Tag Archives: query

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts – August 2010 Edition

It’s that time of the month again, time to give a round-up of all the helpful writing sites and blog posts I’ve come across in the past month. I have quite a few this month so I’ll break them up into categories.


Bring Your Characters to Life

Some great ideas on how to really get into your character’s head and make him/her come alive.

How to Write About a Real Location if You Haven’t Been There

Joanna Penn gives some ideas on how to write a location even if you’ve never been there.

Act First, Explain Later

Twelve dos and don’ts for writing a compelling first page.


Spawned from the #storycraft chat on tension, this post talks about ‘The Knitting Exercise’. By applying this exercise to your novel you can check to see how well tension is working in your novel. You can even apply it to your outline before you start writing.

In A Series, Foreshadowing A Character

Using the Harry Potter series as an example, this post shows how characters can be foreshadowed in a series before making their major appearance.

Tips For Writing A Great Second Draft of You Novel

Five tips for those who have finished the first draft and are ready to start editing.

Make Your Characters Earn Their Keep

Author Wendy Lyn Watson offers a trick for weeding out unnecessary characters.


20 Questions to Ask Before Submitting Your Work

A great checklist for making sure your writing is perfectly polished.

Top Ten Novel Writing Mistakes

Check this list to make sure your novel doesn’t contain any of these common errors.

What Writers Wish They’d Known Before Pitching

A list of 12 things that matter to agents and editors when being pitched by writers.

Are You Ready To Submit Your Novel?

This post covers three critical elements to knowing if your work is ready to submit.

Are We Done Yet?

How do you know if your writing is as polished as it can get and is ready to submit? This post covers ways to know it’s ready and ways to know if it’s not ready.

Write on Con Forums

Even though Write on Con is over for this year the forums are still open. If you write picture books, middle grade or young adult there are sections for each where you can get critique or connect with fellow writers.


Writing the Dreaded Synopsis

Author Ebony McKenna gives some helpful advice on writing a novel synopsis.

Some Query Mistakes

Agent intern Amie (who also does great query sessions on Twitter using the hashtag #queryslam) lists 4 big mistakes you should avoid in your writing. And even though the post is titled ‘Some Query Mistakes’, the mistakes she lists can really be applied to your writing as a whole, not just your query letter or first five pages.

16 Reasons Why Your Manuscript Got Rejected Before Page 1

A former assistant editor outlines 16 common problems found in query letters and offers some solutions.

Interview with YA Agent Mary Kole

Mary gives some insightful answers to questions ranging from what she believes are the qualities of a successful manuscript to what books she would recommend to hone your writing skills.

How to Ensure 75% of Agents Will Request Your Material

This post caused a little bit of controversy, and not everyone agrees the 75% request rate is accurate, but nonetheless Marcus Sakey makes some noteworthy points.

How To Write A Query Letter

Agent Nathan Bransford outlines how to write a query letter. This is a really good post for anyone in the process of writing a query letter as it has lots of great information on the steps involved, from researching the right agent to the most important points to include in your letter.


10 Things Authors Should Never Blog About

Some things authors should remember when blogging.


Don’t You Dare Give Up

I quoted this in a blog post last week, but I thought it was worth linking to it again. Agent Natalie Fischer gives some encouragement to all of us querying and facing rejection.

50 Strategies For Making Yourself Work

If anyone else is like me, procracstination and distraction can sometimes get in the way of getting writing done. This post has lots of ways you can stop the distractions and get down to writing.

Happy Potter Day

In celebration of J.K. Rowling’s birthday (and her of course Harry Potter’s birthday too) last month, Harry Potter for Writers posted some quotes from J.K. Rowling relating to her writing journey, including some on getting rejected and being persistent.

P.S. Speaking of birthdays, my blog is fast approaching its 1st birthday and to celebrate I will be announcing a contest in one week, so be sure to check back.

