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Anyone can call in and ask questions: At the appointed time, dial 1-857-232-0155 (long distance charges may apply, depending on your phone plan). Enter the Conference Code: 245657. To raise your hand and ask a question, dial 5*. To Mute yourself, dial 4*.


New interviews are being scheduled. Watch this space for details.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

18: Elana Johnson: Queries

I first heard about Elana Johnson last year, soon after she'd signed her book deal to publish her debut novel, POSSESSION, a fun, snarky, YA dystopian. I was at a conference with her when she was awarded the prize for "Most Query Rejections in a Calendar Year" or something like that. To win the award, she had submitted 189 queries over the course of about 8 months and was rejected 188 times (you only need one agent to say yes, obviously). Through all the querying and rejections, she learned a lot about querying. Enough to write a book, in fact. So she did! Her free ebook FROM THE QUERY TO THE CALL is a wonderful compilation of what she learned.

On this call, Elana reviewed the basic parts of a query and explained what elements should be in each one. She used examples from real-life query letter drafts submitted by callers beforehand, and described what worked and what didn't.

The basic elements are as follows:
  1. Introduction: Here, you show off your industry knowledge, and demonstrate that you know what THIS agent is looking for.
  2. Hook: Should sum up the novel in one sentence, not be a question, and propel the reader to read the rest of the query.
  3. The Set-up: As the bridge between the Hook and the Conflict, the Setup provides a few details about your world, your main character, and your setting, but is short (75-100 words). This is the catalyst that moves the main character into the conflict.
  4. The Conflict: Tell what your character wants and what is keeping him/her from getting it.
  5. The Consequence: What will happen if your main character doesn't solve the conflict? Leave the agent on a cliff-hanger, hungry to read more (in your manuscript). Try to craft this as a complement to your Hook, so your hook and your Consequence can work as a mini-query, and bring the query full-circle.
  6. Everything else: I can't possibly summarize all the great advice she gave us on Marketing, Publishing Credits, word count, etc. You'll have to listen to the call. :)
I'm including Elana's own query blurb for POSSESSION, so you can see how a master crafts a query letter:
In a world where Thinkers brainwash the population and Rules are not meant to be broken, fifteen-year-old Violet Schoenfeld does a hell of a job shattering them to pieces.
After committing her eighth lame ass crime (walking in the park after dark with a boy, gasp!), Vi is taken to the Green, a group of Thinkers who control the Goodgrounds. She’s found unrehabilitatable (yeah, she doesn’t think it’s a word either) and exiled to the Badlands. Good thing sexy Bad boy Jag Barque will be going too.
Dodging Greenies and hovercopters, dealing with absent-father issues, and coming to terms with feelings for an ex-boyfriend—and Jag as a possible new one—leave Vi little time for much else. Which is too damn bad, because she’s more important than she realizes. When secrets about her “dead” sister and not-so-missing father hit the fan, Vi must make a choice: control or be controlled.
You want to read it now, don't you? Of course you do!

Thanks go to all those brave souls who sent in their queries, and extra thanks to Elana, for critiquing each one.

As always, you can access the MP3 by clicking here, or listen to it below:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

17: Steven Gould: Consequences In Fiction

Tonight we spoke with Steven Gould, Science Fiction and YA author of the books: Helm, Reflex and Jumper and the soon to be released Seventh Sigma (Release Date: July 5, 2011). A cohesive narrative is integral to a successful story, be it in short fiction or novel format. An integral part of such a narrative, especially to maintain believability for your reader is, making sure:
  • When you set up a premise (or a consequence for a character's actions)make sure it pays off well in the end.
  • Your character's actions in your work are affected by their environment.
  • Too much tension for your characters without periods of rest tire your audience.
If you've ever read others works (or your own) and thought: "Hold on- why did they do that, again?!" and need to know how to fix or refine that aspect of your work, give this episode a listen!

Access the MP3 here or listen to it below:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

16 Larry Correia: The Mechanics of Writing Action and Pacing

Tonight we spoke with Larry Corriea, author of the Monster Hunter series and Hard Magic: Book One of the Grimnoir Chronicles. During our conversation this evening, Larry "The Action Guy" shared with us ways we can improve the pacing and the flow of the actions our characters choices (or the choices placed upon them by the circumstances we put them in) play out in our books or stories.

Improving the action in our writings can include (but is not limited to):

  1. Balancing the amount of action vs the amount of characterization.
  2. Making sure you as the author don't overstimulate your reader with Action sequences.
  3. What "If its boring, fix it!" actually means.

Put on your "Big Boy" (or Girl) pants, sit down, belt up and hang on- Larry "The Action Guy" has something to tell ya!

You can access the MP3 here or you can listen to it below:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

15 Gail Carriger: The Business of Writing

I have a friend at work who reads a lot of the same books I love. We're constantly trading book recommendations. One day, I stopped by her counter and she had this new book: SOULLESS by Gail Carriger. I read the back and couldn't wait to read the whole thing. It's an amazing comedic blend of Victorian steampunk and fantasy (think werewolves and vampires, out in society, winning wars for the crown and influencing fashion). I was hooked. I wasn't the only one: it was a NYT Bestseller, won an ALA award, and forced debut author Gail to learn a lot about the publishing industry, like NOW.

On this call, she shared her knowledge with us, for when it's our turn. Some (but not all, by a long shot) highlights:

  • It is still possible to be plucked from a publishing house slush pile.
  • Pick an agent who can help you negotiate a favorable contract, and who has time for you on her client list. (Gail's agent is Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency. Kristin also blogs at Pub Rants.)
  • Pick a publishing house with an editor you can trust to be professional, and with whom you can relate (Gail's publisher for the SOULLESS series is Orbit Books).
  • Your publisher's marketing efforts will likely correspond to the size of your advance.
  • There are a lot of things an author can do to market her own books--calling in favors is often involved.
  • Blending genres is cool, but can be confusing to marketing departments, bookstores, and other industry professionals. Be prepared to explain your book, but you might get to help design your cover. :) (Well, at least Gail did.)
  • If you perform well in public, your publisher will give you more opportunities to do so.
  • Publishing money comes in stages: upon signing, upon delivery, upon publication, upon winning of awards, hitting benchmarks, out-earning advance, etc. Don't expect a big fat check all at once.
Gail stayed extra long to answer caller questions and to make sure we knew everything she thought we should. Plus, she pointed us to this post on her blog, where she talks in detail about her post-sale events and marketing efforts. Be sure to check it out!

You can access the MP3 by clicking here, or you can listen to the call below.