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This post was originally part of Marcie Flinchum Atkins’s blog seried WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.

Marcie had asked the contributors to this series the following question: How do you keep yourself motivated? We all like to have written, but find it hard to stay motivated to write.

Following is my response to the question.

Some words my thesaurus gives for “motivated” are inspired, stimulated and encouraged. Some antonyms for those words are demotivated, uninspired, depressed and discouraged.

When it comes to writing, do you ever feel demotivated? Discouraged? Uninspired? Depressed or frustrated? What might be behind those feelings? Following are ten obstacles to consider when you lack the motivation to write. I have listed a few ways to combat each obstacle. Can you find some other ways of your own?

1. Fear
List the beliefs, thoughts, events, situations etc. that are behind the fear and find a way around those obstacles.

2. Lack of Knowledge
Take classes; read; ask questions; participate in writing community discussions; attend conferences; join a critique group; read blogs; join a group like Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12, or kidlit411, or Sub Six, or WOW nonficpic, and many more.

3. Lack of Ideas
Join Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo; start an idea file; live life thinking like a writer – eventually you’ll hardly go through a day without hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting or feeling something that sparks an idea; ask other writers how they get ideas. This is a common question in author interviews, so read interviews.

4. Rejections
Read “We’re All in This Together” posts on rejection (post #1 and post #2) and my post on TWELVE METHODS FOR COPING WITH REJECTIONS.

5. Other People’s Successes
Instead of letting the green-eyed monster frustrate, discourage or depress you, do something nice. Congratulate the other writers. Buy their books. Share their success on your blog or elsewhere. Let their success inspire you. Believe the same is possible for you.

6. Feeling Overwhelmed or Overloaded
Take a break by doing enjoyable things that you have not allowed yourself to do for a long time. Cut yourself some slack and prioritize. Are all those “shoulds” spinning around your head really that important? See time management link in #10 this post. Journal, meditate, vent to someone that you know truly understands.

7. Distractions
Set limits on social media and other computer distractions. Find a place and time to write that is void of distractions. Are you a distracted mom? See Marcie’s “Mom’s Write” series.

8. Writing for the Wrong Reasons
Ask yourself why you are writing. If it is to become famous or make lots of money, those reasons might not be enough to motivate you after you’ve received a few rejections. They might not be enough to motivate you away from distractions. There has to be something in it that makes you want to write no matter what. Even if no one ever reads it, you are compelled to write. What makes you love writing? According to my Webster’s Dictionary, the definition for motivate is “To provide with a motive.” The definition of motive is “Something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act.” What is your motive for writing?

9. Beating a Dead Horse
After sending the same story to your critique group twenty times, you might feel like you are beating a dead horse. After getting twenty rejections for the same manuscript, you might feel like you are beating dead horse. When going around in circles editing the same old five stories, you might feel like you are beating five dead horses. Try putting the dead horses away for a while and start writing five fresh stories.

10. No Time
Look at your time realistically. Are you trying to fit a 72-hour day into 12 hours? If so, you have too much on your plate and something must go. What will it be? When considering this, the first place to look is time wasters. Check out these time management tools.

Your turn: What keeps you motivated when things in your writing life get tough?

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ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING V2Our guest bloggers for the final ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING series are Sylvia Lui and Elaine Kiely Kearns. I’m proud to call these two smart, talented, and lovely women my friends and critique partners. In this post, they share what they learned from planting a seed of an idea and nurturing it into a successful platform. Thanks Sylvia and Elaine for sharing your experience and wisdom.

 Top Ten Signs That You’re Building a Successful Platform

By Sylvia Liu & Elaine Kiely Kearns

A year and a half ago, we created a kid lit resource website, www.Kidlit411.com. The idea was simple – a website where children’s writers and illustrators can learn about the world of kid lit – from writing and illustration tips, to finding an agent, to listings of conferences, classes, contests, and more. kidlit 411

We soon added weekly interviews with authors, illustrators, agents, and editors, a weekly update email, a Facebook page to connect with our community, and a manuscript swap group. Earlier this year, we were named by Writer’s Digest as one of The 101 Best Websites for Writers, as well as one of The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2015 (The Write Life) and The Top 50 Writing Blogs for 2015 (Positive Writer).

A side effect of Kidlit411 was that we created a nice platform for ourselves as children’s authors and illustrators. (What exactly is a platform? Jane Friedman defines platform as having visibility, authority, and a proven reach to a given audience). We didn’t set out to do so, but we learned the following about building a successful platform:

  1. You grow naturally and organically.

No, we are not talking about free-range chickens. We have found that platform building is an organic and slow process. When you do something you love and share your passion, like-minded people will find and join you. Instead of having a grand plan, you let things evolve over time.

