A Writer’s Cautionary Tale

April 30, 2008 at 9:54 am | Posted in agents/ editors, Bria, career, writing | 8 Comments


Since I began writing I’ve heard the horror stories.


I sent in a query and never heard back.

Such and Such agent/editor has had my partial for nine months and still nothing.

She asked for sample pages and responded eleven months later.


So, when I sent out my query and thought “I’ll have a week of and then can start a slow read of my manuscript to take care of all the little stuff,” I didn’t think this would be a problem.


Then it began – the request for partials came any where from one hour and forty-eight minutes to not yet (two weeks later and only on the snail-mail queries.)


I’ll admit it. I’m shocked. I had been programmed to believe that the publish industry moves like molasses from start to finish. Apparently, it starts like shooting the rapids and slows to a meandering river.


And then the real shocker – A request for a Full (note the capitalization)


Now, with all the little things to do, I’ve canceled every other aspect of my life I could: Dinners with friends, hearing speakers, going to the movies, reading.


It’s amazing how long the ‘little things’ take. Sure, each one really does take just a second or two, but how many are there? Are you sure you got them all? Did changing one make you go back to adjust another?


So, take this as a cautionary tale. Polishing should be done before Querying. I know they say that, and we all think — “But I’m going to have weeks, maybe months, before I hear back from anyone.”


Don’t do it.


Learn from me.


And Go Write,


What’s New in Publishing Blogs This Week

March 28, 2008 at 6:32 am | Posted in agents/ editors, Blogs, books, publishing, writing | 1 Comment
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We spent the week scouring the web for some different and helpful resources to share, and here’s what we found to be new in publishing and book blogs this week:   

Over this past month here at the Purple Hearts, we have talked about writer burnout, motivation, writing in multiple genres and keeping it fresh . . . and a post this week from Mai Thao of the Title Magic blog encapsulates all of those things when she writes about her “MID-LIFE” WRITING CRISIS. What’s especially motivating about this post is that she went from taking a break from writing to making it into the American Title IV contest (as well as being a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award). Go Mai! To read her post, click HERE.

As an unpublished writer we face so many unknowns. When will The Call ever come? Will I ever get paid for this? Kristin Nelson from the Nelson Literary Agency has a helpful post this week on PAYMENT SCHEDULES. To read her insight on this important matter, click HERE.

We reference a number of agent blogs in our weekly what’s new post, and Jonathan Lyons from Lyons Literary LLC had a post this week that pointed out the grains of salt we can all take when it comes to the variety of opinions shared by agent bloggers. For his post, click HERE.

We have often talked about compiling a glossary of all the publishing terms that a newbie confronts when first walking into a writer’s group or chapter meeting and the Guide to Literary Agents Editor’s Blog posted a series called WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? LITERARY DEFINITIONS. To read Volume 4 of the series (posted this week), click HERE.

Our last two references for the week relate to one another in that they talk about sending materials to an agent via email.



And there you have it! If you have your own go-to posts for the week, we would love for you to share them by posting to the comments section.

Happy Friday, everyone!

What’s New in Publishing Blogs This Week

March 21, 2008 at 6:18 am | Posted in agents/ editors, Blogs, publishing, writing | Leave a comment
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What started out as a way for us to continue to share information with our Purple Hearts community has turned into one of the most fun and educational challenges of the week — to comb through the many and varied writing and publishing blogs and identify a few posts that we think will interest you as much as they interested us.

Here we go, in no particular order:

The week started off in fine fashion when a Purple Hearts favorite, Kathy Carmichael, guested at the Plot Monkeys blog. (The pages on her web site about synopsis writing offer life-saving measures!) She wrote a fabulous post on HOW TO GIVE YOUR READERS THAT AH! ENDING.   Kathy always has great insight and helpful tips, so we encourage you to take a glimpse at her post by clicking HERE.

And speaking of synopsis writing, there is a new PLOT SYNOPSIS PROJECT taking place over at Live Journal.  This project defines the synopsis and a number of authors have posted samples of their work.  To take a gander at these helpful examples, click HERE.

When we stumbled across JA Konrath’s blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, we couldn’t believe we hadn’t found it sooner — the content is so up our alley!  This week we found a helpful and motivational post on DEALING WITH DISCOURAGEMENT.   This multi-published thriller author even offers some great tricks to help face down the discouragement demons.  To find those tricks, click HERE.

