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A big thank you to Ninjaitis for nominating me for the Leibster Award, an award given to promising blogs with less than 1,000 followers. This is a just-for-fun kind of award, and it helps to promote new blogs. As a recipient of the award, Ninjaitis asked me to answer interview questions. Here they are.

1. What is a movie you could watch over and over? Matrix

2. What is your favorite book genre? (bonus points if you give me a recommendation for a book!) Can I add an “s” to the end of “genre,” to make it plural? Okay, if I had to pick one, I’d say YA, because YA encompasses LOTS of awesome books. HUNGER GAMES is probably my most recent favorite in the world of YA books.

3. Do you have a schedule for blogging or do you update randomly? Randomly, but I try not to go longer than a month without a posting.

4. How do you beat procrastination? I’ll let you know someday.

5. What is one thing in life that you will regret if you don’t try doing it? Reading at least 5% of the books on my ever-growing “to read” list.

6. What is your biggest fear? Not doing good or kind things when I know that I should.

7. If you were granted any wish right now, what would you do with it? I’d wish for world peace. Then, I’d have nothing to do, nobody would.

8. When you go to a theme park, what do you head for first? The roller coaster with the biggest drop and the most loops.

9. Who is your favorite Harry Potter character and why? Mrs. Weasley. She’s warm and maternal…and a witch.

10. What song is stuck in your head right now? Sting – “Don’t Stand so Close to Me”

I was also asked to list 11 random facts about myself. Here they are:

1. I drink at least 1 cup of tea a day.
2. Organizing drawers satisfies me like a gourmet meal.
3. I have a love-hate relationship with French macarons–love to eat them, hate to make them.
4. I cry whenever I watch Olympic ice skating.
5. Travel inspires my imagination more than pretty much any other life activity.
6. I love both cats and dogs, but I would classify myself as a cat person. It’s a texture things. Cats are just so fluffy.
7. In an alternative reality, I’d like to BASE jump from the Freedom Tower.
8. I chew gum like a cow.
9. I’m from the Jersey Shore.
10. I spent a night in a Mercedes in Italy once.
11. I boxed in graduate school.

My Nominations

Part of the fun of this award is that recipients get to nominate other blogs for it. I’ve selected the following blogs for the awards:

thejerseyfarmscribe
Caity’s Readviews
Writeous
MyInnerMG
The Writing Well


Accepting or Declining my Nomination

If I’ve nominated your blog for the Liebster Award, and you don’t accept, then that’s a-okay. Simply ignore my nomination. No response necessary. If you would like to accept the award, then please follow the 8 steps below:

The Official Rules Of The Liebster Award
If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award AND YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT, write a blog post about the Liebster award in which you:

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.

2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)

3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.

4. provide 11 random facts about yourself.

5. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)

6. Create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.

7. List these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:

8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

Questions for Nominees:

1) What’s you’re favorite city in the world and why?
2) When’s the last time you sang? What song?
3) Name three items in your wallet, purse, or pocket.
4) What’s something you always desired as a child–real or imagined–that you still want?
5) If you could give the future generation one sentence of advice, what would it be?
6) What’s something you never did in high school that you wish you had?
7) What three books do you think everyone should read?
8) What’s one thing you would do if you were invisible for a day?
9) Name a book that you don’t like to admit you’ve never read.
10) Give two alternative first names you’d go by if you had to.
11) If you could say one thing to your favorite teacher, right now, what would you say?

All the Best!

Whether I’ve over-enthusiastically latched on to the first person I met in grade school, or rigorously tried to follow in the footsteps of the writers I love, I’m guilty of having ridden a coattail or two in my life. Coattail riding is helpful, especially when you’re new to something, but too much riding can prevent you from finding your own way, in life and in your career. At some point, you’ve got to spread your own wings, or as some would say, cut the umbilical cord.

Below are 5 signs to help you identify coattail riding in your life. If you see yourself exhibiting any of these signs, then I encourage you to take steps to shedding the training wheels…like right now.

