  So, months went by, and one day I said to myself, "I better get one of those flash drives the professor said to buy.  Something bad might happen to my computer."

I drove to the office supply store, bought one, drove home and backed everything up on my fancy new flash drive.  Wwwwhhheewww!  A week later, my computer crashed.  Well, it didn't really crash, but the LCD malfunctioned, so it was a miracle I could see anything.

Other people have not been so fortunate.  There are horror stories about students failing courses because their computer crashed the night before a project was due.  It's sad, but many people should know this rule by now.

Have you had bad experiences with losing documents?

May 1, 2013

Agents or Publishers

Children's picture book submissions follow a different set of rules that other types of literature.  Picture book writers can submit to agents, who will later submit to publishers.  Or, the writer can submit directly to the publisher.

Different people have different preferences.  Some people want to hurry and get to the publisher as fast as they can, since publishers are the ones that ultimately get the book in print.  On the other hand, some want an agent first, since agents have many connections to folks in the publishing world.  Also, agents know which types of books appeal to specific publishers, so it's possible an agent could get it right the first time.  One piece of knowledge PB writers should have is that you always query agents first.  If all of them say "no", then you can try publishers, but never query publishers then agents.

If an agent wants to get your book published, the last thing they want you to say is, "Oh, yeah, I came to you because all the publishers in the world told me they'd never publish my book."  Why?  Well, if all the publishers told you no, who do you think the agents would query?  Yes!  Those exact publishers that turned you down.

So, if you want to query publishers, query them after you have exhausted all of your agent options.