Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Andrea Hannah Manhandles THE CALL + Tips and Tricks for Not Peeing Yourself

Hi, lovelies!

My fellow Secret Lifers have already covered the basics of the nausea-inducing, piss puddle-producing AGENT PHONE CALL. So I'm just going to give you a little snippet of my experience with THE CALL (or calls, in my very fortunate case) and then give you some ideas for handling your own future calls.

Okay? Okay.

My first call was exceptionally fantastic, even though I was  nervous. But the thing about the call is (at least for me) you're waaaay more nervous wading through the anticipation of it than when it actually happens. And especially if you get that solid gut-pinging reaction to an agent.

Here are some dinosaurs. Just cuz.
(Courtesy of
So once I started talking with Agent #1, and we discussed what she loved about my book, ideas she had for pitching it, and some common small talk, I was certain I was going to sign with her. We meshed so well, we laughed together, she seemed to get my book. All good signs. But still, I didn't commit right then, as it's courteous and professional to contact all of the agents that have your manuscript and inform them that you have an offer of representation. And it's also a good idea to give them a timeline for when you'd like to make a decision (that timeline is completely up to you).

I did that. Then I got two more phone calls.

Agent #2 called. And honestly? I was the most nervous about this call. This was a BIG agent, one who represents some of the hugest books in YA. And I'm not lying when I say huge. But something twisted in my stomach the entire time I talked to her, and I did not get a good feeling at all. I just didn't. Compile that with the fact that I felt like I was being drilled the entire time, plus she didn't seem to understand what I was exactly going for with the (apparently controversial) ending to my story, I couldn't wait to get off that call. Even though it was tempting to just sign with her because of her sheer power, I knew I couldn't. I knew I wouldn't.

Finally, Agent #3, the one I was really holding out for. I'd had a good feeling about Victoria even after just researching her tastes, what she had sold recently, and following her on Twitter. So funny enough, I wasn't nervous at all for her call. (Also, just a reminder: I was still high on morphine after having my son, so... I'm certain that helped.) And as soon as Victoria told me all of the things she loved about the book, and told me exactly what I had been going for (correctly, even) I just knew. She was funny and smart and a "friendly enthusiast," and I am too. It was honestly one of the most enjoyable phone conversations of my life, not even lying.

Anyway, blah blah blah. We all know how this story ends, so now it's time to get down to the nitty gritty details. I sent out a poll on Twitter to see what you guys were interesting in knowing about the call, so I'm gonna hook you up. Right now. Right this second.


If you've already queried them, is it weird to ask about their latest sales? Should you already know? 

It's a good idea of what they've sold before they call. However, I also think it's okay to ask them about those sales. That conversation is definitely not off the table. Remember, you're trying to get the best picture you can of this agent, and this includes past sales. 

Which questions should you ask during the call? 

I had a list of things I wanted to ask. I think I asked like three of them, because it's a two-way conversation and once it gets flowing things have a natural timbre to them, just like any other conversation. There will be things you forget to ask. This is okay. It's okay to send a follow-up email saying that you forgot to ask some things and ask them then. 

Here are a few good questions to ask: 
  • How much work do you think my book still has before we submit? 
  • Are you an editorial agent? How hands-on are you with revisions? 
  • Do you have a tentative plan in mind for submitting my book? Timeline? Publishing houses? 
  • How regularly do you communicate with your clients? 
  • Can you send me a copy of your agency's contract? 
That last one is super important so that you can see for yourself royalty rates, percentages, etc. And you can do some Internet research or ask your writer friends what's average in this arena before you sign. 

Did you talk about submission stuff or just revisions at first? 

Both. They told me their plan for submitting, which houses, when, etc. Then Victoria in particular gave me an idea of what she'd like to see happen for revisions. I asked her what her timeline was to have my revisions in. She told me to take my time, just to make sure it's the best book I can make it. Because she's awesome like that. 

How does the conversation start? What happens after the agent says, "I like your book"? How professional should you act. 

