Every once in a while, I cast around for writing questions that my readers have so I can know what’s on your minds. With my trip to Japan and Hong Kong coming up, I want to pre-load the blog with some Q&A. So what’s going on? What are you dying to know?
Do we want to talk queries? Craft? Publishing? Getting an agent? Anything. Just ask away in the comments.
Consider this your friendly primer on social networking for beginning writers. We all know that the Internet is a great way to “get out there.” Get known. Put yourself in people’s sightlines in a new way.
Social Networking for Beginning Writers: Important Don’ts
This can be intimidating, but it’s also inspiring. Shy people become less so online. Connections and friendships and business relationships are forged. More people know about you than ever before. But the kind of “shoot for the moon” attitude that social networking sometimes inspires also has a bad side. Sometimes people do things to get noticed that they wouldn’t ordinarily do, all because the Internet makes them feel bolder.
This can get dangerous when you realize that a lot of literary agents, editors, and publishing imprints are also online. The exact people you want to impress. This should be easy, right? Not so fast, buckaroo…
Here are some things that I absolutely hate when people do to publishing professionals on social networking sites*. Just because I accept a friend request on my public agent profile (I have two Facebooks, one for Agent Me, the other for people I actually know from high school, etc.), just because it’s easy to find me and add me, that doesn’t mean you now have an open channel to do whatever. My colleagues at ABLA or other agencies may feel differently, but here are the social networking moves that I consider a faux pas:
Do Not Send Query Letters Via Social Networking
Don’t do it. Just don’t do it. Don’t ever do it. Don’t ask me if I want to read your work via a Facebook or Twitter ping, either. Follow submission guidelines and get your work to an agent or editor the way everyone else does.
Unless you are specifically participating in some sort of logline, pitch, or query event on Facebook or Twitter, do not send your query to someone’s social media account. Chances are, you will not only be ignored, but you’ll look unprofessional, to boot. You’ve spent many months writing the novel. Give it the pitch it deserves.
Refrain From Obnoxious Wall Posting
I welcome posts to my profile thanking me for the add or talking about a conference where you just saw me speak or about a book I’ve represented or whatever, but leave it at that. Don’t post things to my wall about your book.
The thinking is probably this: “Lots of people visit this person’s wall, so I can generate some extra traffic to my blog/ebook/whatever. It also looks like this person is endorsing my thing. That’s great!” I pick the things I endorse, whether for my Resources for Writers page or things I mention via social networking very carefully. I’ll either review something or retweet it. In fact, earlier this year, I retweeted a contest and it turns out the company running the contest was claiming rights ownership for things submitted, so I deleted my Tweet and didn’t recommend the contest anymore. I take whatever I mention seriously. It’s a matter of integrity.
Don’t use an agent or editor’s page as a billboard for your stuff. Not only is it annoying, but I guarantee that any such posts often get deleted, which takes time, which will only make it even more annoying. And forget about trying to pal up to an agent or editor by sending those quizzes or game invitations — we may be “friends” on Facebook but we’re not that kind of friends, and my real life friends know better than to waste their time (and mine) with that nonsense.
Don’t Invite Publishing People to Facebook Events for Your Book
There are a few blunders in the invitation arena, too. Don’t invite me to Events unless I actually know you. No book signings if I’m not a real friend of yours, no virtual launch parties, no poetry slams or what have you.
No group invitations, either. There was this one writing group that I was invited to a few months ago. My name was added to this group without my knowledge or permission. Members of the group started posting their writing samples. I’m guessing a lot of agents and editors were added to this group because the leader thought it would be a great and creative way to get some work noticed. Since I don’t join groups, I had no idea that my mail settings for Facebook sent me an email every time someone posted.
The day some random person added me to this writing group, I got over 200 emails from people posting. All for a group I didn’t want to be in. I was traveling that day, and couldn’t leave the group from the Facebook app while I was flying, so I had all this spam in my inbox. It made a bad impression
The new thing people are doing is adding me as a co-worker. They click that they work as “Writer” or “In publishing” or whatever, and they mark us as working together. Then I have to go to my profile and say to ignore this work information. Please stop doing that. I work alone at home and I know, for a fact, who my co-workers are. They’re two pugs named Gertie and Olive. And a baby named Theo. These people adding me as a peer on Facebook are not them.
