Archive for February, 2015


Just a little gif(t)* for those of my brother and sister writers wallowing in query hell right now. Courtesy of Rae Chang.

*See what I did, there?

Bleeding Ink, Inc

What? Another silly gif post, Rae? What’s the matter with you?


Don’t you have better things to do?

another excellent

Okay, I’ll be straight with you, I have a billion things I’m supposed to be doing right now. But I feel like a few people — very much including myself — can benefit from this. So . . .


You ready? Got your unicorn cup of (insert beverage here) ready? Grand.

Let’s have some straight talk, people.

Being a writer.

That’s what we all do. That’s why we’re here. Well, lemme tell you something that most of you already know. We are freaking masochists. On the first day of Brandon Sanderson’s class, he says something to effect of “If you are thinking of being a writer and would be happy doing anything else, do that instead.”

Is it because he hates you? Or writing? (My guess is . . . probably not.)

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I haven’t really posted much about actual writing lately because I have spent the last month or so in query hell, and the last two weeks in the twitterverse. And I THINK it is going to have been uber-productive for me. I wrote a couple of blog posts* about it, but there’s a new thing I wanted to share with my brother and sister writers. This is HUGE.

Fellow writer Samantha Fountain started #AgentMatch, which is a twitter contest (like many others) where writers with complete manuscripts can submit a pitch and the top 50 orso are selected by a team of editors and writers and posted online by genre or category, and agents can then look at these vetted pitches and request partials or full manuscripts from the authors. Many writers have gotten representation this way.

When I started looking into the writer/query community on Twitter, I had missed this by like two days.

But Samantha was just getting started. Her latest project (which officially launches on March 2) is called, and it is essentially a website directory of writers and their pitches (for completed manuscripts), where agents can shop for manuscripts that match their needs/likes/wants/wishes. You’ve seen Writer’s Market and the Guide to Literary Agents; imagine a directory of writers with manuscripts seeking representation – a directory for agents to find writers. The last two weeks has been a series of daily contests on Twitter to get into the launch of this site on March 2. After the launch authors can join at any time, but I got caught up in the excitement and managed, against long odds, to get into the select group of authors to be included in the launch. I’m very excited about this.

Now, you should have no illusions — these various agent/writer “dating services” don’t make it more likely for a book that’s not ready or a bad pitch to be accepted by an agent. What it does do it speed up the process and get your book in front of more eager agents sooner. The normal process is to send out your query to an agent unsolicited, hopefully including some tidbit from your research that suggests your book is what they have been looking for, and then you wait until your submissions crawls its way to the top of the slush pile and hope this happens on a good day. And you do this over and over again. Potentially lots of hit-or-miss. But with these contests, the agents are actively seeking the books. And when you get a nibble, you can then send your full query to these agents AS A RESPONSE TO A DIRECT INVITATION. This puts you on the top of the pile on day one.

So I’m stoked.


The website will work like this: For writers, you will have your own author page which you can customize with contact/social info, a blog, your bio, and as many pitches as you have manuscripts. The sit will periodically provide questions you can answer (or not) to help fill out your profile. Agents will be able to locate you (your manuscripts) by category and genre, and with a single click can read the first 250 words of your book (only registered agents can do this). With another click they can request a partial or full of your manuscript with a personalized e-mail. You can likewise search through the registered agents, get their contact/social info, and see their wish list (called Agent Cravings). Agent pages will be similar to writer pages in that they are customizable and offer useful information to querying writers.

The site’s homepage will feature the authors/pitches that have been shared the most by agents via social media, as well as the agents who’s profiles have been shared by writers the most via social media, both updated daily.

If you are ready and interested, here are the details from Samantha Fountain’s blog. Also, here are the Twitter and Facebook pages for WriterPitch.

I hope to see lots of writers on there! And I hope this inspires even more of you to finish and polish your book.


*Successful Writers Have a Special Kind of Madness — It’s Called Pitch Madness, and It’s a Thing
The Madness Continues — More Writerly Twitter Things


Last week I talked about Pitch Madness, and the Twitter version, #PitMad – two “contests” where writers can submit pitches of their finished manuscripts to groups of agents on the lookout. Turns out Twitter is a lot like an iceberg; once you start digging you find out there’s quite a lot gong on. It’s those hashtags again.

The genius of Twitter is that entire universes exist inside the cloud of tweets flitting through the ether. You just need to know the secret password to enter each of them. Last week I mentioned a few of those passwords: #QueryTips and #MSWL. If you spend any time in either of those universes, you can pick up the passwords to other related universes. There are a ton of writer-specific hashtags.


