Writer Mentor Programs: What are they & are they for me?

In honor of Author Mentor Match, I made ANOTHER vlog. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Kat, can you calm down on these vlogs?” And my answer is “NEVER!” Haha, Just kidding.

Anyway, I wanted to make a video about Mentorship Programs before AMM opens to applications in April. And I tapped into my friends and CPs to give you all some insight!

~Full Quotes Below!~

“I think for me mentorship is also a way of growing and tending to the community. The idea that now that I’m part of the community and I want to be involved in reaching out to others who maybe feel more outside of it and pulling them in with me is a huge part of it. it’s not really just about the writing.” – Katy Rose Pool

 

“The world of publishing can be overwhelming, and so much information can only be gleaned from being in the community for years and pushing through many of the steps it takes to get published. We’re all helped along the way by someone, receiving key advice or support from fellow authors/publishing professionals. Through mentorship, more experienced authors can pay it forward, helping someone newer to our world navigate it with more ease. Mentees are a part of our community, and I want them to feel more welcome, and initiate them into the fold.” – Alexa Donne

 

“It feels a bit strange for me to offer to mentor another writer, when I still feel like a clueless newbie myself. Five years into my “writing career,” I have just a smidgen of experience in publishing, and I’m happy to share what advice I can, because this can be a confusing and heart wrenching industry. But I think the writing community, especially the YA online community, is so great about creating opportunities to help each other learn and grow. And it’s important to me to try to give back to the community that helped me get to where I am now.” – Heather Kaczynski

“Mentoring has been one of the most rewarding things that I’m so proud, and feel so lucky, to do as a writer. Many times, authors say they write the books that the younger versions of themselves would loved to have read. On that same note with mentoring, I’ve always hoped for the chance to provide the support and motivation to other aspiring writers that I know would’ve helped the younger writer I once was, still lost and hardcore struggling on my journey to publication. It’s an amazing experience to give back that way, to be able to help someone find their way on the journey, and to editorially guide the mentee and their manuscript you already love into the best shape it can be. Best of all, in mentoring, you gain a great friend in the process—one who you’ll always be there for in whatever highs and lows comes their way, and one who will support you just as much on your own path.” – Janella Angeles

 

“Nobody makes it in the publishing world without A LOT of support. I’ve always been fortunate to have people willing to share expertise and willing to read projects that were, shall we say…less than great. I love doing anything I can do to pass on my knowledge. Mentoring is particularly great because you get to be like the fun aunt but also the stern parent! You get to pick a project you love and cheerlead it and fangirl when it succeeds. But you also get to lay down some of your hard-earned wisdom and beat up the manuscript you love for its own good. It’s also given me A WHOLE TON of renewed appreciation for how hard it is to write and revise a book!” – Mara Fitzgerald

“We’re Janice Ian and Damien from Mean Girls. Come sit with us and we will explain how all this chaos works.” – Mara Fitzgerald

“it like…sort of feels like being in a writer sorority…except your big does things like highlight entire paragraphs and go “this is technically good but i know you can make it better” – Christine Herman

“Having a mentor prepared me really well for having an agent — it taught me how to implement intense, detailed feedback, how to work under deadline, and how to truly get my book to the next level. but because I didn’t have to impose professional boundaries on my mentor, I also got a great friend out of it — & a CP I can shove my books at until the end of time.” – Christine Herman

“Mentoring is an excellent way to remind yourself that you have no idea how to write a novel.” – Amanda Foody

 

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Querying (2): Writing a Query Letter

I already wrote a step-by-step querying guide HERE. But I left out the biggest piece of the puzzle: Writing the query letter.

So here you go, my attempt at a query letter guide.

First and most important piece of advice I can give is to read successful queries!

Query Letter Success

Query Tracker Success Stories

Writer’s Digest Successful Queries

Also, reading sites that give query advice is very helpful. A great one is Janet Reid’s Query Shark.

 Okay, so let’s get to the meat of a query. I’ll again start out with a link to someone else, because I do not think I’m an expert at this. I loved Susan Dennard’s explanation on “The Parts of a Good Query.”

