Posted in Business Side of Writing, Market Prep, Writing Life

Finding Agents Zoom Meeting

In response to questions on KIDLIT411 (a Facebook group), I offered a free Zoom meeting today. About nine or ten writers participated and we spent about an hour together.

Getting ready for it–using a list of questions some had–I realized I’d done a live talk on a similar topic for SCBWI Oregon back in 2019. So, I took the PowerPoint from that, did some rearranging, and had a presentation.

My plan had been to record the Zoom meeting. I was almost done talking when I realized, I’d never pushed start record. Arghh. Next time I need a sign that says START RECORD right in front of me!

Since I can’t share the recording as planned, my husband reminded me I could convert the PPT presentation as a pdf. Wise man. Except it was too huge. He suggested we try google slides–it cut off some of my text. So, instead I chose outline view in PPT and copied the text of my slides and answered some extra questions I was asked:

ORGANIZING RESEARCH PROCESS

Keep track of those you are interested in!

  • You can do…
    • A Word document
    • A Word table
    • An Excel spreadsheet
      • Each tab a different agent (editor) and paste all your info including links
    • A pen and paper notebook

What info you may want to keep

  • Contact Info
  • Name
  • Email or link to submission form
    • usually forms are through agency—sometimes query manager
  • Agency/Publisher
    • website
  • Personal blog link
  • Twitter link
  • Where you found them…
  • What they want to see, such as …
    • Query or cover letter
    • Full manuscript, first ten pages, first 50 pages, first chapter
    • Synopsis – one page, brief, or …
    • Author bio
    • Comp titles
  • How they want it sent – email (attached or not–usually pasted in) or form (with link)
  • Report time – and if no response, or not stated

WHERE TO START RESEARCHING AGENTS (EDITORS)

  • My favorites…
    • Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating blog – https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/
      • Usually features one agent a month
      • First page submission opportunities
      • Place to share art, find out about contests, etc.
      • You can subscribe!

WHEN I FIND AN AGENT (EDITOR) I’M INTERESTED IN…

  • I check their agency website
  • Twitter – unfortunately, you must have an account – https://twitter.com/
    • I also use this to check to see if an agent is up-to-date on queries
  • Google – search the internet for interviews/mentions/podcasts
  • I read and listen to any of the above I find
  • Ask myself questions:
    • Are they representing what I want to sell?
    • Do I like books they represent or that they say they like?
    • Do I recognize any of their clients?
    • Does their personality rub me the RIGHT way?

QUERY MANAGER

  • Accessible from the agency website or Manuscript Wishlist or Twitter
  • Let’s look at an example…
    • I review what info each agent wants
    • PREPARE ALL YOUR INFO READY IN A WORD DOC SO YOU CAN COPY AND PASTE
    • When ready click submit
    • Make sure you re-enter email on confirmation screen or it doesn’t send
    • I copy confirmation URL and paste into my file
    • You won’t always receive an email response, but can check via your link

HOW I KEEP TRACK OF SUBMISSIONS

  • I use a Word Table in a document per project – e.g. Title Queries
    • I include potential agents to submit to
    • I prepare my query letter or Query Manager info inside
    • I note results
    • I note agencies that don’t allow queries to more than one agent
    • I use color-coding so I know whom I’m still waiting on

Questions?

  • Favorite Podcasts?
    • Someone else mentioned Jessica Faust and James McGowan at Book Ends Literary
  • How much time do you spend writing versus doing writing business?
    • It depends on what’s going on in my world. I don’t know how to quantify it either. When I’m burnt out on writing, I might go catch up reading newsletters, research agents, submitting. It varies week to week. I also do the latter when the in box gets too full! 😉
  • Is there a list of good agents versus bad? No. It’s too subjective.
  • What about Query Tracker? I’ve not used it. Developed my process before it existed.

I hope this is helpful to those who couldn’t attend.


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Posted in Market Prep, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Finding Comp Titles