1) You mimic your friend/colleague’s every move. When I first became a full-time writer, I made friends with a published author, and I tried to find out everything I could about how she got to where she was in her career. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of information gathering. In fact if you’re an aspiring anything, I highly encourage that you talk to successful people in your field, to find out more about their journey. However, such information gathering can morph into coattail riding if you strive to do everything in the same way that you’re friend did. It’s fine to borrow wisdom and principles from others, but avoid using someone else’s journey as a blueprint for yours.

For instance, one principle that I learned from my writer friend is that it’s important to attend writing conferences. And while I may attend some of the same conference that she goes to, I also attend others that interest me. Now my friend and I have doubled the information between us. I can tell her about my conferences, and she can tell me about hers.

2) You drop your successful friend’s name into conversations and emails whenever you can. I am guilty as charged here. As an undergrad, I studied under a relatively famous poet, whom will go unnamed. I used this professor’s name every time that I could, hoping to dazzle my way to literary popularity. But I’ve come to realize that at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how well your famous friends or teachers write. You will be judged by how well you write. Plus, you might scare off your other friends if you keep name dropping. Either, they’ll feel intimidated by your prestige, or they’ll think you’re arrogant. A few of your buddies might be awestruck by the names you drop, but if you keep at it, you might be left with an entourage, rather than a solid group of friends.

3) You feed into your friend’s love of flattery. Chances are that the friend whose footsteps you’re following, or whose name you keep dropping, will be flattered by your attention. You may be tempted to feed this person’s love of flattery. Don’t do it. You’ll become his/her entourage then, and you and this friend will never develop a balanced relationship.

4) Your successful friend sees you as a charity case. On the other hand, the person you admire might see you as needy. You tirelessly leach information, and your friend doesn’t find this flattering at all. In fact, it’s bordering on pathetic. She hates to see you in this way and continues to meet with you out of pity. Again, your relationship is imbalanced.

5) You feel like you have nothing valuable to offer to others. At this point, your coattail riding is so bad that you see yourself as a charity case. You grow bitter about your lowly position at the bottom of the ladder, and you doubt that you have anything valuable to offer to others. Reality: You may be lower on the totem pole than others, but your experiences are unique–different from anyone else’s. In that sense, you have an infinitude of information to offer. Even if you can’t express yourself as eloquently as your successful friend does, or if you have nothing to offer her career-wise, your experiences are valuable in some other way.

For example, your life might provide interesting writing material for your friend, or your quirky obsession with gourmet tea might add depth and richness to your conversations.

Remember, relationships are rarely all business. Someone has to keep things interesting, and that someone can be you. Just let go of those coattails and take flight in your own special way.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all misjudged someone at some point in our lives. Fact: I have. Yes, I’m sorry. Yes, I’ll try not to do it again.

As a writer, I’ve also been on the receiving end of several misjudgments, five of which I’ve listed below. If you’re writer, then I hope you can laugh at this list. If you’re a friend of a writer, then please bring your sense of humor along and read the list below. Hopefully, it will help you to avoid saying or implying any of the statements below to your writer friends.

1) “You’ve been trying to publish your book for years. Maybe it’s time to do something else with your life.” Let’s breathe some perspective into this statement. Many bestselling novelists spend years, sometimes decades, shopping their books before a publisher takes interest. Yes, some writers break into the market right away, but many many many others have to tough it out. Bear in mind the nature of the product that writers are selling–books. I don’t know about anyone else, but it usually takes me 3-10 days to read a book, shorter if I have a day off and nothing to do but read.

When writers query agents and editors, we’re asking our recipients to take several minutes, sometimes hours, out of their obscenely busy lives to sit down and read our book. Bottom line: Sales in the publishing industry move slowly. Books take eons to write, eons to sell, eons to edit, and eons to get read and reviewed. That’s a lot of eons.

2) “You should stop complaining about your rejections. Think positively.”  Writers talk about their rejections because they learn about the market through those rejections. We hear “no” a lot, and each “no” helps us to get closer to “yes.” Sometimes we need to talk through those “no’s.” For writers, “no” isn’t always a bad thing. It hurts to hear it so much, but it helps us in the long run. Thanks for listening as we talk through the pain.