Here is what I kept in mind while I was starting my query writing:

1. Keep it brief

(think back jacket summary but less tropey. AKA don’t say “in a world where…”).

 Word count should probably land comfortably between 200-300 words.

If it’s longer then consider why (did you include too many characters or subplots?).

If it’s shorter then consider why (did you not explain the world enough? The conflict? The character?)

2. Include the three biggies: World, Character, Conflict

The world can be a quickie explanation (especially if it’s a world we know already. e.g. contemporary). But if it’s a made-up or fantasy world, ensure the only facts you include are the ones relevant to the MC’s character and conflict.

I’ll use Hunger Games as an example since most people have probably read/watched it:

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, the shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. (WC = 67)

This shows what has happened to the world and why each district must give up two children to the games each year. Nothing more and nothing less.

The Characters named in a query should probably be restricted to 2 (3 if there’s an MC, a main love and an antagonist). I’d only put names if the person is a POV character or they are actively influencing the story in a way that you need to reference them by name in order to explain the main conflict.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before– and survival, for her, is second nature. (WC = 36)

This explains how Katniss feels about the games and a bit of her personal history to reveal her character.

The key word with the conflict is main. Don’t include sub-plots or sub-conflicts.

Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. (WC = 30)

In the Hunger Games the main conflict is that Katniss volunteers for a game that makes her fight to the death and only one can survive. The subplot is that she is trying to protect her little sister and that she can’t figure out if Peeta is on her side or against her.

NOTE: This is actually the back-jacket summary of HG which is why it is shorter than an average query. Hopefully you get the idea of what I mean by the main points to hit to summarize the story.

3. Ensure that it is specific to your story and world.

This is where I’ll repeat not to use tropes or vague wording. If you say something like “MC must decide between love and family before time runs out” then I can find that in the summary of dozens of books. Be specific about why it’s a decision and how it’s bad if they choose one over the other and vice versa.
Note that in the above back-jacket summary everything is SPECIFIC to the story of Hunger Games. They say exactly what the world is and what Katniss’s conflict is.

Individual parts of a query:

 

So, I don’t think every query can use the exact same formula. But if you’d like a general outline to follow here’s one that can potentially work for about 85% of queries.

 

Personalization:

I like to personalize my queries because it explains why I chose that agent to query. I like to include it at the top but some people like to put it at the bottom along with their personal bio and other information. I also chose to include my word count, Age category (PB/MG/YA/NA/A), and genre (fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary, etc)

Opening/Hook

Not every query needs a hook, but if you want to include one it should be one sentence long and be specific about your story.

Paragraph 1:

Introduce world and character. Show specific motivations for the character when the story opens and how they fit (or don’t fit) into the greater world you’ve created. Introduce the inciting incident.

BONUS: If you have more than one POV then you can introduce each character that has one. I had a dual POV book, so I gave each of them their own intro (complete with their personal conflicts and motivations)

Paragraph 2 (&3):

Explain how the MC(s) react to the inciting incident and how it starts to change them/their world. Explain how the MC(s) plan to overcome or adjust to the conflict. Be specific to your world and your character. Do not use vague language like “or her world will be torn apart” or “A greater threat looms.”

Final Paragraph/Bio

If you want to include comps, you can put them here. Put a quick bio and any writing credits. If you didn’t already include it in the first paragraph, be sure to put Age category (PB/MG/YA/NA/A), word count, and genre (fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary, etc). And any final salutations.

BONUS: Suggestions for overcoming 
Query Letter Writer’s Block

1. Try to write the query summarizing ONLY the first 50 pages of the book. This is a suggestion given to me by many and it helps to focus the query (in the first 50, you should have already introduced world, character, main conflict/inciting incident).

2. Have someone who’s NEVER READ your MS read the query letter, then ask them what they think your story is about. If they can’t give you the main gist then consider re-writing.