After "I like your book" comes a whole bunch of reasons why, and you will feel all blushy and full of unicorns and glitter. Then you'll have to see how it goes. I was friendly and made some jokes, but also professional. However, being professional doesn't mean being a robot. It honestly really does flow like a regular ol' conversation. Don't think too hard about it. (I know, easier said than done.) 

Is it more about the book or the relationship? How can you determine if an agent is the "right fit"?

I put these two questions together because my response to both is similar. It's about both. You have to be able to work with this person. You have to be able to talk to them. So you're looking for that, and they're looking for that from you as well. It's also about the book. Like I said, Agent #1 and I got along fantastically. However, her vision for my book and revisions was just a tad off from what I was shooting for. Do I think we could have talked through it and it would have been okay? Probably. But Victoria nailed it. So it was a win-win. 

What should I say if my manuscript is with other agents? 

If your manuscript is with other agents, you tell them. It'll come up somehow. Victoria and Agent #1 both outright asked how many other agents had it, and I told them. Agent #2 didn't, but I just said, "This manuscript is still out with ___ agents, and I'm waiting on their responses before I make a final decision. I'll get back to you in ____ (whatever amount of time you decide). Agents will understand this and not be mad at you, promise. BUT,  it's really, really hard at the time to say that, not going to lie. 

Okay, I think I got them all. If you have some others that you want to ask, feel free to plop them in the comments section and me or one of the other Secret Lifers will try to come up with an answer for you! 

Anyway, I hope your calls are as lovely and exciting as mine were. I also suggest you wear an adult diaper and take a lot of pain killers before. Should totally work out that way. 


Andrea Hannah is a YA writer represented by Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider. She writes stories about criminals, crazy people, and creatures that may or may not exist. When she's not writing, Andrea teaches special education, runs, spends time with her family, and tries to figure out a way to prevent her pug from opening the refrigerator (still unsuccessful). Oh, and she tweets a bajillion times a day, mostly about inappropriate things.

You can find her on Twitter @:
Drop her an email @:
And visit her website @:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Be cool, be yourself, and say, "That's wonderful!" as much as possible OR Leah Rae Miller's "The Call" post

So this is going to be a quick post because Stefanie, Kelsey, and Heather have pretty much summed it up. Getting "The Call" is vomit-inducing, sweat-causing, and all-round-mind-erasing. You work hard, you put yourself on the chopping block, and hope against all odds that this will happen. And when it does, no amount of planning will prepare you (at least, that's been my observation).

When I received the email that said Heather Howland wanted to schedule a phone call to talk about The Summer I Became a Nerd, I was, of course, flabbergasted. All I could think was that there must be something wrong. She couldn't possibly want my book! There's no way she's going to want it. And even when I responded to that email with, "I'm completely free tomorrow. So, let's say any time after 10 central time, whenever you get ready," it still felt unreal. (Hint: "any time after" whatever time sucks, just so you know. I hovered over my phone for a couple of hours just getting more and more tense by the second. A specific set time would have saved me so much stress.)

Like the others said, I had my little list of questions, although I was talking to an editor, not an agent, so some of them were different. I had a list of the other stories I was working on pulled up on my computer. Then the phone rang and I scrambled to get my note pad (at the top of the list of questions, my husband had wrote "Be cool. Be yourself." which was super sweet). 

And to my surprise, Heather did not sound like a female Disney cartoon villain. I expected her to sound extremely proper and maybe even British, for some reason. Instead, she sounded... Normal. 

She jumped into telling me how much she loved my book, which is one of the best things to hear... Ever. Evereverever. And after a nice long conversation where I said, "That's wonderful," a million times (that isn't even a phrase I use often, but boy, that day it was), she officially offered to sign this book.

And here's the thing: I'd done my research on Entangled. I knew what they were all about. And I knew that this is where I wanted to be. It felt like they were on the precipice of something huge and I wanted to stand on that cliff, too, then take the plunge with them. Yeah, I'm taking a different route, but I'm totally confident in it. It's like what the other ladies have said. It's a matter of going with the person with whom you're comfortable. The person who loves your work and wants to share it with the world as much as you do. Go with your gut, realize that agents (and editors) are people, too, and don't be afraid to ask questions.

