Thursday, 30 July 2015

Publishing Advice from YALC - Querying And Accepting Offers

I spent a lot of time in YALC's agent arena, absorbing the wisdom all the agents had to offer. I picked up so many tips and discovered things about the publishing process I'd never really stopped to think about. The agents were Louise Lamont and Danielle Zigner from LBA Books, Gemma Cooper and Molly Ker Hawn from The Bent Agency, and Ben Illis of The BIA. I'm so grateful to all of them for offering their time, knowledge and support. If you ever have the chance to attend an event run by agents, go! They are amazing opportunities, and well worth making time for.

Louise, Danielle and Gemma ran the Publishing 101 seminar, complete with handout! 

I've decided to break the agent advice from YALC into a two posts. Today I'm looking at querying, and tomorrow I'll share their advice on what happens after you sign with an agent.

The agents ran through everything, from writing your query letter all the way through to your book sitting pretty on a bookshelf. The biggest thing I took away from the seminar was to never, ever, ever forget that publishing is a BUSINESS. Your rejections are not personal "ugh, this person is awful and no one has ever written anything worse!" decisions - they are all about the business: will this book sell? And because this is business, remember to always be professional in all your dealings with agents.

The Query Letter

So, let's go from the beginning and start with the query letter. Gemma gave us all a very handy template to follow:

Dear AGENT NAME HERE - never ever ever write "Dear Agent", "To Whom it May Concern", "Dear Sir/Madam". Do your research and personalise it.

Paragraph 1: I am seeking representation for my YA novel (Title, genre, wordcount).

Paragraph 2: THE PITCH! Gemma recommended 6-7 lines for your book. Yeah, that short! You want to tempt the agent in quickly. So, your pitch should introduce your main character, what she wants, what's in her way, and what will happen if she doesn't get what she wants. 

Paragraph 3: According to your submission guidelines... Say what you've included in your submission package, according to each agency's requirements. So, for The Bent Agency, you'd say "According to your submission guidelines, I have included the first ten pages below".

Paragraph 4: List any relevant memberships or qualifications you have, such as SCBWI. You do not need to list your exam results here, no matter how amazingly well you did. No, not even your English grades!

Paragraph 5: Anything else about the book you may want to add. Personally, I wrote about some of the research I'd carried out for Conspiracy of Echoes and how it fed into the book's creation.

The agents explained how they read queries outside their main working day, so mostly in the evenings and at the weekend. They also explained how many people get the basics of a query wrong. Louise told us about someone who had addressed a query to the founder of the agency AP Watt... who founded said agency in the 1870s... Not good. DO YOUR QUERYING RESEARCH! And never ever ever said queries out in bulk to multiple agents.

The need for patience was also highlighted. The agents said to wait three months for a response on a full... which leads me quite neatly to...


Oh yes, the dreaded "nudge". The agents did cover nudging - as in when your submission has been with an agent longer than their stated response time and you haven't had a reply.

The agents recommended that you only nudge after the allotted time stated on their website has elapsed, and only ever nudge once. The agents agreed that if there's no response after a nudge, it's time to move on.

However, if an agent clearly states on their website "no response = rejection" then don't nudge unless you are still within their response timeframe and have an offer.


Ah, something else we all love to hate. Louise made a really good point that this shouldn't terrify you. She explained how distilling your plot to a single page gives you an opportunity to see where your plot works and where it may need more editing. Twitter pitches offer you the same chance to see how well your story works, and I must admit I spent a lot of time going over my Twitter pitches before I pitched in person.


Again, remember, this is a business decision, not a judgement on how good of a writer you are. Yes, the agent has to like your writing and feel a connection to the book, but it's also a business decision - will the book sell? Does it fit with the agent's list or does it clash with an existing client's book? The agents all said don't be upset by a form rejection. They aren't personal.

They also advised not to change your book based on one line from an agent in a personalised rejection. Everyone likes different things, and what might not work for that agent may work perfectly well with others. If you're getting similar feedback from lots of agents, maybe a few tweaks would be a good idea, but if it's just one agent with one opinion, leave your book as it is. Constant edits while querying is the path to madness!

And here's where you absolutely must be professional. Don't fire off a rude email telling the agent how wrong they are. You won't do yourself any favours whatsoever.

When Agents Offer

Oooooh, I can't wait to be able to tell you this stuff from personal experience, but for now I leave the advice in the capable hands of the agents.