3. Ask someone who HAS READ your MS how they’d summarize your book. (Obviously, they can’t write your whole query for you, but they can tell you what they think the main point of your story was from an outside perspective. We are often too close to our stories to see them clearly)

4. Take some time, write the 1-2 page summary instead. Maybe this’ll help you see what is important in your story.

5. Read your whole MS as a READER and see how the story flows.

Querying (1): Step by Step Query Process

So, I just went through the journey we call querying and I thought I’d write about it since I love step-by-step guides.

This post probably won’t be completely comprehensive, but I did try to include everything I personally had questions about. And if you have any additional questions, feel free to ask them in the comments and I’ll try to use my resources, friends, CPs, etc. to answer them.

Step 1: Write your query 

(This will be a separate post. Just need to compile querying advice from my own trusted sources to share with you happy people)

UPDATE: Query Letter post is HERE

Step 2: Research Agents

This step can be done at any time during the writing and querying process. In all likelihood it WILL happen before you’re done writing your MS. Because we all like to look ahead a million steps and dream (If we didn’t dream, we probably wouldn’t be writers).

Here’s a sample of a spreadsheet I compiled with data points I thought were important for agents.

You can include as many or as few data points as you want. This is just what I did because I like to compile data (I’m a clinical researcher by day).

This helps because you can write up a query letter that includes detailed reasons why you are querying the agent. Doesn’t need to be much. It can be as simple as “I am querying you because you expressed an interest in Urban Fantasy with diverse characters. I am hoping to interest you in my diverse fantasy set in the city of Bangkok.”

Sites I used to research agents:

– Agency Sites (I always start there, they have the basics such as genre they rep and how to submit)

Query Tracker

MSWL (which stands for Manuscript Wishlist)

– You can also search Twitter for #MSWL

-Speaking of Twitter, you can follow your fave editors and agents

Writer’s Digest

Publisher’s Marketplace

– Also, lots of great interviews on blogs (I just googled [Agent Name + Interview])

Step 3: Make sure you pick the proper genre:

Genre is NOT MG, YA, NA, Adult.

Those are your audiences. You cannot just say you are writing YA and think the agent will think, “Great, that’s what I represent.” Some agents do represent all YA, but even they will think something is fishy if you don’t include a genre. So a genre is:

Fantasy: This is magic! Elves, wizards, mermaids, dragons. There is high fantasy (Lord of the Rings style) and low fantasy (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Style). There are subgenres in fantasy such as Paranormal, Magical Realism (to be discussed later,) and urban fantasy (to be discussed later).

Fantasy YA books: The Star-Touched Queen, The Wrath and the Dawn, Graceling, Throne of Glass, Prophecy, and Serpentine

Science Fiction: Also easy to define. This is taking something that is rooted in science and stretching it and expanding it into something fantastical. But it is not magic. So something like The Matrix is Sci-Fi because they do live in a world without the true laws of physics, but they’re ruled by machines and computer code. This includes sub genres like: dystopian and space operas.

Books that are Sci-fi: Legend, ZeroboxerHunger Games, These Broken Stars

Urban Fantasy: This is magical elements in a kick-butt urban world. So, Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series is Urban Fantasy.

Other Urban Fantasy books: Vampire Academy, White Cat, Shadowshaper, Labyrinth Lost

Contemporary: These books are set in a realistic, contemporary setting (thus the name). They can be issue driven, but don’t have to be. They are often quieter in nature, but are most times coming of age stories within the realm of YA. (Think John Green, Jenny Han, Katie McGarry). Tiny Pretty Things, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Perks of Being a Wallflower

Thriller: This is like the action movie, suspense genre. It’s more contemporary in setting (so no magic), but it has faster pace. I don’t read much of thriller genre in YA so I’d defer to other sites and their definitions, but some books in YA Thriller are The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, We Were LiarsAfter the Woods

Horror: Just like it sounds. It’s horror. I don’t write this genre a lot, so I defer to other sites on deeper definitions, but some books that are YA horror are Anna Dressed in BloodThe Madman’s Daughter, A Monster Calls

Magical Realism: This one is harder for me to define because I can see how a book would be Magical Realism one way, and then fantasy another. So I like THIS post to explain it. It’s pretty much a contemporary world with a magical element that is treated as a reality of life (I often think of Miyazaki films for this). The Weight of FeathersThe Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)Bone Gap

Historical: This is how it sounds. A book that is set in the past. Usually doesn’t have fantastical elements, but there have been some good historical with light magic (magical realism books).