Why You Shouldn’t Let Rejection Get You Down

I read a really encouraging blog post by literary agent Natalie Fischer today. She started off by telling this story:

“I’m going to tell you a little story about a boy named Theodore Geisel (shh, now don’t interrupt if you’ve heard this one). Theodore had written a picture book manuscript called THE HOUSE ON MULBURRY STREET. He shopped it around. He sent it to twenty-two editors and, after that twenty-second rejection, Theodore decided he would go home, shred his manuscript, and give up his dream.

On the way home, he ran into an old friend of his, who had become an editor. His editor friend convinced him to let him see his manuscript. The editor changed the name of the book to THE CAT IN THE HAT, and Dr. Seuss was born.”

You can read the full blog post here (it’s really inspiring and encouraging): Don’t You Dare Give Up

J.K. Rowling overcame rejection to become a hugely successful author.

The story about Dr. Seuss got me thinking about other famous authors who were rejected before making it big, like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King (who are now two of the richest and most famous authors around today). Since I’ve just started embarking on the road to publication (I just bought a new printer yesterday so I can start printing out my cover/query letters) I thought I might print out some of the rejection stats of big name authors to stick on the wall above my computer and keep me motivated through any future rejections. These are some of the ones I’ve come across:

J.K. Rowling‘s agency sent Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to 12 publishers, all of whom turned down the book.

Richard Bach‘s book Jonathan Livingston Seagull was rejected by 26 publishers.

Stephen King received more than 30 rejections for his first novel Carrie.

Beatrix Potter ended up self-publishing The Tale of Peter Rabbit because it was turned down so many times.

George Orwell received a rejection letter for Animal Farm stating ‘It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.’

I hope these stories of rejection, followed by success, will help keep my spirits up during the querying process.







My 'Don't Give Up' Wall

Write On Con Starts in 12 Hours

Write on Con – the free online conference for writers – starts in twelve hours. The first event will be posted at 6am EDT (US)/ 8pm AEST (Aus). I’m getting very excited, especially since this will be my first writers conference! You can check out the schedule here:

Write on Con Schedule of Events

There’s lots of great things happening, including some live chats with literary agents (just make sure you read the chat rules). I’ve already got my highlighter out and highlighted everything I want to attend (which is just about everything). It’s just a shame some of the live chats will be the middle of the night for me.

You can find all the general information on the Write on Con website (where everything conference related will be taking place):

Write on Con

And if you haven’t checked out the forums yet, there have been a few exciting announcements in the last few days (including an opportunity to have your query critiqued in a live blogging event with agent Natalie Fischer!). You can find the forums here:

Write on Con Forums

Only 12 hours to go…

Write On Con – Writer’s Conference

My critique partner tipped me off about Write on Con and I’m so glad she did. Write on Con is an online conference for writers taking place on the 10th, 11th and 12th of August. It is completely free to attend and all you have to do to register is join the Write On Con forums. This is a fantastic opportunity for several reasons:

There Is No Need To Travel

As someone living in rural Australia (and as someone with two young children) I find it difficult to travel to my closest major city (which is four hours away) to attend writer’s conferences there, it’s just not a viable option for me. And those big awesome writer’s conferences in the US are an impossibility. Being able to attend a conference from my own home, where I can still do the mum thing at the same time, is a great opportunity.

It’s Free!

Even if I could make it to my nearest major city for a conference, the cost for me is also a problem. Our family is just not in the financial position right now to justify my attending a conference (including all the costs of travel and accomodation that would go along with it). So the fact that it’s free is an extra bonus.

Get Critique

You only have to look at the forums to see there will be some great opportunities for working on your craft. Already there is a section open for practice critiques where you can post queries/pages of your writing to be critiqued by fellow attendees. It’s all about give and take. If you put something up for critique, be sure to offer critique to others. Once the conference begins there will be specific sections for query critiques, first five pages critiques, etc. And there will be agents about who may even weigh in on the critiques.