Firstly, if one agent offers you representation, you absolutely must tell everyone else still considering your book. They may counter-offer, which is when things get really exciting! The agents all offered advice on how to decide between agents:

  • Do you share a similar vision for the book?
  • Do you think you can work well together?
  • Your agent should be your champion for life! Are they going to fight for your book and all the books that will follow it?
  • Make sure the agent isn't about to leave the profession.
  • How do they or their agency handle international rights?

Some agents may want to meet you in person, although obvious geographic locations may prevent this. Thank goodness for phones! When I meet/have a phone call with an agent I'm going to have a list of questions for them. Remember all that talk about business earlier on? Well, now it's your turn to make the business call. If multiple agents offer representation, which one do you think will offer you the best career?

Remember to be professional when turning down offers from other agents. You never know when you may bump into them again.

Now, what happens after you sign with an agent? I'll get to that in my next post tomorrow!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Camp NaNoWriMo - Final Report

Camp NaNoWriMo reaches its conclusion this week, and with a combination of drafting and editing, I reached my total. Normally I'd reach it and keep going, but I really haven't had time.

One thing this Camp has taught me is that setting myself goals when I'm so busy at the day job isn't the best idea ever. I'm glad I hit my goal, but if I hadn't had the week off earlier in the month I wouldn't have and it would've been unnecessary stress. If you're really pressed for time, an event like this might not be right for you. NaNoWriMo can be an excellent motivator, but never be afraid to turn it down if it doesn't fit in with your lifestyle. Not everyone can crank out thousands upon thousands of words in a month. Everyone has their own writing method.

Can't say if I'll be doing the BIG NaNoWriMo this November. It's too early to tell. I'd like to, but I'll have to see where querying leads me this time ;)

Writing Music For The Week

Oh, my poor, poor main character. She is in sooooo much trouble... 

Tea reviews back next week!

Monday, 27 July 2015


As you may have noticed, I was rather excited to be rid of my TBR pile the other week. And, as expected, YALC resurrected it.

The YALC pile
I have decided to instigate new TBR Pile rules. And those rules are actually a rule:

No more than ten books in the TBR pile at a time.
I think that's a good rule, don't you?

Due to popular demand, the TBR DECIMATION challenge will continue into August. Here's hoping my "Ten Books Or Less" self control lasts that long...

Books Read:

Monsters by Emerald Fennell was brilliant. So, so, so creepy, and yet I found myself invested in the MC even if she was really unsettling.
Gemini Force One: Black Horizon, originally created by Gerry Anderson but completed by M. G. Harris was exactly my kind of book - action packed with this... this... thing that I can't spoil you for halfway through that left me unable to put it down until I'd read the whole thing. Loved it. Can't wait for the next one!
I've also enjoyed two more books from the Jack Reacher series on my Kindle over the past fortnight. I have just two left until I'm all caught up, and then I won't know what to do with myself. I started reading the Reacher books back in 2013. It'll be weird knowing I can't just pick up a new one whenever I want. 


Taking on your TBR pile this summer? Share a photo and join in :D

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Monthly Soundtrack Reviews - Skyfall

Soundtrack: Skyfall
Year: 2012
Composer: Thomas Newman et al.
Stand Out Track: Komodo Dragon
Works Well With: Thrillers

This is a fantastic soundtrack, and a definite favourite of mine from the Bond series... although don't ask me to choose between Casino Royale and Skyfall because I still can't. I am SO EXCITED for Spectre in the autumn. It's definitely my most anticipated film of 2015.

Bond soundtracks all have a unique sound. You can't switch Skyfall with Goldeneye for example. The music is so tailored to each film, and yet they're great to write with because they conjure up images of action, tension and intrigue.

I should point out that the soundtrack doesn't have Adele's song Skyfall on it, but it's definitely one of my favourite Bond themes. My standout track, Komodo Dragon, does feature a few bars from Adele's song.

The soundtrack has great pieces for all those intense moments. One brilliant track is Jellyfish. The dramatic opening slows down into an ominous beat that builds and builds; just like all good thrillers do. Health and Safety and Granbourough Road are perfect for chase scenes or dramatic fights.

A slower but no less brilliant piece is New Digs. It's perfect for characters who are busy spying or sneaking into someplace they shouldn't be in. Enjoying Death has a similar sound. I really like the hint of mystery to it.

Want a grand, sweeping, and epic track to inspire your writing? Listen to The Chimera. It's fantastic. Lots of brass and intense strings.

This soundtrack isn't all bluster and excitement. Without spoiling the film for those of you who haven't seen it, the soundtrack has some really moving music, too. Does your thriller feature tragedy? Mother will keep you in a suitable sombre mood to write it. Skyfall aches with isolation. Give it a listen for those moments when your character is alone in the middle of nowhere.