Under a Painted Sky, Code Name Verity, The Book Thief

At the end of the day genre is definitely fluid. Some people would say their book is Science Fantasy because it’s a space opera with magical wizards on Mars.

I personally called my current MS Contemporary Fantasy because it is based on Mythology with a mythical creature, but it is in modern day Seoul and the characters deal with a lot of contemporary issues.

Step 4: Check on your word count 

(this actually could be a “pre-step” since it comes about in writing and revision stage.

THIS is a great guide written in detail about word count for all genres by Chuck Sambuchino at Writer’s Digest

But in general, these are the guidelines I follow (keep in mind these are just my rules for myself and I only write MG and YA):

YA Contemporary: 50,000-70,000 (Sweet spot ~55,000 to 65,000)

YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi: 60,000 – 100,000 (Sweet spot ~75,000 to 85,000)

MG (I tend to write “upper MG”): 40,000 – 60,000 (Sweet spot ~45,000 – 55,000)

Step 5: Make sure you FOLLOW SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

I cannot stress this enough. I have friends who work or worked at Literary Agencies. They say that the biggest reason for auto-reject  is that the person did not follow submission guidelines. I think “auto-reject” is the saddest thing ever because it happens before your pitch or work can speak for itself.

Things to make sure you double check:

– Does the agent represent your genre?

– Does your MS follow word count guidelines for your genre?

– Do you have the proper submission email? (This could be different from an email found on an agent’s blog. Go directly to the agency website to get the right email address for submissions)

– Did you address the agent in a formal way? (Mr. or Ms. LAST NAME)

– Did you write a personal blurb about WHY you’re submitting to them? Many agents like to know why you’re querying them. They want to know that you did your research.

Additionally, my critique group (and specifically the wonderful David Slayton @davidrslayton) created this sweet flow-chart of do’s and don’ts

Step 6: Headers/Subject lines/Attachments/Body of email

This is something I had A LOT of questions about. So I will just say what I did. This will definitely vary depending on the agent you send to, so please check their requirements before you send the same email to everyone (also, this should NEVER happen, you should personalize your emails for the agent you’re sending to):

SUBJECT LINE: Query [Agent Name]: TITLE OF BOOK

(the reason I put Agent Name is that a lot of submission emails are agency wide. It just helps to name the agent in the subject line)

BODY OF EMAIL:

1. Query letter

2. PASTE sample pages

3. PASTE synopsis (if requested).

(I personally liked to put synopsis last because the synopsis is kind of dry, language-wise. I want their first impression to be my voice. Now there is nothing I found that said what the order of sample pages and synopsis were. But if you do find that then follow those rules. Just know that query letter will ALWAYS come first. It’s your opener).

SIGN OFF: I put my signature at the end of the query letter. Because that was my formal opening and then the sample pages were like an attachment that I just copy pasted into the body of the email. 

I used a simple “Sincerely, Kat Cho”

BONUS:

 If you are submitting to an agent because of a request or a contest then the SUBJECT LINE should include that fact!

I did both a conference and an online pitch contest they looked like this:

RT Con Request for [AGENT NAME]: GUMIHO

#DVPit Request for [AGENT NAME]: GUMIHO

Step 7: Send the query!

Okay, now you’re ready to send the query! So press send!

Step 8: Step away!

Okay, so, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to FREAK OUT as soon as you press “send.” Try as hard as you can NOT to do that! It will only end in stressed sadness. So, this is the “waiting and distraction” phase.

Some suggestions of activities to distract yourself with:

1. Start another WiP

2. Read your whole TBR list

3. Watch everything you’ve ever wanted to watch on Netflix

4. Flee the country (and/or go on a reasonable trip)

5. Do…fun things? I don’t know, you’re lucky I came up with 4 things already.

Step 9: Submitting Requested Materials

You did it! You got an agent to request your materials! Whether it’s a 50 page partial or a full MS, this is a celebratory moment. I personally bought myself a little gift after my first request. (Then I drank heavily after I sent out the materials, but that’s…not a requirement)

I’ve heard varying advice for this. So, I’ll just say what I did.