Born and raised in northern Louisiana, Leah Rae Miller still lives there on a windy hill with her husband and kids. She loves comic books, lava lamps, fuzzy socks, and Cherry Coke. She spends most of her days reading things she likes and writing things she hopes other people will like. Her YA novel, THE SUMMER I BECAME A NERD, releases Summer 2013 from Entangled Teen. You can add it on Goodreads here!

You can also find her on Twitter @:
Drop her an email @:
Friday, December 14, 2012

On the Verge of Puking Before and During THE CALL: That One Time Heather Marie Stared at Her Phone for Two Hours

Isn't that the classiest title ever? I kind of like it. It says it all.

I'm one of those people who get extremely nauseated when overly excited. So imagine how excited I was when I received an email from Michelle Witte on a Sunday. That's right, I said Sunday. One thing I'd gotten accustom to while querying is how everything in the writing world seems to stop from Friday-Sunday. You know how it is. Emails are flooding in, rejection after rejection, Monday through Thursday. But once the weekend arrives it's like everything goes radio silent. You pretty much tell yourself that there's no way you're gonna hear from anyone until that following Monday.

Well, I'm pretty sure I woke my husband up with my squeals when I checked my email that Sunday morning. I couldn't believe it. Of course, I was super nervous at first. I almost didn't want to open it because I didn't want a rejection from THE AGENT I wanted the most to ruin my Sunday. But the way Gmail is set up on the iPhone, you get a sneak peek of the first sentence in the email and I knew immediately I had to open it. The first thing it said was: Do you have time this week to chat? My palms got all sweaty and my stomach did a somersault. I was thinking: No way. No way did this just happen.

Within 24 hours, I pretty much talked to everyone I knew who was a writer. I didn't know what to do or what to ask. Everyone was excited for me, of course, but then they started telling me not to get too excited because sometimes it could be about revisions and possibly no offer at all. I started thinking they could be right and attempted to talk myself down, but it only made me hundred times more nervous.

I hardly slept that night and my phone never left my side. I just stared at it and stared at it like my life depended on it. I'm not even gonna tell you how many times I almost puked because I was so anxious. (Sidenote: It was a lot.) But when the phone started ringing, all the questions I had written down were out the window. Michelle was incredibly kind and so easy to talk to. We chatted about her thoughts on DROWNING BAILEY, and after a while I tried to ask a few questions without it sounding forced, and even though I failed at being nonchalant she was sure to answer all of them.

I think the best thing to do in this situation is to go with your gut. Listen to yourself and ask what YOU want to ask and not what everyone says you should ask. Try not to think so much about it because someone will say one thing and someone else with say another, it leaves you second guessing yourself. I was so completely unsure of myself, afraid of what it would all mean. But in the end you just have to go with it. The best thing to remember is: An agent wouldn't ask to schedule a phone call if they weren't interested. There's a very small percentage that call to talk about R&Rs or even to reject you (though that's rare), but overall they care about your manuscript. And when is that ever a bad thing?
Heather Marie is a YA writer represented by Michelle Witte from Mansion Street Literary. She enjoys writing horror/supernatural stories that make you question that feeling of someone watching over your shoulder. Heather spends most of her days reading and writing and plotting her next idea. When she's not in her writing cave, she enjoys watching creepy TV shows with her husband and picking apart plot holes in movies.
You can find her on Twitter @:
And visit her website @:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sweating and Stammering and Handling THE CALL: How Kelsey Sutton Broke the Rules

I still remember the moment I read that e-mail from Beth, the way my heart pounded when I scanned those words. It's the sentence every writer hopes to get from an agent.

I'd like to schedule a call

funny gifs

Now, everyone probably has different reactions to this call, but I'm going to be honest with you guys: I was sweating the entire time. And it wasn't hot in that room. At all. And I'm not a sweater; when I get nervous, I usually have to go find a toilet or a baggie or a bush to puke in, like I did the day of the Romeo & Juliet play in high school. (I shudder even thinking about it. Romeo was a slobbery kisser.)

