Monday, November 30, 2009

Accepting an Agent's Offer?

So, you've written a great book. You've revised and polished it to perfection. You researched agents and submitted a great query letter to them, and at least one has made you an offer.

Congratulations!! This is a great place to be. The next question you should be asking yourself is 'should I accept?'

Many times, writers get so excited about this offer that they accept without giving it much thought. After all, any agent is better than no agent, right?


Agents have different working styles, and her style may not match with yours. Her vision for your book may not even be the same, so it's important to find out as much as possible so you can decide whether or not to sign on that dotted line.

First, let me take a moment to share an opinion. I have heard countless writers say that an agent works for the writer. Why? I have no idea because I completely disagree. Agents and writers are equal partners, each having a specific role. One is not more important than the other. One does not have more authority than the other. That kind of balance is what you should be looking for.

In other words, an agent is more than someone who negotiates deals. She will be your partner, your advocate, and you need to find out if the two of you will work well together. That's a hard thing to do, but there are some ways to prepare.

Having a list of questions for THE CALL will help. A lot. But there's more you can think about. What are your working styles? Do they mesh? Are your communication styles similar? Do you need an editorial agent? How early in your WIP do you want feedback? What other books do you plan to write? What do *you* Want from the partnership? What does the agent want? Do they match?

Agent-hunting is a bit like speed dating: you only have a short time to decide if you're willing to take things to the next level, so it's important to keep these things in mind before signing that contract. Otherwise you could be in for an ugly break up.

If it turns out you're not compatible, well, that will feel like a harsh blow. But keep this in mind: you got one agent's interest, so you can do it again. It's just a matter of finding the right match.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Winners of the November book giveaway!

It's time once again to announce the winners of the latest contest!!

The winner of THE ESSPRESSOLOGIST is ...

C.K. !!!

And the winner of ONCE WAS LOST is ...

runningforfiction !!!


Please email me your snail address to tabitha at tabithaolson dot com, and I will get them out to you asap. You have thirty days to collect your prize.

If you didn't win, no biggie. Know why? Because next month there will be more books. And I'm talking lots of them. A HUGE PILE of them. So stop by next saturday to see what they are!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

To all of you living in the US...

Happy Thanksgiving!!!
We're not having turkey this year. Instead, we're just making our favorite foods. So it's kind of a mish-mosh. But a yummy one. :)

Now go eat yourself silly!! :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Interview with Kristina Springer!

Today, we have an interview with debut author Kristina Springer! She's a fellow Chicagoan (which is reason enough to cheer), and also co-author of the blog Author2Author. So let's give her a warm welcome!!

THE ESPRESSOLOGIST is a sweet, fun book about a teenage barista named Jane. Jane works at a coffee shop in Chicago and she started noticing that the same type of people always get the same type of drinks-- she keeps notes on this and calls it her espressology. One day she decides to hook up one of her regulars with the girl whose favorite coffee drink is the perfect match for his and the fun begins.

What was the inspiration behind your idea?
COFFEE!! :-) Really, I'm a hard core coffee fan and it came to me while sitting in a Starbucks with my hubby one night.

I loved the post you wrote about how your story went from concept to shelves. How has writing and publishing this book impacted you as a writer?
Regarding writing, it helped to not stress and plot and plan too much-- this book sort of FLEW right out of me. I never thought too much about what I was going to write until I sat down each time to work. I guess I just let me be myself. Friends and family (since reading the book) have said oh, I can see you in it! And regarding publishing, WOW I've learned SO much! I'm almost through with getting my second book ready for publication and everything was much easier the second time around. I guess it's like when you have a second baby. The first time you don't know what's going to happen and you're scared. After that it gets easier.

How often do you write, and how much do you write in one sitting?
I write a few times a week-- at least one or two night during the week and then some time on either Saturday or Sunday. I've got 4 kids ages 1 to 7 so I only write when my husband gets home and takes over kid duty.

What are you working on now?
Well, right this very minute I'm going through my first pass pages on MY FAKE BOYFRIEND IS BETTER THAN YOURS (it will be out fall of 2010). And I'm also revising a new YA, PUMPKIN PRINCESS, so that it can go out on submission next week.

Is there anything you have to have with you in order to write?
My laptop! Yummy coffee drinks are also essential. I do all of my writing in coffee shops.

I love it! Goes well with your books. I suppose that's what your writing space looks like?
Like your average Starbucks. :-) Wooden table and chair in the corner, facing the door so I can watch people come in at the same time. Sometimes they end up in my books.