Plus you can find conversations about just your genre:


And because these opportunities are going on all the time, you can find plenty of people who offer advice and actual critiques on your pitches. I responded to two different offers and got prompt and helpful advice in both cases, and neither one cost me anything other than to agree to follow them on Twitter. Oh, yeah, besides these hashtag universes, you can also follow individuals on Twitter. For example, you could follow me at @John_Berkowitz.

The universe I have been spending the most time in lately is a very special place called #AgentMatch. Like Pitch Madness, Agent Match is a specific “contest” or opportunity for writers with ready-to-go manuscripts to hook up with agents looking for new clients. I just missed Agent Match by a few days when I discovered this hashtag. People who had submitted and had been vetted by the team had their pitches posted by category (picture books, middle grade, young adult, new adult, adult and memoirs). There the huge stable of participating agents could see them and request partials or full manuscripts from those they liked. But even though that event is over, the #AgentMatch universe is still very lively, because the creator and organizer of this even has something big up her sleeve, which will be revealed in the coming weeks. In her own words:

The overwhelmingly positive responses from Agent Match spawned a love child 🙂

As I developed Agent Match I started to realize how equally important it is to agents and writers alike to find their right match.

I’m beyond excited to announce AWESOMENESS in the making that will connect agents and writers in a fashion like never before. The big launch is roughly 2-4 weeks out. Right now under the hashtag #AgentMatch I’m running contests for writers to get their manuscript pitches into the launch. I’m taking six profile and pitch entries a day and they will be plugged into the LAUNCH for the day we go live. After that writers are free to sign up and create their own profiles for agents to search and be able to search for agents.

This is going on NOW. Get details here and watch #AgentMatch on Twitter for your chance to get in on the ground floor. And even if your don’t get in now you can get in later, and the experience of being tuned in to the #AgentMatch universe will likely unlock new passwords to other universes that will interest you in your quest for publication.

For example, I learned there is another Twitter context very much like #PitMad going on this Friday, hosted by Jolly Fish Press, called #JFPitch. Same idea as #PitMad – 140 character pitch (including #JFPitch and your genre), up to twice per hour between 9am and 6pm Mountain Standard Time on February 20th. Get the details here.

There is another one, #PitchSlam, coming in April. Details here.

Monitoring and managing all of these opportunities takes a lot of time and dedication, and you still have to have your pitch and query and synopsis (not to mention manuscript) polished and ready-to-go. But it seems to me these are a much better way to get your work in front of an eager agent (or publisher) than leaping onto the slush pile.

I guess I’ll find out.


Tweet cropped

I never paid much attention to Twitter.  Because I never really had anything important to say and I didn’t feel like I needed to know the random thoughts of any of my friends.  I signed up a few years ago so I could follow NASA during a particular mission hoping for live updates, but it was rather intrusive.  Like being constantly tapped on the shoulder and handed notes while you’re in the middle of work, or dinner, or reading a book, or whatever.  I turned it off.

However now I am a writer with a finished and polished novel manuscript (mine and my daughter’s), and suddenly I am intensely interested in finding an agent.  This turns out to me more work than writing the novel.  And the stakes are much higher.  Why?  If you don’t already now, you’ll find out when it’s time.

So I have been scouring the Interwebs for any and all information/advice/lectures/tips/examples of how to write a successful query and get it into the hands of the best agent. I guess it was inevitable that I would find myself back on Twitter.

The key to making the whole Twitter thing work is hashtags.  These “#” things.  We used to call them “the pound sign.”  You know, back when “.” was called a period, not a “dot.”  Hashtags are like keywords for facilitating searches, only the hashtag has been adopted as the key to a universal keyword system — it works for almost all social media (all that I know of) — Twitter, Facebook, LinkeIn, Tumbler, YouTube, WordPress, the list is both endless and daunting.  I discovered the power of the hashtag when I started posting these blog posts on my Facebook page and in my LinkedIn groups.  You want to hear some advice on how to query your book?  Search #QueryTips.  This is a big one on Twitter; agents and writers post tidbits of advice and links to their sites with more information.  Then I discovered #MSWL, which stands for “Manuscript Wish List” — agents and publishers tweet a brief description of the kind of book they are looking for.  Keep an eye out on February 18th, this year.

MSWL tweetMSWL tweet 2

And that’s when I discovered Pitch Madness.  Pitch Madness (#PitMad) is an event held several times a year on Twitter, where on a given day for 12 hours authors post a pitch of their book — 140 characters, including the hashtag #PitMad and one indicating the genre (#YA for young adult, #SFF for science fiction & fantasy, #R for romance, etc.).  Then any agent who wishes to participate (a growing number) monitors Twitter through a filter for #PitMad and “favorites” the pitches they want to see.  Your tweet get a favorite from an agent, and that’s an invitation to send them your query (still according to their guidelines, but now you can mention that they requested your book during Pitch Madness).  The details are here, on Brenda Drake’s website (the agent who invented this contest, I believe).  The next #PitMad event is coming up on March 11, from 8am – 8pm New York time.

