Happy Holidays and a Joyful New Year

macdonald-family-8

It’s funny that this picture was taken in October and, already, it’s out of date. Theo is now 9 months old and about to walk. He’s babbling and getting into trouble and so big. There’s so much to be grateful for this holiday season. Theo is happy and healthy, pulling books off the shelf for me to read. My husband, Todd, has just opened a new restaurant, Red Rabbit, in downtown Minneapolis with a focus on fun, approachable, satisfying Italian food. Though I took some time off this year to get into the swing of motherhood, I continue to work with wonderful freelance editorial clients through my consultancy, Mary Kole Editorial.

Coming up in the new year, I have WriteOnCon (February 2-4, 2017). I’m involved doing critiques, and this is a great online writing conference. There are a few other things in the works for 2017 that I’m very excited about, but can’t really discuss at the moment.

Please share your 2017 writing resolutions in the comments to inspire your fellow blog readers, and me! I can’t wait for another wonderful year. Though a lot of people would rather see 2016 over and done, I have to say, it’s been a great one here at Kidlit! As always, I am so, so grateful for you, my wonderful readers. I can’t believe it’s been eight years of learning and discussing issues related to writing and publishing together. Here’s to many more!

Switching Gears

A wise man once said that the only constant is change. I didn’t know WHICH wise man said that, actually, so I Googled it. Turns out it’s a guy named Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher. Man, those guys got all the wisdom. Well, I could use some of that wisdom now as I spring yet another big Mary Kole move on my unsuspecting blog readers. (It’s not true that all of you are unsuspecting, I’ve been getting emails from some of you because I recently got listed as “Whereabouts Unknown” on QueryTracker.com. That’s a bit funny to hear about yourself from your couch in Brooklyn, where you definitely know you’re sitting at the moment. But I digress…)

From my silence here and in Publisher’s Marketplace, you probably have guessed that something is up. It is. After a great year with Movable Type, I have decided to get out of the literary agenting game. It has been a great six years since I first set out into the sparkly and dizzying world of the literary agent, from my first internship as a reader to my position as a Senior Literary Manager with a list of over twenty clients. In the last year or so, I have been finding increasing satisfaction in being a freelance editor. Working with writers one-on-one was and always has been my first love. All of my various roles in publishing, from conference presenter to negotiator, have fallen flat compared to that creative and satisfying calling of digging into a manuscript. Don’t get me wrong. Seeing a book on a store shelf that you have shepherded from its first draft is an indescribable feeling. But that work of honing the manuscript, that relationship I developed with its creator, those have almost always been more precious to me behind the scenes.

I want more time to do that. To roll up my sleeves and get into the nitty gritty with individual writers. I also want a sense of security and calm that a commission-based agenting job just can’t provide. I want to open a manuscript and focus on how to make it better instead of focusing on “Will this sell? And for how much? And what about my rent?” That probably takes some of the mystique out of literary agents for you, and for that I apologize, but it’s not the easiest way to make a living. And that’s especially unfortunate, since you are leading a portfolio of talented artists who count on you for their living, also. Freelance editing has allowed me to free myself up to once again function purely for the love of working with their manuscripts. What a wonderful feeling!

There are also some other big changes afoot. If any of you have been following the murky (I was aiming more for “mysterious” but so it goes!) details of my personal life, I’ve been rather taken with a certain man for a while. He’s a handsome and talented chef, and he’s pretty taken with me, too. It has always been his dream to move to his hometown and open a restaurant. Since I’m in the process of fixing up my own life to make my literary dreams come true, it’s only fair that we make his dream come true, too. In a few short weeks, in the dog days of August, my fiancĂ© and I are relocating to Minneapolis. I’ve been studying wine on the sly for a year and a half and recently passed my Certified Sommelier exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers. When I’m not editing, we’ll be working together on bringing his vision to life. I couldn’t be prouder or more honored to be a part of that.