How much do you read, and what are you reading now?
I read at nap time everyday (kids nap-- not mine. I drink too much coffee to nap. :-) ) and I listen to audiobooks in the car. At home I'm reading HATE LIST by Jennifer Brown and in the car I'm listening to PAPER TOWNS by John Green.

Thanks so much for doing this interview!!!
Thanks for having me Tabitha!!!

To see more of what Tina is up to, check out her website, Or, go visit her at Author2Author. For a chance to win a copy of this book, go here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Final NANO Update!!

I did it!!!

Yesterday, I crossed the 50k mark and kept going. I ended the day at 55,032, and I only have two more chapters to go in my story. YAY!!!!

Oh, I'm tired. This has been one incredibly exhausting experience. It was good in many ways, though. I learned more about myself as a writer, and I now have the skeleton of an incredibly daunting story that's been haunting me for seven years. I'm so incredibly happy!

At the same time, though, I've also learned that NaNo just isn't for me. I'm glad I did it this year, but I doubt I'll do it again. NaNo doesn't allow for the methodical and organized parts of my brain to get a say in how the manuscript is cranked out, and they're very unhappy with me right now. So I now I have to go back through the story and appease them. But I think I'm going to wait until January...

Right now, I'm going to go collapse in a puddle.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Third NaNo Update

As of right now, I have written 44,064 words! Yay!

Next week, my kids are home from school all week. So, basically, I have today and tomorrow to reach 50k word.

So, I'm off to go write... :)

How are the rest of you NaNo-ers doing? Still hanging in there? Feel like you're drowning in words? Have blown my word count out of the water? :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Preparing for THE CALL

So, you’ve written an amazing book, you’ve revised your query letter to perfection, and the responses you’re getting are more consistent – they have more to do with finding the right match rather than revising to make your story stronger. You’re close, and that means you should start preparing for that thing we all look forward to...


There are two different kinds of phone calls you can get. One is when the agent just wants to chat about your story, perhaps give you a revision request verbally instead of via email or paper. This can be particularly vexing for the writer because phone calls don’t happen often, so it’s easy to get your hopes up a bit too high.

The other kind of phone call is THE CALL, with an offer of representation. Sometimes agents will send an email ahead of time, asking to schedule a phone call, and others will just call out of the blue. I experienced both, and my planning-oriented brain much preferred the scheduled phone call. Because you just can’t get your brain oriented properly for a spontaneous phone call. :)

That said, you can do lots of planning ahead of time. In fact, you MUST plan ahead of time, because, when you get that call, you need to be able to ask your own questions in a coherent manner. If you don’t ask questions, then you have no idea what you’ll be getting in to. And you need to be able to get a good idea of how this agent works.

I spent months researching questions to ask, and compiled a huge list. I went through them during both of my phone calls, and asked each question at some point in the conversation.

Here’s my list:
* Are you a member of AAR? If not, do you follow the same guidelines as the AAR?

* Are you an editorial agent? If so, what are your ideas for revisions? Or is my project ready for submission?

* What do you like best about my work? What made you decide to represent my work? Do you have any other clients with projects similar to mine?

* Are you interested in representing my future novels?

* How involved are you in working with your clients on developing new ideas?

* What are your ideas for submission? Which houses do you think will be a good fit for my work? And how many editors will you pitch to in the first wave? Will you inform me of any and all offers? As well as rejections?

* Have you placed projects similar to mine before? If so, where? How many projects have you placed so far?

* What can I do to increase my book’s chances of selling?

* How quickly do you respond to client questions? How often do you check-in with clients on submission status? And what is your preferred method of communication?

* How many clients do you have? Do you have an assistant or any other kind of support?

* Will you represent me personally, or will my book be assigned to an associate within the agency?

* Do you use a written or verbal agent-client agreement? What does this agreement include/exclude? What is the duration of the contract?

* Does your agency handle the sale of subsidiary rights, like foreign, film, audio, and translation (or do you have a relationship with a sub-agent who handles the sale of these rights on your behalf)?

* What are your commission rates? [Standard is 15% domestic, 20% foreign/film.]

* When you receive money for me, how quickly do you pay out my share? Will you issue a 1099 tax form at the end of the year? How do I get my money if something happens to you?

* If an emergency should happen such that you are no longer able to represent my work, do you have a plan for me or will I need to seek other representation again?

