My First Time — Be Gentle

So I’m here.  I’m here because you are reading this.  And I’m honored.

I’m always wondering how writers do it.  Blogging is more of a journalistic pursuit, far removed from the fiction world.  It’s what you want it to be, sure, but I feel it’s like writing an unpaid column for some bizarre, cosmic newspaper, your work appearing before billions–and yet no one at all, most often.

I’m a writer now, three years in and trying to hustle my book into print in the labyrinthine morass of traditional publishing.  I jumped straight from the creative throes of novel-writing to the flooded trenches of query letters and agent research.  Very few people are talented both creatively and in marketing.  I learned that the hard way as a songwriter and musician.   But nonetheless, writers today are supposed to be able to market their products, and those that can’t are left to write in obscurity, casting their pearls before the void.

So what will this VERY FIRST blog post be about?  Twitter.

That’s right.  I’ve rarely been more impressed than when I signed up and began to  tiptoe into the icy waters of the publishing world’s Twitterscape.  Soon, I was in over my head.

But the waters warmed, comforting currents guttering around me in the form of helpful writers and agents who invested their time and energy without hope for retribution.  I learned so much, and so quickly.  About query letters, about literary agents, about writing in general.  Hundreds, thousands of literary people dropping wisdom like jewels into the well, and me with a net at the bottom, skimming, skimming.  Anyone who tries to shop their novel without joining Twitter is wasting their time, literally.  I met an author on Twitter who went through FOUR YEARS of querying before joining Twitter, and then BOOM.  She was repped before she had 1000 followers.

Two of these Twittervillians stand out in my experience thus far, and I’d like to thank them here.

Lauren Spieller – @laurenspieller  Check out Lauren’s blog here.

I was querying completely in the dark from August until November.  I felt as sailors of yore must have, tossed upon the violent seas in the terrible blackness of night, the rolling swells darker still than the sky.  A biting wind, the salty spray off the deeps.  One got full MS request in my first 20 queries sent.  A five-percent success rate, and I was doing some heavy research.  But as good as I believe my MS is, that’s how bad I knew my query was–and I was powerless to do anything about it.  I was not a good query-writer.  It was as hard as the books say it is.

But then I sussed the faintest of lights out of the darkness.  The kind you cannot look directly at for it will disappear.  It was a lone tweet from a literary agent intern, a Los Angeleno.  “Does anyone want free query help?”

I pulled in the main sheet and tacked towards the flickering beacon.

And it was more than good.  Lauren spent hours with me, virtually, sending me notes, first excoriating my original QL (sweetly) and then helping me rebuild the QL.  By the end, I felt so confident in it, I wanted to resend to all the agents I had missed with before.  Of the next four queries I sent, I got three full requests.  I went from a five percent success rate to 75%, literally overnight.  I found the shore because of my new friend, @laurenspieller.  I recommend her–she’s a genius with pitches.

Summer Heacock – @fizzygrrl  Check out Summer’s blog here

So Lauren told me to apply to #pitchwars and I did, although the overwhelming majority of the mentors there were YA or NA.  Only two felt like they would like my MS, and I applied to those two without much hope.  Turns out my skepticism was justified: over 2,000 writers applied, so the chances were slim.

Summer, however, seemed to really take to my manuscript, and although she didn’t choose me, after the contest was over we stayed in touch.  And this amazing writer and personality and person has helped me more than I could have ever hoped.  Her advice is gold and her benevolence is ever rarer still.  She gives great writing tips, and talks me down when I get a little intense.  You haven’t felt loved and mentored as a writer until you’ve experienced her “Fizzy-godmothering.”

I cannot possibly give her anything in return at this point; she’s repped, she’s got a ton of devoted followers, she’s got oodles of talent, and she’s got a sick sense of bloggery.  Blogability.  Bloggyness.  I’m failing.  Trying to say her blog rules.

In ways I can and cannot express here, @Fizzygrrl has changed the timbre of my experience in publishing thus far.  And for that and so much more, I thank her.

—————

So that’s the end.  Oh, please check out my website, currently under construction.  It’s being built by a real technical wizard, one Jon Larochester (@Rocksclass).  See you all soon…

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