shelf-159852_640.pngRecently, I was at a writer’s conference where someone asked, “What do you do when you can’t find comp titles?”. (Comp titles are comparable titles.) Sometimes writers say, “nothing is out there like this book.” That’s highly unlikely, especially if the book fits a category–picture book, middle grade, young adult, etc.–and it fits a genre. If it doesn’t fall in any of these, perhaps the writer needs to rethink the project–there may be a reason “nothing is out there” like it.
How I find comp titles
First, I go to Amazon and search in the category. (You could use Barnes & Noble as well.) Let’s say I’m looking for comp titles for a picture book. I start by searching by subject in picture books. For example, manners, or musical instruments, or fun in the sun. Be sure and use the check boxes on the left to help you narrow your search. I usually check hardcover. Since I mostly write fiction, I specify that as well.
Next, I search by characters. If my characters are animals, I’ll search for fiction picture books on that specific animal. E.g. How many picture books are there with a tree frog as the main character? Probably not many, which can help your book stand out. I know there are a lot of picture books with chicken, dog, or cat main characters.
If neither of those options work, try searching for the tone of the book, such as humor or sweet, whatever fits your manuscript best. Or search for the theme of your book.
You can also go to a local bookstore and ask someone in the children’s section to show you recent books on a specific topic, character, or written in a specific tone.
Reading books
And, of course, I read the books I find to see if they really are a good comparable title.
I also do a lot of reading of picture books and may find comp titles that way as well.
Using multiple comp titles
Sometimes it takes two or three titles to express your book, so your pitch or query letter would say, “My book is like Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code meets Mo Willems’ The Thank You Book. (Note these are recent titles, which make the best comps.) You can also use movies or TV shows as one of your comps. “My YA manuscript is like The Truman Show meets M.T. Anderson’s Feed.” (These aren’t recent, but would give the editor or agent an instant picture of your manuscript.)
Usually you don’t want to use the blockbuster books, such as Harry Potter or Hunger Games as comparison titles. Although, if you were comparing it to some aspect of the book, that might work too. “My book has a main character who doesn’t fit in like Luna Lovegood in HP, but the story is more reminiscent of Laurel Gale’s Dead Boy.”
Agents and editors I’ve heard speak agree that comp titles will be out there. You just have to do the research to find them.
For further reading on this topic go to “Finding Comp Titles for Your Novel” by Annie Neugebauer and “Comp titles” by Janet Reid. Both of these posts are from 2012, but have great info.

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Posted in Market Prep, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Writing for Children’s Religious Magazines

christ&lambI’ve sold over 75 short stories to a variety of religious magazines. Some of these stories were resales as the markets don’t have the same audience, but have very similar beliefs. Some stories were tweaked to fit a specific religion. A few of the magazines are no longer in print. Others have gone through transitions and name changes.
Beliefs Vary
Each magazine has its own flavor and set of beliefs. When reading sample stories, you’ll find certain magazines specifically mention God and/or Jesus, while others don’t. In all cases, there are things you need to know when writing for the religious market.
Theme Lists/Editorial Calendars
Many of the religious magazines can also be called “church take home papers.” In other words, 52 issues are printed for each Sunday/Sabbath of the year. Others, are monthly magazines with several stories/articles per issue. Not only does this mean they need lots of material (fiction and nonfiction), but these magazines often have some kind of theme. It can be a yearly theme, a monthly theme, or an issue by issue theme. There may be Bible verses to read along with theme topics. Often, theme lists, sometimes called editorial calendars, are available online. If not, you’ll need to write to the magazine for them. For one magazine I’ve gotten on a mailing list to receive the themes by email.
Writers Guidelines
All have submission guidelines–many of which are online. These will tell you word counts–some will be ranges, others will be up to a specific word limit. You may find deadlines for submissions. You’ll find information on the rights the magazine buys. (If you need further information on rights, go here.) http://www.susanuhlig.com/2013/10/is-that-right.html The focus of the magazine is usually mentioned here as well.
But one of the biggest “guidelines” is reading the stories in the magazine itself. This is where you’ll really see whether the stories are simply moral or “good,” or whether God is referenced or talked to, or both. You’ll get to see if story settings are inside or outside of church–often the most religious magazines use both.
The Characters
Most will have one main character either overcoming a problem or learning something. (That doesn’t mean these stories have to be preachy, although some will lean more that way than others.) Someone might help them with the problem, but the main character has to be in control and do the actual solving. Because of what happens in the story, the character will change in some way.
Editorial Relationships
Often, if you break into print with one magazine, you can sell more stories to the same magazine. If you do, you may develop a relationship with the editor(s). I had one editor tell me she liked my story, but since the magazine didn’t promote contemporary Christian music, they couldn’t use it. Without a relationship, all I’d have gotten would have been a straight rejection. I’ve also had editors ask me to fill holes in their lists of stories. After receiving a specific topic, I usually had to propose a couple ideas before getting the go ahead to write.
Rejections
You may find as I did that some magazines are really hard to break into. In fact, some I never wrote something that they accepted. You may also find some rejections are a “not now” as they had too many stories that fit the topic. That means you can send the story later when it again fits a topic. I’ve also resent stories when a new editor comes along. This means you have to keep accurate records on your submissions and on the magazine.
Sales
My favorite sales to religious markets were the magazine I read when I was a teen and the magazine my daughters read when they were teens. One of the fun things with resales is seeing how differently the same story can be illustrated. But the best is knowing that there are children and teens being encouraged by my stories.

