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Posts Tagged ‘Marcie Flinchum Atkins’

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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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.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

List of other ALL ABOUT SUBMISSION posts.

Marcie Flinchum Atkins’ WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER: ARTIST DATES. A group of writers tell how they replenish their creative energy.

Read Full Post »

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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AAS Q&A 4DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT SUBMISSIONS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE ANSWERED? ASK YOUR QUESTION IN A COMMENT.

When I first got the idea for the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS series, I asked children’s book writers what questions they would like answered regarding manuscript submissions. Several people asked similar questions about agents and editors. I decided to share all the questions with the team, as I believed it would offer them more brainstorming power. I think if I were to combine all the questions asked, they would lead to two basic questions.

1) How do you manage your agent/editor searches, information gathering, and so on?

2) How do you determine who you sub to?

Here are the questions as asked:

  • How to narrow down your “where to submit” list?
  • I find researching agents and editors overwhelming. Where is the best place to start?
  • How do I know if I am really targeting my manuscript to the right publisher? I know that we are supposed to study publisher’s websites, market guides, read other books published by them in the same genre, etc., but how do I “really” know if mine is right for their list? Are there any tips or tricks that help you to narrow down potential publishers? Are there any “tried and true” methods used by those of you who are published? I don’t know about anyone else, but I tend to feel somewhat overwhelmed when I peruse those market guides.

Once again, the team came through with excellent answers. And once again, they have offered so much information that I will do two posts. Part Two will go live tomorrow.

* * *

Teresa Robeson, Author and Artist

teresarobeson.com

My least favorite part of the writing life is not coming up with ideas, or the initial writing, or even the several hundred revisions I have to do on each manuscript. No, my least favorite part is doing market research to send it to the appropriate agent or editor. I don’t know why I dislike it; perhaps it seems so dry and methodical after the creative process of writing a story.

The following are steps I take to ensure I’m targeting the right person, be it an agent or publisher:

1)   I determine what specific category (that is, age range) and genre my story is in. This is very important since agents and editors have their likes and dislikes and won’t rep or publish anything that’s not on their want-list.

2)   I look through a copy of a children’s writers market guide and see who is accepting works in the category/genre of my story. Usually, I use the Writer’s Digest one – CHILDREN’S WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET or the Institute of Children’s Literature version – BOOK MARKETS FOR CHILDREN’S WRITERS. Those market guides will have not just a general alphabetized listing of publishing houses and agency names, but they also have listings by specialization. For example, the Category Index of the “2014 Book Markets for Children’s Writers” goes from Action/Adventure to Fantasy to Young Adult Nonfiction, and everything in between.

3)   After narrowing it down to a section comes the tedious but necessary part of skimming through all the entries under that section. You may decide to choose more than one section to look at. For example, if you have a fantasy for middle-graders, you should check both the Fantasy section and the Middle Grade Fiction section. The optimal agents/editors to send to would be the ones that fall into both categories.

4)   While doing step 3, I put the agents/editors into three categories: Most Desirable, Somewhat Desirable, and Last Resort.

5)   I start with the Most Desirable and look up their websites to see if they’re currently accepting clients/manuscripts and see if there’s more info about their likes and dislikes. Plus, their websites will have their most updated mailing (or emailing) addresses.

6)   Step 5 might help you further rank all the people/places in your Most Desirable list from your dream agent/publisher on down. Start submitting!

There is no guarantee that, even with all that work, you are targeting the best person/place for your manuscript — perhaps Agent A just broke up with her boyfriend the day she reads your story, and even though she normally loves YA romance, she may hate your romance that particular day. You can’t control these things, but if you’ve done the research above, you can be certain you’re sending your story to the people who would be interested.

Note from Alayne: The market guides that Teresa mentions in her answer also offer a variety of manuscript submission related articles, information and examples. They also have lists of contests. The info provided is different every year, so if you get a chance, give them a look. Some libraries have these guides in their reference section, plus Amazon has their look inside feature.

* * *

Cindy Williams Schrauben, Children’s Writer

Raising Book Monsters – kids who devour books and hunger for knowledge

http://www.RaisingBookMonsters.com

I am still an agent-orphan, but . . . I have studied, researched, and absorbed information for quite a while now, so I will share what I believe to be best and worst practices.

