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Michelle4Laughs: It's in the Details


Querying Advice: Nudging (without an offer)

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 31 March 2015 · 7 views

I've seen this asked over and over: when and how should a writer nudge a literary agent about a full or partial request (if they are without an offer). Writers are in awe of agents. Afraid of making a pest of themselves and somehow ruining their chances to get an agent. They don't want to be a bother. Writers tend to tip-toe around nudging as if they don't deserve to reach out to an agent.

You were so happy just to get a request. You don't want to mess it up.

Be unafraid!

Without writers there are no books. It's a writer's talent that opens new worlds for people who love to read. This is your manuscript. You worked hard on it. You have every right to inquire about it.    

Agents understand. After all, they use nudges all the time with editors. During submission, they may need to follow up with an editor on material the agent has sent. Sometimes they have to ask for an answer on a pitch letter. How can they fault you for doing something they have to employ? As long as you are sensible, there is no problem with politely asking an agent the status of your request.  

Though I don't recommend you nudge about a query letter unless the agent's website specifically says to nudge after a certain number of weeks. So many agents use a no response policy now. Is your query lost or just not right for that agent? It's better to leave well enough alone with a query that goes unanswered and assume the letter has been rejected. There are plenty of agents to query that you don't need to worry about every letter going astray. Chances are it hasn't. (There are exceptions and the choice is yours, but I'd think twice about nudging for a query letter.)

Now if your material has been requested it's a different story. Perhaps you've been patient for a long time and you want to know what's happening.  Before you take action, though, consider the timing.

It's very important not to let your natural impatience get out of hand. Everyone is ancy when material is being considered. Important decisions are being made that could get your baby in front of editors from the Big Six. But has a reasonable amount of time passed or are you just anxious? Publishing is notoriously slow. You have to give the agent plenty of time to read as things always come up. 

So first, check their website for a clue of when to nudge. If their website says nothing, then a solid guide is never to nudge until it's been three months. My own guide was to go a week or two past three months just to be on the safe side.

Then you'll want to use the email chain you've created with the agent (Yes, save the email asking for pages in your email provider so you can reply to it.) A RE in the subject line is more likely to catch their eye and prove you have had communication in the past.  Be short and to the point. No need to waste more agent reading time by being long winded. 

Dear Agent so and so,

I'm checking in to see if you had time to read TITLE which I sent as requested on DATE. Thank you very much,


That's really all you need to nudge. Have you had time to get to it? It's called X and I sent it on Y. Agents will get back to you with a yes or no. Usually they need more time, but now you have reminded them. Hopefully, the nudge will lead to a faster read and a quicker final response.

Occasionally, a nudge receives no response from an agent. In that case, wait a week or two more and send a second nudge just like the first. Give them time to get to your first nudge just in case they are out of the office or very hectic. 

If the second nudge goes unanswered, then you have to put it out of your mind and set that request aside as a no. It's hard to do that, but let's face it-- Do you really want an agent who doesn't find the time to reply to two nudges? It's like the movie; he's just not that into you. Good communication with an agent is crucial. Take the agent off the pedestal. Time to move on and show some pride. Don't go for a third nudge. 

So there you have it. It's really not that scary if you make sure you give the agent plenty of time to consider before you nudge. Be polite and to the point.

Good luck and profitable nudging! 



Getting the Call with Kristin Wright

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 30 March 2015 · 16 views

Choices, choices! We all love to have choices, though sometimes it's not that easy. Lucky for Kristin she had options and her heart told her where to go! Congrats Kristin, and I'm glad you found a CP through Query Kombat. 