Connect With Fellow Writers

Another section of the forums that is already open is the Introductions section. Through the introductions section and the practice critiques I’ve already met quite a few fellow writers, some of us are even discussing setting up a critique group together. You can also pop by the Twitter roll call thread and include a link to your Twitter page.

I’ve also included links to my Twitter page and my blog in my signature –  a great way to get your name out there, especially if you actively participate.

Hear What The Pros Have To Say

When the conference starts there will be a section where pros will be talking about the industry. I’m looking forward to some great insight.


In addition to the forums there is also the Write On Con website. This is where all the ‘classes’ will be posted.

I’m really excited about taking part in this conferences and am looking forward to August 10th. For now it’s a great experience posting and critiquing in the practice critique section and meeting lots of new writers.

If you would love to take part in this great opportunity too, here is a link to the forums: Write On Con forums

Hopefully I’ll see you there!

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts – July 2010 Edition

I just realised it’s been two months since I last did one of these, so here is a round up of some helpful writing sites and blog posts I’ve come across in the past two months:

You Have to Believe

Rachelle Gardner (literary agent) has a great blog, with lots of fantastic posts for writers. This particular post was quite an inspiring one encouraging writers to believe in themselves. My favourite line: “God gave you something powerful – a story or a message, and the desire to share it. God is not in the business of tricking people, or of squandering anything – not talent, not passion, not time. Pursue your God-given passions with an unwavering faith. Praise and bless the obstacles. And keep believing.”

Tips for Pitching and Querying Agents

YA writer Ingrid Sundberg shared a hand-out from Andrea Brown agent Mary Kole that she received at an SCBWI agent day on pitching and querying. It includes some great advice, as well as step-by-step questions you should address in your pitch.

Try This Picture Book Editing Checklist

For anyone out there writing or editing a picture book this is a great checklist to refer to, from the editors of Children’s Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children’s Writers.

Will Literary Agents Really Read Your Query Letter?

This posts covers reasons why a query letter may not be read, the problems with many queries and some tips on how to write better queries.

The Power of the First Sentence

We all know how important that first sentence is in a manuscript, Brenda Hineman, a freelance writer, guest posts on this blog on what makes an opening sentence memorable.

Eleven Senses – Who Knew?

Anyone who reads my blog knows how much I’m a big fan of ‘show, don’t tell’ in writing, and whenever I talk about showing in writing I refer to using the five senses of taste, touch, sight, sound and smell. This workshop handout covers eleven senses, including pain, balance, sense of time, joint motion and acceleration, temperature differences, and direction. Not only does it describe how each of the senses work, but how they can be applied to writing, some writing exercises and, best of all, a comprehensive list of verbs for each of the senses to spice up your writing.

7 Techniques for a Dynamite Plot

An editor offers some solutions to common problems writers have when constructing their plot.

The Secret to Getting Published

Published author Karen Gowen offers some down-to-earth truths on what is and isn’t the secret to getting published. My favourite line: “You have to want it more than you want anything else. You must want it with every fibre of your being.”

3 Ways to Show, Don’t Tell

There’s my favourite writing mantra again! A short post covering verbs and nouns, sensory details and dialogue.

Query Letter Suicide

Another great post from YA Writer Ingrid Sundberg, this time sharing some advice from Agent Jill Corcoran of the Herman Agency. A comprehensive list of what not to do in a query letter.

Do You Know the Real Reason Not to Use the Passive Voice?

The dreaded ‘passive’ voice. It’s something I’m working on cutting in my novel revisions at the moment. This post by an editor shows an example of the difference between using the passive voice and the active voice when writing.

Advice for New Writers Blogfest

Last week I participated in Peevish Penman’s blogfest on ‘My Best Advice for New Writers’. There were 42 participants altogether. I haven’t quite got through reading all the posts yet, but the ones I have read have offered some fantastic advice. You can find the links to all of them on the Blogfest page, they’re well worth checking out.

