Posts Tagged ‘#QueryTips’

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Last week in That “Aha” Moment I talked about how you never know when a good idea will strike, and also about when you may have to let one of those ideas go.  I closed by telling you how my new Critique Partner and a professional editor both pointed out what was missing from our book, and that I would share with you what that was, in case it applied to you, too.  It was really quite a game-changer.

What’s been missing from my daughter’s and my book were the stakes.

stake
[steyk]
noun
  1. something that is wagered in a game, race, or contest.
  2. a monetary or commercial interest, investment, share, or involvement in something, as in hope of gain: I have a big stake in the success of the firm.
  3. a personal or emotional concern, interest, involvement, or share: Parents have a big stake in their children’s happiness.
  4. the funds with which a gambler operates.

 

In fiction, this means the goal or outcome the hero wants. And more importantly, what is in the way of achieving that goal?  Another word for this is “suspense.”

To be fair, we did eventually get around to adding in stakes to our novel by the time we got to the end.  And we went back and diligently hinted at it in the early chapters, too.

This is, apparently, not sufficient.

Our first clue (ignored) was when we struggled to come up with a longline, or 35-word pitch.  For sure, this is not easy under the best circumstances, but the crux of the pitch is the stakes. If you can’t figure out what your main character has at stake, there is a problem with your book.

We began writing THE LAST PRINCESS by the seat of our pants, without an outline, and letting the story evolve as we progressed.  In fact, we never actually intended the story to include a villain, but one sort of appeared organically, and we added him to the story.  In the end the final conflict is rather juicey and full of hard choices — stakes — but that suspense, that energy, that urgency, is simply not very apparent at the beginning.

It needs to be.  In fact, I’d suggest that by page 50 (page 30 for children’s books) it should be clear to your reader what is at stake for the hero, and just as importantly, what will happen if she or he fails.  And remember, failure is an option.  It depends on what kind of book you want to write.

What does this look like?  Imagine I told you I had a guaranteed winning lottery ticket worth millions, and I was willing to let you have it.  Now, imagine I told you the only way to get it is to climb up the outside of the U.S. Capitol Building and retrieve it from the top of the dome.  Before midnight tomorrow.  Now you have some suspense.  Can you do it?  How will you do it in time?  How will you get past security?  Do you have the skill and equipment?  What if you get caught?

It doesn’t have to be that dramatic.  A woman is engaged to a horrible person but falls in love with a different, wonderful man.  But she must marry the first in order to save her dying sister.  A boy has a dream of becoming the best cornet player in New Orleans, but he lives in poverty and can’t afford nice clothes to audition for the band.

So how do you sharpen the stakes?  Pour on the pressure.  The engaged woman learns the wonderful man loves her back, and he’s rich, too.  But her fiancé is the only surgeon qualified to perform the life-saving operation.  And when he gets jealous he drinks.  The cornet player earns the money to buy a nice suit, but his mother loses her job and can’t afford to buy food for the family.  If you really want to lay it on thick, add a time-bomb: The band auditions are this Friday, then the talent scout is leaving town. The sister’s condition is worsening by the day.

For our book, we need to put the conflict with the villain right up front, and make it clear what the hero has to lose — personally — if she fails to defeat him.  That’s the thing about stakes, they have to be personal.  It’s not enough to just save the kitten from the fire.  The kitten has to be personally important to the hero.  Ask yourself this question:  What would happen to your hero if he/she fails?  If their life could pretty much go on unchanged, your stakes aren’t high enough or personal enough.

This’s what was missing from our book.  We had stakes, but they weren’t personal enough.  It came own to saving other people or going back to her normal life.  Not enough suspense.  But now we know how to fix that.  We’re going to have to let go of some of our favorite lines, even favorite scenes.  But the results should help make our manuscript irresistible to readers — particularly agents.

 

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There’s been a be it of a debate over at my critique group.  This isn’t the first time this has happened.  Our long-standing debate has been a kind of a glass-half full/glass half-empty philosophical conundrum for as long as I have been a member (three years).

