Saturday, January 24, 2009

Embracing the Suck-i-tude of My Title Skills

I'm an overall concept person. I'm can come up with ideas for books, but when it comes to actually naming the books, my first suggestions always stink to high heaven. For instance, right now I'm starting a werewolf romance novel. My working title? Leader of the Pack. Even I know how bad this is. But this is my process. My agent knows to pay no attention to the first title I come up with, because by the time we send the book out to publishers, we will have a better, non-stinky title.

For example, my first title for NICE GIRLS DON'T HAVE FANGS was Single Undead Female. No one liked it. It sounded too much like Mary Janice Davidson's titles. And when you googled it, you got some pretty creepy stuff.

Other suggestions included:

Tales of an Undead Librarian

Undead and Overduee

Pride and Platelets

The Undead Girl's Guide to Unemployment

No Pulse, No Problem

Even Dead Girls Love Jane Austen

Southern Fried and Fanged

Someone did suggest Deerly Beloved, since Jane is mistaken for a deer and shot. I loved it, but it was one of those "you won't understand until you read the book" things and we were afraid it would turn the readers off.

Fortunately, there are people who are much smarter than me in the publishing industry who are willing to work with me. So my sucky titles will be replaced by the time the books hit the shelves.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

FREE Zombie books!

My friend Mark Henry just received his author copies for ROAD TRIP OF THE LIVING DEAD and he can't wait to give them away!! To win a FREE COPY, enter his contests here:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Updated my blog list

I'm just a posting fool today.

I've updated my blog list to include my friends and favorite fellow authors. Check them out.

How to Write a Query Letter

I've had a lot of people ask me how I got published, which is a fair question. Sometimes I wonder how I got published. And when I start to explain about query letters, their eyes sort of glaze over. So I thought I would share the query letter I used when I was searching for an agent. And give some thoughts on how to go about writing your own. I'm not saying it would work for everybody or that it's grammatically perfect, but it worked for me.

First things first. Is your manuscript ready to be submitted to an agent? How many times have you revised it? Have you read through it objectively and analyzed it for typos and plot weaknesses? A lot of writers, understandably so, are so eager to get published that they spend more time perfecting their query letter than they spend perfecting their manuscript. (Agent Stephen Barbara wrote a great piece for Publishers Weekly on this, which can be found if you click this entry's title.) Make sure you're ready to start the ball rolling. First impressions count for a lot. Once an agent has passed, they've passed. You will not have the chance to re-submit.

Second, find your demographic. I used to find a list of about 70 agents who represented supernatural fiction, women's fiction and Southern fiction, as my manuscript was all of those things. It would have been pointless for me to submit to an agent who only represented non-fiction. I also went for agents who accepted email queries, because it's much cheaper and faster than "snail mail" submissions.

Now, it's time to write your letter.

Dear Ms. Smith:

Always, always, ALWAYS direct your letter to a single agent. Do not send a blanket letter to every agent in an agency. Don't address it "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam." Also, spell their names right.

Meet Jane Jameson. A permanent fixture on her mama's prayer list, she's unmarried, unemployed, and most recently, undead. Don't ask which annoys Mama more.

Jane is a quirky voice of reason in a world where vampires have their own aisle at Wal-Mart. A day that started with her unceremonious firing from the Half-Moon Hollow Public Library gets exponentially worse when she's mistaken for a deer, shot, left for dead and turned into a creature of the night. Now, she's a poster child for local vampire politics and the suspect in a tragically lame murder. Life as a single gal, undead or otherwise, is never boring.

I have introduced my character, her background and her conflict. And I tried to drop little tidbits about the plot without giving the whole book away. Think of this introductory paragraph as the cover blurb for your book. What would you write to get a reader to buy your book?

Part oddball Southern comedy, part supernatural women's fiction, I wrote NICE GIRLS DON'T HAVE FANGS after leaving my job as a newspaper reporter in western Kentucky. While I still work as a freelance writer and humor columnist, I had to channel that sardonic energy somewhere.

Remember to give your title! Try to classify your book to give the agent an idea of whether it fits with their client list. Limit that classification to one or two areas. If someone told me they'd written a historical romance/spy thriller with paranormal elements, I'd probably tell them they need to focus and revise their manuscript.

Pay attention to your agent's preferences. For example, several agents on had NO VAMPIRES written in big letters on their profile, so I didn't bother submitting to them.

Also, give a little information about yourself without over-sharing. You don't have to give your whole life story, just a snippet. What is your writing background? Qualifications? Why did you write your book? Have you been published before?

I am writing to you because of your history of representing fiction with an unconventional voice and supernatural themes. The full manuscript, which is approximately 75,000 words, is available for review.

Explain why you would be a good fit for the agent. Always give the word count. It gives the agent a clue as to whether they have time to read your submission.

Thank you for your time. I have enclosed a synopsis and first two pages of the manuscript, per your submission guidelines.

Say thank you, but don't go overboard. And always follow an agency's submission guidelines. If they don't want email attachments, don't send them. If they don't want a synopsis, don't send it.

Molly Harper

Now comes the hard part. Waiting. You're going to get a lot of form responses (mostly rejections.) And some agents won't respond at all because they consider a non-response their response. When you get a rejection, it's tempting to write back and ask the agent why they're rejecting you or whether they can recommend another agent who might be interested. If they wanted to give you this information, they would have written it in their original response.

There are three rules to follow.

1) Treat all query letters like business correspondence.
2) Be polite.
3) Don't act like a crazy person.

You'd be amazed how far that can get you.

Ugh. I'm sick.

Right now, I'm feeling like that stuff that you'd scrape off the bottom of someone's shoe after they took a long walk through a city landfill. I am confined to bed, cursing people who can digest solid food. But I'm sitting up, which is progress from yesterday.

I apologize for the long hiatus from blogging. I just finished up the publisher's revisions to NICE GIRLS DON'T DATE DEAD MEN and submitted it to my editor. I ended up cutting a fairly major aspect of one of the main characters, which has led me to consider an "In Memoriam" section for my web site. After each book comes out, I think I'm going to post info on characters that were cut out of original drafts, mourning their loss in a slightly sardonic manner.

I've also managed to finish up minor revisions on a non-paranormal divorce comedy and turned it over to my agent. It will be submitted to my publisher for consideration soon. Keep your fingers crossed!

I'm taking a few days off to let my brain de-liquify and then it's on to a major re-write of Book 3, which we are thinking of calling NICE GIRLS DON'T LIVE FOREVER.

So I may be vomit-y, but I'm still a literary badass. : )

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Nice Write-Up

Fine Print Lit agent Janet Reid, who works with my agent, Stephany, read an advanced reader copy of Nice Girls and had some very nice things to say about it. Also, her blog is magically hilarious, so check it out. (Click the entry title for a link.)