Although our focus here is on novel writing, the principles of screenwriting are great additional tools  to help hone your fiction craft.  There are a number of similarities between the two, which is why we wanted to recommend an entry from the Screenwriting Goldmine blog.  The post on EASY STEPS TO POLISH YOUR FIRST DRAFT has some spot-on advice that will apply whether you are polishing your script of buffing up your book.  To see what those tips are, click HERE

We find some invaluable information in agent blogs, and Caren Johnson has done something  that we think is a great practice — while she still posts information to her blog, she has re-purposed her blog to feature active posts from her clients.  We loved this two-part series this week on PROMO 101.  To link to Lesson 2 (a link to Lesson 1 is featured in the post), click HERE.

In talking about agent blogs,  we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown.  Even though we try to vary up the sources we cite every week, we could go every Friday and refer back to something Nathan said over the course of the week.  So . . . we have decided to end each Friday’s What’s New In Publishing segment with a note from Nathan — or, as we affectionately call it, WHAT NATHAN SAID.  Click HERE for WNS this week on TRUST AND COMMUNICATION.  

And there you have it — our picks for the week ending March 21.   Have a great weekend, and we’ll look forward to seeing you again next week! 

What’s New in Publishing Blogs This Week

March 14, 2008 at 7:24 am | Posted in agents/ editors, Blogs, books, publishing, writing | 8 Comments

We have another groups of posts from around the blog-o-sphere that we would like to share with you this week, so here are some of our favorites (in no particular order):   

Jungle Red Writers is a group blog comprised of five mystery authors: Jan Brogan, Hallie Ephron, Rosemary Harris, Roberta Isleib, and Hank Phillippi Ryan.  When we saw their post on Writing Hangovers, we felt it was closely kindred to our entries this week on burnout.  We appreciated hearing that other writers (especially these talented and accomplished ladies) experience little blips on their productivity screens too! 

 Hey, There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room is a blog for Mystery Publishing, From Idea to Bookshelf. Every Sunday, Pocket editor Abby Zidle shares an editor’s perspective and this week’s post on Why Your Editor Wants You to Have An Agent was a timely one for us as we start to rev up for pitches and queries. 

One of our favorite blog sights offered two posts this week that not only featured great advice for bloggers, but timeless advice for writers in any medium as well.  The first Pro Blogger entry we want to share is Supercharge Your Content With Voice  . . . which, as writers, we know is what helps make us as unique as our fingerprints.  

And since authors experience those ups and downs that call upon having a thick skin, we thought we’d also throw in this post from Pro Blogger on How to Deal with Blog Hecklers.   

We started the Purple Hearts blog to help foster a community of writers, so it seems fitting to share this post from Magical Musings on What I Learned From Other Writers.  We loved how the references were to authors past and present. 

We hope you all have a great weekend, and want to end today’s post by sharing this motivational entry — Try Not, Do Or Do Not, There Is No Try — from entrepreneur and life strategist, Dominic Siano. (The title of the post is a line of dialogue attributed to Yoda!) 

Before the day is out, please stop in at Barbara Vey’s Beyond
Her Book
blog at Publishers Weekly. Today is Barbara’s one year blogging aniversary and she is planning an online party to include lots of giveaways.

She would like to take the message to the PW bigwigs that a place is needed and wanted to talk about all kinds of books in general and romance specifically. To make the message strong, let’s help her blow them away with numbers! Please go to Barbara’s blog today, Friday, March 14. Read and/or post a comment to the blog so we can help Barbara hit record numbers and send a strong message to PW! Plus, who knows what you might win in the giveaway!
Click HERE to join in the fun.

C’mon back next Friday when we’ll again post the entries we’ve found and would like to share from the week’s publishing and book blogs.  

Have a great writing week!       

What’s New in Publishing Blogs This Week

March 7, 2008 at 8:33 am | Posted in agents/ editors, Blogs, career, writing | Leave a comment

Those of you who have been with us for a while at the Purple Hearts know that Friday is usually Meg’s day to post . . . and if you tuned in last week you’ll know that Meg is taking a breather.  Bria and I are amping up our business-side-to-our-writing-selves and will look to use the Friday blog spot to share those links with you that we have found helpful in the various writing- and publishing-related blogs over the course of each week.

For our first week’s re-cap, we decided to share:

From the Book Ends, LLC blog, author Angie Fox shares the “Three Things I Had To Do In Order to Sell.” Check out Angie’s insight HERE.