This process is overwhelming; one that is driven by passion and a desire to reach a goal as quickly as possible. Blind drive and determination can be problematic at times. It can, I’m afraid, cloud our vision and instigate reckless behavior. Let me give you an example: I have my list of “dream agents” carefully chronicled on a spreadsheet with links to their interviews, wish lists, current titles, and agency sites. I have created this list with care and a clear mind. I know what I want and who can help me to get there based on hours of research. But then . . . my internet writing family starts buzzing about the fabulous Agent X who has just opened up to submissions. Hmmm, doesn’t sound familiar; I check my list, but he’s not there. I check out his stats, current clients, past sales, and desired projects and realize that he isn’t really a good fit. But, as the buzz continues and I get caught up in the excitement . . . Maybe I will be the exception. Agent X says he doesn’t like quirky-zany stories, but surely he will like mine! So, I spend hour upon hour researching and writing a killer query, and I send my story off. Wait, why did I just do that? Because I lost sight of my writing . . . my goals . . . and the best path to get there.

Instead of reiterating the Internet sites and market guides that are available for research, I will end here with general advice. This journey to publishing is a rough one, and it should be traveled with a sure foot and discriminating mind. Do your research. Keep careful records. Determine a path and stick to it. Stay true to yourself and your writing. Submitting your work to long-shot agents not only wastes countless hours, it plays games with your self-confidence as well. So, garner your patience, use the down-time to learn more about your craft and stay on a straight road toward your goal.

Note from Alayne: After I read Cindy’s answer, I asked her the following: You mention when Agent X pops up, that you get sidetracked and check out his stats, current clients, past sales, and desired projects. Do you have a specific place you go to get these stats? If so, would you be willing to share?

Cindy’s answer: As far as researching, I use an agent’s site, first and foremost. Facebook, Twitter, Literary Rambles, Query Tracker, and good old Google for interviews. I feel that interviews give me the best insight into the agent and not only their wish list, but their writing preferences related to style, voice, etc.

* * *

Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Children’s and YA Writers

www.marcieatkins.com

1) Read, read, read. When you find books like the ones you write, look up the author. Google the author’s agent. Then you can say, “I really like your client xxx’s work, and my work is similar to xxx.” Knowing who agents represent or the types of authors they represent is very important. You aren’t going to send a picture book to an agent who represents adult thrillers. It’s a waste of everyone’s time. Reading books like those you write will help you know the market, but it will also help you get a leg up on agent research.

2) Follow blogs and industry newsletters. I find Literary Rambles a helpful site as a starting point. I also subscribe to Children’s Writer Newsletter and Children’s Book Insider. They often write about agents and what they are looking for. If an agent mentions that she is looking for a middle grade magical realism novel, and you have a completed one, then that might be an agent you should consider researching a little bit more. You can also Google the agent’s name + interviews. I’ve found interviews all over the internet just by Googling.

3) Go to SCBWI conferences or join groups like 12×12. Agents go to these conferences or participate in 12×12. Live conferences help you get an idea of personalities of different agents.

4) Connect with other writers. Once you get to know people in critique groups, Facebook groups, and at conferences, ask them about various agents. My critique group had dinner together the other night, and between the five of us, many of us had experiences with various agents through in-person critiques, e-mail contact, or even representation. Nothing can beat networking in that form.

5) Stay organized. I recently wrote a post on this blog about submission organization. Once you do your research, keep track of it. I use a spreadsheet. Every time I find someone who I might be interested in, I put them on the spreadsheet. I make notes to myself, paste in website addresses, then it makes researching much easier next time. If I just have a name, I don’t know why I put them there. But if I put a name, a web address, and a note to myself “looking for multicultural YA,” then I even know what manuscript I want to send.

* * *

Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

First I want to announce my professional picture book manuscript critique service.  Click here to learn more about my service. Between today’s answers and those that will be posted tomorrow, I believe the team has done a thorough job of answering the question. Therefore, I have decided to share some links that fit well with this topic. But first, I want to tell you about tomorrow.

RESEARCHING AGENTS AND EDITORS PART TWO

  • Sylvia Liu will offer some additional resources plus her five step strategy for researching and querying agencies.
  • Sophia Mallonée will give her photography industry ex-agent perspective on the importance of finding the right agent.
  • Julie Falatko will talk about her super-focused, very personalized approach to finding, and signing with the agent that appreciates her “oddball” writing style.
  • Kirsti Call will share three things that help her decide where to submit. And I will offer more links to other agent/editor resources.