The feature in question is the Hook Queue, in which members can enter the first 1,000 words of their story and get feedback.  This sounds great on paper, and in practice many, many members like it.  I don’t happen to be one of them.

See, here’s the thing.  The whole critique group is based on a credit system; you have to critique the work of others to earn the credits you need to spend in order to submit your own work.  It creates motivation and an atmosphere where giving critiques is as valuable or more valuable than receiving them.  Which is actually true.

The Hook Queue is a little different.  Entering into the Hook Queue costs you 3 credits, but you can earn them back by critting 10 other hook submissions.  Here’s how the queue is described:

This queue is a little bit special. Here the critter is playing the role of an underpaid editor searching for that special perfect snowflake of a manuscript amongst a pile of hopefuls.

Anyone can post into this queue but you must have extremely thick skin. The queue is meant to give you an indication of how good your hook is and where editors might stop reading, and more importantly, why.

The theory is that you should run though these quickly (you are timed) and when you feel like stopping, make a short note explaining why at that spot.  It is quite a contrast to the regular story queues we use for chapters, in which additional points are awarded to critters for making more verbose critiques.

The Hook Queue is only open one week per month.  And after each one the debates roll out anew.  Some people (myself included) want more detailed comments on these all-important opening pages of our story, not a cold brush-off.  We want to know what is working so we can make more of that.  But the entire concept of the Hook Queue is that members are asked to pretend they are editors or agents, when mostly likely none of them actually are.  Critters are only guessing at what an editor is looking for.  These people are writers themselves — an entirely different breed.

The people in favor of this method like to point out (according to everything they “know” to be true about slush readers) that they are all just looking for reasons to reject your manuscript.  One member went so far as to suggest they already have all the clients they need and the slush pile is their lowest priority, so in order to get home to their families they slam through it — just like the Hook Queue is designed.

I’m here to tell you it just ain’t so.

The editors, agents, and slush readers I’ve spoken to (quite a few) express their love of their work.  They can’t wait to find the next great book that takes their breath away, and they invite anybody with an Internet machine to send them their manuscript. But don’t take my word for it.  The other day I ran across an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) on Reddit, being conducted by a slush reader for a New York literary agent.  He answered questions for hours revealing, among other things, that he does it for no pay because he simply loves books, and would rather read a good story than watch television.  Here are a few of his comments/answers:

Most agents will read nearly 100% of all queries and probably something close to that in full requests. What the readers like me are doing is helping to level them out. We’re making sure that good stuff gets noticed quick, because the agent is racing to find new talent before someone else scoops them up. And we’re leveling the agent out when they fall in love with a book that may have some serious flaws. Trust me when I say this – Agents and readers alike want desperately to be in love with your writing and your story. We live for it. Look at it less as gate-keeping and more as trying to find the gold nuggets in the sifting pan faster because there’s only one giant pan and a thousand gold-hungry sharks swimming in it. More eyes is better than less.

 

A good slush reader has to be aligned with the agents interests. The agent wants to find great writing and great/talented authors to sign. Slush readers that are just looking for reasons to hate things last about as long as critique partners who like to tell you how horrible you are at writing (maybe a week?). Now, we sure may get a bad rep for pointing out things that we feel are flaws (especially when the writer doesn’t agree) but I can tell you that what we present is opinion and sometimes Agents ignore their slush readers completely and go with their gut and sign authors they simply love.

 

Anytime a [slush] reader likes a work, it’s good for the author and the agent alike. A reader helps the agent have a pulse on what the “average joe” reads and likes. It gives the agent a more rounded opinion of the work. It can help the agent overcome a gut reaction or objection, and it can point out a flaw that the agent didn’t see.

So, if you are in the query trenches right now, desparing because you think the keepers of the keys to your publishing kingdom only have eyes for your mistakes, buck up.  The people you’re querying want to love your book.  As this slush reader said, “There are exactly 1000 things pulling the attention of an agent at any one moment. If you can keep them from caring about anything but reading the next sentence, you’ll have an agent by tomorrow morning.”