As for you, my faithful followers, I just want to express my undying gratitude. This doesn’t mean I’ll be shilling my editorial services every five minutes. Or talking about my book more than I have been. I’m looking forward to the pleasure of getting back into strict craft discussion here once a week going forward. After this move, I’ll have all of the pieces of my new life finally in place. Then the real work of serving the worldwide kidlit community–and the hungry local community–begins. Whew! I’ve never chosen the easy road but it’s the only thing I know. Thanks for sticking with me.

In the meantime, though, moving is expensive so…didya know that I now offer freelance editing services? 🙂

Blog Help and Critique Connection

Is there anyone out there who knows how to make an RSS feed…RSS? I have been told by many people that my RSS feed does not do what it should. Now, I will admit ignorance and say that I have no idea how to make it work. Is there anyone out there that can explain it to me like I’m five or go under the hood of my WordPress self-hosted blog for a quick minute?

In other news, there are still people popping up on Critique Connection, so if you are searching for a partner still, check out the most recent entries in the comments here. Several writers have already emailed me to thank me for successful matches. Yay!

Critique Connection

As promised, this is Critique Connection. If you are looking for a critique partner, briefly describe your manuscript in progress in the comments and leave a way to contact you. With enough people, the comments section will likely turn into a bit of an online dating site for people writing children’s books who want another set of eyes. Many critique groups and partners have come about as a result of this system and so I’m happy to keep doing it.

It’s up to you to decide what you need from a potential critique partner. Do you want them to look at your query? Your first 10 pages? Your entire manuscript? Be as clear as you can (and as realistic as you can about what you’re willing to do for others) for best results.

To boost your chances for a successful match, include the following information in your comment:

  1. Your audience and genre (ie: YA thriller). Most people are going to be writing PB, MG or YA because this blog is specific to children’s books. I don’t know how many have tried to connect with other types of projects, but I’d imagine children’s books do best here.
  2. A short description of your story. There’s no length limit but please be kind. 🙂
  3. A way to contact you. If you’re worried about spammers attacking a link to your email, format it like this: mary (at) kidlit (dot) com and trust potential critique partners to translate it to mary@kidlit.com.

Finally, be PROACTIVE! If a book looks good or even if it looks similar to what you’re doing (a situation that usually gives writers the fits until they realize that idea is just part of the puzzle and execution of that idea is where the differences are), reach out to that writer. Introduce yourself. See if there’s a connection. Writing is a solitary pursuit but there’s actually a tight-knit, awesome community out there. You never know who you can meet!

 

 

Happy Holidays!

I’m adding a thing to the already long list of stuff I do, and I’ll tell you all about it on Wednesday, January 2nd. In the meantime, here’s a sweet review of WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT from superstar MG author Danette Haworth, whose book VIOLET RAINES ALMOST GOT STRUCK BY LIGHTNING is excerpted (though she swears her praise isn’t biased!).

In other news, I don’t know if you’ve unfriended me on Facebook yet, but you should. Why? Because my feed is about to turn into one big infomercial about Gertrude, our 10-week-old pug puppy. Loyal blog readers know of my love for animals, and probably remember my two furry loves Smokey and Sushi, who passed in 2009 and 2011. It is so wonderful to have a pet again. I’ve never had a dog before, either, so this pup is a dream come true. I feel so blessed and grateful. (And I should really buy stock in pet deodorizer spray…)

Now for the vital stats: She’s a rare silver gray color and–maybe I’m biased but–I don’t personally think that she could get any freaking cuter. Her favorite activity is chewing on everything. Her favorite food is treats. Her favorite way to sleep is upside down. Her favorite place to go to the bathroom is everywhere but her puppy pad. (Hence, her nickname is “Dirty Gertie.”) Her murder weapon is lots and lots of kisses until her victims succumb. It’s disgusting how smitten we are with her. Here’s a glamor shot:

silver gray silver black pug puppy

Happy Holidays to you and yours, and an energizing New Year that sees you many steps closer to your dreams!