  1. You’re filling a need.

A great way to build a platform is to identify a need for something (a service, a community, a challenge) and meet it. For Kidlit411, I (Elaine) found myself gathering links to good articles and resources on writing for children. I (Sylvia) joined her, designing a site and adding my illustration perspective. We now have a convenient, organized, and curated site for all things kid lit. Other excellent resources are available, but many require a membership fee, such as the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

  1. You’re building a community.

Our Facebook page is a great way to connect with old and new online friends in the kid lit community. Through the group, we are able to keep people up to date on our new postings. Better yet, our group has become a place for people to ask questions, share tips, and connect with one another.

  1. You’re not doing it alone.

Having two of us work on the site, with the help of many others who send us links, makes the task easier. We can back each other up when other life and work obligations come up and two minds are generally better than one.

  1. You’re thinking outside the box.

You do something new that excites people, or you do something that’s been done, but with a new twist.

About seven years ago, the kid lit world was a lot less connected. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) had piboidmo2014started in 1999, but it wasn’t until 2008 when Tara Lazar created PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) and Paula Yoo started NaPiBoWriWee (National Picture Book Writing Week) that the picture book community found a way to connect and encourage each other to develop ideas and write picture books. What a great idea – spur people to create stories, while providing prizes and expert advice.

Other successful platforms also harness individuals’ creative impulses while creating a community. Tania McCarthy’s 52-week illustration challenge (an illustration a week) and Jake Parker’s Inktober challenge (31 drawings in 31 days) are illustration challenges that have grown tremendously.

Other kid lit people also thought outside of the box to create great platforms. Katie Davis has been the mastermind of over 200 Brain Burps podcasts over the past five and a half years. 12-x-12-new-bannerJulie Hedlund leads the enormously successful 12×12 picture book challenge (write 12 picture book manuscripts in a year).

When we started Kidlit411, we didn’t re-invent the wheel. But we like to think we provide a visually appealing and user-friendly wheel.

  1. You are building on your areas of strength and expertise.

Part of building a platform is knowing yourself. Are you a people person who loves to socialize? Do you love information and technology? Are you an artist at heart? All of these characteristics will steer you naturally to the platform that best suits you. We figured out that we both enjoy seeking, organizing, and sharing information. We are curious about the career paths of other creative people, which led us to our weekly interviews of authors and illustrators.

  1. Your project is self-sustaining without enormous amounts of work.

If you find yourself spending more time working on your platform than doing your creative work then you are not using your time wisely. For Kidlit411, we read and keep up with kid lit, so adding the links to our website does not take much additional time. Our weekly interviews involve finding people, asking questions, and formatting their answers, also not time consuming.

If you do find that your platform has grown beyond your individual capabilities, you hire or outsource your work. For example, NaNoWriMo is now a professionally run nonprofit organization. 

  1. Your project has grown beyond your initial expectations.

The great thing about many successful platforms is that most times, the creator didn’t expect or imagine what it would turn out to be. For example, an artist begins a personal creative challenge and invites a few friends, and before he or she knows it, it becomes a widespread challenge. 

  1. You’re not in it for yourself.

You didn’t build the platform just to sell your wares. You provide meaningful content, or a meaningful experience that attracts others to fill a need. We found that providing easy access to good information is an idea that sold itself. 

  1. You are having FUN.

Life is short. Don’t start or continue a platform-building project because someone said you had to. Only work on things that you enjoy and are having fun doing. If the side effect is that you are bringing other like-minded people along, all the better.

Sylvia New

SYLVIA LIU is a former environmental attorney turned writer-illustrator. Her debut picture book, A MORNING WITH GRANDPA (Lee & Low Books) is scheduled for publication Spring 2016. She lives in Virginia Beach with her husband and two daughters. She is inspired by aliens, cephalopods, bunnies, and pigs who want to fly.  Her portfolio: www.enjoyingplanetearth.com and blog: www.sylvialiuland.com

ELAINE KIELY KEARNS is currently chasing the dream as a published author. Armed with a master’s degree in Education Elaineand working from her home office, she spends her time creating picture book and middle grade stories. She lives in New York with her husband, two beautiful daughters and three furry babies. When she isn’t writing, she can be found doing yoga and eating chocolate but not usually at the same time. She is represented by Linda Epstein of the Jennifer Di Chiara Literary Agency in New York.

Following are the links to the other guest posts in the ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING series:

THE PUSH AND PULL OF PLATFORM by Heather Ayris Burnell

A CASE OF THE WHY NOTS: How I Built (and am still building) My Platform by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

IF YOU BUILD IT, WILL THEY COME? AND WHO WILL THEY BE? by Susanna Leonard Hill

JULIE HEDLUND BUSTS MYTHS ABOUT AUTHOR PLATFORMS

BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL: My Platform-Building Strategy by Miranda Paul

YOU ARE YOUR PLATFORM by TARA LAZAR

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ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING V2

This month’s ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING guest blogger is author, librarian, and children’s writing community friend, Heather Ayris Burnell. Thank you, Heather, for sharing your story with us.