Nathan Bransford, literary agent from Curtis Brown LTD, has a great publishing and book-related blog. One post this week caught our eye, namely the one in which he discusses just “How Long Does It Take To Sell a Novel?” To read Nathan’s post, click HERE.  

We loved this next entry from Pro Blogger because although the tips listed are tips for bloggers, the advice resonates pretty loudly for writers as well. To read, the “8 Lessons Bloggers Can Learn From Sony,” click HERE.

Bella Stander posts great advice on her blog when it comes to author promotion and publicity. This week, she shares the results from an author publicity survey she recently conducted with authors actively ‘out there’ making things happen for their books. To read some of those authors’ responses, click HERE.

And, yes, we admit to being biased, but one of our favorite blog posts from the week happened right here at the Purple Hearts when Mary Buckham and Dianna Love stopped by to offer advice, encouragement, and support for writers trying to “Break Into Fiction – What It Takes to Get Published Today“. To read their excellent post, click HERE.

And don’t forget, at the end of the day today (Friday), we’ll be drawing the names of two lucky winners for Mary and Dianna’s generous giveaway.

One winner will receive a set of 5 BREAK INTO FICTION™ templates from the highly successful Break Into Fiction™ Template Teaching Series (www.BreakIntoFiction.com).

The second is a critique of your query or cover letter to get you one step closer to a dynamite proposal package.

We hope you find these posts as helpful as we did.

Enjoy, then go write!

Agent Shopping- take two

February 21, 2008 at 7:50 pm | Posted in agents/ editors, Meg | Leave a comment

It’s been a week of sick kids and stressed out me, so I’m going to cheat this week and refer everyone to an old post I wrote months ago about agents and editors. It will probably be deja vu with some of the great information Bria and Jessica gave out this week, but I thought it would go in line with the theme this week. So here goes…

An Agent by any other name

Research: Finding a Literary Agent (the sequel)

February 20, 2008 at 11:31 am | Posted in agents/ editors, Bria, career, writing | 3 Comments

Jessica did an amazing job of of telling us where to get the information and how to use it. But for me, I need a little more.

I’m very visual – I need a logical way to look at information or it might as well be street graffiti. At first everyone laughed at me, but now they’ve started asking for Bria Agent Search Spreadsheets for themselves (maybe I should start charging!)

I won’t lie. It is time consuming in the front-end. But later, when the querying begins, it will keep you on track and organized as well as stopping your focus from drifting to time wasting (and embarrassing) querying of agents who don’t rep what you write.

So, breaking this down in very easy steps, here we go:

Step 1 – Decide what you write.

My main passion and focus is YA Fantasy, but I also have ideas for a RomCom and a historical (which may be YA, Women’s Lit, or Romance – depending on who you ask) so my focus groups are: Fantasy, YA, Romance, and ChickLit. You’ll have your own, but we’ll stick with mine for these examples

Step 2 – Create an Excel Spreadsheet

This is very easy if you’ve never done it before.Open it up and then save it as “Agent Search.”

Across the top create a column for each of the following:Agent Name, Agency, Solicit?, Email, YA, Fantasy, Rom, ChLit, RWA, P&E, Exp, TOTAL, Authors, Notes

Step 3 – Link to: http://www.agentquery.com/search_advanced.aspx

From the list below, choose all your writing genres and search

Step 4 – List creationThis is the longest part. Cut and paste each page into your spreadsheet and then line up the information with columns. Put an “1” under each genre the agent reps. You may want to consider weighting one genre heavier than others – for example, my future agent MUST rep YA, so that column gets a “2” instead of a “1.”

Step 5 – The remaining columns weighted columns

So you may have notice that you still have RWA, P&E, Exp, and TOTAL, left.
RWA (Romance Writers of America)
is a very reputable group. Whether you write romance or not, you should consider joining. The group is highly focused on Craft and many agents have said they can often tell a person is an RWA member from their clean manuscript.

If the agency/agent is RWA certified, add another “1”

P&E (Preditors and Editors) as another amazing resource. They list everyone in the industry they’re aware of. If they give an agency/agent a “highly recommends” add a “2” – a “recommends” add a “1” —— they’ll also let you know if they “highly don’t recommend (“-2”), “don’t recommend” (“-1”), or if they are listed on “Writer Beware” (“-3”)

Exp stands for “Experience.” Jessica is my go-to girl on this. Industry answers roll off her tongue and she does a run by rating for me. Also, I look at blogs, talk to other writers, read articles. One of my top 10 agents was bumped off my list completely because of her attitude toward her clients and potential clients on her blog. You want to know this ahead of time. Use the same rating system as P&E.