Alayne’s Links for HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHO TO SUBMIT TO? Part One

Perfect fit! MARCH 27 WEBINAR through Michigan SCBWI – HAROLD UNDERDOWN PRESENTS: FINDING THE RIGHT FIT – RESEARCING THE RIGHT AGENT, EDITOR, AND/OR PUBLISHING HOUSE.

https://michigan.scbwi.org/events/webinar-3-researching-the-right-agent-editor-andor-publishing-house/

https://www.facebook.com/events/402818103189026/?ref=3&ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

Since a couple answers mention Literary Rambles, I thought it might be good to start with the following:

THREE PART SERIES ON LITERARY RAMBLES: RESEARCHING LITERARY AGENTS

PART ONE

PART TWO

PART THREE

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN BUZZING AROUND THE WRITING COMMUNITY THIS WEEK.

ON TWITTER, GET THE INSIDE SCOOP: EDITORS AND AGENTS POST THEIR MANUSCRIPT WISH LISTS – OVER AND ABOVE GUIDELINES.

 #MSWL PICTURE BOOK

#MSWL MG (Middle Grade)

#MSWL (Other)

SHARON K. MAYHEW OFFERS A LIST OF AGENTS, EDITORS, ETC. 

http://skmayhew.blogspot.com/p/blog-awards.html

Click here to find all other ALL ABOUT SUBMISSION posts.

DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT SUBMISSIONS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE ANSWERED? ASK YOUR QUESTION IN A COMMENT.

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sub six series 2Organization Tools and Tips for Submitting Your Work

By Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Submitting your work can be overwhelming, especially when you start to send out multiple manuscripts over a long period of time. Because I write poetry, short stories, articles, picture books, and novels, I needed a system to keep track of everything. I’ve tried to streamline it into a process that works for me. I’m going to walk you through some of the tools I use. Some of these may work for you. Some of them may not. Feel free to tweak them to fit your submission needs.

Picture Book Status Log

Now that I’m beginning my third year in 12×12, I have quite a stack of picture books. Many of them are no good, but there are a handful I want to pursue, and I now have a handful with very specific rejection letters. I wanted to have some way of assessing where I was with each manuscript.

I created a Picture Book Status Log where I could record the title of each book and make notes about the stages of development. It’s nothing more than a way for me to see what I’m working on and keep me on track for revisions for all of my promising manuscripts.

Screenshot of Status Form

Picture Book Status Chart Google Docs

Completed Works List

Again, as I started to query agents, I found that I needed an easy way to access all of my short paragraph synopses of my finished picture books and novels. I also needed an up-to-date bio that I could include with all of my query letters.

I created a completed works list. At the top, I include my updated bio. If the bio needs updating, I change it here. I can then copy and paste the bio into query letters.

I also listed the titles, word count, and short synopses of each completed book. I can also copy and paste this into query letters. Then all I have to do is personalize the letter.

I’m spending less time scrolling through old query letters and updating them this way.

Screenshot of completed projects template

Digital Files

While I do print out multiple versions of my picture books, I don’t print out my novels as much. I keep very organized digital files. First of all, I store everything on Dropbox (http://www.dropbox.com). Ever since I cried on the desk of the Geek Squad fearing my master’s thesis was gone forever, I have used Dropbox. Forty dollars and a few hours later those amazing Geek Squad guys had my thesis on a CD. But I learned my lesson. Now I can rest comfortably knowing that if my computer were to be destroyed ALL of my writing is backed up.

I name files by working book title. Inside of the file, I keep all of the files related to that book. For example, in the beginning, I have the millions of drafts. If I do a rewrite, I do SAVE AS and rename it with the title and the date. Once I start submitting I save it with the title, my name, date, agent’s name, agency name. Yes, it’s a long title. But, at a glance, I can see what I did with that manuscript.

Screenshot of Digital Files

Physical Files

I also keep physical files on my desk. I bought these file organizers from Staples when I started seeing my works-in-progress grow in number. I need to see what I was working on (still in revision), what I wanted to research, and what was out on submission. If I get a rejection letter, I might resend it out right away or it might go back into the WIP (work-in-progress) file if I received revision suggestions. If I finish a WIP and send it out, it moves to the On Submission file.

files on desk

Log for the Folders

Inside of each folder, I keep a written log taped to the inside of the folder. I do this more for short works—short stories and picture books. I write down when I sent it out and to whom I sent it (including critique groups). If I sent it to an agent or editor I include their name and agency or publishing company. When I get a rejection, I make a note about the comments, and mark the date it was returned. I often print the rejection letter and put it in the file to help me make changes later.