Getting the Call for me managed to be BOTH the super-fast fairy tale and the end of a long querying slog through the trenches. How? I queried two manuscripts at once.
I wrote and polished my romantic women's fiction novel TWENTY MILES IN just in time to submit it to last August's PitchWars. I did a little midnight dancing when I saw I'd been chosen as an alternate, and then settled in for the wait. PitchWars is excellent practice for the professional waiting that writers sign up for. The entries are posted in early November, two months after selection, to allow time for edits.  I edit fast (my mentor, Kara Leigh Miller, went way above and beyond for TMI), and still had enough time to write another manuscript .
I got requests in PitchWars, though none that panned out. I queried it through November and December, with a short flurry at the beginning of January when agents re-opened after the holidays. I sent the last query for TMI on January 6. Meanwhile, I'd been editing my other manuscript, FARB, and was ready to query that one by January 21.
With FARB, I got the fairy tale. Within two weeks, I had six full requests. On day 14, I sat in a work meeting with my iPad, and an email arrived from Agent A, who wanted to chat about FARB, which she'd requested only the day before. I read the email ten times. I contemplated escaping the meeting by yelling "Fire." I restrained myself and suffered through. Agent A's call, though, turned out not to be The Call. She wanted some minor revisions before offering. She did offer, though, a week later. That email came while I sat in the car, about to embark on an afternoon of driving my kids around to lessons with no computer handy. 
While my kids sawed away on their violins, I sent my flurry of emails to all the agents with either requested materials or open queries on either manuscript--on my phone. And then I checked my email at stoplights. Yes, I know. Bad. The blizzard of responses came quickly, and from agents with queries on both manuscripts. When it stopped, I had 12 agents reading one or both fulls.
The next day, Agent B emailed asking to "chat" about FARB. (I don't know why they like this word so much. They do.) Agent B offered in the first two minutes. Then came the really draggy part. I'd given a nine-day period. Nothing at all happened for seven days. The night before the deadline, I got an email from Agent C. She'd liked TWENTY MILES IN and wanted me to extend the deadline for her to read FARB. I chose not to, because I didn't think it was fair to Agents A and B, but I hated writing that email.
Minutes before I went to bed, I got an email from Agent D, who'd been the recipient of the very last query I sent for TWENTY MILES IN because she'd been closed. She wanted to chat the next morning. She'd "love loved" my work, and I loved her back just based on her interviews and Twitter feed. During the call, we talked about the book. She'd stayed up late reading it, and already had a submission list in mind. She was ready to go--with this book, with my other manuscripts, and with any other books I might write in the future. I emailed several of her clients, and within the hour, got back long love letters about her. I really liked the other offering agents and would have been very happy with either of them, but the decision was made.
Now, I'm delighted to say I'm represented by Sarah E. Younger of the Nancy Yost Literary Agency!


I live in Virginia with my family, our stinky beagle, and our elderly guinea pig. I'm an attorney now, but I've been a Civil War reenactor, an ice cream scooper, a telemarketer, and a U.S. Senate intern. I'm a veteran of both Query Kombat and PitchWars, both in 2014, and will tell anyone who asks that contests are absolutely worth it because that's how you meet your critique partners. I write women's fiction and romance, and dream of a day when someone magically shows up at my door to manage my website and Facebook page for me.  The website is www.kristinbwright.com.



Upcoming Contests

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 28 March 2015 · 24 views

There are two big contests taking submissions next week.

I'll be a co-host of Pitchslam which takes submission on April 3rd. You can find all the details at L. L. McKinney's blog. (follow Elle at https://twitter.com/ElleOnWords) It's theme this time around is Classic Hollywood.

As a director I'll be casting for my Western. (Not that that means I'm only looking for westerns. Actually I'm looking for all age categories and genres, though as usual I lean toward fantasy/speculative fiction.) John Wayne is my team's leading man. I'll be looking for entries that show True Grit.

The nice thing about PitchSlam is getting feedback before you send in your final entry. That lets you revise before the team Directors make their picks.

Also taking place next week and going through a variety of judging is Nest Pitch. Their window opens on April 1st and they have a great line up of agents. Follow Nikola Vukoja for more details about this contest- https://twitter.com/Nik_Vukoja




  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 27 March 2015 · 17 views




  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 23 March 2015 · 15 views

Genre: Chapter Book – Historical Fiction Mystery
Word Count: 9,500


Dear Michelle and Sharon,

As the 1920s roar through New York City, no one enjoys them more than 10-year-old adventuress Pooky Thursday. She dances the Charleston, explores the wilds of Central Park, and reads her way through the library at Banner Court, the city's most fabulous mansion. As the cook's daughter, Pooky must navigate not only the mansion's nooks, crannies, and secret passageways, but also the worlds of the downstairs staff and the upstairs swells.

One day, Pooky discovers a kid-size, lizard-shaped painting peeking out of the library's trash. What's a mystery but an adventure with a question mark? Pooky puts on her detective hat to question everyone from the butler to Commodore Banner himself, research reptilian facts in the chronicles of great explorers, and search for answers on what the painting means and who it belongs to.

Pooky is up to her knee socks in clues when Frank, the Banners' spoiled and stinky son, demands that she turn the lizard painting over to him. When Pooky refuses, Frank threatens to out her as a sneak thief to the Banners and, even worse, her mama. Now Pooky must find the mysterious owner of the painting and fast. Otherwise, she'll be branded a no good robber forever, and Frank will get his grubby little hands on the treasure.

