WRITERLY WISDOM: Donna L Martin

 

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***This is PART TWO of a five part series to uncover some myths about becoming a published author. Make sure to come back next week and find out more insider secrets about the writing industry!***

 

5 Common Myths About Getting Published, Part Two
by: Donna L Martin

 

Last week I talked about the first myth in this series where some new writers think you need to have a college degree in children’s literature or writing before you can actually call yourself a writer. If you missed last week’s post you can go here to check it out.

Now I’d like to talk about the next myth some new writers think is necessary to become a published author.

 

MYTH #2…YOU NEED AN AGENT TO GET A FOOT IN THE DOOR

 

I worked hard my first year as a “professional” writer to strengthen my writing skills. I also started setting goals for my writing career and one of those goals was to land an agent. I thought the ONLY way to become an author was to find an agent willing to represent me and then THEY would magically get my stories published.

I was wrong.

There are many larger publishing houses that won’t consider an unagented submission, but there are still ways for writers today to get their work in front of a publisher. Here are some of the opportunities I have come across over the years where writers don’t need an agent to get noticed by a publishing house…

 

1) WRITE ON CON (http://www.writeoncon.com)…

 

A FREE, week long writers conference usually held in August and including things like critique forums, guest speakers, twitter pitches, editor chats and chances to pitch to publishing houses.

 

2) PITCHMAS (http://www.pitchmas.blogspot.com)…

 

Twitter pitch forum under #Pitchmas usually held twice a year in July and December. Agents and publishers requests manuscripts pitched during a one day pitch party and even publishing houses not normally open to unagented submissions will occasionally sign on to read the pitches.

 

3) PITMAD (http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad)…

 

Twitter pitch party held four times a year under #Pitmad and hosted by author Brenda Drake where writers pitch their completed manuscripts to agents and editors. This is where I met my editor, Jessica Schmeidler, from Anaiah Press and where my story went from a twitter pitch to a book contract in SIX DAYS!

 

4) #MSWL (http://www.twitter.com)…

 

Twitter forum where agents and publishers list their manuscript “wish lists”. Just do a search for #MSWL and the wish lists will pop up. Just make sure to research any agents or publishing houses before submitting and ALWAYS follow the publishing house’s guidelines to make sure your manuscript has the best chance at being considered.
For those of you interested in pursuing agency representation, here are a couple of ways to bypass the slush pile as well as some agents looking to add to their client list…

 

1) JULIE HEDLUND’S 12 X 12 FORUM (http://www.juliehedlund.com)…

 

In my humble opinion, probably one of THE best pipelines to get your work into the hands of agents. Registration is closed for this year but any writer serious about their career and interested in finding an agent should definitely check this forum out!

 

2) RATE YOUR STORY (http://www.rateyourstory.blogspot.com)…

 

Not only can you receive FREE professional critique ratings on your picture book stories up to 2000 words, creator Miranda Paul also provides membership levels where writers can receive special newsletters loaded with contests and insider links to agent opportunities.

 

For myself, I am always on the look out for agent to partner with on future projects. However, I encourage every writer out there looking to become published to do their due diligence and research the market. Maybe you aren’t looking for agent representation. While a writer can still become a published author without one, like I did, there are still huge advantages to being represented by an agent so make the decision that is right for YOU and remember no matter what path you choose…agented or free lance…it STILL all starts with a great story!

What other opportunities, publishing houses open to unagented submissions, or agents looking for new clients have I missed? Add to my list by commenting below…

 

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donna

 

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in eBook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers.

WRITERLY WISDOM: Margaret Greanias

 

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Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Six years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week we learn the difference between looking for an agent and going directly to a publisher with our manuscripts…

 

Agent or Publisher?
By Margaret Greanias

 

As I’ve plunged headlong into my agent search, I can’t help but feel in limbo. Here I am, eager to share my HIGH-larious stories with the world – busily revising, tweaking, polishing (maybe too busily; ask my critique partners) and otherwise doing everything in my power to make them shine. But, when I shoot off an agent query, it disappears into the black hole of cyberspace, perhaps never to be heard from again. I’m left to wonder, “Was it read? Was it not read?”

Agents are the gatekeepers to publishing. They deflect thousands of manuscripts a year (cue space shields: Pew! Pew! Pew!). But they don’t have to be. Plenty of picture book authors have gotten published without one.

So why do I continue shooting my manuscripts at the agent cyberspace shield?

 

An agent will get your manuscript considered by the right editors.

 

Successful agents work at maintaining personal relationships with editors. These personal relationships give them access to editor preferences and tastes, what’s selling and what’s not, wish lists and more. However, having that relationship with the editor goes beyond being able to tailor submissions. Just as in our own lives, editors are more likely to consider recommendations from trusted associates. In fact, fewer and fewer publishing houses are open to unagented submissions.

 

Agents have expertise in negotiating book deals, contracts and the industry in general.

 

Agents know standard advances and royalty rates as well as other technical publishing stuff like foreign, digital, film and audio rights (my eyes are glazing, glazing, glazing and…their crossed). In addition, if a manuscript gets stalled somewhere in the process between acquisitions and printing – agents have the know-how and know-who (at least more so than this writer) to potentially help un-stall it.

 

Agents act as the buffer between authors and publishers.

 

Agents handle tension-filled issues like business and money so we can maintain our fluffy cloud relationships with editors.

 

Agents have book smarts (in a useful way).

 

It’s an agent’s job to know books and the book market. Some are editorial and help you revise, tweak and polish your manuscript until it shines. Others are more business-savvy and can help you market yourself and your book. Either way, they are a wealth of information on books and can help advance your authoring career.

So why wouldn’t a writer automatically go the agent route? Here are some considerations:

 

Agents serve as gatekeepers – gatekeepers who have their own tastes and preferences.