Preparing to Query

You’ve written your query, got it critiqued, edited it and polished it, now it is ready to get sent out to agents or publishers. I don’t know about you, but for me that’s the scary part. What if I *gasp* get rejected? It’s true, it could happen, and I’m sure when it does I will feel low and consume a truckload of chocolate. But maybe, just maybe, someone out there will love my story as much as I love it so it’s worth the risk right? And, as I keep reminding myself, J.K. Rowling was rejected quite a few times before someone picked up Harry Potter. The question is, who do I send my lovely polished query letter to?

Do Your Research

As tempting as it might be to send your query letter to every agent/publisher in the country, in the end this would be a waste of your time (and money spent on postage if you’re mailing your queries) and a waste of time for the agent/publishers you send to. In many cases your query letter will go straight into the shredder, or your query e-mail will get deleted without a second glance. Why? Because you didn’t do your research. Imagine you have written a picture book and query it to a dozen or so agents/publishers who don’t accept picture books. That’s time and effort wasted. Make sure you read submission guidelines before you submit a query to any agent or publisher to ensure they accept the type of book you are querying.

Make a Wishlist

Since I’ve been researching publishers while polishing my query I’ve created a Word document of all the publishers/agents who accept picture books (I also have another document of the ones who accept YA fantasy in preparation for when I start querying my novel). By keeping this list I don’t have to go back and find them all again when it comes time to query, as I have saved all the information. You can set out the list any way you want, but I tend to set it out like this:

  • Name of Publisher/Agent
  • What types of books they accept
  • Are they open to submissions
  • Contact information
  • Link to website
  • Any other important notes

I set my wishlist out so that the ones I intend to query first are at the top of the list and the ones who aren’t open to submissions now, but may be at a later date I put at the bottom to remind me to check back.

Check If They Are Open to Submissions

Some agents/publishers may be closed to submissions at certain times of year, or may be inundated with queries so close submissions until they catch up, so make sure you check and take note of when they’ll be open again if they mention it. I have a colour coding system (because I love colour coding) – On my list where I note if a publisher/agent is or isn’t open for submissions I highlight green if they are open, red if they aren’t currently open for submissions and yellow if they’re currently closed, but will be open again in the near future. Don’t forget to keep checking back.

Keeping Track of Your Queries

I remember a while back a writer on Twitter mentioned keeping track of who she was querying to ensure she wasn’t sending letters to the same publisher/agent twice, and to keep track of who had replied, whether they requested partials or fulls or asked for edits. There’s a good chance when you query you will be querying multiple agents/publishers at the same time, I know I will (imagine sending one at a time and having to wait up to 6 months for each reply! I know agents are much quicker in replying than publishers, but you may still have to wait to hear back.) And then if you query maybe five at a time, you don’t want to accidentally query someone again after they already rejected that story. I’m setting up a spreadsheet in Excel to help me keep track of my queries. When complete it will include:

  • Name of publisher/agent
  • Date sent
  • Estimated response time (most will state their response time on their website)
  • Reply received
  • Rejection/Partial/Full
  • Partial/Full sent
  • Edits requested
  • Edits sent

Do make sure, particularly with publishers, that they don’t mind you querying others at the same time you are querying them, as some ask that you don’t query others while you have a submission with them. Read their submission guidelines carefully and make a note of it.

Be Prepared for Rejection, But Keep Believing in Yourself and Don’t Stop Writing

Even the best have been rejected, J.K. Rowling and Stephen King both had stories rejected, so don’t give up hope. Remember it’s not just about having a great story, but finding the right publisher/agent at the right time who is right for your story. Even while you are waiting to hear back, keep polishing your craft, start some new projects, and if your current story doesn’t find a home, you’ll have something new and better ready.

(*Note: While in the US it is more usual to query agents, rather than directly to publishers, in Australia there are still many publishing houses who accept unsolicited manuscripts and not many literary agents, hence why I keep referring to both agents and publishers in this post.)