3) “I read your first draft. It was bad. Your book will never get published.” Writers sometimes get overly excited when they finish a project, and they want nothing more than to share that project with their friends and family. But, alas, they oftentimes end up sharing early drafts, and these tend to be raw and in need of polishing. Good writers will rewrite their drafts, but sadly, their friends may forever have the early versions burned into their minds. We’re sorry. Please don’t judge us by our drafts.

4) “I’ve heard freelance writers actually make money for what they write. You should give that a try. ” Freelance writing is a legitimate life pursuit, but telling a fiction writer that s/he should try to freelance is like telling a neurosurgeon that he should quit his job and take up aerospace engineering. Okay, my analogy isn’t exactly balanced, and some fiction writers actually do freelance on the side. But many times, success in either of these fields requires complete dedication to one or the other, not a part-time dedication to both.

5) “Writing, that sounds like a fun hobby, but don’t you think it’s time to get a real job?” Non-writers, kindly lock yourselves inside a room, one that has a bathroom in it, and generate 2-5K words a day from nothing but your God-given imagination. Then, come out of that room when you hit 80K words, but only for a day. After this day of freedom, return to your room and edit all 80K words into a sensical novel. When you have something sensical in hand, I’ll ask you if you still think that writing is a hobby. I’m not a psychic, but I’m pretty sure I already know what you’re going to say.

The list goes on, but I’ll stop there. Yes, people have actually said, or strongly implied, these statements to my face. No, I’m not mad at them, and I hope they’re not mad at me for the–many–silly things I’ve said over the years. And just so I’m crystal clear on this, I love my non-writer friends. I need them. I hug them. I love them, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

Writing is one of the few professions out there in which rejection is an everyday–and sometimes every minute–occurrence. I figure that’s the tradeoff for getting to spend your days cozied up to a computer, tapping out tales. If that’s the case, then I’ll take my rejection and eat it too. But I’ve still got to deal with it. All writers do. The question is, How?

I hear lots of writers say that you’ve got to be thick-skinned to endure the deluge of rejection that litters your manuscript’s journey from hard drive to hard cover. I agree, as long as thick skinned means resilient. All too often, thick skin gets confused with a hard heart. That is, writers become so “tough” that they’re hearts become hard and they grow cynical. Cynicism takes many forms, like anger toward agents, a complete lack of faith in the publishing industry, and the despairing belief that one will never get published. How do I know this? Let’s be real. I’ve been there, bought the t-shirt. But I had to overcome all of those thoughts–and many others–if I wanted to truly become rejection tough.

I’ve found that the key to becoming rejection tough is to to let the rejection sting and to push through the sting. I know, it sounds counterintuitive, to let yourself feel any degree of pain. But it’s this pain from rejection that keeps you humble and, if you allow, it pushes you deeper into your pursuit. When experiencing rejection heartache, it’s important not to wallow. And NEVER allow feelings of rejection to keep you from writing. Keep going, and trust that the pain will fade.

Basically, make like an olympic ice skater. When you fall, get up, and keep moving to the music. You can cry when the performance is over, but you better show up on time for practice the next day if you’re going to try for gold again.

Remember, a feeling heart is necessary for any form of artistic expression, and fiction writing is an artistic expression for many writers. You can’t, and shouldn’t turn your heart off, no matter how much rejection you experience. As paradoxical as it sounds, if you want to survive in this profession, you’ve to get strong and stay soft.

Also, keep in mind that you’re not alone in your rejection. Here is a list of some of the most initially rejected best selling books of all time. Some of these books have 100+ rejections! Imagine if these authors had stopped writing at rejection number 99.

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A common comment I get from beta readers is that they don’t know how to critique a manuscript. They oftentimes don’t know what kind of feedback to give, and sometimes this leads to frustration on their end and fruitless comments on the writer’s end. I’ve devised a questionnaire for my betas that I’ve found helpful for the beta reading process. I’m posting it below because I actually get requests from other writers to use it. Here it is for the taking. If you use this questionnaire, all I ask is that, in return, you follow my blog or follow me on Twitter @AliciaTubbs (or both).

