Friday, January 29, 2010

WRITERS: Are You a Trendsetter or a Trend Forgetter?

Toot Your Horn Friday!

It wasn't until I started looking for an agent, that I realized a lot of writers follow trends. I had no idea that was even done! I always thought writers just wrote about what they wanted to write about...hence my first novel about rats! Ha, ha!

Now following trends is not a bad thing and sometimes I don't think writers are actually following trends. I think they just start reading about vampires, start loving the vampire genre and then naturally, as a writer, they want to write a vampire book! Actually makes perfect sense to me!
 Do you follow trends? Do you think it's bad to follow, or bad not to follow them? I'm a non-trend follower simply because I can't write about something I'm not in love with. If middle grade novels about super intelligent rats become as trendy as vampires, well, then... Yeah, that probably won't happen!
What are your thoughts! Trendsetter or Trend Forgetter???

xoxo -- Hilary

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Is Your Agent Search Making You Blue?

Query & Agent Questions from You Answered!

If anyone knows how hard it is to find an agent it's me. There are about 9 zillion writers out there and oh, I don't know, 3 agents! Okay, that's an exaggeration, but you know what I mean. It's tough out there, so I'd like to help if I can!

There must be something in the air, because in the last few months, I've been emailed by a number of writers asking advice on finding an agent. Given my own experience on the matter, I feel I've become a bit of specialist on Do's & Don'ts. Keep in mind these are my thoughts and every question can (and most likely does) have more than one answer. I've already emailed everyone back who's asked me these questions, but I thought it might be helpful to post for others! We are all in this together! So use what might help you and pay no heed to the rest! I've limited this to 5 questions, but if you have one of your own please feel free to ask in the comment section. I will do my best to be helpful! :)

1.If an agent requested material and I have not heard back in months, is it all right to call or email them asking for an update?

Simple answer: Email = Yes, Call = Big Fat NO.

Calling an agency in my estimation is a big no-no. Agents may find it intrusive and presumptuous. Most agents have hundreds, some thousands, of queries to go through and it's just not wise to call and ask for feedback. They simply don't have time and you're putting them on the spot, which makes people very uncomfortable.

Email, on the other hand, is a safe bet if they've already contacted you asking for more. A quick, polite one or two-liner asking if they'd had a chance to read the full or partial they requested will not get you rejected. If you get a rejection shortly thereafter it's not because you emailed them, most likely it's just a coincidence or your email reminded them they needed to reject it. Either way, at least you'll know! Of note: My requested full was out at NG for around 4 or 5 months, I emailed looking for an update. I got no response, but months later I got a call from them and got my agent! So, if you do email, and don't get a response, don't put too much stock into it! It may not be a rejection!

2. An agent wants my full! How should I prepare it?
I just spoke with a friend of mine over email yesterday who was wondering about this. The four people she emailed (including me) all pretty much had the same answer. Keep it simple! It's about the writing, not what it comes in! I sent mine in a yellow or white (whichever was handy) envelope, 9 X 12 should suffice, or whatever size will hold your MS snugly without having to fold it. I put a rubber band around the MS (no staples!) and a simple cover letter reminding them who I was. It's okay to add a personal line or a bit of humor. You don't have to be stuffy. Agents are people too!

3.I'm not getting any positive responses on my query? What should I do?

This is an easy one! I say read it to every poor soul you know until they too know your query by heart! Tell them not to be nice; you want the truth! Join an online group or writer's forum where you can throw your query to other writers and get their take. Absolute Write is a great resource for that. Warning: Some members can be well...ummm...harsh! Take it with a grain of salt. Don't get defensive, most people are very nice, and even the more prickly critics are trying to help in their not so gentle way. Not all critiques will be helpful, but gather all your feedback and use the comments that make sense. You will get some good ones! I was lucky enough to have my husband as a query letter guinea pig (or rat in my case) and I got a great response for fulls and partials.

4. What do I say if an agent calls me???
First off, it's okay to freak out! I did! (In fact, I screamed in my agent's ear!) They know you'll be excited, terrified, nervous and everything in between. Tell them that! Give them even more reason to be excited about you and your amazing writing! Don't get so excited that you forget all the questions you might have though! Since most of us our glued to our laptops these days, it makes sense to compile a short list of important questions you might have for the agent and save them on your laptop. Agents understand most writers don't know the industry like they do, so no question is too simple or crazy! Remember you're the talent! Agents don't expect us to be publishing masterminds, just to write amazing books! After a while the publishing knowledge will come too!