As with all the soundtracks I review, there are plenty more tracks to listen to, all of them brimming with inspiration. If you're writing a thriller, or just need to add some urgency and tension to your story, Skyfall is a great soundtrack to use.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

YALC 2015! Weekend Overview

YALC was amazing!

This year, I went for the whole weekend. It was exhausting but so worth it! I have so much to share, and a single blog post won't cut it. This is going to be a general overview, but next week I'll share more of what I learned from the various panels, workshops, and seminars I attended.

After a brief queue on Friday afternoon, Emma and I made the most of our wrist bands and just strolled in on the Saturday and Sunday, which was a real luxury compared to last year's two hour wait in line. We met up with the lovely Sophie, too, and chatted with loads of fellow hopeful writers in the agent arena. Hiya, lovely new friends *waves*.

I spent a lot of time in the agent arena this year because it was an amazing opportunity to learn from authors, agents, and editors. I'm still in the process of condensing all that information into a more bite-sized blog post, so stay tuned next week for querying and publishing advice DIRECT FROM AGENTS... juuuust via me ;) I'll also share my tips for pitching to an agent in person :D

So, back to YALC! This year YALC and the London Film and Comic Con took place at the Olympia, and what a fantastic venue it was. WE HAD AIR CONDITIONING!!! Even more excitingly, YALC was on a floor away from the main event, which meant it was nowhere near as overcrowded or as hot as last year.

Pictured: People and SPACE!

The free stuff stand, the publishers, and Waterstones had more space to really show off this year.

And the best sign at YALC goes to Waterstones, for keeping us calm :D

The chill out zone was fantastic, too. We had lunch or a rest there every day.

My TBR pile is back in action. Ah well, I managed a day without one, right? :P

I met Patrick Ness, and did not shout at him about THE THING that happens in THAT BOOK THAT HE WROTE, and I raced over from a 1-2-1 with an agent in time to meet James Smythe who complemented me (and therefore my parents) on my name. How lovely! ^_^

Emma and I did venture down to the main section of the con. It was SO busy down there, but it was just so great to be surrounded by loads of fellow geeks. You go to a con and it's like "THESE ARE MY PEOPLE!" Upstairs at YALC and downstairs in the LFCC was like coming home. I wanted to high-five everyone.

And no, I did not come away from the LFCC empty handed ;)


All in all, it was a superb weekend and I can't wait to share more next week!

Friday, 17 July 2015

This Blog Has Gone to YALC! :D


If all goes to plan, I'll be back next Friday with my coverage of this super exciting bookish event!

Thursday, 16 July 2015


Guys guys guys! My TBR pile is GONE! GONE! THERE ARE NO UNREAD BOOKS IN MY OFFICE!!!! :D :D :D

How did I get through the books so fast?


Others were from a number of my favourite authors.

A handful were debuts or established authors I hadn't read before whose books sucked me in and didn't let go until I emerged at the end of their stories breathless with wonderment.

And others?





Here are my July TBR Stats:

Read: Ten
DNF'd: Six
Disqualified: One. Irritatingly, it's the fourth in a series I haven't read, so I will go back and buy the first eventually because it does sound very, very cool. 

The DNFs simply weren't my kind of books. None of them were bad. They just weren't what I wanted. That being said, my reading tastes have changed this year. I've read a lot of books outside my usual comfort zone, most notably contemporaries and literary novels, genres I don't read a lot of but found myself drawn into more than expected.

Sometimes I surprise myself.

So, what have I discovered by forcing myself to dispatch my TBR pile?

1) I know what I like.
2) I love it when a book I'm curious about in a less explored genre turns out to be one of the best things I've read in ages.
3) I really know what I don't like, and no amount of people telling me "this is the BEST BOOK EVER!!!!" will change my mind.
4) Patience is important when I'm reading something that might not grab me straight away but is beautifully written and full of promise.
5) It's absolutely fine to stop reading something I don't enjoy.
6) Always give books I don't like to friends, family members, book swaps and charity. Someone else out there will probably love it.

You will always DNF books, even when they sound like something you'd love. That's just the way of life. But this little challenge of mine has shown me that a little self-control isn't such a bad thing, and neither is testing my own literary tastes. I do love a surprise!

Yes, I'm sure come this weekend I will have regained a TBR pile of some description. But for now, I'm going to bask in the fact that I have nothing to read! Nothing!