Now, I just need to wade back into the debate and convince everyone that our Hook Queue has got it’s head on backwards.

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This is the big one, kids.  The gold standard of pitch contests, and one of the longest-running. There are something like 130 mentor teams participating this year, broken into four age categories: Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult and Adult. The contest runs from today through November 9.

But what is it?

Oh! I didn’t see you there, under that rock.  Okay.  PitchWars is a contest for writers with complete manuscripts and a polished query letter. You choose four mentors or mentor teams (a lot of those this year) and submit your first chapter, query, and contact info. Over the course of the next three weeks, those mentors will review all of their entries and request additional materials from those writers whose manuscripts they like. And by “like” I mean they feel like they can connect to the story and the author, and can offer concrete advice for revising the entire manuscript to agent readiness. These are experienced people — slush readers, professional editors, published authors. Many of them are past PitchWars winners.

Then, for the next two months, the chosen mentees will be in constant communication with their mentors, frantically revising their manuscripts and query letters according to their mentors’ advice.  Then, during the first week of November, these revised pitches and manuscripts will be showcased for participating agents.  There are over 60 of those, this year.  The goal, of course, is for an agent to sign you.  That happened to over 50 people last year, and over 200 in the 4-year history of PitchWars.

Do you have a manuscript you are ready to query?  If so, and you want to enter, the details are here.  When you are ready, the entry form is here.

Good luck!

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You’ve either gotten them or you are working hard to be able to get them.  Rejections.  From agents, from publishers, from contest judges.

But there is a huge stigma attached to the word “rejection” out in the world.  I mean, sure, rejection actually means that you have been rejected, y’know, the opposite of accepted.  But it is nowhere near that cut-and-dried in the publishing world.

Rejection doesn’t mean “Failure.”  At worst it just means “No.”  It might also mean “Not for me,” “Not quite,” or “Not yet.”

We’ve received quite a few rejection letters, my daughter and I.  A good portion of them were form letters.  Usually those form letters included an apology for sending a form letter.  I get it; reading and evaluating hundreds of queries a week is hard.  Time-consuming.  Emotionally draining.  An agent can’t be expected to give back as much heart and soul as each hopeful writer has poured into their query (not to mention novel).  And nearly all of these form rejections include some version of the same comment: “This is not a reflection of your writing … this business is very subjective … we hope you continue querying.”  Those are all positive, comforting, friendly sentiments.  And they are all true.  They mean it every single time.

Okay, fine, agents undoubtedly receive and reject abysmal writing samples they wouldn’t wish on any fellow agent, let alone future reader.  Maybe in those cases some agents eschew the form rejection and say it like it is.  But I bet even then, the agent advises those writers to dig in, improve their craft, and try again.

Here’s my point.  These aren’t failures.  These aren’t the end.  They are more like when a door-to-door salesman goes to the next door.  Each time you knock on a door is an opportunity to hone your schpiel and greet the next prospective customer with a slightly better pitch.

Most of the time its a “No.”  Some people don’t even want to hear how great your cookies are.  But that’s no reflection on the cookies, is it?  There’s a sweet tooth on every street, but you have to knock on a lot of doors to find it.  So it is with querying.  For sure, if an agent takes the time to advise you in their rejection on how to improve your presentation, you should consider that advice.  If you do and you steadily improve, and you keep trying, there is every reason to believe you will eventually find a home for your manuscript.  You certainly have a better chance than if you don’t.

 

Voice

What is “voice?”

Yeah … hard to define, isn’t it.  And yet virtually every agent with a wishlist or contest with judges insist that “voice” is the most important thing about your manuscript.  You gotta have some.  And if you ain’t got it, you ain’t goin’ nowhere in this bidness.

Voice is like seasoning in a recipe.  You’re supposed to add it “to taste,” which basically means, fiddle with it until you like it.  But the thing about seasoning and voice — everybody has different taste. You know that thing where they say publishing is subjective?  This is exactly why.  Your book may be fantastic, but if the agent who happens to be looking at it isn’t a fan of, say, “peppy” you get rejected.  Lot’s of agents rejected Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone before J.K Rowling got a book deal.