The Push and Pull of Platform

by Heather Ayris Burnell

PUSH PULL

“You need a platform.” Those words can make a writer freeze. If they make you even a bit nervous, relax and take a deep breath. Honestly, what you need first is a good manuscript. Excellent even. But, when the time comes that you’re ready to start sending your work out on submission, having some sort of platform is a good idea.

It’s Okay to Start Small – You may feel pushed to have a huge platform but the truth is, it’s best to start with something manageable. You’ll be learning and growing along the way. Way back when I first started considering submitting manuscripts, the thought of anyone even knowing that I was a writer terrified me. With the nudging of my critique partners I managed to get myself online. Despite my natural instinct to pull back, I created a blog under the guise that it would help the writers in my critique group get to know me better. And guess what? It worked. Having some support at the beginning really pushed me to give platform a try. There are so many great writer’s communities you’re sure to find support if you need it. Having a blog not only gave me practice in putting myself “out there”, it gave me a place to be found if someone was interested in finding out about me. It made me Google-able!

Push Yourself Out of Your Comfort Zone. You don’t have to create your platform all at once. Little by little is just fine. After I got the hang of blogging, and didn’t feel like I was going to die of embarrassment every time I put something online, I decided to push myself. If I could do a blog I could do Facebook, right? The truth that I’ve found is that although things may feel uncomfortable, scary, and confusing at first, the more you do something the more comfortable you get with it. I now have two blogs, blab away on Twitter way too often, and moderate a group of over 1,000 people on Facebook. The thing I never would have guessed back when I was pushing myself just to start a blog? I love doing it.

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Pull back if you need to. Don’t make yourself do things you don’t enjoy. Of course, feeling things out and giving different platform tools a try might take you out of your comfort zone but that’s the only real way you’re going to learn what you like doing. If you give something an honest try and really don’t like it, it’s okay to give it up. There are plenty of other platforms.

Give Yourself a Good Chance. Consider how you like to interact with others. What might you enjoy talking about or showing your readers? Maybe you simply want to have the chance to take part in conversations. These factors can help you choose the platform pieces that may work best for you. There are many different avenues you can try:

Social Media – Picking one or two you like and being good at them is better than trying to be on them all and doing a spotty job. Me? I use Twitter and Facebook a lot. I’ve tried Pinterest and Instagram but they just don’t seem to be my thing.

Forums – Chat boards where you can share information give you an opportunity to interact with a multitude of different writers. The SCBWI Blueboards and Absolute Write are two popular writer’s forums. There are many Facebook groups as well that are basically used as forums such as Alayne’s Sub Six, Kidlit411, and Sub It Club.

SubItClub Badge (175x88)kidlit 411Join Sub Six and Submit Six Picture Book Manuscripts in 2013

Newsletters and Online Newspapers – These might work well for you if you enjoy the gathering and sharing of information. Just do your best to define your angle. Sure it may evolve over time but having a good idea will make it easier for you to figure out what information to share and help you define and build an audience.

Video – Formats like YouTube make it possible for everyone to share themselves via video. It can be a fun way to get yourself out there.

Offline Life – Are you a librarian? (I am!) A teacher? Work at a bookstore? Knowing people in any part of the book business is a big plus. If you enjoy doing presentations, teaching, doing readings, and interacting with others who love books; participate in the plethora of ways there are to share literature and build the community of book lovers you know.

What Should You Choose?  You don’t want to have yourself pulled in too many directions!

A website or blog will give you a place to be found. It’s a good idea to have a page where an agent or editor can look you up and learn basic information about you if they are interested. Every writer sending their work out on submission should at the very least have a static bio page that includes contact information. I have a bio page on my blog.

You can interact on many platforms. Twitter is an especially helpful place for writers to be. So many agents, editors, and writers tweet. If you hop on Twitter and tweet as well, it’s a good way for you to get to know others and for others to get to know you.

If you choose to do something such as a newsletter, online newspaper or video, using social media channels such as Twitter can be an effective way to let others know about what you have. Some social media can be supplemental to your main platform. Just be sure to not be all promo all the time.

If you are more comfortable participating in a forum, that’s great too. Many forums offer the opportunity to put your information in your signature. Be sure to take advantage of this and link it to your online bio page. You have one of those, right?

Make it real. Creating and maintaining a platform takes time and energy. You want the time you spend on it to be enjoyable. You want your platform to be something you like. You want it to fit you!

Monster List Logo 2 by Dana Carey

Logo by Dana Carey

After I started my personal blog to push myself into the online world, I was able to push myself even more and talk about things I really like to talk about. I now give picture book writing advice and curate the Monster List of Picture Book Agents to pull readers in.

Because I pushed myself, I learned that I love to talk to writers and was dying to talk to others about submissions. So, I went on to start Sub It Club as a place for writers and illustrators to talk about submitting their work. Of course, managing Sub It Club’s forums and pages, blog, and Twitter feed in addition to my personal social media and offline work does take time. It’s a good thing I love doing it. And voila! I have a platform that has grown organically over time, one that I am comfortable with and enjoy immensely. If I didn’t love talking about submissions and picture books I think that might be a different story.