5. Should I get a lawyer to read the agency contract before I sign?
Well, I'd say this question is up for debate. If you've done your research on the agency and they have vetted sales with no complaints most likely their contract will be a good one, but if you feel you need a lawyer to look at the contract for whatever reason, then for goodness sake, go ahead and get one. A good agency will have nothing to hide. Most contracts are standard. %15 goes to the agent/agency; the rest goes to you, 20% goes to the agency in some cases, such as foreign sales, etc. My agency's contract was straightforward, so straightforward in fact, even I understood it! Yes, me! I did not get a lawyer. That's what little brothers in law school are for! If you can't afford to pay a lawyer (who can) there are a lot of lawyers who offer free advice to people in the arts, so check online and in your local area.

So there you have it! I hope this helps a little. This stuff seems so obvious to me now, but when I started my 13 month query road, I was an enormous dummy! In fact, if there was a book entitled, Querying for Dummies, my picture would have been on the cover!

Good luck to those sending off queries and happy writing to all!

xoxo -- Hilary

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nancy Gallt Literary Agency Coming To You Live From Cyberspace!!!

Hurray! My 'old school' agency has hurled themselves feet first into 2010! What a beautiful website they've created! As promised and without further ado...THE NANCY GALLT LITERARY AGENCY WEBSITE IS HERE!!!! You will find all the info you need on exactly how to query, what's new with the agency, and oh yeah, thier super cool clients who write about ratties and dead dudes!

Good luck to all and enjoy!! Click on that fancy "g" to go to the site!

xoxo -- Hilary

Friday, January 15, 2010


I love blog awards! I think they are encouraging to all writers/bloggers to keep on blogging, keep on writing and gives us that much needed push to keep going!

So, I decided it's time for me to give out my own version of a blog award. As writers, our own work is near and dear to our hearts. My debut novel, Nightshade City, is about rats (as you may have noticed), but it's also very much about family and not letting a few decide the fate of many. It's about standing up for yourself and deciding you can make a difference, you can succeed even when the odds all point to failure.

Therefore, in the spirit of Nightshade City, I've created my own blog award, which I'm very excited about! The One Good Rat Award! I thought of the heroes of my book and what they had to accomplish and the monumental odds they were up against to do so. These writers I've named for this award are on the road to publishing or already there and just life loving writers who deserve to be blogged about! If you don't already, please check out their blogs and follow, follow, follow, you'll be so glad you did!

As for the receivers of this award, please pass it along to whoever you feel has inspired you or others or keep it only to yourselves! So, without further ado, here are the winners of the 2010 ONE GOOD RAT AWARD!

Sharon Mayhew Sharon is a former teacher, turned children's writer, and someone who clearly wants to make a difference in the world, and as far as I can read from her wonderful blog, is!

Sara McClung Sara is inspirational. She is one of those happy bloggers that makes you feel good after you read her thoughts! Can't wait to see this girl in print!

Anita Saxena Anita is funny and clever. She has a wit about her that I just love to read! Stop by her blog if only to read her ode to 2010!

Casey McCormick Casey is a priceless blogger! Her blog is a wealth of information regarding major agents and what they are looking for. No matter how many more followers she gets (and it's a lot) she continues to be warm, open and truly a helping hand to all writers. I found Casey's blog just after I signed with my agent. Man, I wish I'd have found it 13 months earlier!

Natalie Murphy Natalie is an up and coming writer full of sizzle and energy. As this lovely lady makes her way through school, I see big things coming her way! She is a slave to writing and reading her blog is like having a great cup of coffee! It wakes you up and you just want more!

Tartitude Ah, where do I begin with this feisty, blogging wonder? The Tart (as I like to call her) is, well, how do I describe The Tart? She is spirited, fiery, funny, impertinent (in a good way), sweet, genuine and positively dear to my heart! She a fantastic writer and smart as a whip, I highly recommend the Tart! Someday when I brave the journey to Canada I will hopefully meet The Tart and revel in all her Tartitude, which by the way, is a great word!

Jen K Blom Although my dear friend Jen is now in Germany, the moment we met we hit it off like two warped peas in a warped little pod! In other words, she's just as weird as me! Jen is just a fantastic writer and this summer I may be going to Berlin to finally give my friend and her soon to be daughter a long overdue hug, while our husbands go out and "taste test" some German beer, all for quality control purposes of course!

Teresa Frohock Last, but certainly not least I must bring Teresa to your attention. Teresa is a mild mannered librarian by day and a super cool, dark fantasy & horror writing, boot wearing, author interviewing, novelist by night! Her and The Tart, also serve as moderators for the rat vs. possum wars going on between myself and Jen Blom! Don't ask! They may have to go to Berlin too, if only to referee the vermin throw down!

I hope to give more of these out in the coming months, once I get to know my new blogging friends better! Please take a moment to check out all these wonderful writers who blog! They are amazing individuals and all GOOD RATS!

xoxo -- Hilary

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Agent and Editor Advice from Debut Author Jill Myles!