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Posted in Market Prep, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, Tools

Why Twitter?

twitter.jpgTwitter. Facebook. Snapchat. Instagram. Periscope. There are so many options in social media that it can be hard to choose which one(s) to use. If you aren’t on Twitter, don’t know why you as a writer might want to use it, or don’t know what to do with the Twitter account you have, perhaps this post will be helpful.
First, what is Twitter?
An internet discussion/social network where messages are 140 characters long. Some refer to this as microblogging. You can say what you want, whenever you want, and your followers can read it whenever they want. Messages are referred to as “tweets.” Messages can include links to a website or blog, photos or videos, gifs, and polls.
My Reasons for Using Twitter
I started using Twitter to connect with other kidlit writers and to get better acquainted with editors and agents. It’s a good place for those purposes, both which are really about connection.
Find People to Follow
Following someone is how you get to read messages in Twitter. Your Twitter feed, your timeline, is made up of messages posted by anyone you follow, plus messages you send. It’s how you listen in on the conversation. It’s how you join public conversations or start conversations. Messages are in chronological order in your feed with the most recent messages on top.
I started by following some writer friends. Then followed some people my friends followed. Since then I add people I meet, read about, read their books, hear speak, or find through retweets, or through Twitter suggestions. I may or may not follow those who follow me.
If I don’t know anything about a person, I read his/her bio and some sample tweets. Sometimes I follow someone and later unfollow them as their tweets bother me (it could be language, or too much self-promotion, or too much discussion of politics.)
Because I now have an adult ebook out from Clean Reads, I have a Twitter handle for that pen name @SMFordwriter, too. I’ve found that the children’s literature community–just as they are in person–are more open to conversation, helping each other, sharing, etc.–than the adult literature community.
The Conversation: What Do You Say on Twitter?
Answer questions. Here’s an example that @KSonnack posted yesterday: “I need some book recs. #1: for an 8yo who just moved to a new city and is having trouble adjusting. Go!”
Follow links to articles, then comment or retweet the original tweet. (Retweeting means sending the tweet out again from your user name.)
Share articles. This from August 11th: “The 11th hour villain. I agree with this concept. http://www.starpowercomic.com/the-eleventh-hour-villain/ …
Use the heart to “like” what someone says.
Comment on or retweet tweets. Such as: @Corinneduyvis on September 2nd: “Hugely important part of writing for me: my plot notebook. I take pen, paper, and just talk my way through scenes and problems.”
Share good news, links to blog posts, writer quotes, and book recommendations.
Ask questions.
Celebrate others’ good news and sympathize with bad.
Conversations: Private
You can also have private conversations by using DM (direct message) through Twitter. This only works for people who follow you. You can DM a single person or a group. More info here.
Searching Twitter
Twitter is searchable and the main tool to use is a hashtag. Hashtags can be anything anyone creates using the pound symbol (#) followed by a word or words with no spaces, but common ones start becoming known, such as #amwriting or #writingtips or #writingchallenge or #kidlit. Some are just initials or abbreviations that have become great tools.
Some of the most useful writer hashtags for submitting are #MSWL (manuscript wish list), #PitMad (pitch madness), and #PitchWars (a contest).

  • #MSWL also has a website–both the hashtag and the website offer editors and agents to post “what they are looking for.” This is amazing!
  • #PitMad is a chance for writers to pitch manuscripts during quarterly events. Basic information can be found here. One of the most important things about it is that tweeters must also indicate the genre of the manuscript with another hashtag, such as #PB #MG #YA.
  • #PitchWars is a “a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer critiques on how to make the manuscript shine.” See full details for 2016 here. What a deal!