Screenshot of log for inside of folder

Log for inside of folder

I have been asked why I keep physical copies and not just store it all on my computer. I do store a LOT on my computer, but, for me, writing and revising picture books doesn’t ALL happen on the computer. I do a lot on paper. Someday, I also want to take that thick file to a school visit and show young writers how much writing and rewriting goes in to making a great 500-word picture book.

Submission Spreadsheet for Agents

I read a lot of blogs about the industry. As I hear about agents that might be possibilities for my work, I log them into a spreadsheet. I include the agent’s name, their agency’s name, what they are looking for, and any links where I read about them.

If I submit to them, I include the date I submitted and what I submitted. I also fill in that row in a color. For me GREEN is on submission, PINK is a rejection, BLUE is that the agent is open to future submissions.

Even if you aren’t ready to submit yet, it’s a good idea to start collecting information on agents that might work for you.

Screenshot Agent Submission Explainer Slide

Submission Spreadsheet for Agents

Submission Spreadsheet

I also keep a separate spreadsheet that has two sheets. One sheet is for things I submit for publication. On that sheet I include the date, the title of the submission, what I included in the submission (query + 10 page, query + 3 chapters, cover letter + full, etc). I record who I sent it to and approximate time for response. After I hear back, I make a note.

Submission Log picture

On the second sheet, I record my submissions to my critique groups. Because I’m a member of three different critique groups, it’s important that I record what I send to each group. I learned a long time ago, I can’t rely on my memory.

Google Calendar

I use Google Calendar to keep track of all events in my life. I have a color for personal, a color for writing, and a color for blogging.

When I send a submission, I take a look at the guidelines for the agency and put on the calendar when I expect to hear from them. I honestly try to make it longer than it says on their website. This helps me know when I should follow up.

Google Calendar Screen shot

Make it Work for You

Figure out the easiest way to organize for YOU—what makes sense in your brain. Don’t rely on your memory, however. Keep very accurate records. And most importantly, get your very best work out there.

Bio:

marcie 15 for web small

Marcie Flinchum Atkins teaches fourth graders how to write by day and writes her own books for kids in the wee hours of the morning. She can also be found wrangling her own kids and reading books with them. She blogs about making time to write and using mentor texts at www.marcieatkins.com. Marcie holds a MA and MFA in children’s literature from Hollins University.

 

OTHER ALL ABOUT SUBMISSION POSTS

 

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AAS Q&A 4Welcome to the launch of ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS Q & A. This will be a monthly feature with some bonus posts here and there. I have been collecting questions about submitting to agents, editors, etc. from writers with inquiring minds. I have recruited a fantastic team of children’s writers who have many years of experience with submitting. I developed this team because I thought it would be beneficial to writers to see answers from a variety of perspectives. This month’s answers have some common threads. Two strong threads are “Join a critique group – maybe even more than one.” And “Don’t be in a hurry. Take time to let the story marinate.”

The team had so much to offer that I will be posting more answers tomorrow. Elaine Kiely Kearns will share the seven stages that her manuscripts go through before she considers them ready. Cindy Williams Schrauben will give you eight simple, common sense guidelines for determining if your manuscript is ready. I will share a few tips and provide some links with more tips, including some additional checklists that you can use to decide if your story is ready for submission. Before I move on I would like to announce my new picture book manuscript critique service. Click here to learn more about what I offer.

Introducing the team members!

Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Kirsti Call

Julie Falatko

Elaine Kiely Kearns

Sylvia Liu

Sophia Mallonée

Cindy Williams Schrauben

Alayne Kay Christian

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOUR MANUSCRIPT IS READY TO SUBMIT?

 Sylvia Liu, Writer-illustrator

portfolio: www.enjoyingplanetearth.com

blog: www.sylvialiuland.com

You know your manuscript is ready if: (1) it has sat in your computer and marinated for a while; (2) it has gone through at least two rounds of critiques and revisions, one for big picture issues and one for fine-tuning and word-smithing; (3) you’ve street tested it (read it out loud to children in your target age group, preferably not your own children); (4) optionally, it has gone through a professional paid critique, and (5) you read it and get that feeling that you have captured magic in a bottle. Getting to the fifth step is the hardest in my experience. I’ve sent out plenty of manuscripts that weren’t quite there and in retrospect, they were not ready. The one that met all of these criteria ended up being the manuscript that got me a publishing contract.

