I’m giving away an advance reader copy of STILLWATER over on Goodreads. Hurry over and enter before it ends tonight at midnight!
So, imagine my excitement when Catriona McPherson, award-winning author of The Day She Died, as well as a series of “ten and counting preposterous 1920s detective novels” agreed to read STILLWATER. Multiply that excitement by 100 when I received her feedback:
“Crisp and pacy writing pulls you in deep from page one, when Jack McBride strides into a crime scene and a world of trouble. STILLWATER is the perfect combination of a tightly plotted tale peopled by rich, complex characters (plus one or two deliciously hateful true baddies). Slashed budgets, racial tensions, messy pasts – this small town is anything but cozy. The mystery itself is a classic puzzle, though: clever and convincing. Roll on Jack #2!” —Catriona McPherson, Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity–winning author of the Edgar-nominated The Day She Died
If you’re looking for something to read before STILLWATER is released on October 6, you should check out Catriona’s stand-alone novels and her series. You won’t be sorry!
FYI, I’ll have news soon about the Jack #2 she speaks of. Stay tuned!
I know it’s seven months until STILLWATER: A NOVEL is released, but I cannot contain my excitement! I’ve been thinking of what contests and giveaways I should have closer to the release and thought, “Why wait?” Plus, I had a pretty awesome idea for the swag to give away and I wanted to share.
I have a friend who is a wonderful artist. Seriously. I’m in awe of her creativity. So, when I went to her with my idea, she said, “Yep. I can do that.” And, it looks just as awesome as I expected!
Seriously, how cool is mug? The words all relate to the book, either character names, themes, or specific places. Why a coffee mug, you ask? Because Ellie Martin, the main female protagonist, owns The Book Bank, a combination bookstore and coffee shop. Hence, a hand-painted coffee mug.
How do you win this awesome coffee mug? Simple.
Going forward, my blog post will focus on writing instead of book news. The best way – the first way – to get news about the book, events, contests and exclusive content will be the newsletter. It’ll be delivered right to your inbox. No blogs to follow, no social media accounts to check and hope my announcements will, against all odds, show up on your timeline. But, I’ll also announce stuff on social media, so if that’s your preferred way to get news, follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
Don’t worry about me spamming you with newsletters. Marketing is important but it’s also time-consuming. Every minute away from it is a minute I’m not writing or editing. So, I’ll only send you newsletters when it’s important, or can’t keep it to myself news!
The contest will run through FRIDAY, March 6. Sign up! I’d love to share my publishing journey with you!
From The Broke and the Bookish: Top Ten Favorite Classic Books
Since I started compiling #pubtip tweets, I’ve noticed a trend. Most of the tweets from agents are about poor queries. Most of the poor queries are bad in the same way. All of the mistakes could be solved by the writer doing one thing before querying: research.
I get it. You’ve finished your MS and you want to get it out there ASAP. You want the money and fame to start rolling in as soon as possible. Before you rush in and send out a query let me tell you a secret of the publishing industry. You ready?
The publishing industry is slow.
From the moment you query an agent, even if everything goes perfectly, you still might be 3-4 years away from seeing your book on a shelf. If you query an small press directly, that might be shortened to 1-3 years. I’m not telling you that to discourage you, or to push you toward self-publishing. Though I understand why writers go that route, I still think traditional publishing is the best path to success. I’m telling you that to bring home this point:
The one or two months it will take for you to thoroughly research potential agents and to perfect your query letter is a blink compared to the rest of the publishing process.
If you send out a sub-par query you aren’t making progress anyway. The problem is, you think you are. The reality is your bad query and lack of research has zero chance of landing an agent. Take the time to make your query the best it can be. Are my tips below the last word on querying? Heck no. But, it’s a start.
1. Make sure your MS is POLISHED.
- Find a beta reader.
- Or, if you don’t have one, hire a professional editor to edit the whole book. If your book isn’t polished past fifty pages, the agent will probably stop reading at fifty-one.
- Don’t let your MS get rejected because of typos and poor grammar.
2. Research: Make sure agents are:
- open for submissions
- represent your genre
3. Research: Know your genre.
- Know the standard word length for your genre. Don’t pitch a 100,000 word MG, or a 16,000 word novel.
- All books are cross genre, pick the dominant genre for your book and query it as that. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know which one to choose. Discuss it with your beta reader or editor. (For the record, I made this mistake.)