It’s Illegal to Add People to Your Mailing List Without Their Knowledge
Another abuse of the Internet is adding my email address to mailing lists and newsletters. I’ve had many authors do this. They will add me to either their newsletter or add my email to another social networking site where they want to connect with me, and I get deluged in emails that I didn’t ask for. Do not sign anyone up for anything without their permission by using their email address. This should be common sense but you’d be surprised at how often it happens. It’s also illegal, and it could get you banned from your mail marketing client if someone were to complain. So if you value your relationship with Mail Chimp, and the agent you’re trying to target, rethink this strategy.
The Right and Wrong Ways to Get Attention
The bottom line is: there’s a right way and a wrong way to get attention. There’s also a right way and a wrong way to get your work noticed. Don’t try and catch my eye through tricks or overstepping your bounds on the Internet. Catch my attention with the strength of your work and through official channels. All of the scenarios I mention above annoy me. And when I’m grumpy, I focus my frustration on the source of the social networking error: you.
You may be trying to expose me to the coolest event, newsletter, query, game of Angry Birds ever, but I am never going to notice it because I’m too busy thinking you’re rude. If you really have something wonderful to show me, just show me like a normal person, don’t resort to Internet gimmicks.
Looking to refine your self-promotion and marketing strategies with ideas that actually work? Hire me as your publishing consultant and we can plan your next steps together.
I had so many responses on my post about giving away a copy of the 2012 CHILDREN’S WRITER’S AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET edited by Chuck Sambuchino (I know only one of you won it…the rest should go out and buy it immediately, read it, love it, then leave glowing Amazon and Goodreads reviews), that I wanted to give away another craft book on the blog that I’ve recently read and really enjoyed. Clearly, you guys are craving some craft books!
This one is WRITING AND SELLING THE YA NOVEL by novelist K.L. Going, out from Writer’s Digest Books, but it’s also great for writers of middle grade. One of my favorite small things in this book is a list of fantastic considerations when writing historical — it’s a checklist of all those small things you don’t necessarily think about immediately when world-building. She also does a great job of putting you in the head of teen readers and including feedback from real teens on the books they like, the characters they bond with, etc. It’s a great resource by a very talented fiction writer.
It’s the usual drill for book giveaways. Leave a comment on this entry to win. No international shipping, so if you live outside the US, enlist a buddy who can receive the book on your behalf. Don’t worry about an email address, just enter it in the comment field that asks for it and know that it will be for my eyes only…it won’t be published on the site. Deadline for entries is October 5th at midnight, Eastern time. I’ll announce a winner on October 6th!
Howdy, readers! Summer has been a bit slow on the blog. Do not fear. After Labor Day, starting next Wednesday, September 7th, the posts will once again be full steam ahead. In the meantime, I’ve been meaning to open the blog up to another critique connection post since early summer, and here it is.
Before I do, let me tell you about the latest Writer’s Digest webinar I’m doing. In July, I offered a picture book craft intensive, focusing very specifically on writing for the youngest readers. It was my first “specialized” webinar and it was an overwhelming success. (Thank you so much to everyone who listened to that one! I’m digging into critiques for it right now!) On September 15th at 1 p.m. Eastern, I am offering a Middle Grade and Young Adult Craft Intensive webinar.
This 90-minute webinar will focus exclusively into the craft of writing fiction for the middle grade and young adult audience. I’ll talk about the marketplace, strategies to really make your novel stand out in the slush, character, plotting, tension, description, setting, voice, submissions, queries, and much more. It’s the first time I’ll be focusing exclusively on MG and YA, so even if you’ve taken one of my webinars before, you will be getting brand new content. You can sign up by clicking here.
The bonus of my webinars, as many of you already know, is that they include a critique from me for every registered student. For this one, I will read and critique the first 500 words of your MG or YA novel (one project per student, please). Instructions for submitting will come when you register for the webinar.
If you’re having scheduling issues with the time or date, don’t worry. By signing up, you will receive a recording of the webinar (emailed about one week after the original webinar date), you will have the same chance to ask questions as the other students, and you will still get your critique. So sign up even if the time or date doesn’t work for you!
This brings us to Critique Connection. I’ve done these posts in the past and leave the comments open so that you can connect with potential critique partners. Here’s what you need to post:
Your genre (ie: fantasy, paranormal, realistic, historical, etc.)
Your audience (ie: picture book, MG, YA, etc.)
A little about your manuscript (practice your one-line “elevator pitch”)
What you want out of the experience (a critique of your XX,000-word mss., someone to read your first 3 chapters, help with your query letter, etc.)
Your email address for potential partners to contact you (I’d type it in the following format: mary at kidlit dot com so that you avoid spam bots.)
Only post a comment for this entry if you are looking for a critique partner. I will leave it up until after Labor Day to get the most exposure for it. And while you’re thinking of getting critique, do sign up for my webinar!
I’m sure some of you could see this coming. Long story short: I’m going to be branching out with not one but two new blogs. One now, one next month. I don’t expect a lot of my Kidlit audience to transfer over, because of the new blogs’ (in one case) slightly related and (in another case) not-at-all-related subject matters, but I’m writing about them here so that you know what I’ve been up to lately and so you can see some new directions in my career. I’m also telling you about my other online dalliances so you’ll come visit me and tell your friends.
The first blog, which I’m launching right this second is an extension of the Kidlit site but for digital children’s books and story apps, called…drumroll please…
An obvious choice, right? You’ll see and immediately recognize the playful matching header by my client Josh Ferrin. Here, I’ll be posting app reviews, tech news, developer thoughts, industry insights, and the things I learn from diving headfirst into the digital book side of publishing, both as an agent as as a former dot-commer from the Silicon Valley. My goal for this blog is to ask a lot of digital book questions from the publishing/client advocate perspective. I’m breaking it out into a separate site because I think some of you guys would quickly tire of all the tech blah blah blah in favor of my usual writing/publishing/agenting tips.
The second blog is one I won’t talk about yet. It will keep the “…lit.com” branding of the other two blogs, but it will be about a totally different area of publishing and, gasp, one that lies outside the children’s book realm. (No, don’t worry, I will never, ever leave children’s books!) This will be about a special niche that is a sweetheart love of mine, and that I am going to start working on in the near future.This change isn’t inspired by anything major, really, or anything bad. My career in kidlit is going really well. I’m super happy. I love my kidlit contacts. So why this change? I’m sick of ignoring my life’s other great passion. More on that soon. Cue the mysterious music…
Out of wild curiosity, I’d love to know what my readers think this area of publishing might be. It’s something I have mentioned on this blog before. And, no, it’s not Green Day publishing. (Though I did go see American Idiot with Billie Joe Armstrong last night… I still hate the “story” of this one, but seeing Billie Joe on a stage again gave me crazy teen flashbacks.) Or Stephen Sondheim publishing. (I wish!) There’s not a large enough market sector of books about Green Day or Sondheim to keep a literary agent productive, unless you’re Green Day’s or Sondheim’s agent, though Sondheim’s Knopf books (FINISHING THE HAT is the first) are gorgeous. Please leave your guesses in the comments! 🙂
How does that change things here at Kidlit? You’ll hardly notice. But it will change my schedule, effective immediately. Before this, I blogged at Kidlit on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. In order to make these new blog ventures work, I’ll have to take one Kidlit day away. My new blogging schedule will be:
Friday: Secret Project of Mystery and Wonder / The occasional article round-up, conference post, or random thing over at Kidlit
Plus, I have about two years of older posts here on Kidlit that are evergreen. I’m going to do a better job of highlighting those for my new guests while still adding content for my loyal, longtime readers. This way, I also won’t run out of things to talk about! More soon. In short, I’m ambitious and maniacally excited, as usual, and can’t wait to see what other mischief I can cause on “teh interwebs.” We’ll see how it goes, and you’ll hear more soon. In the meantime, check out my latest over at KidlitApps.com!
I’m a huge believer in setting goals and declaring intentions, especially during the holidays, when the whiff of impending change is in the air. This has been a fantastic year for me, and I’m happily looking back at all my travel, at all the great new books that I’ve gotten under contract this year, all the fantastic new clients, and all of the wonderful editor contacts I’ve made.
What’s on the plate for 2011? A lot more sales! New clients, new friends, new contacts, new business opportunities. New travel, too. As of today, I’ve been to 27 of 50 states (plus Puerto Rico and Washington DC). In 2011, I’ll be speaking in new states (Indiana, anyone?) and new countries (the SCBWI has invited me Japan and Hong Kong!!!!!!!!). See my events page for what I’ve booked so far.
In 2011, I’ll also have a new marketing intern, I hope. Don’t forget…I’m still actively looking at applications! If you want to apply or know anyone who’s perfect for the job, read all about this opportunity here.
I’ve spent some time these last few weeks thinking and journaling about my goals. I even want to start writing again next year, after about six months off. What about your goals? What do you all want to learn, do, and achieve in 2011? Pour them out! What questions are still nagging you? Ask them! With 2010 wrapping up, what would you like to share? I’m so blessed and grateful to have this great community of readers on the blog. Get to know each other. And if anyone is still looking for a critique partner for the holidays, don’t be shy!