* What are your policies if we should part company for any other reasons?

* How long have you been an agent? How do you like it?

* If you can’t sell this manuscript, what happens? Will you look at my other work? Will you help me develop a new project?

* What happens if two of your clients present you with similar projects – will you take them both on or only one?

* What if I decide to write something in a genre you don’t normally represent? Would you represent that book as well? If not, how would you feel about referring me to another agent?

* If my work goes out of print, but is then picked up by another house, how does this work for you?

* In your mind, what is an ideal client? What are your questions or expectations for me if I decide to take you on as my agent?

I printed out this list, with enough space between the questions for me to write down the answers, and had them handy in case I should get a call. When I did, it took forty-five minutes to get through all these questions, both times. Though it was more a conversation, not an interview, and I recorded the answers as they came up.

I have heard many stories where writers have had to part ways with their agents because of differences in working styles and communication. I really didn’t want to be one of those people, so I tried to put together questions that would at least tell me if we differed on a fundamental level. It gave me peace of mind.

Plus, if I hadn’t had these questions ready, I never would have been able to make an educated choice about which agent I should be working with. And I’m very happy with the choice I made. :)

That said, what if you get one offer? Should you just take it? Maybe, maybe not...but that's the topic for my next post.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Second NANO update

As of this morning, I'm at 25,364 words. Halfway there!

This same time last year, I'd only managed to write half of what I've currently finished. So I'm pretty proud of that. But my life last year was much crazier than it is now, so it's been easier to keeping to my writing schedule this time around. I still have things get in the way (like yesterday, today, next thursday, and the whole week of Thanksgiving), but I'm able to manage them better than I did last year. Which is a very good thing.

I'm also pretty happy with what I've written so far. There is an interesting thread on Verla Kay's Blueboards about what NaNoWriMo has taught you about yourself. It's really interesting to read about what others have learned.

What have I learned about myself? Well, I learned that I can be a pretty fast drafter. And, if I target specific areas of the novel, then the whole thing won't be suffering from lack of quality (just the untargeted areas :) ). So, I'm targeting the basic plot right now, and I feel I have a good structure from which to build the rest of the story.

I have also discovered just how much I love revision. I've always liked it, but I can't believe how much I'm looking forward to revising this novel once it's done. And NaNo is allowing me a quick venue to get the bare bones onto the page, and I am itching to put the flesh and bones on it once it's done. :)

So, how are the rest of you doing? And what has NaNo taught you about yourself?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Interview with Sarah Zarr!

Today we have an interview with the amazing Sara Zarr, author of National Book Award finalist STORY OF A GIRL, SWEETHEARTS, and her most recent ONCE WAS LOST. And can I just say I love the cover? So simple, but very effective.

Tell us about ONCE WAS LOST.
ONCE WAS LOST is about fifteen-year-old Samara, a pastor's daughter in a rural town where a young girl from the community goes missing. That crime precipitates a crisis of faith for Samara, who was already on the brink of one. So there is that aspect of it going on---a character study---but it's a mystery, too, as everyone tries to figure out what happened to the missing girl.

What was the inspiration behind your idea?
The first seeds of the story go back to the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping, which happened here in the community where I live. That case got my "what if" wheels turning. What if I were a teen who sort of knew Elizabeth, but couldn't really call her a friend? What if we were in the same tight-knit religious community? What if I were already in the midst of a personal crisis when a crime like that happened? How would it change my view of the world at such a formative age? The book is not about that particular case, in the end, but I was able to use some of those memories and details, as well as the feelings I was having during that time, in the story.

How long did it take to get from the initial idea to a completed novel?
It's hard to measure, because I started and stopped so many times. I first started with the story back in 2002, and dabbled in it now and then for years. In late 2007 I started seriously shaping it into a the novel that it would become, and first turned it in to my editor in fall 2008. Then we did a serious of major (but fast!) revisions that we wrapped up in spring 2009, and I can't believe it became a published book so quickly after that!

What was your favorite part of writing this book? Least favorite?
I loved being able to really dig into some of the doubts Sam had about her religious faith. As someone who grew up in church, I was often afraid of doubt. It would have meant a lot to me to read about a character with the same questions I had but was afraid to ask. I also loved writing the scenes between Sam and Nick, the older brother of the missing girl. He was a somewhat unexpected character. My least favorite was the first major revision I did for my editor. I rewrote the book from third person into first. That's like writing a whole new novel, but in a very short time. I didn't think I would make it.