The advice from past events suggests you don’t post your pitch more than 2 times per hour (or you cross the line into spam territory), and that you craft your 140-word pitch in advance.  Some people suggest you put together multiple versions, for variety.

I came up with four, for my daughter’s and my book, The Last Princess:

A homeschooler who sees faeries among us must abandon her dreams to stop a changeling from using his magic to rule both worlds. #PitMad #MG

When a 12yo learns she’s descended from trolls she must choose between saving her friend & using a spell to forget her heritage #PitMad #MG

A 12yo discovers a secret world of faeries among us & may become the last princess, unless a goblin w/sinister powers stops her #PitMad #MG

A girl who dreams of being the Faerie Princess learns she’s a troll. Will she be the Troll Princess or use a spell & be neither? #PitMad #MG

At two tweets per hour and a 12-hour window, that means you can pitch 24 times.  And unless you have nothing else to do that day, I recommend finding one of the many websites or mobile apps that will let you pre-schedule your tweets.  I found the one I use on this helpful site.  My 24 tweets are written and scheduled, just in case I forget to wake up at 5am, here in California.

By the way, in case you are looking for more ways to get your query out there, check out the other pitch contests described on Brenda Drake’s site.  There is also a yearly non-twitter version of Pitch Madness:

Pitch Madness is a contest held every March, where writers enter for a chance to win requests from the participating agents. Writers submit a 35-word (max) pitch and the first 250 words of their completed manuscript on submission day. Then a team of readers choose the top sixty (60) entries to go onto the agent round. The agents play a game against the other agents to win requests for more pages of their favorite entries. The best played agent request wins either a partial or full manuscript read of the entry.  The game for Pitch Madness changes each event. We’ve played poker, paintball, darts, and Monopoly.

2015 Pitch Madness SORRY! Edition submission window is February 20, 2015 and the agent round is March 3-4, 2015.

There is also a contest called Pitch Wars:

What is Pitch Wars? Is it another contest? Oh, no, it’s so much better. Pitch Wars is a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions to shine it up for agents. The mentors also critique the writer’s pitch to get it ready for the agent round. Mentors also pick one alternate each in case their writer drops out of the contest. Writers send applications (query and first chapter of manuscript) to the four mentors that best fit their work. The mentors then read all their applications and choose the writer they want to mentor for the next two months. Then we hold an agent round with over a dozen agents making requests. Look for my upcoming blog post for more information coming at the end of July, 2014.

2015 Pitch Wars submission window will open August 17. We’ll announce the mentors’ picks on September 2, and the agent round is November 3-4.

I feel like participation in these contests will give us a much better chance of getting our story in front of agents actively seeking exactly the kind of story we’ve written.  So wish us luck.  And we hope to see you there!*


*Oh, one important piece of etiquette: if you see a pitch from a friend during #PitMad, DON’T favorite it (unless you are an agent).  This will only confuse things and get your friend’s hopes up.  You CAN, however, re-tweet it.

We have officially taken the plunge.

Okay, we have officially dipped the tip of our big toe in. Yay! (That’s the “ecstatic” part.)

My daughter and I sent out our first agent query letter. Just the one. It turns out this is much more difficult than sending out your manuscript to critiquers or beta readers or even co-workers or family members. Because 1) you can still fix your manuscript, and 2) because none of them are (presumably) holding your writing career in the palm of their hands. Well, technically they’re holding your manuscript, so they are. But I mean they aren’t (probably) in a position to propel you to fame or reject you with a form letter.

Agents are different than mere mortal readers. And they have the power to do this even before you send them your actual manuscript. So cheeky! But they nevertheless hold the keys to the traditional publishing kingdom. So it pays to make a good impression.

The problem – as with all first impressions – is that you only get one. You fail to impress a prospective agent with either your query or your proposal, and you can cross them off your list. No second chances.

That’s the “terrified” part.

I mean, how do I know if we’re doing it right? We expect to get rejected. Repeatedly. Even if our book is brilliant and commercial and just what the market is craving, it won’t be right for every agent’s list, or the right time, or too close to something they just accepted last week. So there will be plenty of No’s before we get to a Yes. If we do. But what if all of the No’s are because the book is awful? Or worse, what if the book is great, but the query is awful?

It’s entirely possible some sweet and thoughtful agent will take the time to write a note telling us why they rejected us and how to fix it. But how many “perfect fit” agents will we have ruined our chances with before that happens?

What is the word for ecstatic/terrified? I think it’s “query.”