A cautionary bit of advice for writers seeking beta feedback. Take it or leave it. Avoid the temptation to turn your beta readers into proofreaders. Even if the reader is–or claims to be–a grammar geek, do not let them line edit for you. Line edits add another layer of stress to the reading, which may make the reader wary of reading for you again in the future, even if the line editing was his/her idea in the first place. And you’ll probably end up changing the manuscript so vastly that the line edits will be pointless anyway.

You can ask for readers to point out general stylistic trends, like words that you tend to mix up or certain grammatical problems that you repeat, but I would highly advise against letting your betas take a red pen to your manuscript. Remember, the purpose of having beta readers is to gage how a general audience might react to your manuscript. If your grammar bothers your betas, then it’s up to you to read a style guide and fix it.

That being said, here’s my questionnaire. Happy reading to you and your betas:

Beta Reader Questionnaire

Instructions: Please read as much of the manuscript as you can. Don’t worry if you don’t finish it. Please don’t mark grammar issues, as this draft is not finalized. My only concern at this point is with the big issues, such as plot, characters, and setting. It would be a huge HELP if you could HONESTLY answer some or all of the questions below. Or simply use the questions below to guide any feedback you would like to give me. Reading the questions before you jump into the manuscript might be helpful to you, as the questions are based on the main concerns that I have about the manuscript right now. Thanks so much for your time and thoughts.

Pacing

At what point did you stop reading the manuscript and why?

Does each chapter propel you into the next or do you feel like you could put down the book without caring about what happens next? During which chapter(s) do you feel this way?

Does the story get too slow or seem to drag? When?

Do any moments feel rushed? Which?

Does each paragraph compel you to read the next or are there any roadblocks that would keep you from reading further?

Title

After reading the manuscript, or the portion you’ve decided to read, please tell me which title you feel is most appropriate for the book?

Hunt for the Invisibles
Have You Seen Gloria Rey?

Introduction

Did the first page of the story hook you? If not, why not?

Did the first chapter hook you? If not, why not?

Plot and logic

Where you confused about what was happening any point? When?

Does any event or situation seem implausible or illogical?

Do the actions seem appropriate for the characters, or do they seem to do illogical or age-inappropriate things? Specifically?

Are there any loose ends or sections that feel incomplete? What are they?

Are there any events that you don’t feel are plausible? What are the?

Audience

Does the story seem appropriate for children ages 10-11? Why or why not?

Is there any other age group or audience that this story might be fitting for? Which?

Characters

Do the main characters feel real, like you’d be able to have a conversation with them in real life? If not, referring to specific characters would be helpful.

Are the main characters unique, like would you be able to pick them out in a crowd, or do they seem generic? Referring to specific characters would be helpful.

Do the minor characters, such as teachers and policemen seem unique or distinct, or do they blur together? Referring to specific characters would be helpful.

Is Gloria a likeable protagonist? Do you care enough about her to keep reading her story? If not, please explain.

Dialog


Do the characters talk like real people, or do their conversations seem unnatural? When?

Does the dialog seem too packed with information at times? At which times?

Description

Can you picture what’s happening in the book or are there sections that are difficult to visualize? Which sections?

Can you feel what’s happening to the characters? Or are there times when you’re confused or unsure about what the characters are sensing/feeling? What moments?

Conclusion

Does the manuscript feel like it could stand on its own as a book (even though it’s part of a trilogy)?

What questions do you have at the end of the story? Do these questions, in your opinion, need to be resolved in book 1? If yes, why?

Does the ending leave you feeling satisfied or do you feel like the story is incomplete?

Style

Are there any blaring, repeated issues with the language, like repeated words or phrases? Words that I keep mixing up or misspelling? Please don’t point out specific occurrences. Simply let me know if you noticed such issues and summarize what they tend to be.

Are there any moments in which you feel like the way I’m writing takes you out of the story? Which?

Photo from
http://www.theguardian.com/education/2009/dec/31/free-books-secondary-schools

kindle-paperwhiteIf you’re exchanging your manuscript with other readers, and they’d prefer to read off of a Kindle, or if you simply would like to send  a document from your computer to a Kindle, here’s how to do it. It’s a simple process, and it can really enhance the reading experience. This process is for Kindles only. I’m not sure how it works for other e-readers.