There are lots of ways to build a platform. There is no one size fits all formula. There will be push and pull but as long as you stick with it, you’ll figure out what works for you. Be brave. Be unique. Be you. And have fun!

Heather Ayris Burnell

ABOUT HEATHER

Heather Ayris Burnell loves writing query letters and she loves helping others with them, that’s why she created Sub It Club where they talk about all things subbing and share cover BedtimeMonsterand query letter critiques in their private Facebook group. She also does query and picture book critiques, as well as private consulting with writers to help them figure out the ins and outs of publishing, submitting in particular. She is the author of BEDTIME MONSTER published by Raven Tree Press and is represented by Sean McCarthy Literary Agency.

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ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING V2It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been away regrouping in preparation for my upcoming blog series on platform building. I’ve also been busy with my critique service. I’ve added many more testimonials to my website, and I’m working on some new ideas and services. I continue to plug away at my picture book and chapter book writing and edits with my fingers crossed that some of them will soon meet with Erzsi’s approval, and the submission fun will begin.

Speaking of submissions, before I move on with my DON’T BE AFRAID TO FALL post and my announcement about my new blog series, I want to thank the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS team for sharing so much of themselves during the series. Thank you: Cindy Williams Schrauben, Elaine Kiely Kearns, Heather Ayris Burnell, Julie Falatko, Kirsti Call, Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Sophia Mallonée, Sylvia Liu, Teresa Robeson. Your posts continue to help writers who visit my blog.

When it comes to submissions or the business of writing, it can sometimes seem much easier to get discouraged than encouraged. Today, I offer some food for thought about discouragement, or perceived failure. I’ve had the following piece in my collection for many, many years. I’m guessing since the early seventies. You can tell it’s old because of the people and events mentioned. I’m sure we could find some remarkable statistics on more current people. But what really matters is the message. I’ve modified the piece slightly and interjected a little in parenthesis.

FALLINGDON’T BE AFRAID TO FALL

Author unknown

 You’ve failed many times, although you may not remember. You fell down the first time you tried to walk. You almost drowned the first time you tried to swim, didn’t you?

Did you hit the ball the first time you swung a bat? Heavy hitters, the ones who hit the most home runs, also strike out a lot. Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, but he also hit 714 homeruns.

R.H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York caught on. (Macy’s now has 800 stores. They are in every major geographic market in the United States plus their Macy’s.com website.) English novelist, John Creasey, got 752 rejection slips before he published 564 books. (I’ve read elsewhere that it took him 14 years to sell his first story, and he wrote 600 books, using 28 pseudonyms.)

Don’t worry about failure. Worry about THE CHANCES YOU MISS WHEN YOU DON’T EVEN TRY.

ANNOUNCING MY NEW BLOG SERIES 

ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING

In the ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING series, ten awe-inspiring social media mavens will share their key lessons or tips for building strong, engaging, and of course, successful social media platforms. I’m excited about this series because I think it will be a great service to the writing community. I’m also excited to have the opportunity to work with each of these phenomenal women. I am so proud to be able to feature them on my blog. One of the many things that I love about this series is each team member has developed a unique platform. I believe that the guest posts will be as unique as each of these talented people and their successful platforms. I expect that their posts will show others that ingenuity and the thing that all writers have, creativity, is the key to a strong platform.

piboidmo2014In celebration of the quickly approaching Sixth Annual Picture Book Idea Month and her upcoming picture books I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK and LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD, the one and only Tara Lazar will kick off the series on October 25.

It is also my pleasure to introduce the rest of the team:

Elaine Kiely Kearns and Sylvia Liu – Children’s Book Authors, Founders of KIDLIT411, and more

Heather Ayris Burnell – Children’s Book Author, Founder of Sub It Club, and more

Julie Hedlund – Children’s Book Author and Founder of the 12 x 12 Writing, and more

Katie Davis – Author, Founder of Brain Burps about Books, Video Boot Camp, Author, and more

Marcie Flinchum Atkins – Children’s Book Author, Queen of Teaching about Mentor Texts for Writers and Teachers

Michelle Lynn Senters – Children’s Writer and Founder of Kids are Writers

Miranda Paul – Children’s Book Author, Founder of Rate Your Story, and more

Susanna Leonard Hill – Children’s Book Author and Founder of Making Picture Book Magic, and more

See you in a few weeks.

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sub six series 2

The ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS series is winding down. Only two more posts before we move on. The final guest bloggers will be Emma Walton Hamilton and Julie Hedlund. They will be joining together to talk about submissions. Beginning in the fall, a team of platform building, awe inspiring, social media mavens will share their knowledge and tips in a Platform Building series as guest bloggers. I will be sharing their names next month. Also in the fall, I will be adding more testimonials and some new advanced plans to my critique service, so keep an eye out for announcements.

Today, author and creator of Sub It Club, Heather Ayris Burnell, shares her tips on writing query and cover letters. A big thank you to Heather for her words of wisdom and for taking the time to write this post.

 

SubItClub Badge (175x88)

 

CREATE A GREAT INTRODUCTION: QUERY AND COVER LETTERS

By Heather Ayris Burnell

 

Query and cover letters—lots of writers dread them, but I say embrace those words! Your letter is your chance to talk about the manuscript you’ve worked so hard on. It’s time to think like a sales team and feature your work, and yourself, in the best light possible. Nope, no bragging is necessary, or even advisable.

Don’t stress out! Remember, query and cover letters are business letters. Your one-page letter is an introduction to your manuscript and you. Whether you’re sending in an unsolicited submission, submitting after a conference, or following up on a request, you’re going to need one. Make your letter easy to read and to the point. Agents and editors don’t have time to wade through a bunch of fluff to get to what they need to know.

Let’s get down to business!

COVER LETTER OR QUERY LETTER, WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

These two letters can be very similar, but at the most basic:

A QUERY LETTER asks if you can send the work for consideration. It hooks the reader in a clear, concise manner, ideally making the reader want to request the manuscript.

The COVER LETTER is sent with the manuscript. It teases, making the reader want to move on and read those manuscript pages.

THE BASIC PARTS

HOOK – Sell your story in one short paragraph. (My hook is usually 1-3 sentences long.)

SUMMARY – Give your genre and word count. Expound on your story if needed. This is a great place to show what makes your manuscript unique.

BIO – This is about you. Publication credits, memberships to writing organizations, or work in an area that has to do with books can be great things to put in your bio. Unique experience or qualifications that have to do with the subject of your manuscript can be of interest as well.

If you don’t have anything, it’s okay! Don’t force it. Saying your kids love the story or simply talking about yourself in general isn’t likely to help sell you as a writer. A bio is not a 100% requirement in your letter. If you wow someone with your hook, it won’t matter much what your bio says.

I have read of agents who like to see all sorts of things in bios from the fact that you belong to a critique group to clueing them in on your online presence. But, there are definitely preferences on this. It is always a must to research whomever you are querying! Often times, you’ll discover partialities. If not, go with your gut.

Just be sure to keep your bio short and to the point!

PERSONALIZATION – Why did you choose to send this particular letter about this particular manuscript to this particular person? From something you learned via Twitter that made you choose to submit to comparable books you found while doing research, personalization can be tough, but it can go a long way and shows you are dedicated and educated in your craft.

Again, don’t force it. Personalization is not a 100% requirement. A factitious reason for submitting your work is worse than none at all.

CLOSING – Thank the person reading the letter for their time. Tell them what’s enclosed (cover letter) or ask if you can send the manuscript (query letter).

THE FORMAT

Letters should be one page or less, usually consisting of 3-4 paragraphs, the shorter and more concise the better, of course.

What is the #1 most important thing that the person you’re sending your letter to should read? That is what you want at the top, first paragraph.

If you have a connection from a conference or contest, a manuscript request, or just a really great reason for asking for your work to be considered, putting it front and center can grab the reader’s attention and keep them reading on.

Just have a regular reason for submitting, such as thinking your book might fit their style? Starting off with your hook right from the beginning is a great way to go.

Either way, get to the point. You have seconds to grab a busy agent or editor’s attention with your letter.

DO:

Show not tell. Just like in your manuscript. Create a visual for the reader.

Keep your letter to one page.

Learn the correct format for both paper and email queries.

Address your letter to an actual person. There is a rare .001% of the time, usually at publishing houses, where you cannot find a name of any actual person or are even told to sub to “The Editors”. It’s okay to do this if you absolutely have to.

Have someone else look over your letter. The person you’re submitting to won’t know your story. You want it to be clear to someone who doesn’t know it like you do. Getting your letter critiqued will help you make a strong presentation.

Proofread your query more than once before sending. Reading out loud helps catch mistakes.

Submit to more than one agent or publisher at a time (unless an exclusive is specified in the guidelines). Hearing back on submissions can take a very long time. Keep moving forward!

DON’T:

Write your query as your character.

Worry about the type of paper you use for mailed submissions. Clean, white printer paper is fine. If you want to spend more on high quality paper that’s fine too, just don’t use colored or patterned paper. It’s your letter you want them to take note of!

Resend your query because of a tiny mistake you didn’t catch before you sent it.

Waffle. Know your story. Your genre. For example, don’t offer to change your picture book to a chapter book. If changes are wanted, they will be asked for.

Put sticky notes, photos, or any other sort of extra to “personalize” your query. Everything the reader needs to know to make a decision should be in your letter.

REMEMBER

Creating your letter takes time. Most likely more time than you feel it should! Personalizing each submission takes time. Don’t rush it. You only have one chance to submit your work to someone; you want to make the best presentation possible.

Studying letters that worked is helpful when creating a great query or cover. There are many variations, but one thing stays true, the letter serves to sell the story. Check out the Query Letters That Worked at Sub It Club for some examples of letters that sold manuscripts.