 

By going the agent route, you’ll need to find an agent who loves your manuscript (and most likely your body of work). That agent will need to find an editor who loves your manuscript. If you submit direct, that’s one less roadblock to getting your manuscript published.

 

The agent-writer relationship is a long-term commitment.

 

Bad news commitment-phobes, but it’s true. You want an agent who will guide your writing career. Someone who does not work the way you expect can increase your anxiety and frustration. Even worse, a bad agent may be worse than no agent at all because they can damage your morale and potentially your chances of getting published.

 

Some publishers are open to unagented authors.

 

While many of the big publishing houses are closed, there are quite a few reputable houses still open to unagented submissions. In fact, I was very surprised by the number of open houses I found. Check them out!

· Albert Whitman (http://www.albertwhitman.com/content.cfm/editorial-guidelines-for-writers)
· Arthur A. Levine Books (https://www.arthuralevinebooks.com/submissions)
· Boyd Mills Press (https://www.boydsmillspress.com/Submissions)
· Capstone Publishing (https://www.capstonepub.com/library/service/submissions/)
· Charlesbridge (http://www.charlesbridge.com/client/client_pages/submissions.cfm)
· Chronicle Books (https://www.chroniclebooks.com/submissions)
· Dawn Publications (http://www.dawnpub.com/submission-guidelines/)
· Lee & Low (https://www.leeandlow.com/writers-illustrators/writing-guidelines)
· Sky Pony Press (http://www.skyponypress.com/guidelines/)
· Tanglewood Books (http://www.tanglewoodbooks.com/submissions/)
· and many, many more.

However, there is no guarantee your submission or query will be read. Your submission will become part of the infamous Slush Pile. Most houses (like agents) only respond if interested. Also to beware: some publishing houses do not accept simultaneous submissions. This means your manuscript could be off the market until a publisher responds or does not respond to you (not very fair, is it?).

 

You too may submit to closed houses.

 

In special cases, you may submit to normally closed houses. You may do so by attending conferences, submitting during special (rare) submission windows and also being a member of specific writer groups. These submissions do not guarantee a response.

 

You can negotiate your own contract.

 

Say you land your own book deal (you industrious writer, you). Resources are available to help you wade through the legalese. SCBWI offers The ESSENTIAL GUIDE to PUBLISHING for CHILDREN available for sale or free download (https://www.scbwi.org/online-resources/the-book/ ) which includes FAQS on contracts. The Authors Guild (http://www.authorsguild.org/) and the Literary Market Place (http://www.literarymarketplace.com/) can recommend literary lawyers, who will help you negotiate your own contract and save you from paying from agency commission.

 

You keep your earnings.

 

No agent? No agency commission. Enough said.

There you have it: considerations when choosing agent or publisher. If you have any additions, please feel free to chime in below.

I’m still in the agent camp. For me, the benefits outweigh the negatives. What about you?

 
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Margaret Greanias is a picture book writer who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes picture books and is currently brewing up a batch of middle grade ideas.
You can connect with her on Twitter @ https://twitter.com/MargaretGreania.

THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY: How Many Gatekeepers Between You And Publication?

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Before book apps were invented, there were agents. Before e-books and print on demand books and even some of today’s publishing companies were established, there were agents. In fact the first known literary agent opened for business way back in 1875. He was the original gatekeeper between a writer and a publisher. He took his job seriously and demanded the best from each and every writer who sought his representation.

In over 135 years THAT hasn’t changed. Literary agents today still demand the best from the writers who seek them out. Writers like me who know without their support and guidance my path to publication may be a nearly impossible journey to make. So I polish my stories and send them out with a wish and a prayer…into the hands of the agents. People who test the publishing waters before my stories ever get to them. They have a strong intuition of what sells and what won’t. They take calculated risks as they sift through the slush pile and mounds of queries loading down their inboxes each day and reject the stories they know they can’t be passionate about.

And the rejection letters return home to the writers…words of regret that their story wasn’t chosen and a wish for better luck next time. Sometimes just empty silence screaming louder than any words actually could. What’s a writer to do?

Cry?

Give up?

When I decided it was time to start submitting my stories this year, I also decided I would take the bad with the good. That I would accept the rejections from agents as simply part of being fully vested in this writer’s life. And you know what? Today I decided to set a goal of just how many agents I’m willing to let reject my story in the hopes it will find a home of it’s own one day.

My number is 100. I won’t start considering Plan B until I have received 100 rejections for each manuscript I send out. Standing alone, 100 seems like a pretty big number to me. But when you consider there are thousands of literary agents in the world…heck, maybe tens of thousands…then a measly 100 isn’t too much to ask for, is it?

So think about it the next time you open an email or a letter from an agent…only to read “I’m so sorry but your story isn’t the right fit for our company”. That might make THEM feel better for having sent it but really doesn’t make YOUR day. THAT’s when you need to decide…

What’s YOUR number?

I’ve only got 97 more to go on my latest story…

 

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LUNADAR: Homeward Bound

Ruler by day, a reluctant pirate by night, 18-year-old Princess Ariana fights for her subjects in the waterfall city of LUNADAR. In a kingdom surrounded by fairies and mermaids, and ravaged by deadly Drundles, only a chosen few are trusted to guard her daughter, Candra, as the secret heir to the throne. But it only takes one ill-fated meeting for Ariana to suddenly be plunged into an escalating web of secrets found in her father’s journal, a deadly kidnapping, and an ever-weakening resolve to turn her back on the call of the merman’s song. With Ariana’s world falling apart and the future of LUNADAR at stake, how will she bring her father’s murderer to justice and fulfill a deathbed promise to protect Lunadar’s legacy?

$16.99

 

 

 

 

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donna

 

International best selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), is now available in ebook and print form from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers