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Michelle4Laughs: It's in the Details


Agents in Indiana

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 16 September 2014 · 18 views

If you live in Indiana--like moi--and want a chance to meet agents face to face, here's your opportunity.

Chuck Sambuchino, Jen Karsbaek, and Whitley Abell will be in Indianapolis on November 1st! Here's the link. Check out the Indiana Writing Workshop!



Early Bird Agents

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 15 September 2014 · 25 views

You've waited long enough!

Here are the Early Bird Agents who have been visiting GetOffMyLawnCon and dispensing advice and requests!

Margaret Bail as Killdeer! 

Margaret Bail, literary agent, has a BA in English and an MFA in Creative and Professional Writing. With years of experience editing everything from medical documents to manuscripts, as well as teaching university-level English and writing, she looks forward to working closely with new and established authors to help develop their voice and craft.

Her lifelong love of stories and storytelling has her looking for books that transport her into the heart of the story, so much so that she’ll forget where she is and lose track of time while she reads.

Before joining Inklings, Margaret was an agent at Andrea Hurst Agency.

Lana Popovic as Quetzal

Lana Popovic holds a B.A. with honors from Yale University, a J.D. from the Boston University School of Law, where she focused on intellectual property, and an M.A. with highest honors from the Emerson College Publishing and Writing program. Prior to joining Chalberg & Sussman, Lana worked at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth, where she built a list of Young Adult and adult literary authors while managing foreign rights for the agency.

Lana’s clients include Leah Thomas (Because You’ll Never Meet Me, forthcoming from Bloomsbury), Rebecca Podos (The Mystery of Hollow Places, forthcoming from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins), Michelle Smith (Play On, forthcoming from Spencer Hill Contemporary), and Marie Jaskulka (The Lost Marble Notebook of Forgotten Girl and Random Boy, forthcoming from Skyhorse).

With an abiding love for dark themes and shamelessly nerdy fare—Battlestar Galactica and Joss Whedon are two of her great loves—Lana is looking for a broad spectrum of Young Adult and Middle Grade projects, from contemporary realism to speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, and sci-fi. For the adult market, Lana is interested in literary thrillers, horror, fantasy, sophisticated erotica and romance, and select nonfiction. An avid traveler, she has a particular fondness for stories set in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia, although she also loves reading about American subcultures.

Cate Hart as Barnowl!

Cate is all about guilty pleasures. She loves salted caramel mochas, Justin Timberlake, Fox’s Sleepy Hollow, and Steampunk. As a native Nashvillian, Cate’s biggest guilty pleasure is watching Nashville.

When she’s reading, Cate looks for character-driven stories, a distinguished voice, and intriguing plots.She loves characters that surprise her, like the pirate with a heart of gold, and plots that keep her guessing until the very last page.

When she’s not reading queries, Cate works with clients to build their platform, works on PR projects to help promote clients’ books, and reads manuscripts with an editorial eye. 

Jen Karsbaek as AgentCrane!

Jen Karsbaek joined first Larsen Pomada Literary Agency, then Foreword Literary Agency in 2013.
Jen is aggressively looking to build her list with women’s fiction, upmarket commercial fiction, historical fiction, and literary fiction. She looks for books with particularly well-developed characters and strong authorial voice. In historical in particular she is interested in books that bring the setting to life and maintain balance between historical accuracy and strong plot choices. She is also interested in mystery, fantasy, and occasionally romance approaches to any of the genres listed above. She is not looking for YA or anything that is primarily fantasy, romance, or science fiction.

Jennie Goloboy as Chimney Swift!
In Fall 2011, Jennie Goloboy joined Red Sofa Literary as an Associate Agent. Jennie Goloboy has a PhD in the History of American Civilization from Harvard. She is also a published author of both history and fiction, and a member of SFWA, RWA, SHEAR, OAH, the AHA, and Codex Writer’s Group. Her funny, spec-fic short stories appear under her pen name, Nora Fleischer. Jennie was promoted to Literary Agent in December 2013.