I replied to the original email chain and changed the subject to “Requested Material: TITLE”

Then I put a little blurb into the body of the email. Not anything huge, just something simple like:

“Thank you so much for requesting my Full/Partial of TITLE. I have attached the requested material as a Word doc.
For your convenience, I’ve pasted the query letter below.
Thank you again, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Your Signature
PASTE QUERY HERE”

So, you don’t actually HAVE to paste your query letter again if you’re replying to the original thread. But I did it (and I’m not sorry!)

Step 10: Step away AGAIN! 

Yes! More waiting! So, see step 7 for my great suggestions on how to not worry about your MS being in the hands of agents.

Also, peppered in between each step should be halfway steps that I call CELEBRATE YOURSELF

Seriously! You did it! You rock. You are awesome. Even just sending ONE query means you’re putting yourself out there. That is huge. I know that I felt ridiculously accomplished after sending one query. And then I just rested for a while thinking “Yes, I did it. I pressed send.”

(I really spent time celebrating sending ONE query)

So, bask in your glory. And ask any questions you might have below. I’ll try to answer or provide links I’ve used.

Just as a final note, querying to find an agent might not be for everyone. I know people who have gone straight to a publishing house with their MS or have self-published to great success.
This post is merely for people who would like to find an agent as their next step on their writing/publishing journey.

The "Right" Kind of Hope

When I wrote about getting my agent and writing my current MS, I spoke a lot about hope.
Almost immediately after, I came across a wonderful post by Kristin Nelson, “What’s Your Magic Number,” about how many books most published authors write before they’re agented or published.
The reason these two things synced up in my mind was because they’re both about hope. But what I’m going to call “The ‘Right’ Kind of Hope.”
In writing and publishing there’s a lot of wishing, a lot of dreaming, and a lot of hoping. However, there is a big difference between hoping for things to just fall into your lap and knowing that hope needs to be mixed with a good amount of hard work and determination.
The wrong kind of hope can make you think that if you have an idea and get it down on paper, then you’re golden. The wrong kind of hope can make you think all of those “I wrote a book in a day and got a six-fig publishing deal” stories are the norm and that’s going to be you. The wrong kind of hope has you finishing your MS and then wondering how much you’ll get for the inevitable movie deal in such a way that distracts from much needed revision and honing.
This kind of hope can be debilitating. Because when you hope for something so grand and possibly misguided (such as writing a full book during NaNoWriMo, then querying in December, and getting a publishing deal in January) then any possible rejection will hurt that much more. It could potentially push you into a dark place that will be hard to climb back out of (and I say this because I experienced this. I wrote an MS for all the wrong reasons and thought I had it in the bag. And I failed miserably!).
As readers, we like to hear about how our favorite authors came up with their idea because they had a crazy dream, or saw a man save a girl from falling down the stairs in the subway, or read about a ghost ships in the harbors of Japan (this is an actual story I’ve read). But those stories gloss over the years it takes to go from idea to actual publishing. And it also never tells about the rejections that happened in between.

As writers, we need to know that “overnight success” stories are not the norm, they’re just the magical outliers that we love to talk about because they’re so interesting and induce a WOW reaction in us.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have hope. I believe in it so deeply that it brought me out of times where I felt like my writing and my life were going nowhere. I believe that it is important in any life, not just a creative one. It was actually very hard for me to even think of the title for this post because I don’t think I always know what the “right” kind of hope is (and isn’t it a bit presumptuous to believe I can say what’s right and wrong?). I was going to call it the “good” kind of hope and my critique partner said,”Isn’t all hope good?” I couldn’t necessarily say “No” to that because I believe that hope is a good thing.

I’ve read countless posts about how the thing that got most people published is an unwillingness to give up. THAT’s the kind of hope writers need. Because the thing that drives you forward even as you get dozens of rejections is the hope that someone will love your work.
ALMOST EVERY agent that requested material this time around rejected me when I queried them with my previous MS. It took me years to get an MS that was query-able and then even more time to get it in shape for sending it out to agents.