Voice isn’t the only thing, of course, that is judged in a manuscript.  In fact, there are about a thousand things you have to get right. Spelling, commas, formatting, the agent’s name, dialogue, white space, the first sentence, setting, the font….  But most of those things you can figure out.  Spelling and punctuation are either right or wrong.  Dialogue sounds natural or it doesn’t.  There are guidelines on how to format your manuscript and what font to use.  You research your agent.  But voice….

How do you know when it’s right?  It’s like that joke by E.E. Kenyon, “Do you know how to get to Carnegie Hall?” Same answer: Practice!

Fine, but what is it, exactly?  Well, it isn’t anything “exactly.” It’s the personality of your book.  It’s the tone, the pace, the word choice, the flavor.  Voice is where you get to play with the rules a little.  Maybe your voice is a tiny bit irreverent, so you blithely begin sentences with “And.”  Maybe you’re voice is stern and no-nonsense, so you eschew contractions and use clipped sentences.  Maybe your voice is poetic, so you sprinkle in a few purple words here and there to highlight a feeling.

Voice is where you bring the funny.  Or the scary.  Or the poignant.  It’s where you show your style.  It’s where you choose certain turns of phrase and reject others because of how they affect the “mood” of your story.  Voice is what makes you stare at the page for 45 minutes trying to decide if you should use “challenge” or “difficulty” because meaning is everything and every word counts.

To a large degree, voice is why I chose to write THE LAST PRINCESS in first person.  Because the voice I wanted for the book was Cat’s voice — the main character.  So where somebody else might have written:

I was no longer hungry and, in fact, I began to feel rather sick.

 

In Cat’s voice I wrote:

I squeezed my eyes shut as my stomach rumbled again, only this time it wasn’t a pleasant, oh-please-feed-me kind of rumble. It was more of a get-me-outta-here-before-I-hurl sort of rumble.

This is the voice of a twelve-year-old girl looking at a menu in a French restaurant, staring at pictures of escargots and pressed duck.  The sentence above is not.  Yet they both say the same thing.

That’s voice.

Most of the voice I used when writing THE LAST PRINCESS came from listening to my daughter and reading lots of middle grade books featuring girls with attitude.  If you haven’t found your voice yet, don’t panic.  You will.  It takes time.  It takes practice.  And it takes patience.

Go ye forth and get some.

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My daughter and I enter our manuscript (query, pitch, first page, etc.) into a lot of contests. We haven’t “won” any yet.

So why do we keep pounding our head against that wall?

Well, it’s like this.  There are hundreds of good resources readily at hand for how to write your novel: classes — both online and in person — critique groups, how-to books, YouTube lectures, writers’ blogs, your mother, etc., etc. If you are serious, you can thoroughly teach yourself all of the aspects of novel writing, from plot to dialogue to pacing to character development to building tension, and every other particle of minutiae you can think of. You can surround yourself with other writers who can share their experience, collect beta reader who can tell you what’s wrong with your WIP, and hire editors who can help you fix it. Plus, there are like a million books out there you can read as examples of what works.

But what about finding an agent?

<crickets>

Sure, a lot of people are willing to give you advice. Some of them have even found an agent themselves. But mostly their advice is pretty vague. “Make sure your query has voice, but not too much voice.” “In one paragraph describe your entire book, but leave out everything that isn’t essential.” “Include Character, Conflict, Stakes, and Consequences.” “Don’t waste a single word.”

Okay, fantastic. But how?  Maybe there are some examples of successful query letters. Great. But they aren’t about your book. How do you craft the irresistible query for your book? Where’s that class?

There are actually editors out there who provide query feedback for a fee.  But that can get expensive, and what do you do if you pay and still get no results?

Here’s where the contests come in.  My daughter and I most recently entered #QueryKombat, and for the first time we made it into the first round. The actual contest itself is a series of elimination rounds based on voting by agented and published authors, alternating with opportunities for agents to request partials or fulls. What you’re supposedly vying for is agent exposure. The idea is that if you make it though several rounds, revising along the way, you haven been “vetted” and agents are much more likely to be interested.  You’re not actually winning representation or a publishing contract, although in theory your odds go up.