But when it comes down to it, there's really nothing to be nervous about. Keep this in mind when or if you get the call. The agent is contacting you because she loves your work, and she believes in your abilities. She wants to take you on as a client. And I think that some of us forget that agents are people, too - they're just as excited as we are, and maybe they're a little nervous, too.

Anyway. I technically got the call on the night of January 4th. Beth and I had been e-mailing, and I informed her that she could reach me after 5 p.m. But I failed to tell Beth that I'm one hour behind her. So she called at 4 p.m., New York time, and I wasn't even home. When I did get home, though, and played her message, I remember despair curling in my stomach, and disbelief filling every core of my being; I missed the call.

Image and video hosting by

I e-mailed Beth right away and told her that she could reach me at noon the next day. (I set aside the time during work, because there was no way I was going to miss the call again.) She called at exactly 11:58. I know this because I was sitting in the conference room, staring down at the little screen on my phone. My heart was pounding and I was sweating and butterflies were all aflutter in my stomach and I thought I was going to be sick. But I answered, cool as a cucumber, "Hello?"

I'd prepared a list of questions (three pages long!). I've read before that you should keep this from the agent, or at least sound like you're not reading from the page, but I just told Beth that I had put together a list and wanted to go over it with her. Which we did, and Beth had great answers for everything. We were on the phone for about an hour, I think. We talked about my book some, about the way she does things, and our goals. She had some questions for me, too, of course, and I remember at some point during the conversation I blurted, "Okay, you ask!" Like some kind of cave woman. Sigh. Oh, well.

Okay, so I broke even more rules here. I've read that you're supposed to inform the agent that before you accept their offer of representation, you want to think about it for a few days. Basically, though, I told Beth that I would like to contact one of her clients and ask them a few questions, and after they got back to me with all their praise and adoration, I would accept her offer. I signed that same day, because the client quickly got back to me with exactly that. Honestly, Beth was the only agent I wanted to sign with - there weren't any others in the picture, no one to inform that I'd gotten an offer. It seemed to me that there was no point in delaying the dream.

And that's it. That was how it all came about. Funny thing - I was so nervous I have trouble remembering the specifics.

funny gifs

Kelsey Sutton has done everything from training dogs, making cheeseburgers, selling yellow page ads, and cleaning hotel rooms. Now she divides her time between her full-time college classes and her writing, though she can also sometimes be found pounding out horrible renditions of Beethoven on the piano and trying bizarre drinks at her local coffee shop. Kelsey lives in northern Minnesota with her dog and cat, Lewis and Clark. She is represented by Beth Miller of Writer's House, and her debut YA novel SOME QUIET PLACE is forthcoming from Flux in 2013. You can add it on Goodreads here!

You can also find her on Twitter @:
Drop her an email @:
And visit her on her blog at
Monday, December 10, 2012

Sounding Like a Complete Dork During THE CALL: A How-to guide by Stefanie Gaither

Happy Monday lovelies! First off, thanks to all our new followers and such. You guys rock! If you're new to the blog, then no worries-- you rock too! But if you newcomers want the first part of my story (which continues in today's post),you might want to check here first, and if you're confused about what we're all about, then this post should clear things up.

So. On to the topic of this new series of posts:

That glorious call.

For unagented writers: if you're like I was, then dreams and wild fantasies about the semi-mythical THE CALL are probably one of the few things that have kept you going on the more grueling writing and querying days. You've probably scoured the internet searching for those lists of questions you're supposed to ask (such as this one right here) and heck, maybe you've already written a script for that call, even though you've only written like the first five chapters of your manuscript (I totally didn't do that so I don't know why you're looking at me like that) ((okay maybe I sort of did that, STOP JUDGING ME)).

And being prepared is a fantastic idea--because you never know when it might happen. In my case, for example, it was quick. A couple weeks after sending my first query, I got my first call. There was no warning, no email preceding it; just a ringing phone with a strange area code in the caller id and me standing there at work with a dumbfounded look on my face thinking "hm, well that's odd." This look being the calm before the storm, of course-- because it was before I checked my voicemail. Before I realized that it had been an agent calling me and not some guy in India telling me that I'd won a sweepstakes I'd never entered, and all I had to do was verify my credit card and social security number for them...

