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FIRST FIVE FRENZY: What is one piece of advice you’d give to writers about their opening pages?

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 13 September 2019 · 24 views

 

It’s hard to believe but the FIRST FIVE FRENZY series is over SEVEN years old! When I started the series back in 2012 I never expected so many agents would agree to participate. Now over 70+ interviews later, the series is still going strong.

In a month I’ll begin sharing new interviews, but for the next couple of weeks I want to post some highlights from the series. This week I’m sharing what agents had to say when this question was posed to them:

 

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give writers about their opening pages?

 

“Often writers have a fantastic concept but are starting their story in the wrong place, or they are starting in the right place but with the wrong line. Getting that right just takes time, studying successful beginning lines in other novels, and figuring out your own novel’s “hook.” – Whitney Ross, Irene Goodman Literary Agency

“Some details should be there to help readers get a feel for the setting, but we don’t need the complete history at the start. Emotionally laden interactions will be much more compelling than a sociology lesson.” – Kari Sutherland, Bradford Literary Agency

“It’s easy to get caught up in the razzle-dazzle of a first chapter, but try to remember what the point of a first chapter is: to establish your main character, their setting and world, and to begin to set up what will later become the conflict of the story. That is by far the most important goal for you to achieve.” – Alexandra Levick, Writers House

“Don’t bury your lead by saving a genius scene or excellent series of dialogue for a later chapter. Let those gems shine in the very beginning of your novel, so that readers will know that this book—your book—is one that they can get excited about.” – Elizabeth Bewley, Sterling Lord Literistic

“Read everything you possibly can in the genre you want to publish in, and think about these books critically—what worked well and what didn’t quite resonate with you. If you pick up a new book and already in the first chapter you keep getting distracted by your phone pinging messages, what would have kept you engrossed?” – Amy Stapp, Wolfson Literary

“Don’t be so married to your opening that you aren’t willing to let it go. So many times, I see books that just don’t start in the right place. Probably because the author feels it’s information we NEED to know before we start, but in reality, it’s better to trust the reader and weave in the essential backstory later.” – Ann Rose, Prospect Agency

“Open with the scene where things happen. If you’re worried removing breakfast with Mom makes her death by sorcerer less impactful in scene 3, the issue isn’t the time you’ve spent introducing her on page, but the lack of emotional weight your character is struggling under.” – Jennifer Grimaldi, Chalberg & Sussman Literary



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Fall Fun! A new series announcement and Across a Broken Shore preorder campaign details!

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 03 September 2019 · 35 views

 

 

 

 

Hello all! I’m back from my summer break with two pieces of good news!

First, today begins the start of my preorder campaign for my next YA Historical book, Across a Broken Shore. I’m super excited to talk about all the goodies I have in store for readers who preorder a paperback copy, e-book copy, or request from their local library. More details are outlined at the bottom of this post.

Second, in two weeks I will be beginning a new series here on the blog titled, “Dear Debut Author”. In the series, seasoned authors will be sharing, in their own words, their experiences as a debut author and what they wish they would have known prior to release day. This is great info for those who will soon be debuts and for those of you who are querying (or on submission) because one day soon you may be a debut author too!

This fall I will also be bringing back my FIRST FIVE FRENZY series with new agent interviews. To read previous posts from over 70 agents about what captures their attention in opening pages go here: First Five Frenzy

 

On to the details for my preorder campaign…

 

PREORDER ACROSS A BROKEN SHORE!

Changing Hands (my local independent book store*)

*leave a comment with the order if you’d like it signed!

Book Depository

Barnes and Noble

Indigo

Amazon

 

 

Preorders are a big deal for authors. Early sales tells the publisher that there is excitement for the book which is very, very important!

As a thank you for preordering, I’m very excited to share details about all the goodies available to those who purchase a paperback copy, e-book, or make a library request for Across a Broken Shore.

To receive your items, please be sure to read ALL the instructions:

All preorders (U.S. and International) will receive one (1) bookmark and one (1) character sticker (Willa and Sam).

Up to the first 50 preorders (U.S. only) will receive a Golden Gate Bridge enamel pin! I’m sorry I can’t offer this as an international prize, but because I’m covering shipping costs myself, I have to keep the pins U.S. only. Closer to my release, I’ll do a pin giveaway for international readers. Thank you for understanding! 🙂

If you order from Changing Hands, the local independent bookstore where I’m doing my book launch on November 16, your preorder will automatically enter you for A SPECIAL DRAWING consisting of all of the items above, plus a silver compass necklace and a terrific smelling San Francisco candle.

I will be drawing the winner for these additional prizes at my launch, but you DO NOT need to be present to win. If you are not there to receive it, I will mail the items to you!

Library requests are included in the general preorder campaign but not the special drawing. Those putting in library requests will receive one (1) bookmark and one (1) character sticker.

Note: I will do my best to make sure the items are sent your way, but I can’t be responsible for anything lost in the mail.

To receive your items, please send an email with proof of purchase, or a copy of the library request, to atruebloodbooks@gmail.com. Please be sure to include:

your full name

email address

mailing address (as it would appear on an envelope)

The preorder campaign will end at 11 p.m. EST on Monday, November 11. All items will be shipped after that date.