How often do you write, and how much do you write in one sitting?
I try to write Monday through Friday, especially when I've got a deadline (which is always, lately). It doesn't always work out when I'm doing promotional stuff for the current book, but I get unhappy fast if I'm not working. Generally I go one to three hours. I usually have some goal, like a chapter or a thousand words or some tangible chunk that will help me feel like I'm progressing. Some days it's a lot of hair-pulling and staring into space, other days it flows and flies.

How is your career different now from when your first book was published?
The biggest difference is that I have an audience. When you start out, no one cares. There are lots of new books to read---why yours? You hope to win them over. Then when you do, you know you can't slack off. Knowing I have an audience keeps me working hard, and also I interact with them through my blog and social networking sites. At the same time, I still write primarily to please myself and write the kind of book I would like to read. That hasn't changed, nor has the fact that writing is difficult! Finding publishing success doesn't solve the basic problem: how do I translate an imaginative vision into language?

How did you get in to writing for young adults?
It wasn't so much a conscious choice. The stories I come up with just seem to always involve characters who are 15, 16, 17. That's my natural writing voice. And, as an adult I've always been a fan of YA literature as much as of books written specifically for grownups.

What are you working on now?
I'm working on my fourth book for Little, Brown. I can't say much about it because it's too early in the process, but it should be out some time in 2011.

What does your writing space look like?
I have two primary spaces: one at home, which is a nook off the dining room and has a simple IKEA desk, with a Levenger Editor's Desk on top of that. I've got some plank shelving for supplies so I can keep clutter off my desk, and adjacent to IKEA desk is my grandmother's little writing desk that is sort of a staging area. My other space is an office I rent away from home. Desk, big monitor, love seat, and stacks of books. Here are some pictures of both spaces at their cleanest!

How much do you read, and what are you reading now?
Not enough! I'm working on rediscovering the joy of reading and figuring out how to let go of everything I know about the publishing industry and let myself get lost in a book. I just started FEELS LIKE HOME, a young adult novel by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, and I'm also reading Marilynne Robinson's HOUSEKEEPING. But slowly, because I do not want it to end.

Thanks for sharing so much with us! I have truly enjoyed reading your books, and I look forward to more of them.

To see more of what Sara is up to, check out her website,, or her blog, For a chance to win a copy of ONCE WAS LOST, go here.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

November Book Giveaway!

This month, I will be giving away two books from two great authors!!

ONCE WAS LOST by Sara Zarr


THE ESSPRESSOLOGIST by Kristina Springer

Be sure to read the entry guidelines carefully, so you get all the entries you're entitled to.

To enter: - Leave a comment on this post.
- For an additional entry, become a follower of this blog and leave another comment telling me so. If you already are a follower, leave a comment telling me this.
- For an additional entry, post a link to this contest, then leave a separate comment with the URL. If you post to muliple locations, then leave a separate comment for each URL.

I will announce the winners on November 28th, and you will have thirty days to collect your prize. Also, look for interviews with both authors later in the month!

Good luck!!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

First NANO update

So? How are all of you doing?

I had a very slow start. I had just finished revisions for my agent only a couple days before NaNo started, so my head was stuck in another story, AND it was stuck in edit mode. My inner editor was up front and center, ready to scream at the crap that a first draft always generates. And, the voice coming out of me wasn't from the MC of my new project. It was from my old one. So it took A LOT to shift away from both edit mode and my old story, and really get into my new one. But I think I'm there now, which is good.

I started NaNo on monday, since I'm a weekday word warrior, and have tried to hit 2500 words per day.

As of last night, I am at 8368 words, which is slightly more than my goal. It's good, but it hasn't been easy. It turns out that the few hours when my kids are at school are not enough to crank out 2500 words. I can only manage about a thousand. But my kids have been great so far, and they've been playing well for an hour or so after lunch, and that's usually enough for me to reach my daily goal. I had some time last night after they went to bed, and I got almost another thousand words written. So I'm pretty happy with where I am right now.

How are the rest of you doing? Cranking words out? Banging your head against the wall? Already panting with exhaustion? :)

Edited to add today's word count: I'm now up to 11,097!!! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, November 02, 2009

What NOT To Do With Rejection

Last week, I posted about how you can turn rejections from editors and agents to your advantage. This week, I want to take a look at how rejection can affect you personally.

