Posted in Misc Topic

Writing Tips – Query

One of my duties as editor with a small traditional publisher is to review submissions. Like most publishers we receive many, many, sometimes hundreds of submissions. Because we are a smaller press the majority of our submissions are unsolicited. Unsolicited means that the book does not have an agent representing the author and recommending the book. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Publishing is a very subjective business. Someone could have written an amazing novel but they just have not found the right agent to represent them yet. It’s all about the fit.

Unsolicited also means that we receive many submissions from writers who may or may not be ready to publish. Ready to publish means that the writer knows their chosen genre and that there is very little that needs to change within the content of the novel for it to be salable.  A book that is not ready to publish is another story.

So here are some tips to help with the submission process if you want to submit a query to a traditional publisher (If you want to independently publish I’ll have tips for you too, at a later time).

Tip 1 – Do your research on the agent’s/editor’s/publisher’s website to make sure that they are looking for what you have written. It is discouraging to write something that you think is a great novel, a YA novel for example, and submit it only to hear back several weeks (months?) later that the publisher doesn’t publish YA novels.

Tip 2 – Don’t submit multiple queries to different agents/editors/publishers at the same time. If you write a fantastic novel and submit it to me and I want to accept it for publication but I find out that you also submitted it to XYZ Press, I then consider the manuscript to be unavailable and the publishing process goes no further. Multiple submissions can create copyright infringement and other issues. Please don’t do it.

Tip 3 – Submit your query exactly as requested on the agent/editor/publisher’s website. Each entity will have very specific submission requirements. Follow these directions. Sometimes not following directions will just get your query deleted.

Tip 4 – Be professional. You are representing yourself as an author as well as your book. The author/publisher relationship is a business relationship.

Tip 5 – Submit your best work. Don’t submit a draft that you just finished. Review it. Have someone read it that you trust to give you their honest opinions. This person is not your mom, who will tell you how amazing your book was, or your spouse, or your friend who doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. This person will tell you why they loved it or why they didn’t. Revise and re-write. Make sure you have quotation marks around all your dialogue. Make sure your character has the same name throughout your story. Make your manuscript as perfect as it can possibly be. Agents/Editors/Publishers want to say “YES!”

Remember that publishing is a subjective business. A rejection could mean your novel is just not right for the publisher (because they don’t do YA) or it’s just not right for them now (because they have their YA quota for the year and really we need erotic romance). Or, it could mean that you didn’t submit your best work and you need to revise. Regardless, just keep working, keep writing, and when you get a rejection notice, find another editor/agent/publisher and submit your work to them.

Posted in Fiction Writing, Interviews, Misc Topic

Interview With National Bestselling Author Jeanne Stein

Sometimes I have opportunity to meet and chat with great authors and I love it when they turn out to be really great people. Jeanne is one of those. She is the author of the urban fantasy series The Anna Strong Chronicles.

Tell me a little bit about your background. How did you get involved in writing? 

I’ve been writing for a very long time–since the 70’s actually. It began when I joined a readers group at a local bookstore in San Diego. The owner brought in authors like Robert B. Parker, Sue Grafton, Elizabeth George, James Ellroy, Charlaine Harris. Authors whose careers were just taking off. Listening to them, I realized writing was what I really wanted to do as well. The next step was joining Sisters in Crime at Bouchercon in 1986. The first ever organization founded by women and dedicated to promoting women writers. I’ve been a member ever since and writing ever since. My very first critique group was a SinC group in San Diego. Next to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, I feel I owe my career to Sisters in Crime.

Some people think that writing a novel is simply taking your characters from point A to point B, but there is much craft and skill involved in doing this successfully. How did you go about learning your craft?

Practice, practice, practice. And reading. And attending conferences. And belonging to a critique group that is comprised of 51VA9DcabKL._AA220_
serious, professional writers. Let’s face it, writing is a difficult profession to break into and once in, it’s an even more difficult profession to succeed in. Learning to persevere, accept rejection and being open-minded enough to take criticism may be the hardest lessons a writer has to learn.

What do you feel is the most important craft element for aspiring writers to master?

There is no one craft element that is more important than another. A good writer must master dialogue, description, plot development, world building, and the elements of scene and sequel.

 Tell me about your writing process. 

I do try to write daily. And I do plot. I didn’t always, but I found I wasted too much time wandering down blind alleys and painting myself into corners. Also, now that I’m collaborating on a new series, it would be impossible NOT to have a road map. In fact, we do more than plot–we outline scene by scene. That way we can each take a certain number of scenes, write them, then blend them into one narrative. Luckily, our voice are so much alike, even my critique group finds it difficult to determine who has written what!

What is the easiest thing and the most difficult thing about writing?

The easiest thing is the writing. It’s also the most difficult! Once published, though, marketing is by far the hardest thing. Something I’m not good at even though I’ve been at it for years.

How much writing (how many novels etc) did you complete before you were published? How many have you published and do you have a favorite?

I think I finished three or four novels before I was published. They were written on old word processors though and I’m not sure I even have copies any more! Now, I’ve just published the ninth in the Anna Strong Vampire Series, Blood Bond, and the first of the new Fallen Siren series, Cursed, comes out in a couple of weeks. That series is being written with author Samantha Sommersby under the pen name: S.J.Harper. I have stories in a dozen anthologies. A favorite? The book I’m working on, which is the second book in the Fallen Siren Series. The book I’m working on is always my favorite!

 515iw4VZBJL._AA220_What was the most surprising thing you learned about the publishing industry that you didn’t know before you were published?

You know, I’d been around authors long enough to know most of the things that usually surprise new writers. I knew I wouldn’t get rich from writing, that I would have to do most of the marketing myself, that publishers pretty much launch you into the world and stand back to see what happens. Lightning does strike a lucky few, but for most, its a very difficult business.

 You have long been involved in a critique group. Tell me about it. How has this influenced your writing, your characters etc. I am assuming that this has been important for you.

I think critique is very important. When I joined RMFW, the first thing I did was get involved in a critique group. Jameson Cole was the moderator of that group and I learned so much from him! He had a very formal, no nonsense approach that involved studying the techniques of successful writers. Only Mario Acevedo and I remain from that original group, but the members we have now are all serious, professional writers who have the same goal–to write the best books we can.

 How much marketing do you do for your books? What kind, and which have given you the best results?

I’m not a marketing guru. It’s safe to say, I hate marketing. I’m sure I should have done much more than I did for Anna Strong. My co-author in the new series, however, is a marketing expert. She pretty much plans the campaign and tells me what to do. Ask me again in a few months and I’ll tell you how successful her efforts have been. That said, I do enjoy Facebook. It’s a great way to stay in touch with readers without constantly pimping your books.

What is the most important piece of advice you could offer to aspiring authors?

Develop a thick skin. Don’t take rejection personally and after you’re published, don’t take reviews personally. Write the best book you can. If you do that, you’ll find your audience.

Stein_2190-3fBio: Jeanne Stein is the national bestselling author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Anna Strong Vampire Chronicles. Her award winning series has been picked up in three foreign countries and her short stories published in collections here in the US and the UK. Her next Anna book, Blood Bond, was released August 27. Jeanne’s newest endeavor is in collaboration with author Samantha Sommersby: The Fallen Siren Series. Published under the pseudonym S. J. Harper, the first book in that series, Cursed, will be released Oct. 1.

Her books are available in all brick and mortar stores as well as on line in ebook, mass market paperback and Audible book form. You can find signed copies in the Broadway Book Mall in Denver as well as The Tattered Cover. Her appearance schedule is listed both at  and