So, what I’m saying is that everyone should have hope, but have the right kind of hope.

The hope that tells you that the work you’re doing is good.

The hope that says that your late nights or early mornings putting in writing hours to hone your craft are worth it.

The hope that says that if you can keep working and dreaming, then you’ll find the perfect person to champion your work.

I hope for that for everyone.
Now here’s a GIF of J-Hope from BTS:

How I got my agent: A tale of writing, woe, and wishing

I present to you my story of how I got my agent
(Warning: This post is LONG and full of GIFs):

I started my professional writing journey when I had a weird dream (yea, I know, one of those people). I told my cousin about it because she’s a writer and I said, “Do you think that could be a book you would write?”

She said, “No, but you could write it.”

And I felt like that was a ridiculous idea. So I wrote it.

It was the worst book ever. But it rekindled a love of writing that I had in middle school and high school where I would fill spiral notebooks with chapter books that I would write all day and night long. One story was a fanfic retelling of Brian Jacques’ Redwall. I had one series about horse racing and muuurder!

Anyway, after writing that first book, which I still adore in a way I can’t explain even though I don’t want anyone to read it ever, I realized that writing had never stopped being my dream. I had just taken some detours along the path of my life.

So, I sat down to write a story based on one of the dozens of ideas I had come up with while writing that first story. And I thought I was being very business savvy to choose the book that felt more “marketable.” Yup, I did that. I was a dumb-dumb, thinking I could control my fate.

That isn’t to say that I didn’t love the story I decided to write. I truly did, but it was a story I wrote for all the wrong reasons even though I loved it at the time. I wrote it to be current and that is a number one big no-no I’ve heard. I think it showed in the MS.

But, I did get that book all polished and spiffy and I went to my first ever writing conference with it. I got great feedback from agents and editors and I got two requests for pages from pitches I recited from a memorized script I’d taken weeks to write.

It all seemed to be a very good next step. And it really was. I learned a lot from that experience and I am a better writer and person because of it.

So, I dove into the query trenches with my head held high.

I queried about 40 agents with that book and I got rejected. Like hardcore rejected. I think I got a couple requests for partials. And then all rejections. Some came quickly, some trickled in 9 months to a year later. They were all very professional, some even personalized a bit. The agents I’d met at the conference were the kindest you could ever imagine even as they told me the story wasn’t for them.

Suffice it to say, I was distraught. And I did the stupid thing and let myself wallow a bit too long. I got deep into writer’s block and couldn’t dig myself out of it for months.

I started two new books with the idea that I would push myself out of the rut. I was lucky enough to have gained a critique group from that conference and they were great at cheering me on, telling me that my WiPs sounded awesome, reading pages.

But, I just couldn’t get into my writing again. I did an online writing conference (Write On Con) and it helped boost me a bit. I did NaNoWriMo and that helped me get perspective on my writer’s block.

And finally, I decided to write a book that I was terrified to write. Partly because I didn’t think I was ready and partly because I loved it too much already. What if I mess it up? What if it was a big flop?

The moment I knew I was writing the right book was when I was told not to write it and I did it anyway. To be fair, the person who told me not to write it wasn’t saying I *couldn’t* write it, but just saying that I was stepping into a place that was untried and potentially full of places to trip up and fall. I was writing a book set in Korea based on Korean mythology about gumihos and I very creatively called it GUMIHO.

I am forever grateful that I approached this project with hope instead of fear. I had the hope that people would see the merit in my work, in my story and in my culture. I had the hope that I could give life to a land that I truly love with all of my heart. And I had hope that people would support my dream even as they feared for my feelings being trampled again.

In the end, I went with my heart and that made all the difference. The response to this project was a complete 180 from my last “thought out and targeted” MS. Where I had written to trend before, I wrote for myself this time.