TOTAL – create a sum total column for each row and then sort by the TOTAL column.

The last two columns are just as important. You should always be familiar with the authors an agent already reps. It lets you know what they like and where they succeed. Also, it allows you to ‘sell’ yourself better (see Jessica’s blog HERE.)

The Notes column should be for things like industry updates, reminders about appearances (online and in person) you’d like to attend, site updates (agents sometimes stop taking queries for a short time), contests they’re judging, etc.

All this information comes together on one page to let you judge and weigh the agents to see if they’re a potential fit. Make sure you check out Jessica’s blog to get a bigger picture of the whole search.

This is a great step in running your writing career as just that – a CAREER.

As always – if you have questions or comments we’d love to hear them. Start planning your career and then Go Write!-bria

Research: Finding a Literary Agent

February 18, 2008 at 7:44 am | Posted in agents/ editors, Jessica, research, writing | 7 Comments

For the past three years I have been involved with my home chapter’s annual conference. It is one of those volunteer activities that gives back in lots of ways. I have a separate article that I’ve written on what I’ve learned from my conference planning experiences, but the one thing that I’m most grateful for and what I want to share with you this week is what I’ve learned about researching the industry – namely, how to find the agents who represent what you write.

Before I got involved in conference planning I had heard a lot of the tips that I’ll pass on today, but I didn’t ‘get it’ until put in the position of trying to identify the industry professionals who would offer the widest array of possibilities to the hopeful writers attending our conference. The trial-by-fire and the pressure to build a satisfying conference forced me to pick up these trade secrets in a hurry.

Some of my advice might sound pretty intuitive, and if that’s the case then, Congratulations! You have a pretty steady handle on how to conduct your market research and make educated decisions about the best agents to query or pitch to for your material. But for those of you who haven’t yet entered a comfort zone with this stuff, I hope the following tips will help get you on your way.

Other than read, read, read, read, read and write, write, write, write, write . . .

The primary task I want you to do is to really think about the project you want to shop around. Where does it fit in the market? If you write paranormal romance, do you write hot and sexy vampire suspense like J.R. Ward or chick lit time travel like Marianne Mancusi? Perhaps it’s more like YA witches as found in Kelly McClymer’s books or a YA ghost hunter found in Marley Gibson’s new series? Whatever the case, I suggest starting by identifying at least THREE books that most closely resemble the project you want to sell. (The more books you can identify, the greater your market research will be.)

To my way of thinking, if an agent represents a certain kind of book they would likely represent similar material. So your end goal is to find out who represented (and who bought) those three books (or more) that most closely resemble yours.

1. Many, but certainly not all, published authors thank their agents and editors in the acknowledgement pages of their books. So the easiest (and free!) place to start is to go to your local bookstore and thumb through the acknowledgment pages of each of those target books.

Once you obtain the information, go to the Writer’s Reference section of the bookstore and look at the most recent edition of Jeff Hermann’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents. He updates this resource every year, to include the names and addresses of agents and their agencies and what they are looking to acquire along with instructions as to how to query them.

2. What to do when the information is not contained in the author’s acknowledgement page? The next resource I’d recommend using is not a free service, but at $20 per month I think it’s one of the best investments you can make on the business side of your writing career. That resource is an online subscription to Publishers Marketplace.

With a subscription to PM, you can search the archives for every deal reported back to the year 2000 – searching by author name, agent name, editor name, agency, or publishing house. This tool is invaluable not only to search what projects have most recently sold by and to whom, but to also determine if an agent shows a historical pattern for representation. A great example is the historical romance market. For the past few years I’ve heard many people in the romance industry say that historicals were dead. Well, some people were still buying and selling historicals during that period, and a quick search of those authors’ names will yield the agents and editors involved in the deals.

Publishers Marketplace is also a great resource for publishing news – especially when an agent or editor leaves her current agency or house for another one. Or if an editorial assistant gets bumped up to start acquiring her own list or an agent branches out on her own.

I understand when budgets are tight, so if a subscription to Publishers Marketplace is not feasible at the moment, the web site offers a free watered-down version of industry news called Publishers Lunch, which comes out every Monday. Anyone can subscribe – free – to Pub Lunch by signing up on the PM home page. Monthly paid-subscription holders receive the full Lunch version every week.