Gina Panettieri as Bluejay!

Gina Panettieri of Talcott Notch Literary Services. Being an agent is really all I can imagine doing. Books, and the amazing people who write them, have been the focus of my life for more than two decades. I remember packing to move my house and needing a separate small truck just for all the books, and I had given awaycountless volumes to the libraries for fundraisers already! But so many of them were treasured friends I couldn't bear to part with, no matter the effort required to maintain the relationship.
And this specific role I play, being given the chance to find and nurture new books, to work with some of the most creative and talented writers, scientists and psychologists, cooks and criminologists, experts from every field of study, makes what I do feel so different fromwork that my inbox feels like Santa's magical Christmas bag. It's always full, always overflowing, but brimming with the potential of something spectacular. All I've got to do is pull the little ribbon...
Perhaps that's why I have such trouble limiting myself to just a few genres. I find it all fascinating! History, business, self-help, science, gardening, cookbooks, crafts, parenting, memoir, true crime and travel. Teach me something new, something I couldn't find somewhere else, something based on original research and that's the hook I'm looking for. With fiction, I love quirky, edgy characters. Send me women's fiction, paranormal, urban fantasy, horror, science fiction, historical, mystery, thrillers and suspense.
Those rare moments I'm not reading or editing or talking about reading or editing or arguing about contracts, sleeping on the train, or tweeting about industry news, I adore classic films and old-time radio shows.

Tamar Rydzinski is Pigeon!

Tamar Rydzinski worked at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates prior to joining the Laura Dail Literary Agency. She graduated from Yeshiva University in 2003 with a major in literature and a minor in business.

Tamar is not interested in prescriptive or practical non-fiction, humor, coffee table books, or children’s books (meaning anything younger than middle grade). She is interested in everything else that is well-written and has great characters, including graphic novels. A fantastic query letter is essential – “you need to make me want to read your book, and be excited to read it,” she says, “with those first couple of paragraphs.”

Thanks to the agents and writers for being part of GetOffMyLawnCon! September is a very busy time for agents and they still found time to help out!

Oh and if you got asked for pages, be sure to put GetOffMyLawnCon in your email or subject line.

I hope the Con continues to be a helpful resource and we'll try this again soon.



Getting the Call with Holly Jennings

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 12 September 2014 · 29 views

The success from Query Kombat keeps on coming! Now we have Holly Jennings, who incidentally will be a mentor for Nightmare on Query Street! You'll remember her from her great NA entry, Making Boys Cry! Here's the agent round post. Congrats, Holly!

In the summer of 2013, I came across Query Kombat for the first time. All I could think was "I wonder if I'll ever write something good enough to make it into that contest." As a short story writer, I'd tried my hand at novels now and again but didn't have anything worth submitting. 

That same summer I started reading New Adult books and loved the "you're 18 now, deal with it" consequences. Shortly after, I came across a documentary about 18-year-old kids dropping out of college and trying to make it as professional video game players. What an idea for a new adult book! The geek in me immediately warped the concept into a future where virtual reality gaming is a national sport and gamers are pro athletes. 

But wait. That wasn't right. I wrote short stories. I wrote fantasy. They're what I'd come home to every night for years. But with a juicy premise, a kick-butt female protag, and a hunky male love interest, I just couldn't say no. 

Yes. I decided to cheat and it was everything an affair should be: fast, steamy, and unquenchable desire. I'd never had a story come out so quickly. I wrote the first ten thousand words in less than three days and it poured out like fourth draft material. It felt magical. I couldn't ignore the little voice that whispered "hey, this time something's different."

I slowly started entering contests and querying in April 2014. I got invaluable feedback from judges and a few partial requests, which ultimately ended in rejections. But they were personalized rejections from agents about what they loved and what wasn't working. Wow. Personalized rejections! Along with recommendations for improvement, I kept seeing the same comment again and again: "Your concept is unique and really stands out. Someone out there is going to love it." 

This sent me into overdrive. I entered more contests. I did workshops for queries and opening chapters. Every spare minute I had went into the novel. Then Query Kombat 2014 rolled around. Just a year before I had questioned if I'd be good enough for the contest. Was I going to try? I closed my eyes and sent my entry in. To my complete amazement, not only did I get in, but also received three agent requests and got knocked out just before the semi-final round.

The next day, I sent out my requests, a few of which were soon upgraded to fulls. After radio silence for nearly a month, I decided it was time to send another round of queries into the agenting world, so I spent the weekend researching and personalizing six letters. 

On Monday, I checked my email at lunch and had a reply from an agent who had my full. I cringed. Out of everyone who had requested my material, this was THE agent I was hoping would enjoy the book. But after past rejections, there was no doubt in my mind it would be a polite "loved the concept, but X, Y & Z wasn't working for me..." type of email.

I scanned through the message as quickly as I could until I saw phrases like "I'd be thrilled to represent you" and "are you available for a phone call?" Being at work I couldn't scream in the middle of the office. Instead, I bolted for the women's washroom and happy danced in front of the stalls.

That night I had the call. Being someone who's extremely shy, I was terrified. But the agent kept gushing over my book so that helped me relax. A little. I told him I was very interested in representation and needed a week to follow up with others. 

Then I panicked. I had so much to do!

I contacted the six agents I'd just queried. You know that email I sent you yesterday? Well, oops. I have an offer so please disregard. A few replied with congratulations and more "your premise looks amazing!" comments which shot me from cloud nine right into outer space. 

Of the agents with outstanding partials, a few stepped aside. Two immediately upgraded to fulls and asked for a week to get back to me. As the days went by wondering if I'd get another offer, I realized I didn't care. I already had the agent I wanted right from the minute he requested my book through Query Kombat.

So now I can proudly say I'm represented by Leon Husock of the L. Perkins Agency and it's all because of the contest. Big thanks to Mike, Michelle and SC. Without them, I don't know where I'd be right now.

I can also say I've gone back to fantasy, but this time it's new adult fantasy and I've never felt more at home. 

Holly Jennings is a member of SF Canada and writes from her home in Tecumseh, Ontario. Her short work has been published in Daily Science Fiction, AE Sci-Fi Canada, and the Clarion Writer's Craft blog. She now writes new adult speculative novels about being eighteen and lost in fantasy worlds or sci-fi futures. For more, check out her website at www.hnjennings.com or follow her as she attempts to understand Twitter @HollyN_Jennings. 




  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 04 September 2014 · 41 views

One...Two...We are coming for you.
Three...Four...There will be a slush war.
Five...Six...Get your query fixed.
Seven...Eight...Make your first page great.
Nine...Ten...Yes, we're at it again.

Nightmare on Query Street

October 2014

Face the Fear



Valuable Links: Agent Blogs

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 03 September 2014 · 26 views

Here are a couple of active agent blogs that answer lots of questions from writers. 

Sarah Negovetich does a lot with building platform and marketing yourself as a writer on her blog. She also answers questions by video log. 

Janet Reid is the ultimate source of answers for questions about querying. 



Vague Plot and/or Stakes in Query

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 31 August 2014 · 45 views

As soon the feedback letters will start going out, I wanted to expand on some of the issues I saw in Pitchwars on a larger scale. Give a little more reasoning behind my decisions. I want to first remind everyone that this is my opinion only and is totally subjective to how I made choices for Pitchwars. I had over seventy entries and could only take one and a half. I was forced by circumstances to look for reasons to say no.

By far the most numerous tag I put on entries was vague stakes and plot in the query letter. And I saw quite a bit of talk about this subject on twitter also. What is vague stakes? Why does it hurt your chances? Let’s see if I can fumble my way to an explanation. (I’ll use my own query letters as examples.)

To me the term vague stakes or plot means putting cliché terms in place of specific details about the story. Cliché terms like dangerous situation, family secret, dark troubles, deadly danger and so on. That tells me something is happening, but really leaves me groping for what.  It was like having parts of a puzzle, but being left to fill them in myself.

For example—pulled off the top of my head: John must find the dark secret or face everlasting doom.  That leaves me going, ‘What secret? What doom?’ It tells me little about what John must actually do or face. Not enough of the puzzle has been filled in.

Now I’ll use my query letter for Kindar’s Cure and take out the details.

Princess Kindar of Anost dreams of playing the hero and succeeding to her mother’s throne. But dreams are for fools. Reality involves two healthy sisters and her own sickness. When her elder sister is murdered, Kindar is in a deadly situation.
But she’s tough.  A novice wizard, Maladonis Bin, approaches with a vision that could help her. As choices go, a charming bootlicker that trips over his own feet isn’t the best option, but beggars can’t be choosers. Kindar escapes with Mal and several longtime attendants only to have her eyes opened that her country faces dark times.

As Mal urges her toward his visions, suddenly, an ally turns traitor, delivering Kindar to a rebel army. With danger getting closer, she must escape the army and move forward with Mal or let her country down.

Here you can sort of see what’s happening, but it’s all very vague. What visions? What dark times? The stakes involve a vague danger and letting her country down. Letting it down how? I think you can see that, without details, this query gives just the barest idea of the story. It's too much like a puzzle with missing pieces.

Now here is the same query with the details back in it:

Princess Kindar of Anost dreams of playing the hero and succeeding to her mother’s throne. (character motivation) But dreams are for fools. Reality involves two healthy sisters and a wasting disease of suffocating cough that’s killing her by inches. (what’s stopping her.) When her elder sister is murdered, the blame falls on Kindar, putting her head on the chopping block. (more what’s stopping her.)
No one who survives eighteen years of choke lung lacks determination.  A novice wizard, Maladonis Bin, approaches with a vision—a cure in a barren land of volcanic fumes. As choices go, a charming bootlicker that trips over his own feet isn’t the best option, but beggars can’t be choosers. Kindar escapes with Mal and several longtime attendants only to have her eyes opened that her country faces dark times.

Her mother’s decision to close the prosperous mines spurs poverty and joblessness, inciting rebellion and opening Anost to foreign invasion. As Mal urges her toward a cure that will prove his visions, suddenly, an ally turns traitor, delivering Kindar to a rebel army, who have their own plans for a sickly princess. (setup and specific details of plot)

With the killer poised to strike again, the rebels bearing down, and the country falling apart, she must weigh her personal hunt for a cure against saving her people. (the choice she faces.)

Not perfect, but you’ll notice the query doesn’t tell the ending. Instead it leaves us with the CHOICE the main character must make.

Many times I hear that the stakes are left vague in a query to avoid giving away the ending. But the stakes are not the ending! Repeat: The stakes are not the ending. 

What the main character does about the stakes is the ending. The CHOICE the main character makes, the DIRECTION he/she goes--that is ending! You want to leave the reader with a clear vision of what sort of choice is forced upon your character. What bad thing will happen if she/he gets it wrong? What good result can come if it's done right?

By leaving the stakes or plot vague, you take away what is unique about your story. It makes it much harder to entice a reader into wanting to know more.

So many times I hear, but I don't want to spoil the surprise twist inside the story by giving it away in the query. But if the query doesn't entice, will the agent ever read the story? 

Another example from my own queries. In my YA dystopian there is a pretty big surprise. The main character is a rabbit. You'd think I'd want to save that. But I didn't. It was the unique thing about my story. Here is that query:

Seventeen-year-old Little Bit hates the magic anklet fastened on her by so-called friend, Garrett. It keeps her on the farm—keeps her from knowing why cows outnumber humans. Nothing gets out. Not even birds can flee Garrett’s enchanted prison.(all what's stopping her.) With no idea of the outside world, Little Bit wants freedom from the chains trapping her and to understand her past. (her motivation) Unfortunately, Garrett is about as forthcoming as the inanimate gold around her ankle. (what's stopping her.)

Confused by her feelings of exasperation and affection for Garrett, Little Bit escapes into a world corrupted by dark magic and scorched by the sun. Twelve years ago, a supernova devastated the Earth, making the sun lethal and awakening long dormant magic. Traveling by night, she seeks answers about herself, but finds mutated beetles and mega-sized possums. Worse, a nursery rhyming cannibal skulks in the shadows as she follows rumors to a human colony in New Chicago.

But she’s learned only half the story—she’s not human. A lonely Garrett transformed his pet rabbit into a girl. Now only the renewal of Garrett’s spell keeps her on two legs instead of four. (plot setup)  She’ll have to accept Garrett’s chains or lose her humanity forever, unless the sun’s deadly rays awakens magic within her. (choices- accept Garrett controlling her, be a rabbit, or find another way.)

My opinion is that it is better to give away more about the story in hopes of enticing. Generic stakes and plot do not keep people reading. Specific details help your query rather than hurt it.

I'm not saying it's easy. Deciding what specific details to add is very difficult. You don't want to sound like a synopsis, which means you walk a fine line. To me, however, it's worth it.

Having specific plot details and stakes does three things. 1. helps to avoid confusion and feeling like pieces of the story are missing. 2. showcases what is unique about your story. 3. lets readers get a deeper insight into the choice the main character must make and a stronger sense of character personality.

In my Pitchwars search, I always read both the query and the first chapter. The query is obviously not a deal breaker. Very strong first pages can make the difference. But that may not always be the case. Some  agents don't read samples if they don't like the query. You want your query to be as strong as possible. 

So how about it? Do you agree or disagree? Feel free to tell me your thoughts in the comments.



Getting the Call with Max Wirestone

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 29 August 2014 · 49 views

I think Query Kombat 2014 was the most successful contest Mike, SC and I ever ran. Eight or nine--I've honestly lost count--entries with agents after this contest! Here's a story from one of our NA entries! I'm sure you remember A COZY FOR GEEKS! (See the agent round entry here.) And I'm feeling you on the awkward phone calls, Max. I hate talking on the phone.

There's a certain "there and back again" quality to my story.

A COZY FOR GEEKS was my first attempt at novel writing, but I had flirted with success at screenwriting somewhat in my twenties.  That experience-- which involved terrifying conversations with agents that led me nowhere-- had ultimately left me limping away from the writing world, a trail of blood and ego behind me.  It was ugly-- although in retrospect, most of my wounds were imaginary.  My confession:  I was afraid of being a Failed Writer-- to the point that was I willing to give it up.   I put it all behind me and instead focused on good, solid life goals:  Husband, Librarianship, Kids, Xbox Achievements.

For a while.

Time passed, and through the magic of aging (and probably parenthood,) I found that I suddenly didn't care if anyone else regarded me as a Failed Writer.  The thirty-something version of me, paunchier, and with considerably less hair, suddenly regarded the twenty-something version of me as some sort of self-involved thick-haired doofus.  And so I started writing again.

I did it completely alone, in secret.  No writing groups.  No community.   When I started submitting, in April, I was sending to ONE AGENT AT A TIME.  I was working through WRITER'S MARKET alphabetically.  

I eventually started following agents on twitter, and I heard about Query Kombat at the last minute.  What the hey, right?  I figured I'd lose in the first round (and Carol Ayer's DEAD PRINCESSES DON'T KISS was stiff competition), but I soldiered through.   I eventually made it all the way to the quarter finals, where I was slain by the fabulous Betsy Aldredge.

Then the requests started.

I got three requests from the contest itself.  But after the feedback from the first round, I had applied changes to my query.  Hot changes!  Awesome changes!  And I wanted to test them out.  So I started querying wider.  Suddenly, I was rolling in requests.  

Next came a "let's chat about your book" email just a few weeks after the competition.  Can I just take a second to say that I found all of these conversations a little weird?  More power to you if you instantly connected with your agent, but I was like a nervous first-date.  I was awkward and bumbling, and that twenty-something version of me who had been rejected by film agents was listening in on my conversation and whispering things like, "run, you fool!  It's a TRAP!"

Despite my ramblings-- I ineptly described my next project as a "comedy about the death of libraries"-- I still got an offer of rep.  I told the agent thank you and that I would get back in a week.  I then DM'd incoherent messages to amazing QK Judges Glen Coco and Omar Comin (N.K. Traver and Tatum Flynn), the content of which was basically: ZOMG!111!!!!1!1!  Only longer.  I may have initially gone over the 140 character limit.  Also there was drinking.

I ultimately got four offers of representation (with a fifth 'let's talk' that came too late,) and so I got to repeat my awkward conversation three more times.  I eventually started prefacing the talk with an admission that I was weird at this.  Not in real-life, just this.  The agents seemed to understand.   Although, by conversation number four, I wasn't awkward at all.  Talking with agents, like querying and synopsis-writing and everything else along this voyage is just another task that practice makes you good at.  

Anyway, the agents were all awesome.  I described them to my husband in byte-sized terms.  Book blogger, enthusiastic new guy, geek enthusiast, editor-turned-agent.  I DMd Tatum Flynn relentlessly, as well as writer friends I had made along the way.  People said things like, "go with your gut," and "trust your heart," which sound good, except that my gut did not have a lot of insight.  Mostly it was hungry.

Then came the awful bit:  I had to pick one of them.  If you've ever had the fantasy that at the end of all this rejection you might get the joy of turning down an agent for a change, I'm hear to tell you:  it's awful!   I liked all four agents.  I would have been thrilled to be represented by any of them.  Of all the things I'd been forced to write on this process, the rejection letters to agents were the most painful.  It's like writing a Dear John letter, only worse.  Blech.  Just blech.  

In the end, I settled with Caitlin Blasdell of Liza Dawson Associates.  Caitlin represented lots of books I have in my own library, had a Hugo winner under her belt, and had given me scads of intriguing and detailed notes about my project.  She also seemed supportive of a double-genre approach, with the sensible proviso that I write quickly.    Now that I've been with her for a few weeks, and have made the first round of changes to my manuscript, I can't imagine having done anything else.

So that's my story.  Shaggy, but true.  And for you twenty-somethings, if things don't work out now, there's always hope a few years down the road.  Worked for me.

You can find Max on Twitter at @maxcrowe.



Query Questions with Michelle Richter

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 27 August 2014 · 51 views

Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.


Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a new series of posts called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers for the real expert--agents!

If you have your own specific query question, please leave it in the comments and it might show up in future editions of Query Questions as I plan to rotate the questions.

I'm glad to have a fresh Query Questions interview for you. Today we hear from Michelle Richter of Forword Literary.

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
I don't think it matters, because I'll read them when I can, which may be weeks later.
Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?
No, but a slew of them does. Or can be the last straw if things aren't looking good.
Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
Only if the query is strong and intrigues me.
Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
 It's all me :)

If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?
I kind of hate prologues, and I only ask for the first 20 pages, so I think writers should think about what best serves their work. But epigraphs should NOT be included.
Some agencies mention querying only one agent at a time and some say query only one agent period. How often do you pass a query along to a fellow agent who might be more interested?
We only want one agent queried at a time for a work, but if it's good but not a good fit, sometimes we'll email each other and ask "for you?" 

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
If the chit-chat shows someone is responding to an interview I did or meeting at a conference, by all means, include it. Anything to make you stand out. But don't spend too much time on it. I want to hear what the book's about!
Most agents have said they don’t care whether the word count/genre sentence comes first or last. But is it a red flag if one component is not included?
I care more about genre than word count. Because some genres are just wrong for me. If I can't figure out the genre from the description and it's not specified, it's a red flag.
Writers hear a lot about limiting the number of named characters in a query. Do you feel keeping named characters to a certain number makes for a clearer query?
 I think if you have more than half a dozen, it may be overwhelming.

Should writers sweat the title of their book (and character names) or is that something that is often changed by publishers?
They're often changed by publishers. But a title can make me look at a query out of order. Sometimes because it's great. Or sometimes because it's awful or clues me in that it's a particular genre. 

How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?
My first week as an agent, it was about a hundred, but now it's between thirty and fifty. My request rate is around 5% right now.

Many agents say they don't care if writers are active online. Could a twitter account or blog presence by a writer tip the scales in getting a request or offer? And do you require writers you sign to start one?
I think it's more important for nonfiction than fiction, but it's not usually going to sway me to make an offer or request.
Some writers have asked about including links to their blogs or manuscript-related artwork. I’m sure it’s not appropriate to add those links in a query, but are links in an email signature offensive?
 Frankly, I don't even pay attention to them most of the time.

If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested?
Only if requested. 

What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?
If a non-writing career informs their work, or they have a lot of contacts/went to Iowa/are a journalist or ad copywriter, tell me. I probably don't need to know about family or residence or schooling.
What does ‘just not right for me’ mean to you?
I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you ;) 

What themes are you sick of seeing?
WWII, political/spy thrillers, sex trafficking or abuse, suddenly single ladies of a certain age reinventing their lives

Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?

What’s the strangest/funniest thing you’ve seen in a query?
The greeting "Come on, let's date!"
What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
1. A novel with friendship at its core, as I've seen from Ann Packer/Richard Russo/Ann Patchett/John Irving
2. A twisty stand-alone thriller with a great cop, bonus if female. Multiple perspectives are also a plus.
3. A thriller with strong sense of the killer's POV

What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes? 
My favorite movies tend to be musicals (The Sound of Music, Once, Begin Again), but TV shows may give you a better sense: Elementary, The Wire, Luther, The Killing, The Bridge, Dexter, The Mentalist, Scandal. I love Tana French, Laura Lippman, Tom Perrotta, Richard Russo, RUSSIAN WINTER, THE NIGHT CIRCUS, GONE GIRL, READY PLAYER ONE, MR. PENUMBRA'S 24 HOUR BOOKSTORE.


Michelle Richter has a degree in Economics with a minor in Russian from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and left a career in finance and banking for publishing. She joined St. Martin’s Press’ editorial department in 2006 after obtaining a Masters in Publishing from Pace University. While at St. Martin’s, Michelle edited MELISSA EXPLAINS IT ALL by Melissa Joan Hart, among others, and worked on a variety of fiction and nonfiction.
Michelle is primarily seeking fiction, specifically book club reads, literary fiction, and well-crafted women’s commercial fiction, thrillers and mysteries (amateur sleuth, police procedurals and smart cozies). Her favorite authors include Laura Lippman, Harlan Coben, Richard Russo, Tom Perrotta, Chelsea Cain, and Gillian Flynn. For nonfiction, she’s interested in fashion, film, television, science, medicine, sociology/social trends, and economics for trade audiences. She has a soft spot for fiction and nonfiction in and about Boston/Massachusetts, Ireland, and Russia.  

You can follow Michelle on Twitter at @michrichter1.



Arriving at a Pitchwars Decision

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 25 August 2014 · 37 views

I thought I'd put in print the different aspects of what goes into making a mentor pick for Pitchwars.  This might help me to clarify my own thinking and make an impossible decision a little easier. These are the sort of things I see other mentors weighing and also what is running through my own mind. After all, we only get one and that is agonizing.

First off, just let me say how blown away I was by all the slush. Of course there's going to be things that just aren't for you, but everything was so well done. Such great writing. Many, many well-crafted queries. Directions followed so carefully. I really appreciate everyone who put my name on their choice of mentors, and I read each query and each chapter. There were many entries I wanted to request more pages from, but I knew there just wasn't the time. I could only read so much extra.

I said on twitter yesterday that this is like heading to the grocery story for milk, eggs, laundry soap, and toilet paper and being told you could only have one and a half. How are we supposed to choose? Go with what's practical or get off the list and buy chocolate?

Probably the number one thing for me was finding entries I loved. As the agents say, something you won't mind reading over and over. Because like the agents, we will be reading our mentor pick over and over. This means that the biggest weight we're putting on the submissions is personal taste, our picks are going to be subjective. There were many fine entries, but some spoke to me more than others. When I decide on a final pick, it will be something I love.

I had no problem finding entries I loved and that's when more tangible considerations come into play.

Commercial: Is this an entry that is going to appeal to a lot of other readers? Is this a main character readers will build an attachment with? Does the plot hold a reader's interest? Does the voice blow my socks off?

Marketable: Is this an entry that fits the contest agents' wishlists? Are the MG agents looking for this genre? Is it a genre/theme that has gotten tired and over published?

Improve: Is this a story that I see ways to improve? Does this story need my help or is the editing and big picture already tight? Is this an entry that is really close, but could use an extra set of eyes. And yes, if something is really, really excellent a mentor might pass it by as being already set for agents. 

I don't believe I know everything about helping a story, but I have read a lot and an idea or two will just jump out. That's very exciting! Then I'm like: 'Oh! What if the author tweaked this just a little!'

On the other side, do I see too much to fix about this entry? Do I love the concept and the first chapter, but think it falls apart a little after that? There's only such much time a mentor to devote. We all have our own writing, jobs, and families to blend in also.

Competition: Several things on my list were swarmed by another mentor. They really had their heart set on a entry. In that case, I backed off as I had others that I could love more.

Pitch: Is this submission something that will translate easily into a short pitch? Does it have a high or unique concept that will make a pitch zing?

Compatibility: Is the author polite and someone I feel I can work with? Do I think we can build a connection? I don't think this will factor in at all. Everyone I've interacted with has been an absolute joy.

And those are the major factors that are going into my decision. Which, as I said, isn't made yet. I have a lot of reading to go! And I'm looking forward to it!

I plan on taking time after September 3 (probably a lot of time) to give more detailed feedback on an individual basis. I plan to personalize each letter I send to all my subs, even if it means saying this just wasn't right for me. This could take a lot of time so be patient.  

Feel free to put questions in the comments. And remember not everyone can make it into contests. Most of the time I didn't get in with my stories. That is not a reflection on you or your story but the subjective nature of the game. The true winning in contests is the person who makes connections, learns, and persists.



Get Off My Lawn Con

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 23 August 2014 · 56 views

I love WriteOnCon! I had a tremendous time there last summer. But it's only for YA, MG, PB, and NA writers. You know, those guys with the cute initials to describe them. 

I also write Adult. And I won't say I felt excluded, because I do use WriteOn, but it would be very nice for adult writers to have a place too.

So Get Off My Lawn Con was born. (Thanks to Janet Wrenn for the name.) More formally we are Literary Legals. Follow the hashtag #GetOffMyLawnCon for more info and updates.

There you will be able to introduce yourself, put up your query for feedback, enter your first 250 words. You can make friends and influence people.

I want to thank M. A. Nicholson for her technical expertise and setting up the forum! I also want to thank Diana Sousa for helping with the artwork!

This site is brand-spanking new. There will be glitches. Everything is not completed or perfect yet, but I figured it's better to get started imperfectly than to tinker forever.

Please keep this site positive. It's not a site for writers who were left out of a bigger con; it's a site for a special group of talented people. If you have any trouble with negative comments or snarkiness, please message me or another site administrator before reacting. Let us handle it.

That said, I hope you all enjoy, and we'll see what surprises we can whip up! Follow the hashtag #GetOffMyLawnCon.

Without further ado, here is the link:


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