I first experienced positive feedback when I went to a conference, Romantic Times Convention (RT Con). It was my first time pitching at such a huge event. And I was overwhelmed not only by the many agents and editors, but by the presence of some of my idol authors. It was actually perfect for me because I was distracted from my own nerves until the moment I was supposed to go pitch. And I didn’t have time to get stuck in my own head.

I also did a thing where I didn’t memorize a pitch that I’d prewritten. Instead, I made a list of three main points that I knew I had to hit when I pitched and I acted like myself. I wanted the heart of my story to get across, not just the plot.

I’m going to copy paste from a post I wrote for my other blog about what I learned from my RT experience:

1) Just do it. You can’t hold in your work forever if publishing is your end goal.

2) Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. I met a lot of great authors who were more than willing to let me pitch practice on them.

3) Accept it if your story isn’t for everyone. Some agents loved my pitch, some didn’t. It’s the fact of a subjective industry and you just have to keep trucking.

4) DO NOT try to fit your whole story into your pitch. Just tell the main gist and the main character. If you go ham, the agent will just go to their happy place and not follow your thread. I literally pitched my book as a concept instead of a full plot and I got requests. It was epic 🙂

Some advice given to me by Agents who requested:

1) Take your time! Do not send the MS right away if it is not squeaky shiny! It’s hard not to just flood all of the agents that request, but it’s kind of like being considerate that they want your best because you’d want their best if they were your agent.

2) Be excited! This is happy times! You got requests! At one point I couldn’t stop smiling as I spoke to an agent and I apologized about my face (yes, you’re allowed to laugh at me). She said it was fine, that she was happy for me too. (Agents are super nice y’all).

After RT Con, I went home with a glow. I was so happy that I got requests and made some new writer friends.
http://www.bethphelan.com/dvpit

Then #DVPit happened. I told myself not to be greedy, said that I had opened a very nice door for myself with RT Con. And then, of course, I had to just dip my toe in. Partly because DVPit was so INSPIRATIONAL! There were amazing stories pitched and wonderful #ownvoices. And the support of the community was unprecedented.

This is what I learned during #DVPit:

(Again, copy pasting from my old post about my lessons learned)

1) Be simple with your Twitter Pitch. If you were simple with your conference pitch, do that times TEN for twitter. You only have 140 characters!

2) community is everything! Signal boost your favorite pitches. Many participants were paying it forward and it was magical to see. Seriously, I love my writer community!

3) It’s full of hope! To see these unagented/unpublished authors right now and to KNOW that their books will be published in due time. It just makes you happy warm inside.

4) Take this opportunity to cultivate new relationships. Tweet at people if you like their pitch. Say thank you when they like yours back. And be respectful ALWAYS of the time put into a huge event like this! (Seriously #DVPit trended nationwide, that’s epic).

5) Also, know that agents and editors are still professionals, don’t ask them weird personal stuff. And when you query keep it as professional as if it was a cold, slush-pile query.

#DVPit gave me so much support. Not only from the agents and editors, but from the community. It was a coming together of people who love stories and love what DVPit represented and held each other up. After that day, I was a ball of emotion, but good emotion.

And then, I felt immediately like I was unprepared for life and I freaked out (for a few weeks).

So I did “research” and looked into EVERY agent who requested in detail. I took way too much time preparing myself for what I was sure would be a rocky query ride.
It was actually good that I did a lot of research because it is smart to know who you are querying. And it gave me a chance to settle down after the great adrenaline rush that was RT Con and DVPit.

So, I sent out ONE query and I had a HUGE case of imposter syndrome IMMEDIATELY.

The problem was that my last querying round had been so abysmal. Little to no excitement over my concept or story. So the fact that GUMIHO had gotten such a positive reception really concerned me. That maybe I’d bit off more than I could chew. That maybe I’d send my MS and then they’d KNOW that I don’t belong!

It’s so hard to put yourself out there. I had many moments where I felt like I was flailing in the wind. This is where your friends, family, and critique partners (CPs) come in handy.

ESPECIALLY my CPs. They knew my struggle. They understood the industry and what I was experiencing. Talking to them was like talking to someone who was running a marathon beside me. They were the rock that held me to the ground when my body wanted to just get up and fly away and be like, “Nope, I can’t exist in this world any longer.”

