Writing tips

What Does it Take to Publish a Book- Part 2

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Following my last post about what it takes to publish a book, here’s a real life example:

In 2014, I had a great idea for a book. It was about a Rabbit who is afraid of everything and then comes face to face with a gigantic bear. So I started writing it. A month in, I realized I didn’t know how to end the story. SoI decided to put the book away for a while.

I circled back to it a few months later and managed to finish it. Then I spent a few months editing it (though I don’t love the editing process!). I also sent it to a few of my critique partners to get their honest opinions. In total, I spent 11 months writing and editing the book.

When I finally had a polished version, I started to query editors. To my dismay, it was one rejection letter after the next.
After a while, I decided to give up seeking out editors and instead focus on finding an agent.

After spending months crafting the perfect query letter and researching every agent and their areas of specialty, I went to work. I queried agent after agent, with a different book. And then…again…it was a few years of more rejection letters.
But I knew it was part of the process and I never gave up.

In 2016, I finally got an agent! I was ecstatic! She started submitting my books to publishers. But my excitement was a bit deflated by the rejection letters that came in one after the other.

But, I kept believing.

Unfortunately, things were not going that well with that agent. I began to have my doubts. But I was too afraid to make a big move, for fear of once again being agentless and feeling “lost at sea.”

In 2017, I decided to take the plunge. I let the agent go. I was upset for a few weeks and felt lost, but then I picked myself up and went back to the drawing board. Read the rest of this entry »

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So What Does it Take to Publish a Book?

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First, let me say:

There is no simple ‘recipe’ for success.

Many people ask me, what does it take to publish a book? While I certainly don’t know all the answers, I’ve been at this for many years. And what I’ve learned can be summed up in 5 major points:

  1. You Need a Fantastic Idea!

If you want attention from not only your readers but also the literary community, the first thing you need is a tremendous idea. But BEFORE you actually write the book, you need to research other books out there that may be similar. I’ve had several ideas I was convinced were potential best-sellers, but then, oh no, I found an almost identical book already on the market. Ideas are funny that way. Sometimes they float in the air and are public property.

  1. Be Ruthless With your Edits

Ok, so you’ve got this amazingly awesome idea. And, nobody has written anything similar. You’re off to a promising start! But a great idea is just that: a great idea. To make it come alive in a book in just the right way takes talent and a lot of practice. Your idea needs engaging characters. It needs a setting, and an ending but most of all, it needs conflict, plot and the right pacing. Once you hammer out the first draft, get back to the drawing board as many times as it takes to edit it thoroughly. Get critique partners. Be ruthless.

  1. Do Your Research!

It’s hard enough to achieve numbers 1 and 2 successfully. But if you do, the nest step is to do the proper research. Don’t just send it off to a batch of 50 random publishers. Many might not even accept that specific genre, or may not match with your writing style. It’s critical that you research the publishers that interest you to find the right matches. So when you do send your queries, it’s to editors who might actually have an interest in your work. Be smart about this step. And yes, this takes A LOT of time. There are no short-cuts. Don’t forget to keep immaculate records for future use. Read the rest of this entry »

How I Got an Agent, Lost that Agent, and Found a New One (Without Losing my Mind)

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(This post originally appeared on the WriteForKids Blog)
https://writeforkids.org/blog/2018/06/got-agent-lost-agent-found-new-one-without-losing-mind/

Like many of you, I’ve been knee deep in the querying trenches, desperately trying to make my submission stand out in the staggering slush pile. And as we all know, this process is time consuming. It goes on and on, peppered with rejection letters, until we finally get a bite.

I signed with my first agent a few weeks after I got my first bite. In my mind, my problems were now over. Yahoo! No more submissions! No more Twitter pitch parties! No more querying! I was already visualizing a book contract with the Big Five.

But that’s not how the cookie crumbled.

Here are 3 truths nobody tells you about landing an agent:

  1. It can be anti-climactic: Don’t expect a book deal the next day, week or month.
  2. You will still need patience: The submission process is laborious, no matter who’s doing the submitting.
  3. You will still get rejected: The difference is that now, the rejections get sent to your agent.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Anti-Conformist Picture Book

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Mark Loewen is the author of an amazing new picture book, What Does a Princess Really Look Like?  In the book, he breaks gender stereotypes and features a family with two fathers. Please enjoy my Q & A with him:

-You hit a lot of powerful topics in this book. One take-away lesson is that princesses don’t simply “look pretty.” Being a princess also involves using your brain, as well as being courageous and strong. Do you think there is too much emphasis on appearance and playing up to feminine stereotypes in society?