Writing a Picture Book Query

_S070083-1 by nuttakit

For those of you who have been following my progress in the smories.com competition with my picture book entry ‘Can You Jump Like a Kangaroo‘ I have some good news to share. The competition ended two days ago and my story came in third! It may not have been first, but I was still extremely happy to win a place. Now I am preparing to query the story to publishers.

Writing a Picture Book Query: The Dilemma

I frequent quite a few agent and writing blogs and have collected a plethora of information on querying, however now I am faced with writing a query for a picture book I’ve found all my previous research on queries, which has primarily focused on querying novels, is not quite adequate for writing a PB query. I sat at my computer with a word document open, typed the initial salutation and then stopped. I know how to condense a 50k + word novel into a paragraph, I’ve written and rewritten queries for my YA novel many times over, but how do I write a paragraph summary of a picture book that’s only 147 words?

Sourcing Blogs for Query Writing Tips

I checked out a few picture book queries kidlit agent Mary Kole had commented upon on her blog during a query competition she held a while back to get some ideas (she has since removed these posts, but she has another post on picture book queries here, which I’ve also linked below). Through looking at these examples with comments from an agent who specialises in kidlit I was able to gain some insight into how a pictures book plot can be written in a query letter. I discovered channeling the voice of the book was a good first step. I wrote out my query with a better idea on how I could approach describing the story, but I still wasn’t sure if I was hitting the mark.

Seeking the Opinions of Those Who Have Written Successful Queries

I decided to seek out the opinions of two lovely Australian picture book authors I met through #pblitchat on Twitter. Kathryn Apel is the author of picture book This is the Mud and Karen Collum is the author of several picture books including one due out this September titled Samuel’s Kisses. I regard them both as being great sources of knowledge on all things PB related. They both gave me some great advice on writing a PB query. Here are the main points they made:

– Capture the heart and tone of your story in the query.

– Use small section of text from your book.

– Keep it short and sweet, one to two paragraphs is enough.

– Give the whole story in a nutshell, including the ending.

Armed with this great advice I shaped my query to match more with the tone of my story, with some little excerpts from the text weaved into it.

Query Critique

My query still needs some polishing so I’ve submitted it to the Query Kick-Around on YA Lit Chat (which also accomodates other types of kidlit, including picture books) and hopefully I’ll receive some helpful critique from some of the other members there.

Next step: Sending the queries to publishers here in Australia. I’ve got a list of a few of the publishers currently accepting unsolicited manuscripts for picture books, so hopefully one of them will love my story enough to publish it.


Since I wrote this post a few sites/blogs have popped up with some helpful information on writing picture book queries, so I thought it might be helpful to update this post with some links.

Mary Kole on kidlit.com made a post specifically on how to write a picture book query: Picture Book Queries

The Query Shark bites into a picture book query: Query Shark #178

Looking for PB query critiques? The Write on Con forums have a section specifically dedicated to critiquing PB queries. Registration is free at the time of this post and it’s a site well worth joining if you’re a kidlit writer: Write on Con

Here is a helpful webinar video from Write on Con with Emma Walton Hamilton (aka The Query Whisperer): Picture Book Query Letters.


Another great resource that’s cropped up in the last few years is the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge. As well as providing great resources on picture book queries, you also get access to webinars from industry professionals that sometimes include helpful information on crafting picture book queries and even sometimes opportunities to have your query critiqued by a professional (such as the fabulous Emma Walton Hamilton). There is also access to a query critique forum where you can receive critique from fellow (often experienced) PB writers on your picture book query. While it does cost to join 12 x 12, it is a worthwhile investment for picture book writers who are serious about submitting to agents and editors. 12 x 12 is open to new members from about mid-January through to the end of February.

UPDATE (Feb 2016):

I’ve recently come across a post on picture book query writing from agent Maria Vicente of P.S. Literary Agency. She offers three great tips specific to picture book queries. You can find the post here: How to Query a Picture Book.

Picture by nuttakit