As promised, here is my interview with the fabulous Jill Myles! Her debut novel, Gentlemen Prefer Succubi, released December 29th from Pocket and is selling like hotcakes!! I got a chance to sit down with Jill and talk about her road to finding an agent, dealing with rejection (yucky) and what it's like to work with a real editor! Her debut novel is a Paranormal Romance, but never fear YA and Middle Grade writers, her advice applies to us all. And if you love a sharp, racy romance, then trust me, this is the book you've been waiting for!

Just for commenting on this post, Jill has a special surprise for you! Once your comment is posted today, you will be entered to win a personalized critique from Jill's uber awesome agent, Holly Root of Waxman Literary!! Holly is actively seeking upmarket and commercial fiction, including women's fiction, mystery, urban fantasy, romance, and YA, and voice-driven nonfiction projects, with particular areas of interest in narrative nonfiction, lifestyle, psychology, self-help/relationships, science, and practical spirituality and religion. For more chances to win, follow the rest of the tour!

Next stop on the tour: Jill will be speaking with YA writer Chandler Craig! Chandler is pretty, perky and one great writer, so be sure to stop by Chandler's blog tomorrow to find out more about Jill's career and how to bypass common career mistakes!

Jill, first off, congrats!!! In a nutshell, can you tell us what your novel is about?

Here's the happy summary from my website: *Jackie was an ordinary museum docent until a mysterious vampire and a fallen angel made her into a succubus. Now a sexy immortal, she’s caught between an age-old war between angels, demons, and the immortals exiled to earth. When everyone else is choosing sides, which will she pick? The good guy or the bad boy? Maybe she wants both…

Was it hard to get an agent to bite on the concept and what was the toughest part about finding an agent for you--any advice you can give un-agented writers?

I tried to get an agent for a year and a half and with two different manuscripts. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with my writing - my query letters were good, my synopsis was tight, and people would read a few chapters and tell me "Thanks but no thanks." One agent got a query for my succubus novel, requested the full, and read it overnight. He came back to me the next day and said he was really disappointed, because my story wasn't quite there. It was "antic". I will never forget that, because I had no idea what he meant by my story being antic! So I printed out the whole thing and began to read again...and I got it. My characters overreacted. Everyone seemed to scream everything. Jokes flew left and right. Moods swung from happy to sad to happy again, all within the space of a page.

It was really bad. But I could see why no one wanted to rep it! So I took a few weeks off to rewrite, and toned down everyone's reactions. I was convinced it was going to make my manuscript boring...but at the end of the day, it worked. And when I sent out a few more query letters, one agent offered representation.

As for advice? Gosh...print out your book and read it AGAIN with an eye for character reactions. They're easy to get wrong.

How did you handle rejection from agents and/or editors? What made you keep going?

I took rejections personally...for all of five minutes. Then I figured that it was a lot like a job. I was applying, but there was something on my resume that wasn't getting me callbacks. So I worked on it, and worked on it, until I started getting responses. And then I worked until I got personalized responses. And then I worked on it until I got an agent. You just can't give up.

When you first started working with your editor what did you expect and what advice can you give others who are working with an editor for the first time?

Well, I think the thing that I learned is that every editor works differently! I was worried as heck when I first signed because I hadn't talked to my editor at all, and I was terrified to email her for fear I'd be a bothersome client. I've gotten over that fear, but I also don't pick at her with small stuff. I go to my agent for that. I do know that because I was bumped out on the schedule, it took me a long time to get my edit letter. My editor (bless her heart) is constantly working on projects and when one runs late, whoever is lower priority gets bumped a little. There's only so much you can get done in a day, you know? If something can be pushed out, it will be. But if it needs to get done, she has never let me down. I really enjoy working with her, too. She's got a great sense of humor.

In the sum total of your road to publishing experience what is the most important thing you learned along the way?

Ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Seriously. It will save you hours and hours of worry. Your agent is a partner, and you shouldn't be scared to go to them and ask for status updates or asking how things work. :)

Thanks, Jill! I'm sure this advice has helped a lot of writers out there, who really appreciate your words of wisdom!

Dear Readers, be on the look out this Friday when I post my blog awards! This is a new award that I can't wait to give out to some much deserving bloggers!

xoxo -- Hilary

Friday, January 8, 2010

To Outline or Not to Outline! Your Thoughts???

My mind is a buzz this week! I'm writing Nightshade City's sequel, BILLYCAN: BOOK TWO OF NIGHTSHADE CITY, and I'm trying to decide with unwavering certainty how the 2nd half will pan out! I'm not an outline girl, not by far! My idea of an outline is blurbs on crumpled napkins and ideas that strike me literally in the middle night, from a dead sleep, that I have to jump up and write down, not even remembering doing it, but still happy I did!

What kind of writer are you? Outline or no outline? It's a hot topic! I would call myself a "seat of my pants" writer! I live on the edge! Let me know your thoughts!

My baddie rat, Billycan, does not outline either! Thanks to me, he's far too busy being sinister to take the time!

xoxo -- Hilary