1) Ask your reader to add your email address to her “Approved Personal Document List.” To do this, the reader would log into her Amazon Kindle account and go to “Personal Documents.” From there, she can add your email address to the “Approved Personal Document List,” which is located in “Personal Document Settings.” Be sure to let your reader know which email address you’ll be sending your document from.

2) Have your reader send you her “send to Kindle email address.” This can be found under her Kindle settings and should end in @kindle.com.

4) Convert your file to an epub. You can do this for free on with dowloadable software, such as Calibre. HTML files also look good on e-readers, and you should be able to save your file in html format through Word.

4) Confirm with the reader that she has followed the above steps and is ready to receive your document.

5) If the reader is ready, then send your file to her Kindle email address. The title of your file should appear momentarily on her Kindle home page. The reader should then be able to click on the title and read your manuscript. You may want to confirm with her that this is the case.

That’s it. Finito.

Photo from

http://www.ubergizmo.com/2013/08/amazon-kindle-paperwhite-wi-fi-runs-out-of-stock/

It’s been my experience that learning how to query an agent is almost as grueling as learning how to write a novel. Querying properly requires a lot of research and a whole lot of trial and error. If you haven’t figured it out by now, yes, I’m querying once again. This time around, I’m using a tactic that was presented at the New York Pitch Conference. At the conference, those of us who got editorial requests were instructed to query agents in small batches, small meaning three queries at a time. My knee-jerk reaction to this suggestion was “Oh, my gosh, this is going to take forever.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that small-batch querying might actually be an efficient tactic in the long run.

Reason being, each time you query an agent, you are more likely to get rejected than accepted. From what I’ve been hearing (from agents and writers. Take it or leave it.), many agents receive about 10,000 queries a year, and most of them sign 2-3 clients per year. Many times, they sign clients they meet at conferences, which means that odds of getting discovered via a query are something like 1 in 10,000. Don’t panic. Just accept the bottom line: these are bad odds, but patience, wisdom, and good writing can up your chances.

Anyway, each time an agent rejects a query, it becomes harder to re-query that agent, especially if you’ve sent sample materials. Yes, you can re-query the agent, but when you do, you’ll probably want to mention that you’ve queried before, and this may make the agent even more skeptical of you than s/he already is. Plus, you’re probably going to want to wait 6-12 months (and significantly edit your manuscript) before re-querying, which is a long time. So, sending queries in larger batches, though it may feel more productive than querying in small batches, might actually cost you more time and stress in the long run.

Also, as you target agents in your genre, you will realize just how small your pool of agents actually is. I’m writing middle grade fiction right now, and although many agents say they’re interested in working with middle grade writers, very few of them have. Maybe, they’ve sold a middle grade project here or there, but that’s the extent of their experience with middle grade. When I really dug into my research, I discovered that there are only 20ish agents who seriously sell middle grade titles. Querying in small batches means that I can polish my materials as I work through this list without burning up all twenty chances at once. If the first three agents reject me, I have the opportunity to edit my query for the next three, and so forth and so on.

Yes, the small-batch process is going to take a while, and it’s not always going to be clear when I should send the next batch, as many agents simply don’t respond to queries that don’t interest them. I may be wrong, but I’m going to assume that ten weeks without a response from an agent is a rejection.

Again, there is no formula for landing an agent. If there were, I’d have used it already. There are an infinite number of routes to the summit of the mountain. Plan, prepare, and think before you climb. Your chances of survival will be that much better. Oh, and do climb!

Last night I watched a helpful three-part  YouTube video by literary agent Mark McVeigh. The video is full of solid advice for writers seeking representation, and it gives viewers a human understanding of how literary agents work. One tidbit that I found most helpful for the agent search was McVeigh’s advice to query an agent one week after he or she moves to a new agency. When an editor or agent switches locations, McVeigh explains, s/he is looking to build his/her client list. McVeigh suggests waiting a week before emailing because that gives the agent/editor time to settle into the new place.