Definitely. And it was always obvious to me. I think this was one of the male privilege aspects that I always saw, especially growing up in South America. But I really noticed how powerful this was when I observed how people related to my daughter. Strangers everywhere tell her how pretty she is – all the time. And I agree with them! But it makes me nervous that most people who talk to her when we are out say something about her looks. As she grows up, I want her to know that her looks are not the best or most important thing about her. It’s just one part of her.

I remember one time we went to the grocery store and she was wearing a superhero mask. A lady smiled at her and said, “I can see your beautiful eyes through that mask!” And I thought… even specifically dressing as someone strong and brave, people are commenting on her eyes. And this is all well-intentioned. But I don’t think boys get this message.

-What about in literature? 

Children’s literature plays into it because it sells. Even books or movies with strong females sometimes show that girls are “ditzy” or “clumsy.” I’m reminded of how Disney princesses like Anna and Moana both trip right at the end of a really big song. But I can’t think of male heroes portrayed in this way.

I’ve noticed that it’s becoming easier to find children’s books with strong female characters. Girl empowerment is big with publishers now, which is one reason why I found interest in my book so quick. What I do still notice is that books with strong female characters are still considered only for girls. But girls read books with strong male characters all the time. This needs to change.  Read the rest of this entry »

#PBPitch: An Awesome Twitter Pitch Contest for Kidlit Writers!!

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Twitter pitch parties have been gaining in popularity in the last few years.

What is a Twitter pitch party, you may ask?

Well, if you’re a writer and are seeking a literary agent or a publisher, they are amazing opportunities. If you have finished and polished manuscripts, just make an engaging (and short) pitch via Twitter. Add the hashtag #PBPitch, and presto, your pitch will be seen by a select group of literary agents and editors! If the agent or editor in question likes your pitch, then you can send it to them and cross your fingers.

The guidelines can be found in the official website, posted below.

I recently sat down with author and #PBPitch co-founder Pj Mcllvaine for a chat. Hope you enjoy our Q & A: Read the rest of this entry »

How to Stop Procrastinating and Write More this Year!

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So you’re a freelance writer.

Hooray! That means you’re your own boss and you get to create your own schedule.

But, oh no- this can sometimes be more challenging that it appears. Distractions and social media interruptions can be tricky to navigate though as you try to carve out time to dedicate to your craft. It takes an incredible amount of organization and discipline.

What often ends up happening is:

PROCRASTINATION!

We writers are experts at procrastination. We’ve all been there. We have a deadline, but somehow, we can’t get the ball rolling. Next thing we know, we’re pulling an all-nighter to get the job done.

Luckily there are strategies to help. With effort and planning, you can stop your procrastination habits. Here are 5 tips to help you remain aligned with your goals:

Read the rest of this entry »

The Face of Perseverance

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The path of the author is notoriously difficult. It’s filled with heaps of rejection letters and long hours of constant editing, not to mention the “snail pace” rhythm of the publishing industry.

So how does one survive these challenges and still retain an earnest love for writing? I sat down with author Debra Shumaker to get her perspective. After submitting 187 submissions to both agents and editors with 11 different manuscripts since September of 2009, she achieved one of her dreams and landed a literary agent. Here is our Q & A:

How did you remain so perseverant throughout the process?

Sometimes I wonder, myself, why I persevered in all the rejection. But that is the name of the game in Children’s Lit. And I should clarify, though I started subbing in 2009, I probably started subbing too early. I was a beginner. I had three little kids at the time so I just wrote and submitted when I “had time.” My manuscripts probably weren’t ready and my querying was a bit undirected. But, as I worked on my craft, participating in Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo (now StoryStorm) and joining Julie Hedlund’s 12×12, my manuscripts grew stronger and my queries more directed. Then in 2014, I started to get some nibbles: some personal rejections and one agent asked for a revise/resubmit. Though that one didn’t pan out, it gave me a confidence booster. In 2015, I received an R&R from an editor and three agents asking for more of my work. Again, those didn’t lead to offers, but I knew I was getting close. I just kept plugging away at learning craft, studying mentor texts, writing new stuff, and submitting. I am so grateful for having signed with Natascha Morris from BookEnds Literary in July. Read the rest of this entry »