But the real benefit of such a contest is the feedback.  We were eliminated in the first round of #QueryKombat. Over three days the votes were 2-1 in our favor, then 2-2, 3-2 in our favor … then 3-6 against. It ended up 4-6. But each of those ten votes came with a detailed analysis of our query letter and our first page, pointing out both strengths and weaknesses.  In addition, participants were required to comment (but not vote) on at least six other entries.  So we actually ended up with closer to twenty detailed critiques of our query.

This is tremendously helpful. And I don’t know any other place where I could have gotten this kind of targeted feedback on my query.

So if your are querying yourself and unsure about how to craft that perfect query, look for the contests.  There are dozens every year (see my 2016 Pitch Contest Calender).  And the great thing is, you don’t have to “win” to win.

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Last year, my daughter and I were just beginning to query our fresh, new manuscript (the toner was still warm), and one of the very first contests we ever entered was #QueryKombat.

We didn’t make it in.  Out of a few hundred hopefuls, only 64 get chosen to participate, and then half are eliminated right away. The contest pairs up queries and the first 250 words of similar manuscripts (same genre/age group, complimentary subject-matter). Then a panel of judges read each pairing and vote for their favorite.  The 32 who make it get an opportunity to revise based on the comments, and then these are paired up again for the next bracket.  And so on until there is a final winner, six rounds later.  Along the way, agents are invited to look at the entries and make requests.

I was philosophical about not getting in. The whole query thing still mystified me, and as much as I wished it to be so, our opening was not perfect.  We would revise it at least a half-dozen times before we got to where we are today.  And dozens of query variations.  And oh, so many contests.

Which brings us to today.

We entered #QueryKombat 2016 with a new query. In fact we’re trying it out in this way before we foist it on the unsuspecting Agent Community. Last week the roster was announced, and our entry had been chosen.  So we were in!  Our fist contest in which we actually made it past the entry stage.  So no matter what happens next, we will get some very valuable feedback from the judges and other participants on our query and first page.

Of course, we want to make it to the next round. And the next. And so on. We are certainly interested in the great exposure to agents, and the multiple opportunities to revise or query along the way. But for now, we’re just excited to have made it this far. It is a valuable and timely boost to our morale, and we won’t let it go to waste.

Please check out the contest; it is hosted over three separate blogs:

Michelle Hauck

Michael Anthony

Laura Heffernan

The code name for our entry is BATTLE ROYALE (it is on Michelle’s blog, and you have to click on “older posts” at the bottom of the first page to get to it).  PLEASE do not vote — that is reserved for the official judges. But comments are welcome. Constructive criticism is preferred over cheerleading, but comments are comments and the more the merrier.

If you are a writer in the querying trenches, these vetted queries and first pages are an invaluable glimpse into what works. Avail yourself of the opportunity to while it lasts.

And thanks in advance for your support.

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You can unclench; it’s not that bad.

As aspiring writers we suck up advice like that corner attachment on your vacuum cleaner.  Because, well, we haven’t a clue and desperately need one.  If you step back and actually look at what you’re doing, it’s kind of amazing — you’re writing a book. Like, a real book. Who does that?

Well … you, now.

When I was a kid, I thought books were written by people who had special mad skills and otherworldly talent, because I sure as hell could never write one.  And then I did.  It had to do with the idea that everybody — even people like Abraham Lincoln and Ghandi — started out not knowing anything and not being particularly special.  They all became special by reaching for something just beyond their grasp and not giving up until they reached it.

Writing a novel is a lot like that.

Here’s the thing, though. Writing a novel doesn’t make you Ghandi. Because a LOT of people are writing books.  There are hundreds of aspiring writers with complete manuscripts, flooding the ether with queries to the army of literary agents, who each wade though a knee-deep slush pile.  There’s a lot of competition.  But don’t let that discourage you — there isn’t a finite number of allowable books in the universe. They will keep printing more.  I was standing in the middle of Barnes & Noble the other day, looking around me at the sheer volume of books, filling rows upon rows of six-foot high shelves.  Thousand and thousands of individual titles, and more every day.  There is room for your book, no fear.  But getting it out into the physical world of print is a rubicon, for sure.

So, we look for every tidbit of advantage we can get our grabby hands on and feverishly apply it.  Querying techniques, log lines, killer first pages, etc., etc., etc.  And one of the most commonly-cited requirements for success is the “Author’s Platform.”

Cue the horror movie organ sting.

Who has time for that?  It was hard enough writing a book — and editing it and polishing it and getting beta readers to read it and applying their suggestions and editing and polishing some more.  Now they want you to create a brand and promote it and build a website and collect followers and a mailing list and….

Whoa.  Here’s a paper bag to breathe into.  It’s not that bad.  The platform you’re thinking of is mainly for non-fiction writers, who need to establish their authority on a subject so people will have a reason to buy their book.  It doesn’t work that way for fiction authors (unless you are self-publishing and doing your own marketing). Oh, sure, once you sign a book deal, your publisher will expect you to get out there and promote your book, but you don’t have to do it in advance, like with non-fiction.

To be sure, agents still like to know you’re out there, engaging with the writing community.  And there are several simple ways to do that.  Twitter is a platform.  So is Facebook.  Even Pinterest.  You can blog or write a column or podcast.  But they key is to network with your fellow writers.  You want to do this anyway, because you can get feedback and advice and war stories, moral support and ideas and success stories.  You can meet authors who write books like yours who have gotten an agent, who will recommend you, or help polish your query, or beta read your book.  You can begin to comprehend the lingo.

Agents want to see that you are engaged. Because that suggests you’re serious. You don’t have to have a custom website and a brand logo and a long list of testimonials. But agents want to see some results when they google your name.  Look around, see what you feel comfortable with and dive in.  Talk about your process.  Collect a few likes.  Avoid venting or whining when you get rejected.  That’s all there is to it.  It doesn’t have to eat your life.

Believe me, it will make a difference.

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Look at my lovely chains; I have two of them:

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I know – one’s longer than the other.  I can explain that.

Over on my bestest critique website (Critique Circle), one of the writers proposed a writing chain for our WIPs.  The game works like this: starting on a given day (in this case, April 1), anyone who wants to participate must write at least one new sentence on their work-in-progress every day.  For every consecutive day you do this, you get to add one link to your chain.  If you skip a day you have broken your chain, and you must start a new chain the next time you write at least one new sentence.

I haven’t broken my chain, yet.  Thank you very much.

The other chain is something different.  I’m doing this one on my own, but I got the idea for it from the first chain.  Starting on April 5, I have been sending out one new query every day.  In the past I always found the idea of composing a good query a bit daunting.  To do it right, you really want to research the agent, check out their tweets, see if they have a blog and read it, look for any interviews they have been the subject of, and for sure review their page on their agency’s website to see what they are looking for and what they are definitely not looking for.  Plus, you know, what to include in your query letter and how to format it.  Most people send them out in batches of 5 or 10 at a time. I’d only done a couple of dozen total in a year of querying.

But there is this brilliant concept invented by Jessica Sinsheimer (@jsinsheim): Manuscript Wish List (#MSWL).  It started on Twitter as a yearly party where agents would tweet what kinds of books, specifically, they wanted to represent.  But it quickly became very popular began to be updated all day every day.  Fast-forward to the present, and the official Manuscript Wish List website (www.manuscriptwishlist.com) is completely overhauled.  It is a place where agents can now post their entire profile – including their wish list – and it is completely searchable.  It also includes links to each agents official agency website and Twitter profile.