Wait...what is this number?

So yeah, by all means, read those posts with those lists. There are a ton of them, and more still about proper publishing business etiquette, and questions they might ask you and how you should answer said questions. They are fantastic resources, and you really have no excuse to be underprepared for this moment.

But, this is not one of those posts. This is a post about the actual call itself. Not what comes before, not what comes after--but what it is actually like (at least in my case) talking to an agent for the first time. Here's the thing: I read all those posts. I could recite those posts. I was prepared. We scheduled a time to talk via email, and I was ready for this call.

And then the phone started ringing.

And then I promptly forgot how to use words for most of the thirty minutes or so that I was on the phone. I got better with each agent I ended up talking to (or at least I'd like to think I did, haha) but Sara was first, and our conversation amounted to something like this:

Sara: I love your book! I'd like to offer representation. Here is some info about our contract terms, here are some editors I might submit to, here are some of my submission plans, here are some edits we might need to do first, etc...

Me, whilst furiously trying to write down every thing she said:

How I can string 90,000 words together into a coherent story on paper, but hardly manage a single coherent sentence when an agent asks a question so simple as What do you want from your writing career? is beyond me. I mean, I'd only been thinking about this since I was like what, nine?

Maybe that was just it, though--all of these posts full of questions and suggestions often don't mention just how overwhelming (in a good way, but still) it can be to finally reach this point in your dream career. In my case, I think I'd developed tunnel vision after having been in the query trenches for so long with other books, that when it happened I was just like wut? Like this couldn't be right or something--couldn't be happening. But it was, obviously. And it was awesome, and even though I sounded like a complete dork on the phone, Sara still didn't retract her offer of representation (phew). So it all worked out in the end.

Sara, and all the agents I spoke with (who are not terrifying gatekeepers, but people just like you and me, don't forget), were very generous with their time; they all invited me to follow up via phone or email with any more questions I came up with after we hung up. In other words, like most things involved with writing, you don't have to get it right on the very first try, so don't stress too much! (says the girl who didn't eat or sleep for most of the week that these calls were happening).

And of course I did have more questions, since I mostly just said "um" and "uh-huh" during my calls; I sent a couple of follow up emails, and one of the things that impressed me most about Sara (and one of the reasons I went with her) was how quickly and thoroughly and enthusiastically she responded to my questions. Quick, thorough emails--that's how I like to communicate, so I knew it was a good sign that we'd work well together.

And in the end, to me that was the most important thing. I was more concerned with having someone I felt like I could figure things out with along the way, rather than trying to figure it all out in a single phone call, if that makes sense. Because honestly? I don't remember most of what was said during any of those phone calls. Terrible, I know. But I also don't remember anything that happened on my wedding day, except that it was awesome. That's the only thing I can think to compare it to. Which works well, if you dig that whole agent/client agreement = a marriage analogy that I've seen some people use.

Anywho, this is getting a bit long-winded, huh? So tell me in the comments, unagented writers: what are you most apprehensive about regarding the call? Agented writers: did your call(s) go as planned? Is there anything that you feel might have better prepared you for the awesome?

Also, be sure to check back on Wednesday for another Secret Lifer's story of "The Call"!

Stefanie Gaither writes YA novels about killer clones and spaceships, with the occasional romp with dragons and magic-users thrown in for good measure. Said writing is generally fueled by an obscene amount of coffee and chocolate, as well as the occasional tennis and/or soccer break. She's represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary. 

You can find her on Twitter @:
Or drop her an email at:
And also visit her website @: 

Friday, December 7, 2012


And the final winner of our Secret Life introduction giveaway series is....


I'll be emailing you, Claire, so I can send you some awesome books and snatch up your query. Thanks to everyone who has participated in my giveaway, as well as all the sweet and supportive comments here and on Twitter. You're all amazing.