4. Research: Follow submission guidelines.
- I know, I know. They’re all different. It’s annoying. But, it’s part of the deal.
- If you can’t follow submission guidelines, you will automatically be rejected.
5. Research: There is a right way and wrong way to write a query.
- If you don’t know how, Google “How to write a query letter.”
- Yes, writing is creative. You can be as unique and quirky as you want and no one will judge you. We embrace the quirk in creative arts. That’s why we’re so good at what we do. But, a query letter is a business letter, not an opportunity to be cute. Don’t write it from your main charcter’s POV. Of course, use your own writing voice, but don’t be gimmicky.
- Join a query critique group or site and get your query critiqued before sending it out. (For the record: the first query I sent out was horrible. Truly. I should have joined a critique group.)
6. Be professional.
- Writing is creative, but publishing is a BUSINESS! Agents and editors are professionals. Accept rejection with grace. If you want to rail about how unfair it all is, scream into a pillow. Sending nasty email responses to a rejection will not get you an acceptance.
- You’re going to get rejected. Everyone gets rejected. You may want to query the agent who rejects you one day and do you really want to take the chance he/she will remember your nasty email? Or the chance they’ll mention it to their other agent friends?
This information isn’t hard to find, which is why it’s so puzzling when writers make same mistakes over and over. As I noted above, I made some of the same mistakes! (I apologize to the agents I queried.) The biggest problem with research is there is so much information it can make your head spin. Some advice may be contradictory. But, here’s the thing: if you read enough articles, you will see the through lines. When in doubt, listen to what the agents and editors have to say. They’ll be receiving your query, after all.
I will give you one suggestion: buy THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO GETTING YOUR BOOK PUBLISHED. It’s a great starting point, just don’t get so sidetracked by creating your platform you forget to query.
I could probably add ten more suggestions, but IMO, these are the ones I see over and over while compiling this Public Service Announcement. If there are any agents and editors who read this and have additional suggestions, please put them in the comments.
All About Queries
Lots of GRAMMAR GURUS on Twitter. Still, sometimes we need reminding.
But, sometimes it’s hard! (See what I did there?)
Oops! She inadvertently spoiled the first Game of Thrones book, here.
Rant alert. I imagine getting the same questions/problems from queriers over and over is frustrating.
A very insidery look at book PR.
This is depressing.
#PubTip Tweet of the Week
Previous Friday Twitter Tips:
If ever there is a novel that suffers from false advertising, it’s Longbourn. Promoted as Pride and Prejudice meets Downton Abbey, Longbourn has none of the wit of P&P nor the soap opera fun of Downton Abbey. I wondered about halfway through the novel why Baker even bothered to frame her novel around Austen’s classic. Then I rolled my eyes at such a stupid, rhetorical thought. She placed her servants at Longbourn because Austen inspired fiction is a lucrative market. Longbourn, as good as it is, wouldn’t have received half the press it did if it was a standalone novel about servants in Regency England. And, that’s a shame, because Longbourn (★★★) is a good novel.
Let’s get the Pride and Prejudice connection out of the way: with the exception of one scene with Elizabeth, Darcy and Sarah, Baker’s fictional housemaid, Baker is true to Austen’s characters for the most part. Of course, Wickham is the bad guy, made even worse at Baker’s fingertips. However, making these characters ones we know and love distracts from the story she is telling, instead of illuminating it or making it more interesting. There isn’t enough of our beloved characters to make us happy and what there is makes us like them less. Though, if pushed, I suppose I prefer Baker’s vague characterizations to other fiction which paints their personalities outside of Austen’s lines.
But, to the story. Baker illustrates well the day-to-day grind of servants, from the backbreaking need to haul water, to the hand destroying work of laundry day, to the stomach churning chore of dumping chamber pots. Where Longbourn excels, though, is how disheartening working for others could be when you want more but have no way to achieve it, how trapped people of the lower classes were in their lot in life. Unlike Carson and Mrs. Hughes in Downton Abbey, these are not servants who take pride in their place in society. They are conscientious, do excellent work and do not shirk from responsibility but, Sarah especially, long to be free of other people’s demands. At times, Baker’s prose strives a little too hard to be literary, but I appreciate her style nonetheless. She doesn’t feel the need to spell everything out, but instead trusts her readers are intelligent enough to figure things out.