Jessie’s Young Adult contemporary thriller, KILLING RUBY ROSE, officially released on May 1, 2014. However, KRR was chosen as an Amazon Kindle First Pick for the month of April and quickly became a #1 Amazon Bestseller in Teen & Young Adult books. Details about the book and the contest will be at the end of the post.
So here’s Jessie and Sarah!
JH: Thanks for having us, Natalie! Literary Rambles has been my #1 most favorite blog for years, and it is surreal to find myself contributing. So without further ado, I shall “contribute”:
When I hear the word “querying” my blood pressure rises, my mouth goes dry, and I suddenly want to drink something stronger than my usual Coke Zero-Diet Mountain Dew “Suicide.” And when I hear the term, “R&R” (revise and resubmit), my blood pressure spikes to dangerous levels, my tongue turns into a sun-dried sponge, and a Suicide seems imminent (and I’m not talking about the kind of suicide that comes out of a soda fountain).
Just kidding…I’m prone to melodramatic writing. (Or so says my agent and editor ;)
If you’re in either boat: the a) USS Query or b) the USS R&R, I’m here to throw you a lifeline (I’m also prone to cheesy metaphors). And I’ve asked my fabulous agent, Sarah Davies, of the Greenhouse Literary Agency, to chime in with thoughts of her own.
SD: Sarah here. Thanks for asking me to join in the conversation, Jessie. Yep, querying is bad enough at the best of times, but being asked to do the dreaded R&R must be terrible. And yet . . . if you’re going to get a book deal and work with an editor one day, you’ve got to be prepared to dive back into your manuscript and take another look – quite possibly several times. No one said the road to publishing success was easy (if it were, everyone would be doing it!). I loved that Jessie was so willing to revise for me, and I was very impressed by her attitude. That counts for a lot with me. I like people who work hard!
JH: Four Life Lines When Querying/Revising With An Agent
1. Get a Positive Hobby.
JH: Notice I said “positive.” This is not the time to start binge-eating, crack-smoking, or any other stress-induced coping mechanism. Believe me, when I was querying, oftentimes the crack pipe seemed like a feasible option. IT’S NOT! How about knitting, golfing, running, playing the ukulele? Every time you get a rejection, any kind of negative feedback, or a challenge to fix something that seems unfixable…turn to that hobby. For me, it was reading a good book in a scalding hot bath or rocking out to a Pink song as I ran away from my problems (literally running until my legs couldn’t run anymore).
SD: Now, Jessie, you know it’s me who plays the ukulele! Yes, agents get stressed too – we just do it in secret, while maintaining our Oscar-winning public face of serenity. I totally agree about keeping your hobbies and doing things you enjoy. I always say, “Writing is NEARLY everything. Just not quite.” Important to remember that and keep a sense of balance.
2. Keep writing.
JH: You’re a writer. At least you’re trying to be, right? So no matter what, keep writing however you can. Keep blogging, tweeting, and for heaven’s sakes, keep improving your work in progress. Keep refining your voice, establishing your platform, and tightening your style. Life doesn’t stop when you’re querying—though it may seem to have slowed almost to the point of the clock ticking backward. Your physical, mental, and emotional health depends on keeping your mind focused on moving forward with big, beautiful, creative ideas. This is hard, I know. I’ve been there and it’s easier said than done. But one must try.
SD: Jessie, your wisdom is great, your advice is majestic. People, listen to her! Whatever our job, but especially for people creating magic from their own minds and imaginations, it’s so important to keep thinking big thoughts and allowing yourself time and space for those to grow. Even if you can only carve out small amounts of “me” time, try to hold on to that and make the most of it. Querying, or having your manuscript on submission, is a very stressful time, so work on a strategy to ameliorate that.
3. Be a Problem Solver, not an Issue Finder.
JH: If the agent that you are working with offers you priceless feedback, take it. Be grateful for it. And carefully consider using it. Don’t find reasons why that agent is wrong. Why you need to hold on to your darlings. Why that agent doesn’t “understand.” Instead, use that valuable advice and precious window of time to solve the problems in your manuscript. Now I’m not suggesting you take every agent’s varying advice against your better judgment, I am only encouraging the attitude of humility. Be open to trusting the time-tested experience of a publishing industry expert who YOU queried for a reason. True story: Sarah asked for a R&R from me before she offered representation, in which she asked me to change virtually the entire ending. After I got done crying… and running… and scalding myself in my bathtub, I resolved to fix the significant problems she pointed out with my resolution. It took me the entire summer, several emotional meltdowns, and a popped out rib (yes, this is possible…ask my chiropractor), but I did it. I fixed that sucker. And it paid off—I signed with Sarah Davies soon after.
SD: I’m sorry I caused such pain – literally. However, Jessie proved to me that she had the chops for this business by refusing to be beaten, gritting her teeth, and getting on with the job. Writing isn’t about being all airy-fairy. Sure, you need to have good ideas and nurture your creative side. But it’s also about being a professional. It’s about deadlines, high standards, and rigor. It’s a tough business, a rollercoaster, and there will be many times when you will be challenged. Jessie showed all the spirit I could wish for!
4. Keep Your Mouth Shut.
JH: I know this sounds rude. Maybe if I say it in French it won’t sound so harsh? Fermez la bouche. Is that better? Anyway, when it comes to being vetted by a potential agent, they don’t want to fall in love with your manuscript and then go online to find out you are a gros connard! Excuse my French. Don’t lament your place in querydom, don’t post how many rejections you’ve received so far, don’t trash talk agents publicly. This is kind of like crushing on a guy in school, friending him on Facebook and then posting about: 1- how much you hate boys, 2- how many times you’ve been turned down by them, and 3- how stupid the last boy was who dared to talk to you. This does not make you appear more desirable. This kind of behavior kills your chances of ever landing an agent…or making out with a boy ever again. Whatever the case may be.
SD: Mais oui, bien sur. You see, Jessie, you’re not the only one who can speak French! Funnily enough, I was thinking only the other day about the great work that SCBWI does in advising writers on stuff like this. New authors don’t always realize what a small industry we work in. In the children’s books world, we all know each other, and you want to keep your name and reputation pristine. It’s so easy to be rude and resentful when things don’t go your way or you feel slighted. Trust me, agents have these temptations too, especially when we receive nasty emails from aspiring authors (which we sometimes do). So easy to bite back. It’s always good to keep your dignity and keep smiling in silence. Or at least only moan to your best friend, rather than the whole internet.
To celebrate the launch of KILLING RUBY ROSE, Jessie is giving away one free copy of this newly released novel, a Ruby Rose teeshirt, and a $20 Amazon gift card. And Sarah is is generously offering her time to critique one lucky winner’s query letter.
Thanks so much for your advice, Jessie and Sarah! Details of the giveaway are below.
Here’s a blurb of KILLING RUBY ROSE from the book jacket:
And you can find Jessie at: www.jessiehumphries.com
So there will be three winners. Jessie is generously offering a paperback copy of KILLING RUBY ROSE and a t-shirt to one winner. This is for US & Canada. And she's offering a $20 Amazon Gift Card which is International. And Sarah Davies is offering a query critique via a 15 minute telephone call. This is also International.
To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through June 21st. Tell me in the comments if you're International and if you want to be included in the query critique giveaway. You must mention that you want to be included in the query critique giveaway to enter it. I’ll announce the winner on June 23rd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter.
Here’s what’s coming up:
Next Monday I have an interview with debut author Bethany Neal and a ARC giveaway of MY LAST KISS, her YA ghost story/mystery. I loved it.
The following Monday I have an ASK THE EXPERT interview with a high school student and will be offering a number of MG and YA books for a giveaway to get you started on your summer reading.
Wednesday that week I have a guest post by Pam Torres and a giveaway of her MG book IT’S NOT JUST A DOG.
The following Monday I have an interview with Lindsay Cummings and a giveaway of THE MURDER COMPLEX, her YA futurist thriller that I really enjoyed.
Wednesday that week I’m interviewing debut author and follower Jessica Lawson and a giveaway of her MG historical fiction book THE ACTUAL & TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER. This is a fun read and I loved Becky, the adventurous middle grader who has a great voice you can’t help loving.
And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.
Hope to see you on Monday!