POOKY THURSDAY INVESTIGATES! THE LIZARD IN THE LIBRARY is a 9,500-word chapter book. Please find the first 100 words pasted below.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

First 100 Words:

My name is Pooky Thursday. I am a modern girl in the world's most modern city – New York!

The city is the perfect place for an adventuress like me who likes to try new things. I track treasures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, jiggle with the chorus lines on old Broadway, and ride the rails from one end of Manhattan to the other. Life here is the bee's knees and cat's pajamas all rolled into one!

I live in Banner Court, the fanciest mansion around. It sits across the street from Central Park. Some people call it the "House of A Thousand Rooms."




  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 23 March 2015 · 18 views

Genre: Fiction, Humorous
Word Count: 350


Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for my picture book manuscript, MILTON'S NAUGHTY PARENTS, and would very much like to work with you.

Written for ages 4-8, MILTON'S NAUGHTY PARENTS is 350 words in length. In a zany role reversal, little Milton must play the adult to his comically juvenile parents, who try his patience with their annoying antics. Milton's attempts at disciplining his mother and father are futile. Only after a stray dog appears does Milton find a way to transform his parents into responsible caregivers.

In addition to MILTON, I have several other picture book manuscripts that are ready for submission, including FERGUS FALLS UP, SNERKLE'S SLEEP EMPORIUM, and THE GREAT GOGGLEMOG.

My debut picture book, Otto Grows Down, was published in 2009 by Sterling with illustrations by Scott Magoon. My YA novel, Crashing Eden, was released in 2012 by Solstice Publishing. A TV pilot based on the novel just made the semi-finals of the Pilot Launch TV Script Contest.

I'm a clinical psychologist and have also published in the field of mental health. A Curious Calling: Unconscious Motivations for Practicing Psychotherapy was a main selection for America’s largest psychotherapy-related book club, and was released in 2007 as a paperback. I also edited A Perilous Calling: The Hazards of Psychotherapy Practice, published by Wiley.

I have pasted the first fifty words of MILTON'S NAUGHTY PARENTS below, and would be happy to send you the full manuscript. Most grateful for your time, I look forward to hearing from you.

First 50 Words:

            They woke him at dawn.
[Art note: Parents jumping on Milton’s bed.]
            Milton’s dad nearly broke a window sliding down the banister.
            And his mom made him cook blueberry pancakes.
            ...which his parents ate with their hands.
            It took nearly an hour to get them both dressed.
            Milton packed his parents' lunches.




  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 23 March 2015 · 31 views

Title: The Not-So-Silent E
Genre: Picture Story Book
Word Count: 640

Dear Agent,
In The Not-So-Silent E, Little E has a problem all children can understand: He just wants to be heard! He knows he should follow the rules, but it’s no fun and so hard. This 638-word picture book for ages 4-7 will appeal to young readers familiar with Little PeaSpoon,Little Hoot and Little Oink—readers who will recognize Little E’s plight and will celebrate with him as he discovers that being a Silent E can actually be magical. I have included the first 54 words of the manuscript below for your consideration.
The Silent E concept is a staple of kindergarten and first grade reading curriculum, so young readers will be familiar with the idea. The book should also find an eager audience among teachers and librarians. For as the School Library Journal pointed out in an article, educators are always looking for books that teach grammar and writing skills through fun and inspiring stories.
As a freelancer who has written for children’s magazines for 18 years, I’ve had the challenge of introducing young readers to a wide range of topics and the thrill of hooking their attention with writing that’s both educational and entertaining. For Boys’ Life andNational Geographic Kids, I’ve covered everything Sent from my iPhone funny money facts to amazing animal pals. Several of my stories are included in the 2010-2015 editions of the National Geographic Kids Almanac as well as National Geographic Kids 125 True Stories of Amazing Animals.
Over the past two years, I’ve been fortunate to expand into the children’s book market. I wrote “Angry Birds Explore the World,” the 96-page safari-themed bookazine for National Geographic Kids that published in July 2013. I’ve also written two nonfiction books for National Geographic Kids Books:
*Weather, a Level 1 easy reader, which debuted in July 2013
*From Seed to Plant, a Level 1 easy reader, which debuted in January 2014
My third National Geographic Kids Books title will publish this summer. It’s titled Coral Reefs and is a Level 2 easy reader.
I also have written hundreds of profiles, travel stories and book reviews for such grown-up publications as People, American Way, Family Circle, Sunset and Yankee, among many others.
Thanks so much for your time and consideration. 