AND NOW, the next in our series on the (sometimes frustrating) path to publication: THE CALL. We're taking a weekend hiatus, but we'll see you back here on Monday to discuss the flipping awesome agent offer of representation, and how now to sound like an idiot on the phone. (Well, I can't really cover that part, but hopefully one of the other Secret Lifers can.) 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

An Awkward Hug from Andrea Hannah: The World Traveler Who Became a Writer

Hi, sweet readers!

First of all, let's get that awkward hug out of the way. 


Okay, so now that that's taken care of, let's get to the story of how I went from globe trotter to word monger, shall we?

I won't start off this tale with how I've always wanted to write, or how I used to craft stories from crayons and construction paper. Instead I'll tell you how I wanted nothing more than to get the hell out of Michigan. And how I did it. 

Well, at least for a little while. 

I started globe hopping in college, after I got my first taste of a different state. That's right, I said state, not country. Truth is, we didn't have a ton of money for vacations when I was younger, and I'd been to Florida and Ohio... and that's about it. But I went on my first trip to California, and I fell in love with the idea of being anywhere but home.

So after Cali came a dozen other states, and then a summer trip bouncing around Spain, France and Italy. I came home from that trip and spent the next couple of years racking up frequent flyer miles like a boss; every vacation, every long week, I scraped pennies together and went somewhere. Later came Mexico, the Caribbean, and Hawaii. But in between those places came Africa. Twice. 

I lived and taught English in South Africa for a few months, and fell in love so hard that I refused to leave that continent alone. I returned the next year to donate school supplies and travel around Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya.

Yep, that's me. In Africa. And that kid in the front looks super angry.

What's funny about all this globe trotting is that I never once thought about being a writer. Not once. I thought about starting a nonprofit (and did), teaching in public schools (and did), and selling my art (and did). Never writing. Sure, I kept journals. I wrote snippets of poetry and short stories during my travels. But I never imagined anything would come of that. 

It wasn't until a family emergency forced me to move out of my condo in Savannah, GA and into an apartment five miles from where I grew up in order to take care of my mother that I started seriously thinking about writing. 

Circumstance shoved me back into my hometown, in a dank little apartment, dealing with the my mother's failing health and my teenage brother's grief. I had to hit pause on my life. So I opened up a fresh Word doc and started typing. 

And I fell in love with writing. Slowly, gently. And then all at once

I wrote mostly about my travel experiences at first, and then began to play with stories set in different worlds entirely. Writing became the only escape I had from a life that was somehow mine, even though it felt itchy and uncomfortable, like a sweater that just didn't quite fit. Then I attempted my first novel, at the very end of 2010. Like my fellow Secret Lifer Leah Miller, I also wrote about dreams. And my main character woke up from a dream in the first chapter. Guuuhhh. *Insert shudder here*

But despite all that, I entered that thing in some contests and won third place in the WriteOnCon YA contest. (Keep in mind, this is based on the first 500 words. I've always been good at pretty pose. Plot? Not so much.) 

I got rejected after that. A lot. Obviously. 

A year later, for NaNoWriMo 2011, I wrote my second novel, THE DIARIES OF ELLA GRAHAM. But this time I attempted the task with a boatload of knowledge of both technique and industry. I'd read over a hundred recently released YA books in that year. I'd stalked the crap out of blogs, forums, and Twitter. And then I wrote. And rewrote. And revised. 

I queried in February 2012 and immediately had infinite more success than I'd had the first go around. In the end, I sent out only 14 queries. I had done extensive research on agents before I queried, so I was very specific in who I targeted. If those 14 wouldn't have gone well, I would have sent out a second round, but I didn't have to. Out of those 14 queries, I had 9 requests for fulls/partials. I ended up with 3 offers of representation in the end, but I went with Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider. (Fun fact: I gave birth to my son the same day Victoria offered rep. She called me on my hospital phone!) 