When we write a story, often times the story comes from places deep within us. It’s often been said that writers are basically running around naked, because so much of their stories can come from themselves. So, right off the bat, we have a deeply personal stake in our work.

Then, we work and work and work, sometimes for years, trying to get everything just right. Most people have a job on top of this, perhaps even a family. You could be working on your next promotion, spending time with your significant other or kids, hanging out with your friends, sleeping, reading, exercising, or any number of other activities. But you choose to write because it’s important to you. Several more personal stakes right there.

After all this, you get to the point where you think your work is ready, and you send it out. What happens? You get rejected. Not just once, but many times. Even if you turn those rejections to your advantage and revise, you still may never find someone to take on your project. And that is the ultimate rejection.

But there is still a light at the end of this depressing tunnel: agents and editors don’t intend rejections to be personal. They are in a business, and are looking for things they can sell. If they don’t know how to sell it, then it’s not in anyone’s best interest for them to take it on. So, the simplest, and probably hardest, thing you can do is this: Don’t take their rejections personally.

I know that’s easier said than done, so here are some tips that might help you keep an optimistic attitude throughout this difficult process.

-When you begin querying, decide up front whether you want an agent or an editor. If you decide to go the editor route, keep in mind that if you can’t find one, you won’t be able to go back and look for an agent. At least, not with that project. If you’ve already shopped your project around to all the publishing houses and been turned down, then where is the agent going to go with it? However, if you go the agent route first and don’t find any takers, you can still search for editors on your own. Thinking about this before you begin querying may save you some headaches down the road.

-Even though you may be tempted to, don’t advertise how many times you've been rejected, or by whom. I’ve heard many an agent say that if they can see all the other people who didn’t want your project, then why would they? It makes them predisposed to wonder ‘what’s wrong’ instead of just focusing on your work, or even on what can be improved.

-There will probably be a time when you get a rejection that stings. Really stings. Maybe the rejecting agent was harsh and snarky in her letter. However, that doesn’t mean you should be. Don’t write back with nasty comments, and never publicly rant about how misunderstood your work is or how stupid the agent/editor was. Instead, you have to rise above this and remain professional.

That is, you have to remain professional publicly...which leads me to my last tip, probably the most helpful of all.

-Find a support system for you to vent, scream, cry, rant, rage, or anything else you can think of. Just make sure it’s not a public venue, like message boards, blogs, Twitter, email listserves, etc. There is nothing wrong with having a personal reaction to a rejection. You just need to keep it personal and private. Otherwise any agents or editors who overhear you might think you can’t handle the publishing world, and will pass you by even if your work shows merit. That’s the last thing you want. After you’ve had your rant, then you can go back to the rejection to see if there was any useful information in it. If so, you can use it. If not, you can toss that rejection and keep going.

Probably the easiest way to think of all this is to imagine how you would behave in a normal job. If you regularly snip and snarl at your coworkers, then no one is going to want to work with you. If you rant to your coworkers about how so-and-so doesn’t know how to do his job, that’s going to get back to the person in question and put a strain on your working relationship. If you tell your boss that he’s an idiot, you might lose your job. Or, at the very least, you aren’t going to get that raise or promotion you’ve been working so hard for.

But, generally, people don’t do this. Instead, we go home and rant to our loved ones. The ones who will listen and support us, and give us tea or chocolate cake to ease the pain and frustration. Writing is no different. So, find that support system, vent and rant to your heart’s content, and then get back to your work and make it so good that no one will be able to say “No.”

Sunday, November 01, 2009

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo...2009

It's that time again!! Time to crank out 50,000 words in thirty days.

I tried doing this last year, but my time was majorly hijacked and I didn't get very far. But we had far too much going on in our lives at the time, so I'm not surprised.

Things have calmed down, so I'm going to give it another whirl. Though I won't be able to work weekends, or Thanksgiving, which means I have to crank out 2500 words per day instead of 1667. And there are a couple extra days in there where the kids won't have school, so there's no guarantee I'll get anything done on those days. I'll have to double up somehow on the days they are in school, which could get sticky.

But, we'll see what happens. At the very least, I'll have written a big chunk of my project, which is better than zero. :)

Because I'm doing NaNo, I won't be writing up book reviews. Instead, I'll be posting my word count progress. Mondays will remain the usual posts on craft, plus author interviews (which are all scheduled and ready to go). After NaNo is over, I'll get back to my regular book review schedule.

So, who else is doing NaNo?