PM has other cool features – such as the opportunity to register yourself on the site. Not all authors are registered, however, which is the one downside when searching for deals concerning them.

3. To get a sense of an agent’s preference or style, conduct a web search on the agent’s name and their agency. The web sites often have bios for each of their agents as well as a list of the authors they represent and titles sold. Agent blogs are also a great learning tool when it comes to style and preferences. A list of many agent blogs can be found on the Absolute Write web site.

4. Historical Author, Cynthia Sterling, also has a great newsletter whereby she shares Market News on what’s happening in the romance genre. Her information is timely and accurate and often gives me great scoop when I cannot find the information elsewhere. And after every RWA National Conference, she posts a wrap up of all of the publisher spotlights – a great way to find out what kinds of projects the editors are looking to acquire. I highly recommend subscribing to this free newsletter by clicking on last left-hand link on her web site.

And certainly those aren’t the only ways to arrive at your list of choices, but I hope those tips give you a place to start. Some people will advise you to start with a much larger list and narrow down from there . . . which I think will work, too.

As an aside . . .

Jessica Faust of BookEnds LLC posted this recent blog entry on finding the interpersonal connection in your agent search.

And Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency, also has a blog post where she lists some potential questions to ask that agent when you get THE CALL.

One other note – a reputable agency will never ask you for money up front. If an agent tells you that you need to pay them a chunk of change before they will represent you, my advice is to run far and run fast.

I believe that selling your book is all a matter of luck and timing – getting the right project into the right hands at the right time. The bigger the net you cast, the greater your chances.

And it’s never too early to start your research!

I hope this information helps and that it will lead to finding a good home for your book! And the best thing you can do when sending out queries and awaiting responses? KEEP WRITING!

Check out Bria’s take on organizing your search HERE


Blog to Blog

December 19, 2007 at 12:33 pm | Posted in agents/ editors, Bria, inspiration, writing, young adult | 5 Comments

Blogs inform, challenge, motivate, inspire, and generally just tick us off. 

Everyone has blogs they check out everyday/week, so I thought I’d throw a couple non-heartlette/non-diva blogs about writing up there. I’d love to hear what other writers are reading – I’m always looking to learn something new!

1. I love agent blogs – I learn so much and have several I read on a regular basis because I’m planning on querying them, but for my Must Read Agent Blog of the moment, I’m nominating Nathan Bransford – Yup, like the other 1000 people that read this Curtis Brown agent’s blog daily, I’m a totally groupie. Nathan has a down to earth way of looking at his job, the publishing industry, and pop culture TV. Check him out HERE.

2. For a more no-nonsense look at the publishing world for writers, I’m linking to AuthorMBA – timely, accurate, informative. Check it out HERE

3. I’ll admit it, I’m totally cheating on this one: Books, Boys, Buzz is one of my favorite blogs – and why, you might ask, is that cheating? Well, it links out to several other blogs that I read. They’re an amazing group of YA writers with some great books under their belt – I challenge everyone to pick up a YA book in the coming year – and enjoy it as a reader and a writer – I’d love to hear what you learn! – Try one of these HERE

4. The Wet Noodle Posse has been blogging together for several years – their stories are inspiring, motivational and informative – they kept me going thru my Golden Heart Prep and deserve a special thanks just for that! This amazing group of women blog HERE 

5. Finally – Kate Elliot’s blog as my single writer blog this month. She puts out a lot of great information about how she writes and writing in general. I linked to her a while back for the amazing series of blog posts she did on “Advice For The First Time sff Novelist” – which is great for everyone, not just science fiction/fantasy writers. You can find that, and more HERE

So, what am I missing (besides my amazing Diva girls) – any must reads you can’t seem to skip? Let me know and then Go Write.


And the Winner is….

December 8, 2007 at 10:26 pm | Posted in agents/ editors, books, Elaine Spencer, Honorary Heartlette, writing | Leave a comment

The winner of The Knight Agency book bundle is:  AJ Chase

The bundle includes the following titles:

    Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh 
    Parallel Attraction by Deidre Knight
    Undercover in High Heels by Gemma Halliday
    Highland Guardian by Melissa Mayhue 
    Scions: Resurrection by Patrice Michelle
    Now and Zen by Linda Gerber 
    90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper with Cecil Murphy 


Thanks to all of you who paid us a visit. And a special thank you to Elaine for supplying these books and for spending a most enjoyable, informative, and helpful week with us Purple Hearts. It’s been awesome!

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