So, this is the part where your eyes have begun to glaze over. Which is great, because it's also the part where I give you what you're actually here for: query letter + giveaway. So here it is:

Dear Ms. Marini, 
I read in an interview that you seek edgy stories with an unexpected twist. As such, I thought you might enjoy my 70,000 word magical realism young adult novel, THE DIARIES OF ELLA GRAHAM.  
After her little sister mysteriously vanishes, seventeen-year-old Claire Graham has a choice to make: stay snug in her little corner of Manhattan with her dropout boyfriend, or go back to Ohio to face the hometown tragedy she's been dying to leave behind. 
But the memories of that night still haunt her in the city, and as hard as she tries to forget the wolf's eyes or the blood-speckled snow, Claire knows she has to hold true to the most important promise she's ever made: to keep Ella safe. She must return to her sleepy hometown in order to find Ella and keep the wolves at bay before they strike again. But time is quickly running out, and as Ella's trail grows fainter, the wolves are growing impatient.  
Now Claire must deal with her attraction to Grant, the soft-spoken boy from her past that may hold the secret to solving her sister's disappearance, while following the clues that Ella left for only her to find. Through a series of cryptic diary entries, Claire must unlock the keys to Ella's past—and her own—in order to stop another tragedy in the making, while realizing that not all things that are lost are meant to be found.  
Though the novel has been written with potential for a sequel, it can stand alone. I believe it will appeal to fans of Nova Ren Suma's IMAGINARY GIRLS and Michelle Hodkin's THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER. My previous manuscript was a finalist in The Reading Room/WriteOnCon's 2011 Young Adult Fiction contest. I live in Michigan and am currently working on my next YA novels. 
Thank you for your time, 
Andrea Hannah

 So, there you have it. It's funny because there are several errors in that query letter, the biggest being genre. THE DIARIES OF ELLA GRAHAM is most definitely not magical realism; it's a psychological thriller. I just wasn't quite sure at the time. BUT, it's totally cool, because if you write a solid query letter, are professional, and create an interesting premise, agents will request regardless of that. So chin up! It doesn't have to be perfection.


I'm giving away copies of THE DIARIES OF ELLA GRAHAM's comp titles, plus a query critique/brainstorm session.

SO, if you win this baby you get:
  • IMAGINARY GIRLS by Nova Ren Suma
  • THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin
  • Query critique (or if you don't have one yet, a brainstorm session to make the best one ever
Contests ends Friday at 11:59pm EST! 

And the winner is....

I have a winner!
G. Donald Cribbs

I'll be emailing you today! Thanks to everyone for entering and this won't be the last giveaway you'll get from me!
Monday, December 3, 2012

Howdy From Leah Rae Miller: The Writer Who's Doing It Differently

I just want to start off by saying thanks to all you for the great response we've gotten so far on the blog! As you can imagine, we were a little nervous (or at least I was, lol) about doing another writing blog, but we thought we had an original concept. Having you all be so excited and following SLOW (I cracked up when Stefanie brought our acronym to my attention) here and on Twitter has been ah-mazing! Now, on to some writing talk!

I've had a love of reading for as long as I can remember. I was that kid in high school who picked the longest book out of the selection to do a report on. But, I'd never thought of being a writer. That just seemed like one of the careers that only special people got to do, kind of like being an actor or a musician. It took a lot of floundering through life (two failed attempts at college, jobs at lame places like Wal-Mart and Blockbuster, a failed website design business, becoming a wife, mother, and homeowner) for me to figure out that I could be a writer.

The idea started to percolate when I discovered romance novels. I've talked about my love for the genre before over on the Entangled Teen blog. I fell in love with them and started to formulate my own stories. After a couple of unfinished manuscripts, more life stuff happened and writing got put on the back-burner. A couple of years later I read Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I was so enchanted by the story that I checked out Stephanie's blog and was in awe of how cool it must be to be an author.

I mean, you get to do something you love, share that something with people and maybe have them love it too, AND you can work from home (which really means you don't have to change out of your pajamas if you don't want to)! After digging a little deeper into the online book community, I wanted to commit. I wanted to see if I could do it. So, in December 2010 I started a blog to record the adventure of writing my first novel. It was a YA fantasy story about dreams and teenagers who are part gods who can jump in and out of people's dreams... And it was a train wreck, of course. Seriously, I started the book with a dream, had my main character wake up from the dream, and then go to the bathroom to look in the mirror.