You’ve worked hard to create the best manuscript you can. You need to work just as hard on your query letter. You can do it, you are a writer!

Heather Ayris BurnellABOUT HEATHER

Heather Ayris Burnell loves writing query letters and she loves helping others with them, that’s why she created Sub It Club where they talk about all things subbing and share cover and query letter critiques in their private Facebook group. She also does query and picture book critiques, as well as private consulting with writers to help them figure out the ins and outs of publishing, submitting in particular. She is the author of BEDTIME MONSTER published by Raven Tree Press and is represented by Sean McCarthy Literary Agency.

BedtimeMonster

You can find Heather on her blog,  where she curates the Monster List of Picture Book Agents, on Twitter @heatherayris, and on Facebook.

BONUS LINKS FROM ALAYNE

Note: These days,  many people use the term “query letter” for both a “true” query letter and a cover letter. As Heather pointed out, technically, there is a difference. Make sure when you read the following posts that you are researching the one you really need for your submission.

Heather’s blog post on Picture Book  Manuscript Formatting

Harold Underdown Query Letters That Worked and Cover Letters and Query Letters

Writing Picture Books for Children Writing a Cover Letter and Sample Cover Letter

Rob Sanders Hovering Over Cover Letters

Query Shark Revising Query Letters so the Actually Work

Kathleen Temean Successful Query Letters and Writing Examples

Children’s Atheneum Query Letter Woes or Writing an Honest Query Letter

Carol Brendler (Emu’s Debuts) The Only Way to Write a Query Letter

Writer Unboxed, Chuck Sambuchino, Query Letter FAQs

Jessica Schmeider Query Workshop part 2 of 5 –  Find Links to the whole query workshop here

KIDLIT411.com Submissions: Agents and Editors

 

 

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sub six series 2

HOW TO SUBMIT WITHOUT FEELING LIKE THROWING UP

by Yvonne Mes

Through my travels in various children’s writing groups, on-line and in person, I have come across a few people who have said something like:

“I have just submitted my manuscript to (insert name of dream agent or publisher). Eurgh, I feel like throwing up.” Or they took it one step further and expressed the state of their nerves by regurgitating their lunch.

I am here to tell you submitting should not make you feel sick!

You may not be quite as emotional as some, or go to these bodily extremes after submitting a manuscript, however feelings of anxiety are quite common.

I admit to having experienced some strong but opposing emotions when submitting a story. I share a couple of my experiences below.

Ignorance is bliss

My first submission was a picture book story for a writers’ festival competition. I knew nothing about writing for children, but I had children, I loved reading, and I had an active imagination. Therefore, I was confident my story was a winner. Ah, the bliss of ignorance. I whistled merrily as I pressed that send button. I would win that contest. Someone would offer me a contract, and people would soon start calling me the new Mem Fox or Jane Yolen.

Fast forward a few months …

During the months of waiting for the results, I immersed myself in picture book writing. I researched online. I read books. I enrolled in one writing course and then another. By the time I found out I hadn’t won the contest, I was only a little devastated, because by then I had realized that the story I had submitted, well … sucked.

Too much knowledge is dangerous

The next time I submitted a story, to an agent no less, I had almost finished my writing courses. I had spent a lot of time on this story. I had joined several critique groups. Using their feedback, I revised and revised and polished my story so much that I could almost see my reflection in it.

But this time when I submitted, I had realized how hard it was to get traditionally published, how small the chances were and how long it could take. This time, I felt I had everything to lose. And I did feel rather queasy.

Yvonne's post queasy

Control

Now, I am going to be wildly assumptive and judgmental, or perhaps incredibly insightful and say that most of us writers are control freaks.

When you hit that send button or let that letter slip from your fingers into the great unknown and unpredictable via the mailbox, be it real or virtual, it is out of your control.

You had control when you coaxed it into being. You let others critique it, but still, you were able to decide what was worth taking into account, and you were in control of the revisions. But once it’s gone, you can’t change that sentence around anymore or find a stronger verb. And now that you have let it go, you are worried that perhaps it could have been better.

Yvonne's post calm panicEven if you are completely confident about the creative masterpiece that is your manuscript, you worry about the things beyond your control. What if the mail truck does a double flip en route to Mr. Dream Agent? What if the agent sloshes her coffee over your manuscript? What if a computer virus hacks her inbox? What if your agent has left to join another agency and your manuscript has been filed in the black hole of lost stories?  There are so many variables beyond your control. And it makes you sick. Sick to your stomach. Pass the barf bag.

After a suitable amount of waiting, anywhere from 2 minutes to 6 months, you hang on to every little shred of hope that your story has, in fact, NOT been rejected but perhaps misplaced temporarily or even better is taking longer while a contract is being drawn up. You anxiously wait, and wait, and wait.

Yvonne's post stop.jpg

Hang on, hold on. Stop! What you are doing? Do you really have time to obsess over these things? Let’s be practical.