A BIG CONGRATULATIONS to Sylvia Liu. She is the winner of the Lee & Low New Voices Award. She tells all about it in her Interview on Clarike Bowman-Jahn’s blog.

Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Children’s and Young Adult Writer

www.marcieatkins.com

I consider my manuscript ready to go when I’ve vetted it through all of my critique groups (sometimes multiple times). When they start fiddling with commas and moving a word here or there, then I know it’s pretty close. Sometimes I’m so immersed in revisions that I think it’s ready before it really is. This year my goal is to take the manuscript as far as I can, put it away for 2-3 months, then re-evaluate it again. Sometimes that manuscript I think is really ready is really not.

Sophia Mallonée, Children’s Writer

www.sophiamallonee.com

This is probably the single most difficult question to answer when it comes to writing, and honestly there’s no clear sign or finish line. It would be so much easier if there was!

For me, I like to pound out a very rough first draft and then leave it for a week or two before I do anything with it. I usually then go through 1-3 rounds of personal revisions before I send it off to my critique group and then 1-2 rounds of edits with my crit partners. After a series of thorough revisions, I’ll leave the story to sit and marinate on its own for a couple of weeks.

The passage of time is really my best tool to judge the strength of a manuscript. After enough time has passed for me to feel distant from the story, I’m then able to pick it back up and read it with fresh eyes. If it reads smoothly, makes me smile in the right places and so on, I’ll send it out. Otherwise, I start the process all over again and might add a few new eyes into the mix for more suggestions.

I also prefer to do small batches of submissions at a time and that way, if I get any helpful feedback from my submissions, I’m able to make further revisions before I send it out again. So you might find that even after you think a manuscript is ready to submit, there are still changes to be made!

Kirsti Call, Children’s Author

www.kirsticall.com

Her debut book: The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall! (trailer)

I started submitting almost immediately after I got back into writing 3 years ago. I thought my first story was fabulous and ready to be published.  Sadly, no publisher agreed with me!

Now that I’ve had more time working in the industry, I realize that it wasn’t ready.  I needed to go to a critique group, get a writing partner, revise, revise and revise some more!  I needed to attend conferences and hone my craft.

Now that I do that, I know my manuscript is ready when I have no qualms about the beginning, middle or ending. I know it’s ready when I can read it out loud without stumbling.  I know it’s ready when my critique partners have nothing much to say about the story, except for how wonderful it is, of course!  Nothing’s better than making a manuscript sing!

Julie Falatko, Author

http://worldofjulie.com/

Her debut book: SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK) (Viking Children’s, 2015)

Represented by Danielle Smith, Foreword Literary

In so many ways, it’s very, very hard to know when a manuscript is ready to submit. For me, at least. It took me years — YEARS — to understand that first drafts are SUPPOSED to be terrible. And that it is my job to fix them. So usually when I write, I go through a fairly normal cycle of “this is awful/this is brilliant.” I need to make sure that when I think a manuscript is done, that it is really done, and it’s not that I just happened to catch myself at a “this is brilliant” upswing. Having more than one critique group helps. Taking some time away from it helps, too, so you can come back to it like someone else wrote it, to see what still needs to be fixed.

But eventually, you’ll know in your gut that there’s nothing else you can change in a manuscript. You have to be really honest with yourself about this. It might, and probably should, take months. Take your time. Take it seriously. It’s a tough balance — you need to give yourself enough time to get it right, but at a certain point you also have to let go and trust that you’ve done all you can.

Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

As I mentioned earlier, one of the strong themes in this month’s answers is do not rush to submission. Don’t let your desire to be published or get an agent interfere with good judgment. In a recent Interview on kidlit411, I offered the following advice to writers. Do not be in a hurry. I don’t want to discourage any writer from submitting because there are some people who are new to the writing scene who find success in achieving publication in a very short time. However, I believe that this is rare. I know it is tempting to jump right into submitting, but I caution you to take your time. Learn your craft, and learn it well. If you can afford it, take classes, get professional critiques, and read, read, read. Be sure to join a critique group. Immerse yourself in the writing community, and learn from those who have already learned from their mistakes. It is not a race – it is a journey.

Click her for HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOUR MANUSCRIPT IS READY TO SUBMIT – PART TWO with additional answers and some excellent resources for deciding when your manuscript is ready for submission.

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