First 50 Words:
From the moment Little E was born, his parents knew they were in for trouble.
You see, Little E’s family came from a long line of silent Es. And silent Es live by two rules:

  1. Always be quiet.
  2. Always know your place in line: Never first! Middle and last suit us fine.




  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 23 March 2015 · 19 views

Genre: Fiction Picture Book
Word Count: 540


Dear Michelle and Sharon,

Winner of the 2014 SCBWI–Los Angeles Writer’s Days Contest, QUICO HELD TIGHT is a multicultural picture book for ages 4–8 in 540 words. It’s filled with mayhem, mishaps, and, ultimately, bravery.

When Ana’s pet gecko, Quico, lands smack on Tía Marlina’s spectacles, the colorful characters from Ana’s Mexican village try to get the gecko to let go–but they only make matters worse. Ana knows how to release the reptile, but first she’ll need to work up enough courage to speak out over the rapidly growing crowd. She’d better do it quick, though, because a snake is lurking nearby with his own plans for Quico.

Like THE CAZUELA THAT THE FARM MAIDEN STIRRED by Samantha R. Vamos, QUICO HELD TIGHT unites an Hispanic community around a common goal. Instead of cooking up a delicious casserole, however, the characters of QUICO cook up one calamity after another–all at poor Tía Marlina’s expense. The slapstick humor of QUICO HELD TIGHT resembles that of DUCK DUCK MOOSE! by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, but where DUCK DUCK MOOSE! is about friendship, QUICO is about courage.

I am an SCBWI member and former preschool teacher, currently teaching Internet search strategy classes to homeschoolers of all ages. My writing has appeared inFamilyFunThe HomeschoolerThe Los Feliz Ledger and other publications. 

Thank you for your time.

First 50 Words:

The weekly market in Ana’s Mexican village was in full swing. But Ana preferred to stay out of the crowd. While her family explored the crowded stalls, Ana lingered under the mango tree, training her pet gecko, Quico. 
“Uno, dos, tres,” Ana said. “Jump!” Quico launched himself onto a bright green mango. 




  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 23 March 2015 · 31 views

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Special Needs
Word Count: 498

          Dear Michelle and Sharon,
Adelaide dreams of stardom, but she can't sing, dance, or remember her lines like other kids can. However, she has something special. She has a sparkle, and it makes her shine like the star she truly is… But is it enough to get her on stage? 
In my 498-wordpicture book, ADELAIDE’S SPARKLE, you will witness the perseverance of a girl who does not allow her disability to slow her down.  Adelaide has Down Syndrome, but that is only seen in the illustrator notes, and not preached through the manuscript.
My picture book, Waiting for James in a Sea of Pink, was published in early 2012 with MeeGenius. It was a Golden Owl Award recipient, and spent several weeks as a best seller among MeeGenius’ listings. I am a SCBWI North/Central CA member, volunteer for the Epilepsy Foundation, active 12x12 member, volunteer for the We Need Diverse Books campaign, and graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature.
I very much look forward to hearing from you.

First 50 Words:
Adelaide had something special. She had something very special, indeed.
It wasn’t a pony.
It wasn’t a divine necklace.
It wasn’t something that came from a store.
Adelaide had a sparkle.

Adelaide loved to dance. She wasn’t as graceful as the other girls on the Snazzy Jazzy dance team.



PBParty Agent Round!

  Posted by Michelle4Laughs , 23 March 2015 · 44 views


I don't have enough words to say how much I've enjoyed this contest. The entries just blew Sharon and I away. They are beyond adorable, heart touching, hilarious, sweet and informative. I don't know about Sharon, but I felt like I was in the middle of a group love hug while reading them. I wish I could highlight all of them on my blog.

Please remember that contests are so subjective. Some entries attracted me more than others, that's just the nature of publishing. We had over forty more entries favorited in the maybe folder or starred as something special. The entries in this contest are just that good. I'm sure there will be much success for this group, whether your entry is picked today or not.

Commenting on entries is for agents only. If you'd like to cheer or rave about a favorite, please hop over to twitter at the hashtag #PBParty. The party continues there as we celebrate and support our fellow writers.

Thanks to everyone who entered. I hope to have another PB contest this summer. Stay tuned to the blog for future news.  


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