How do you know when an agent or editor moves to a new agency or house? McVeigh suggests keeping an eye on Mediabistro’s Revolving Door, a listing that shows who’s moving where in the publishing world. I’ve found that searching for the words “agent” or “editor” are helpful when viewing this list, as it is comprehensive.

I like this method because, theoretically, if you’re querying an agent who’s moving, s/he has experience from his/her previous agency. You’re not just querying an agent who’s graduated from an internship. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to query new agents, and sometimes it works out really well for writers who do. The “revolving door” approach is just one more method that can help with the search for representation.

I was privileged to attend the Atlanta’s Writers Conferences this weekend, and in addition to making some great contacts and meeting writers of every breed, I also learned a few things about conferences themselves. Of all the lessons I picked up, here’s the most important one: If you’re a writer, you should attend writing conferences, and you should talk to the agents and editors who acquire projects in your genre. That’s it. Plain and simple.

Why attend conferences? Because cold querying, as in sending an agent your query letter without having met him/her is the sales equivalent to telemarketing. Sarcasm aside, when’s the last time your phone rang with an unknown number and you were like, “Oh, boy, I can’t wait to see who’s calling to sell me something?” Okay, cold querying isn’t exactly like that, as the agents are expecting to have strangers emailing them all day, but you get the picture. It’s usually easier to conduct business with someone you know than it is with a complete stranger.

There are some other dos and don’ts I picked up on from attending the conference this weekend. Here’s a little list I compiled.

DO

-Attend conferences that agents who represent your genre are also attending.

-Research each agent, editor, or publisher who will be there ahead of time. Start with Google. Read websites, blogs, interviews, et. al. Make sure to look at pictures too. Sounds creepy, but it’s a legit practice. You want to be able to pick out your targeted agents from the crowd. Reading name tags also helps.

-Introduce yourself to people who work in your field–especially agents.

-Show genuine interest in your targeted agents. Here are some ice breaker questions you can ask: What do you represent? What’s your most successful project so far? How long have you been agenting? Do you write yourself? Where do you work (not to be stalkerish, but to determine what city s/he conducts business from)? Have you always been an agent?

-Mingle with fellow writers. Take the questions for agents above and tailor them for writers. Not only is it fun and encouraging to talk to people in the same boat as you, but it’s a great way to find out about writer’s clubs and activities.

-Have a verbal pitch ready to go. Many agents you talk with will ask you what you write. This is your chance to give a verbal pitch. If s/he seems interested, you can ask to query him/her. If this happens, your query just went from cold to warm. Warm = way better than cold.

-Sign up for pitches and critique sessions and bring the appropriate materials to these sessions (i.e., your query letter, or whatever the session requires). If you get good feedback from these sessions, then ask that agent if you can query him/her. If you get bad feedback, then that’s your chance to revise. Aren’t you glad you didn’t waste a query opportunity on materials that weren’t ready? Remember, all feedback may not be accurate, but it is all helpful–it tells you something.

-Follow up with interested agents. Go home, revise your materials, and then send them to interested agents. Make sure to mention that you met him/her at the conference. I can’t tell you how many writers I met who have told me that they landed agents through conferences, either on spot during a pitch, or later via email communications.

-Know thy genre! I met several writers at the conference who had completed manuscripts but didn’t have a clue what genre they were writing in. Either that, or their concept of the genre didn’t match the industry’s concept. Research, research, research. Yes, many writers blend genres. Just be cognizant of what genres you’re blending.

-Have a deep understanding for basic terms like query letter, synopsis, outline, tone, voice, conflict, plot structure, plot points, plot twist, character arch, character development, details, description, climax, genre, content, et. al. Don’t just have a surface understanding of these terms, as they’re the building blocks of a sound novel. These terms and the more specific terms related to these will come up all the time among writers and industry professionals. Study up.

-Be humble. In an industry filled with egocentrics, one way to stick out–in a good way–is to be humble. That doesn’t mean being weak, unassertive, or self-effacing. It means being gracious for any time an agent has spent with you, open to and grateful for criticism, sensitive to and understanding of your fellow writers, genuinely interested in others’ projects, sober-minded about your writing and skill level, honest with yourself about how much experience you actually have, calmly assertive and respectable in the face of cynical or biting remarks from people who might not be as understanding as you’re striving to be.