Set a reminder in your diary at the date the agent or publisher had specified as their cut-off date. If you haven’t heard anything by then, ask them for a status update. If you don’t hear back from them within a few weeks, that’s it. You have been rejected. Move on.

What can you do?

Yvonne's post yoga ladyNow, I am the least Zen or Buddha-like person. I don’t believe in fate and karma, and I can never quite attain a sense of calm and complete relaxation, or at least not for very long. But I do believe in logic.

And my logic tells me that once my manuscript is gone, it is out of my control, and therefore not worth spending energy on.

Let it go.

Know that you have done all you can. You have done everything you can to make this manuscript the best. You did what you could to make yourself visible as an author. You did your homework, your research on your story AND on the agent or publishing house. You studied the craft of writing. You had the story critiqued several times. You have not written the stuffing out of it. Now it is time to …

… let it go.

Know there is more than one good story in you. Revel in the knowledge that even if every submission you ever send out gets rejected, you are already a successful writer. You wrote a story. You made it your best. And you are in the game!

Let it go.

So what if you discover you have made a grammatical error or misspelled Mr. Cszrukosy, your dream agent’s name? Well, it is out of your control now. Besides, if the rest of your query was professional, and your story is pretty awesome on top of that, well then, they will forgive you that mistake.

Go and work on something else. Spend some time with your family or friends or pets. Do something else enjoyable, like read a book! And then … start writing something else.

Let it go.

And if ‘Letting Go’ doesn’t work try the following:

Face your fears

What is the worst that could happen in the micro cosmos of this particular story? It could be rejected. Let’s be honest, statistically that is the most likely outcome. You know that it is going to happen, just not how, or when. Even established writers get more rejections than they do contracts.

Be practical, increase your chances by writing more stories and submitting more often, and if the story keeps getting rejected?  It still doesn’t mean the death of your story. If you receive feedback you can work with, you can submit it somewhere else. If you don’t receive feedback, seek it out. Maybe your story plot is fine but instead of a picture book, your idea will work better as a short story for a magazine or chapter book.

Yvonne's post Brethe In

Whatever you do, keep submitting. Press that ‘send’ button, shove that letter in the mailbox, breathe, smile and let it go.

Yvonne's bio imageBIO

Yvonne has been around children most of her life, if she isn’t working with them, she is raising them. Yvonne coordinates Write Links, the Brisbane children’s writers group  ww.brisbanewritelinks.weebly.com and is a supporter of Kidlit411.com. Her short story My Sister Ate My Science Project will be published in The School Magazine (Australia) this year. In addition to writing for children, she also likes to work on her illustrations.

Yvonne has a Bachelor of Children’s Services, a Certificate in Professional Children’s Writing, a Cert IV in Visual Arts and Crafts and a Cert IV in Training and Assessment.

You can find out more about Yvonne on her website. www.yvonnemes.weebly.com.

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AAS Q&A 4

This month, I asked the All about Submissions team the following questions: How do you cope with rejections? What do you do with the rejection letters – even if they are just form letters? I will share some of their answers today and the rest tomorrow. Please feel free to comment and share your tips for coping with rejections.

I would like to introduce our newest team member, Heather Ayris Burnell, author of Bedtime Monster. Welcome Heather.

As always, a big thank you to all that took the time to share their answers to this month’s questions.

* * *

Kirsti Call, Children’s Author

The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall!

http://www.characterpublishing.org/store/index.php?route=product/product&path=82&product_id=60

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILoU8KRTjRM&feature=youtu.be

www.kirsticall.com

Rejection is proof that I’m writing.  Rejection is proof that I’m submitting!  Rejection gives me one less publisher or agent to send that particular manuscript to!  I have dozens or maybe even hundreds of rejections and I keep every one of them. Even form letters are concrete evidence of my dedication to writing stories for children.  And somehow, with each rejection, I feel like I’m one step closer to finding the right publisher.

* * *

Julie Falatko

Author of SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK) (Viking Children’s, 2015)

Represented by Danielle Smith

http://worldofjulie.com/

I am someone who suffered from severe submit-o-phobia for two years. It was good. I am grateful for my fear of rejection, because otherwise I would have submitted some truly awful stories. But as I was working on writing, and knowing I wasn’t ready yet, I’d see friends complaining about rejections, and I was so jealous. I wanted to be ready to submit things! I couldn’t wait until I was far enough along to actually start getting rejections. That was the next phase on the horizon that I could see: submitting stuff, getting rejections. And I knew I wasn’t there yet.

So when I did finally started submitting, I honestly didn’t mind getting rejections. I mean, well, sure, I minded a little. But I knew every rejection just meant the agent and I weren’t a good fit. I was so happy to finally be at a point where I was getting rejections. I found the waiting-for-rejections to be a lot harder than the rejections.

I kept all of my rejections. Some of them were very nice ones, and I would go back and reread them for encouragement. I don’t know what it means that I am someone who read rejections for encouragement, but it’s true.