Praise for WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT

My book has arrived at the Writer’s Digest warehouses and I got to see and buy a copy of it at the Writer’s Digest West conference this past weekend in Los Angeles. Hooray! Now it is only a matter of time before it gets out to bookstores and online retailers. Crazy, right? If you have pre-ordered it (thank you!), I have no idea when it will ship, but I’m guessing sometime in the next two weeks rather than on December 4th (as is stated on Amazon). If, in the meantime, anybody sees the book in the wild at a bookstore or receives their copy, take a picture and send it my way–I would be thrilled to see it!

I started the proposal in July of last year, sold the book on September 9th, 2011 and now it’s more than a year later and it’s a real thing rather than a Word doc on my computer. A lot of books have come into the world as a result of my efforts on behalf of clients, but none have yet been my own. It’s a trip.

For those who don’t know, I took a WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL by Don Maass approach to the guide and excerpted thirty-four middle grade and young adult novels to make various points about character, voice, setting, etc. I find that it’s a lot easier to teach with examples rather than simply sprout off on a topic. I recently contacted most of the authors whose books I talked about and offered them a review copy of my guide.

The legendary author Karen Cushman, whose book ALCHEMY AND MEGGY SWANN is excerpted, was kind enough to read and write a quick review of my guide:

On quiet afternoons, I love to sit curled up in a chair and read books about writing (really!). I’m a writing book nerd. Mary Kole, literary manager at Movable Type Management who blogs at kidlit.com, just sent me a copy of her new book, Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers. And ultimate is right. I can’t think of a topic Mary doesn’t cover. The book is lively and helpful—my only quibble is the term kidlit in the title. It’s my pet peeve, but a pretty minor quibble for what is a terrific book. If you want to write for children or are a writing book nerd like me, take a look at Writing Irresistible Kidlit. I recommend it.

The original review is here. I am flattered and grateful for her kind words! I’ll cross-post more reviews as I receive them. You can see what I have to say about Karen Cushman’s work and the writing craft in general by pre-ordering my book today!

Speaking of more, well, uh, speaking on the writing craft, I’m teaching my Middle Grade and Young Adult Craft Intensive webinar with Writer’s Digest on Thursday, October 25th at 1 p.m. Eastern. As with all of my webinars, you don’t actually have to be available and logged in at that exact time and date to participate, but you should still register. All registered students, regardless of whether they attend the live event or not, get a recording of the session after the fact (audio and video of the PowerPoint), the opportunity to get all of their questions answered in a class-wide PDF, and a critique of the first 500 words of your MG or YA manuscript.

It’s important to note that this might be my last time teaching on this topic for a while, so get in there while you can. Find out more and register here.

December Critique Connection

Every once in a while, I open up the blog comments to a Critique Connection, a post where you can hopefully meet some new critique partners. To participate, leave a comment on this entry with the following information:

  1. Your genre (ie: fantasy, paranormal, realistic, historical, etc.)
  2. Your audience (ie: picture book, MG, YA, etc.)
  3. A little about your manuscript (practice your one-line “elevator pitch”)
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.

In other news, I am going to take a Blogcation the last two weeks of December and the first week of January, (Dec 19 to Jan 6) so there will be no new stuff on here during those three weeks on any of my blahblahblogs. However, I’ll ramp up my “From the archives” Tweets, so if you’re not following me on Twitter and Facebook, click those links and do so. I often pull out old articles that are still just as pertinent to writing and publishing as they were when I wrote them and broadcast the links to those who may not have been readers yet. I’ve got a blog full of material from early 2009 on, so there are a lot of posts to peruse!

Writing Questions?

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.

Social Networking for Beginning Writers

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, blogging for aspiring writers, social networking for writers
Get your head on straight before you let loose on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

 

Writing Book Giveaway: WRITING AND SELLING THE YA NOVEL by K.L. Going

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!