DON’T – Basically, take my “DO” list and do the opposite. In addition to that, here are some other pitfalls you may want to avoid.

-Be cynical. By nature, writer’s are critical, but too often, they also become cynical. Yes, this business is insanely hard to navigate, but it’s not impossible. Don’t despair. Don’t complain about how hard the business is or about how impenetrable agents seem. Don’t get angry. Don’t get sarcastic. Don’t rain on somebody else’s pitch just because yours got rained on and yours was so much more original. Bottom line: A bad attitude, no matter how right you think you are, is unattractive. If anything I’ve said here makes you cringe, you may be a cynic. There’s also the possibility that you’re not. Take a deep breath, brush yourself off, and keep writing.

-Lose faith. It only takes one “yes” to get a contract, and you want that “yes” to come at the right time and from the right person. It took some of the best writers on the market years and years and years to sell anything. You’re not alone in your seeming defeat.

-Seem desperate, even if you’re in a desperate situation. Agents, and people in general, can sniff out desperation from miles away. Desperation = bad for you and scary for others. Take a deep breath. Think about all the things you DO have, rather than the things you DON’T. Thank God that you’re alive, breathing, and able to even attend the conference your at.

-Put all your eggs into one manuscript. Who knows? The first book you write might actually become a best seller, but chances are that it won’t. So many writers pitch their first novel, thinking that it will sell. It might, but it also might not. In time, you might see that your first novel is a practice novel, and practice novels don’t sell. Even your second and third novels may be practice novels. Go ahead and pitch these books, but understand that you may have to practice more before any agents start biting the line. Hang in there. Persist. KEEP WRITING.

-Be gimmicky – Dressing up as a character from your book will certainly catch attention, but probably the bad kind. I could be wrong about this. There might be some agents who like your pizzazz.

-Outstay your welcome. If an agent doesn’t seem to be biting the line or clearly states that s/he doesn’t represent your genre, move on. There are too many other agents you need to talk to–either at that conference or at the next one you’ll be attending.

-Whip out a manuscript samples at a mixer or in the restroom–unless the agents asks. Patience is key and email followup is almost always an option.

I hope this helps. Happy writing!

There are all kinds of ways to approach the submission process. Over the past few years, I’ve probably tried most of them. Flooding the market, as in querying every agent in your genre, is one method. On the other end of the spectrum is the tactic in which you selectively email only a few agents after spending way too much time stalking them on Twitter, Facebook, LInkedIn et. al.

In my experience, both of these methods have proven to be ineffective. I’ve found that flooding the market is not only exhausting, but it’s a great way to burn bridges, especially if you shop a premature manuscript. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty as charged.

Being nitpicky and stalkerish is equally as exhausting, and in the end, it’s a great way to set yourself up for failure. Just think about how much more your rejection will hurt if it comes from an agent whose Twitter feed you follow like your best friend’s love life. I know, I’m assuming that your best friend has a love life. 😛

That’s not to say that these methods don’t work. I’m sure that other writers have succeeded with either of these. Every writer must find the submission method that works best for him/her.

My current method of choice is batching–sending queries in batches of 6-8. I heard about this method from a webinar that I took with an agent, and it immediately made sense to me. If you send out 8 queries and are lucky enough to get 8 rejections, then you know something’s not working. Yes, even a rejection is “lucky,” considering that many agents simply don’t respond to projects they pass on.

Basically, if all you get is rejections from your first batch, then at least you can glean something: Your materials need revision. I know, you’ve already revised. Guess what? It’s time to revise some more. After that, send out another batch. Rinse and repeat until you get a “yes.”

I think this method is a good because it provides some kind of system for pacing myself. It also gives me a clear query goal: 6-8 agents, every 3-4 weeks. I can live with that, so can everyone else who has to live with me.

In case you’re wondering. I sent out my first batch this week. We’ll see how it goes.