Check back here on Friday for my Holiday Gift Guide…books I recommend for the writers, readers, and kidlit enthusiasts in your life. (It’s totally cool to get these books for yourself, of course!)
I periodically interrupt my scheduled programming to probe my readers for questions that they want answered. It seems like I have a lot of new readers these days — a lot of my comments are from first timers who have never commented before — and so I want to stay on top of what you want to know.
Leave your burning questions about children’s books, the agent search, writing, querying, publishing, etc. in the comments and I will use them to spark future posts.
Also, my Writer’s Digest webinar is tomorrow! Registration is still open and I am offering a quick writing sample critique to everyone who signs up. You can register for it by clicking here. Even if you can’t make the time or date, all registered students have access to a recording and notes from the webinar for one full year. (For all of those readers asking about critique submission instructions, those are emailed to you after you register.)
Hey all! I booked some workshops and events this week and would love to tell you about them.
The first is an exciting new opportunity from Writers Digest! On September 23rd (time TBA), I’ll be doing a live webinar program on Writing and Publishing Children’s Books. It will work much like this webinar (click here for a link to a sample workshop…but do not buy this workshop unless you want to take it…this is not my workshop, the listing for mine is not up yet…this is just an example), and will feature information from me, structured question and answer, and the opportunity to receive critiques on your writing and queries. We’re still working the details out, but this webinar will happen online on September 23rd. Anyone with an Internet connection, anywhere in the world, can participate!
Second, for all the writers in the New York/Manhattan area, I’m doing another course with the Learning Annex! The listing isn’t up on the website yet but it will be Thursday, September 30th, in the evening. I’ll post a link as soon as the information goes up on the website. Everyone who attends the class will receive a 5-page quick consultation for a MG or YA manuscript or a quick consultation of an entire picture book manuscript, depending on what they’re writing. I’ll let you know when signups are available for the class, but you can at least put it on your calendars now for September 30th.
These two things are still in progress and you can’t register yet, but do look forward to them. I’ll keep everyone posted. The webinar is a great opportunity for those people who have always wanted to hear me speak but who don’t live in a place that I’ll be visiting in the near future.
Speaking of visits in the near future, I’ve just added some conferences to my schedule! (My Events page will reflect these changes in a few days.)
In November, I will now be at the SCBWI South Dakota event, Friday the 5th through Sunday the 7th.
In December, I will be at the Big Sur Workshop held by the Andrea Brown Agency, from Friday the 3rd through Sunday the 5th.
In January, I will be at the Writers Digest Conference from Friday the 21st to Sunday the 23rd, and I’ll also be at the SCBWI New York National Conference from Friday the 28th to Sunday the 30th.
Whew! That’s quite an upcoming schedule, but I’m really excited!
If anyone has burning writing or publishing questions, this might also be a good time to ask, as I’m always looking to stock my “post ideas” box.
People were such fans of my Critique Connection post in April that I wanted to give new readers a shot at it and existing readers who didn’t find their love connection more space to find possibilities. I’m thinking of turning this into a semi-regular thing.
Remember, finding the right critique partner is like dating. Don’t try one or two and decide that critique isn’t for you or that you don’t benefit from feedback. I just went to Utah and saw the kind of passionate, supportive writing community they have there. I’m more convinced than ever before that a critique group is the secret of writers whose work is above and beyond the rest.
So keep trying. Try to find good critique partners here, try other online resources, try writing classes at your local university or bookstore, get creative. People still post on my April Critique Connection, so I’m sure there’s still interest.
If you want a critique partner: write down your name, the age range you write for (picture book, chapter book, MG, YA, etc.), your genre and anything else you want to say about your story, the word count, your email address so that prospective partners can contact you (I suggest typing it like this: mary at kidlit dot com, instead of firstname.lastname@example.org, so you don’t make yourself a spam target.) You can also tell people a little about how you like to work. Do you like to exchange chapters? Read full manuscripts? Do you give notes? Do you want to Skype? It’s up to you to work out communication style, critique frequency, and other rules with your new partner.
People who’ve posted on the April Critique Connection thread recently: You may want to repost your listing here to keep it most current.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve made any critique connections from April, and any other thoughts you might have. Then cruise the comments and see if your next critique partner isn’t listing themselves, ready to read your work!