But, despite all my craziness, that first query came back with a request for a full.
I did my happy dance, said a thank you to the heavens and sent out the MS.
Then I sent out more queries. After sending out requested material, I tried to take advice and step back from the computer (this was ridiculously difficult). So, I made plans to distract myself. Namely, I decided to go to Book Con 2016.

Well, fate had a funny way of taking my plans and turning them all topsy turvy, because the Thursday before Book Con I got an email from an agent to ask for a call. I was so flustered that I set up the call for the next day. And then I cried. My coworkers were quite concerned by my sudden outburst, but I’m lucky to work with very understanding people. They gave me supporting hugs and pats even as they didn’t fully understand why I was a hot mess.

I spent the next 24 hours convincing myself that it wasn’t THE call. My CPs were more confident than me, they said an agent doesn’t call out of the blue for an Revise & Resubmit. I was trying to temper my expectations (I was a fool to think I could do that!)

Well, my CPs were right (as they usually are). It was thrilling and surreal to talk about my book with an industry professional who liked it enough to want to represent it.

My hands were shaking by the time I got off the phone.

So, I went off to Book Con and I was a wreck. I cried a lot that weekend (but happy tears).

I gave other agents with my full, partial or query two weeks to get back to me with their thoughts on my MS. And now I was in territory I had never stepped into. I had queried before, I had gotten requests before, I had gotten rejected (many times) before. But I had never been in a place where I knew there was happiness at the end of the rainbow.

As you can imagine, I was pretty much in a fugue state for a full two weeks.
I went through phases during that time where I was like, “I got this. I can pull this around and be fabulous even though I look a hot mess.”

My CPs definitely got an ear-full when I was in those moments, because I had to talk out my reasons for why I was totally cool as a cucumber EVEN THOUGH I OBVIOUSLY WASN’T!

Finally D-Day came (not fast enough if you ask me. I’m pretty sure I found a break in the time-space continuum and it’s the two weeks after you get an initial agent offer).

In the end, I found an agent who loved my book and understood me as a writer.

I feel so lucky to be able to say that I’ve signed with the amazing Beth Phelan of The Bent Agency and I couldn’t be happier!

Why I love Query Tracker

If you’re querying or about to query, then you probably know there are a lot of tools out there to help you in the process. For myself, I started out with an excel spreadsheet way too long for its own good.

I also had advice from critique partners and other writers.

But, in my need to be organized, I turned to Query Tracker 

(suggested to me by my lovely critique partner).

It. Is. Fabulous.

Here’s a blurb about QT by QT:

Why join QueryTracker?List of top literary agents and publishers.
Tools to keep your queries organized.
Benefit from the collective knowledge of thousands of other writers, all of which are enduring the query process just like you.
Export and backup your data at any time
The data compiled on agents and queries will give you special insight, such as:

  • The number of queries sent to each agent.
  • The number of queries each agent accepts.
  • The number of queries each agent rejects.
  • Response times of agents.
  • Plus much more…

Everyone who queries should use it! And here are a few reasons why:

  • Basic sign up is free
  • You can make agent lists for different projects
  • You can keep track of who you queried, what their response is, and if they requested.
  • You can look through your list based on convenient things like “outstanding queries” or “outstanding submissions” or, my personal favorite, “hide rejections.”
  • Also, it gives information about the agents: What they’re looking for, genres they represent, their clients, how to query them, how fast they’ve been replying
  • It makes epic pie-charts for you based on your responses and submissions (I love charts)

  • Within each agent profile, there’s a nice comments section where some people will put when they queried, when they got a response, the type of book they were querying, etc.

  • There’s a great community. In the aforementioned comment section, some people will ask about response times or if agents have auto-reply emails set up to acknowledge receipt. Sometimes it’s stressful when you don’t know if an agent got your query. So this community is a great place to turn to.
  • ALSO, best feature (in my mind) is the forums and the success stories. There are queries that worked! And they’re for individual agents. So you know what Steve liked because he requested it and then offered representation.