*SHIVER* Yeah, it was that bad.
(Don't get me wrong, that kind of opening can be done, but it has to be done super well to work. I had not done it super well O_O)

It took me 6 or 7 months to finish. After editing it, I sent out a grand total of *drum roll* ONE query. Now that I look back on it, it was the hardest query to send out. I was a nervous wreck as my mouse pointer hovered over the send button. But I did it. And got no response. After realizing the book needed a complete rewrite, I tucked it away telling myself I'd revisit it one day which I still plan to do.

Then the idea for The Summer I Became a Nerd hit me. I threw the idea out to Stefanie and she said, "Go with it!"

TSIBaN took much less time to write, about 3 or 4 months. I got some interest from an agent before it was even done due to me putting a description up on my blog. When it was ready, I sent out more than one query, lol. I think it was more like 11.

So, December and January of 2012 went by. I got rejections. I'd only heard back from maybe 5 of the 11 I'd sent. The only request from an agent I received was from the one who stumbled upon it on my blog. I was starting to feel a little down on the querying process. I believed I had a great story and didn't understand why no one wanted to look at it. That's when I looked into Entangled Publishing in February. The difference between the way I felt when I sent that first query not even a year before and in sending this query was night and day.

First query feels

My feels after having done it more than a few times.

Here's the query that got the book noticed:

Dear Ms. Howland,

On your February wish list, you mentioned LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR which I found to be full of heart and quirky characters. So, I thought you might be interested in my manuscript. Here's a little about it:

Seventeen-year-old Emma Jean Summers may look like just another dumb, blond cheerleader as she strolls through the halls with her quarterback boyfriend, but on the inside, she wonders about what will happen in the next issue of her favorite comic book or if that sci-fi show she's obsessed with will be canceled. The fact that she is a huge nerd hiding in a popular girl's body is not just unknown, it's ANTI-known, and she wants to keep it that way.

Now that school is out for the summer, Emma can finally spend some alone time with who she really is. That is, until Alan finds out about her secret. He's the adorkable guy behind the counter at the local comic shop, and pretty soon, she starts to give in to being a true geek with him as her mentor. During the next few weeks, he introduces her to a world of comic conventions, live-action role playing, and first-person-shooter video games.

It's when she lies to her parents, using her best friend as an excuse to go on these nerdy excursions, that things start to get sketchy. Not to mention, Emma's boyfriend, who's on vacation, would probably be kind of upset to find out she's falling for another guy. It's only a matter of time before everything blows up in her face, and she learns what people actually think about who she truly is.

THE SUMMER I BECAME A NERD is my 62,000 word YA romantic comedy inspired by John Hughes' classic eighties films and my lifetime love of comic books. Below are the first 5 pages. I've been blogging for over a year here: I can also be found on Twitter (@LeahR_Miller). Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Wishes,
Leah Miller

Twenty minutes later I got a response from Heather asking for the full! A week later I was talking to her on the phone! A couple of days after that I was signing the contract! That's how crazy the publishing industry can be, folks.

I'm still not agented, which I hope to fix in the coming year. Maybe having already been published will give me a leg up, maybe not. I hope to share that journey with you all, as well. At the moment, I'm working on edits, trying to make this book shine per the suggestions of my editor.

And there you have it! I'm extremely looking forward to discussing writing and publishing and all that goodness with all of you!

Once again, it's contest time!!!! I'm giving away a whopping $10 gift certificate to Amazon, just enough for a new book. I won't say that you HAVE to pre-order my book, but I thought I'd let you know that it is up for pre-order... Just saying ;)

I'll also be giving away a query critique. Same rules apply. If you don't need it or want it, you can pass it on to a friend or whatever :)

Contest ends Wednesday so get to entering!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thank you everyone for your sweet comments and for entering my giveaway!

The winner of the First 25 Pages Critique is:

Jamie Krakover

Congratulations, Jamie! I look forward to reading your pages. Please send them to Stay tuned for another giveaway from our next Secret Life blogger!