These latter two give you a chance to see if your pitches are working. Do they garner any attention or not? You can often offer different versions to try pitches out.
Search for a specific editor or agent–one you’d like to know more about–by name. You may find links to interviews or blog posts by this person. You may find comments about the agent or editor. If the agent or editor has an account, you can read his/her tweets. Seeing a “I hate squirrels” tweet would let you know not to send a squirrel story to that specific person.
Twitter Lists
One of the tools on Twitter is the ability to assign those you are following to lists. I normally add someone to a list when I follow them. That means if I want to see what Picture Book writers are saying today, I can just see the posts of the people I’ve put on my PB list. (Would need to use Tweetdeck or HootSuite). Lists can be public or private.
Setting Up Twitter
When you sign up for an account, you create a user name or handle–mine is @SusanUhlig, my pen name for my children’s writing. The @ symbol is the common way to indicate a Twitter handle. Once you have someone’s user name, you can view their page by typing in your browser twitter.com/username. So in my case it would be twitter.com/susanuhlig. Once you go to my page, you’ll see Sue (Susan Uhlig) followed by @susanuhlig.
Actions you need to take asap are upload an avatar–usually a picture of you–and create a bio. You don’t have a lot of characters, so keep it short and pertinent. Mine says: “Children’s Book (PB, readers, MG, YA) & Mag Writer. Writing helps/book recs on my site (‘cuz I always have an opinion). SCBWI Oregon. ICL Instructor.” You can see I used some of my bio space for affiliations. I also get to list my location and my website in addition to my bio. Another fun option is adding a header photo, but that can come later. However, often people won’t follow those who do not have an avatar.
Of course, Twitter itself has articles and FAQs that can help you get started.
Once you are set up, you can join the conversation. If you find you are spending way too much time on Twitter, set a timer for how long you want to be on and when it goes off, close that Twitter window.
Making Use of Twitter
You can also set up a Twitter widget on your website that will show a specified number of your most recent tweets. It’s one way to have frequently changing content on your site. (How you do this depends on your website software.)
Someone once asked me if I could explain Twitter in 140 characters. As you can see, I can’t. But I can sure tweet this post.

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Posted in Market Prep, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing, Tools

MS Wish List

photo courtesy of morguefile.com
wishing.jpgIf you’re on twitter, you’ve probably seen the hashtag #MSWL. If you’ve read the SCBWI Insight, you’re aware of it, too. Maybe you’re still wondering though how useful it is. Or maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about. In either case, keep reading.
On the webpage itself you can find a collection of wish lists from a specific agent or editor. For example, here’s a sampling from editor Cheryl Klein who has recently gotten involved with #MSWL.
Cheryl Klein
@chavelaque (her twitter handle)
After long thought and much perplexity, to be very brief was all that she could determine on with any confidence of safety. All tweets here my own. (her twitter bio)
Brooklyn, NY
cherylklein.com
She’s interested in MG, YA, Nonfiction, Women, Diverse, Picture Books.
July 29th: I also want more MG/YA narrative nonfiction in history & science. Again: stakes, characters, good writing. Women & diversity a plus. #MSWL
July 29th: But the idea has to unfold thru v. real characters & a story w/ stakes, action & smarts. Ex OPENLY STRAIGHT, MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD #mswl
July 29th: I always want Big Idea books — PB/MG/YA whose story shows the character exploring a philosophical/political/personal idea or problem #MSWL
Interesting quick look at Cheryl and what she wants to see, right?
As of today, July 30th, there are 255 agent profiles listed on this website. There are also 130 editor profiles, 44 editorial assistants, and a number of other categories. Go here to see who they are. Once you have clicked on the type of person you are interested in, you can use the sort for categories such as Children, MG, Humor, etc. Editors, Agents, etc. are listed alphabetically by first name or by Agency name.
Does a listing on this site mean you can submit to that agent or editor? If you have something that fits their wish list, by all means. But if not, don’t. Look at this query tip:
aba Sulaiman @agentsaba · 21h
“Although this isn’t what you asked for, I hope y–” Stopstopstop. Pointing out that your book isn’t on my wishlist won’t help you. #querytip
Which reminds me, you can also click on Pub Tips, which will give you publication tips, including the query tip above.
There’s also a Queries tab, which lets you get a look at some query responses such as these:
Eric W. Ruben, Esq. @EricRubenLawyer · 2d
Q1 YA: Dark subject matter and gritty MC. Not my style but might be good for someone else. Pass. #tenqueries
Laura Zats @LZats · 2d
Q456:C MG. Too introspective and not enough of a romp for me. #500queries #everyquery
There’s also an Ask Agent tab. Here are a few samples:
Linda Epstein @LindaEpstein · 1d
@CharleyPearson Only resend a “completely revised” ms if it’s “COMPLETELY revised.” Otherwise it’s just annoying. #askagent
Peter Knapp @petejknapp · 2d
Someone asked: Can you help explain the difference between YA & adult fiction w/ a teenage protag? http://t.co/aJTRg9F0DV #askagent
Do you have to be on twitter to use this site? Yes, and no. If you want to see more tweets related to a specific tweet, yes, you’ll be directed to twitter. Do you have to have your own twitter account to read tweets? No. Do you have to have your own twitter account to read this website? No.
If you have more questions about the #MSWL hashtag, feel free to ask.

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