So, given this, I just pop over to the MSWL site on my lunch hour, filter for agents who represent middle grade, and run down the list until I find one looking for what I’ve got to offer.  Then I scroll through their Twitter feed, peruse their submission guidelines, and do a quick search for their blog.  Armed with this quickly-gotten information I can customize my standard query to punch up those aspects of mine and my daughter’s manuscript that match what this particular agent is seeking, then include our bios, a synopsis and/or chapters according to their guidelines. Ba-da-bing, ba-da-bang, Betty Boop!  One new query sent.

Done this way, a single query is no big deal, and I can produce a new one every day.  See, I’ve done this many:

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I’ve already started getting feedback on these queries, mostly rejections.  So to help keep track of them I created these notations:

Q = Query sent.  P = Agent passed.  R = Agent requested a partial.  F = Agent requested a full.

With this shorthand in place, my query chain actually looks like this:

QQQQQFQPPQQQPQQPQQQQQQ

I don’t know how long I can actually keep this up.  There are only so many agents on the MSWL site that I like or who are looking for a book like my daughter’s and mine, so eventually I will come to the end.  At that point I will have to start looking elsewhere to find them.

Unless, of course, the inevitable happens and one of these agents offers to sign us.  Hint, hint?

FicFest

There’s a new novel pitch contest, this year.  It was created by Tiffany M. Hoffman (@THofauthor) and Kara Leigh Miller (@KaraLeighMille1), with one unique twist:

It’s fair.

Not to suggest the other contests are unfair, but FicFest is particularly fair.  There are the same number of finalist slots for each category.  So young adult titles won’t have a huge advantage over picture books, for example, because there happen to be more YA entries.  I’ll let Tiffany and Kara explain it in their own words:

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Contest Overview:

FicFest is a brand new contest launching in 2016 that will help put manuscripts in front of agents. FicFest is unique in that this contest covers the five major categories of writing: Picture Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult. The chances for each category to get agent requests is equal. Unlike most writing contests, an equal number of finalists will be chosen for each category so that one does not over power the other. FicFest creators also ensure that there will be a plethora of agents wanting each of these categories. Our goal is to help writers of all books get out there, get great feedback, and have the opportunity to get partial/full requests from agents.

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Contest General Details:

FicFest is open to all finished manuscripts and all genres for Picture Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult. In this contest, each category will have three teams. Teams will be made up of a Team Lead and two team members, who will pick three finalists and one alternate per team. This ensures that forty-five manuscripts will move on to the agent round, with fifteen manuscripts being held as alternates in case one of the finalists drops out of the contest.

Once the finalists are chosen, they will work with their teams on revisions for 8 weeks before the agent round. During the agent round, participating agents will be able to request partial/fulls from the manuscripts they want to see. There is no bidding, and no competition for agents. They can request whatever intrigues them, giving everyone a huge opportunity to get requests and hopefully an agent for their manuscript. More rules, regulations, and details will be posted via the host and team lead blogs as the contest begins!

**REMINDER: The yearly theme for this contest is just for fun. It gives the mentors something to use to decorate their blogs, and gives the participants cool team bragging rights. HOWEVER, the yearly DOES NOT affect what genres can be submitted or the agent round. Again, themes are just for fun!

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FicFest 2016

March 20, 2016 @ 12:00 PM EST
Guidelines & Theme Reveal
(Host Blog)

March 27, 2016 @ 7:00 PM EST
Meet the Team Leads & Their Members!
(Team Lead Blogs & Host Blog)

April 3, 2016 @ 6:00 PM EST
Agent List Announced
(Host Blog)

April 17, 2016 @ 7:00 PM EST – 10:00 PM EST
Q & A with Team Leads & Host
(Twitter – Using #FicFest)

April 24, 2016 @ 12:00 AM EST – April 25, 2016 @ 11:59 PM EST
SUBMISSION

April 26, 2016 – May 3, 2016
Teams will chose their finalists/alternate

May 4, 2016 @ 10:00 AM EST
Finalists/Alternate Reveal
(Team Leads Blogs)

May 5, 2016 – June 30, 2016
Revisions

July 8, 2016 @ 12:00 AM EST – July 14, 2014 @ 11:59 PM EST
Agent Round

Find all the details here and by following the hashtag #FicFest.