* * *

Heather Ayris Burnell, Author

Bedtime Monster

www.subitclub.wordpress.com

www.frolickingthroughcyberspace.blogspot.com

Represented by Sean McCarthy Literary Agency

To me, rejection is just part of the process of becoming published. Statistically speaking, it takes a lot of rejection to get to an acceptance. When we send our work out for consideration we are competing against hundreds of other talented writers and their work. There are so many factors that are out of our control once we send our work for consideration. The piece we send not only has to be the best of the best, it has to reach the right person at the right time and fit into their vision, whether it be an agent building their list or a publisher looking for that next great book to publish. Being rejected means you are getting your work out there and trying to reach your goal of publication. That is a positive thing! When I get a rejection, I let myself have that “oh darn” moment but I don’t dwell on it. I read the reply a couple times to let it sink in (I always seem to skim on the first couple of reads), take note in my submission log, move on, and keep on working toward my goal. Sure, I might switch up my query letter if I keep getting forms or do some revising if I get suggestions.

Rejections don’t have to hold you back. They can help you gain insight that can keep you moving forward in a positive direction.

I do think you can have some fun with rejection letters. Why not? I have a lot of ideas of what to do with them, I even wrote a post, Fun with Rejections! I’m saving mine up for a piñata and am hoping to have a big party with a bunch of my writer friends someday. Not sure exactly what I’ll fill the piñata with. Pens…notepads…chocolate? There will definitely be chocolate!

* * *

Elaine Kiely Kearns, Children’s Writer

http://www.kidlit411.com/

Ah, rejection.

After much reflection upon this question I can only answer in one way: rejection sucks, people. It stings, it burns, it makes us feel like we are inadequate and that our writing is subpar.

And of course, anyone reading this post also knows that rejection is a part of this wacky, wonderful path to publication. Getting your manuscript snatched up by an agent or an editor right out of the gate is unrealistic. Of course it happens, but it’s rare. I am guessing that it would be easier to win the lottery – twice.

So what do we do with all of this rejection? How do we cope?

Well, first of all, we have to learn to take comfort in knowing that it is just part of the process. It’s business. Just business. When you look at it like that, it’s so much easier to accept. Another rejection? Who cares! Onward! (Especially if it was the standard form letter rejection.)

However, if you received some notes from an editor or agent on your manuscript, Congratulations! If an agent or editor has taken the time to give you feedback, I would take that as a sign that you are getting closer. A lot closer. Agents and editors do not have the time to give feedback, so even though it’s a pass, be grateful that they thought enough of your manuscript to give you a little bit of something to go on. Celebrate!

The last thing you can do is to arm yourself with information and become familiar with an agent and editor’s job. Wait, what?! Why? Well, if you put yourself in their shoes, you will see that the rejection you’re receiving isn’t personal. Publishing, after all, is a business. That’s the bottom line, and sometimes we need to remind our creative brains of that fact. Your writing may be strong and entertaining, but for a myriad of other reasons, it may just not be the right time for them to accept it. If you understand where they are coming from, it’s much easier to understand and accept that painful sting.

And ultimately, won’t it be that much sweeter when your deal finally does come through? Just think of all the hope you’ll be able to give to those who come after you when they ask, “Did you get a lot of rejections before your ‘yes’?” And you’ll say, “Yeah, a lot. Hang in there, it will happen for you too!”

“You never really fail until you quit.”- Anonymous

Happy writing!

For more information about agents, editors and rejection visit: http://www.kidlit411.com/2014/01/kidlit411-submission-how-to.html

 * * *

Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Children’s and YA Writer

www.marcieatkins.com

Marcie wasn’t able to contribute this month, but Marcie, ten other writers (many you may know), and I discuss “Dealing with rejections” on her blog. Here are the links:

http://www.marcieatkins.com/2013/04/20/were-all-in-this-together-rejection-post-1/

http://www.marcieatkins.com/2013/04/21/were-all-in-this-together-rejection-post-2/

* * *

Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

Instead of reinventing the wheel, I will offer links to a couple of my previous posts about rejections below.

TWELVE METHODS FOR COPING WITH REJECTIONS

This partly humorous and partly inspiring post offers the yin and yang of coping with rejections.

BLACK JELLYBEANS, MANUSCRIPT REJECTIONS, AND BEETS

This post talks about how taste influences rejections and acceptance.

From Marcie Flinchum Atkin’s blog: WHAT’S SO LOVELY ABOUT WRITING FOR CHILDREN? While all the writers’ answers are inspiring, mine relates to rejections, so be sure to scroll down until you get to my answer.

WHAT’S COMING IN PART TWO?

  • Teresa Robeson talks about growing out of the deep funk that rejections can induce.
  • Sophia Mallonée and Cindy Williams Schrauben both share their thoughts on the many sides of rejections.
  • Sylvia Liu gives her “numbers game” perspective along with sharing a bit about her favorite rejection.
  • I share a bunch of inspirational links on topics such as new perspectives, turning your rejections into successes, and taking criticism like a pro.

A list of all the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS posts.

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