Thank you as always for all your wonderful support of me and my books. I REALLY appreciate it!

 

 

 

 

 

 



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NAVIGATING PUBLISHING: BREAKING YOUR BRAND

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 07 June 2019 · 110 views

 

 

 

 

I spent time recently with a good author friend, and as always, the conversation turned to the ups and downs of publishing. One of the topics that came up was the need to build an author “brand”. We talked about what makes your individual writing unique and how we hope when readers see our names on the cover of books they know what they’re getting.

But here’s the funny thing about this conversation, it wasn’t about being known as a “contemporary” writer or a “historical” writer – it was being known as someone who delivered on a simple theme or premise. The idea that when a reader picks up one of our books they’ll get an honest story about someone struggling with identity or pushing back against societal boundaries.

Our discussion soon turned to authors we admired. The names that came up were ones who weren’t tethered to a brand. They were successful at writing in many different genres: historical fantasy, contemporary, dystopian, dark fantasy.

Ever since that day, the conversation has stayed with me. It had me thinking long and hard about what kind of writer I want to be. Some might say that because I’ll soon have two books on the shelves that are YA Historical that will default to my “brand”. But honestly, that feels suffocating. Not all the ideas brewing in my head are historical. I just finished a first draft of a YA Contemporary. The manuscript currently outlined on my laptop is dark YA Fantasy. I worked in marketing for ten years and understand how important it is to build a brand, but who’s to say a brand can’t have wings?

When you look at the long game of publishing you have to think about what inspires you. What story keeps you up at night. What idea digs deep into your head and begs you to put it on paper. In the past I’d heard stories of people not selling their option books because the publisher felt like it didn’t fit their “brand”. Or if they wanted to sell the book, they had to come up with a pen name because the content would attract a different kind of reader. And while it’s true you can’t use the same name to write picture books and erotica, I think the doors are opening wider now for authors to use their own name to write in a variety of categories and genres.

In Middle Grade, I see authors writing contemporary and then moving on to fantasy. In YA, someone may have a contemporary debut but their next book is a thriller. As writers I think it’s on us to be open to “breaking our brand”. To explore new genres. To tackle ideas that may be outside what readers expect from us.

Writing historical will always be a part of my body of work, but I don’t believe it has to define me as an author. The truth is I’ve become better at my craft because I’ve tackled stories in different genres. On my laptop right now I have an adult book written in third-person past and another YA Contemporary written in alternating male and female POV. I don’t know if either one will ever be published, but I feel like a stronger writer because I pushed past my comfort zone.

I hope to still be publishing twenty years from now. In the coming years I want to be able to write anything that inspires me. Not toss away a story idea because it doesn’t fit within the mold of what readers expect from me. My hope is that if my writing is strong enough readers will follow me not because of my brand but because of the story I deliver.

What about you? Are you open to breaking your brand? What genres inspire you and make you want to move out of your comfort zone?

 

 



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Navigating Publishing: What About Swag?

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 13 May 2019 · 83 views

 

 

 

There are many things to juggle when you are a debut author – final edits, copy edits, pass pages, social media presence, online promotion (blog tours, Instagram tours), pre-order campaign. The list can sometimes feel like it goes on and on. In addition to all this piling up, there’s also a decision to be made about promotional items.

When I started to think about promotional items aka “swag”, I looked at what previous debuts had created for their own pre-launch campaigns. It seemed like the typical swag items produced were: bookmarks, postcards, and bookplates. Some other debuts had gone further creating custom enamel pins and/or commissioning character art.

After doing some research, I decided I wanted to do the traditional items, as well as have an illustrator create images of my two main characters. These I would turn into stickers. One other thing I chose to do was create canvas tote bags (with my cover design) to use as a giveaway.

Looking back now over a year later, I’ve learned my lesson about swag. It’s really easy to think you’re going to use every item to promote your book, but I found that while certain pieces of swag were useful, others were a waste of money.

To be fully transparent, below I’ve shared what I spent on promotional items for my debut. In the paragraph following, I’ve shared what promo items I thought were worth the money, and others that were not.

Design Costs

Bookmarks, Bookplates, Postcards: $145

Illustration/Commission Fees: $100

(fee included all license and usage rights)

Total Design Costs: $245

Printing

Bookmarks: 4-color/double-sided (1,000): $58.50

Bookplates: 4-color/double-sided  (1,000): $66.25

Postcards: 4-color/double-sided (100): $39.88

Character stickers – 4 color (200): $117.50

Canvas Tote Bags – 4 color (3): $35.52

Total Print Costs: $317.65

 

Here is what my final printed swag looked like (minus the postcards and tote bag):

 

 

The two best things I spent my money on was bookmarks and postcards. Bookmarks went fast at conferences, festivals, and school visits. A lot of people think postcards are not worth the money, but I sent them to every middle school and high school librarian within a 25 mile radius of where I lived. I also sent to the youth/teen librarians at every public library in the metro Phoenix area. These postcards resulted in several school visits, as well as public library events. They were definitely worth the money if only for the connections they helped me make.

One item I regretted spending money on was bookplates. Besides my pre-order campaign, I never used them. There are about 750 still sitting in a box in my closet. As for my character stickers, they were expensive to print but were very popular at festivals and school visits, especially with teen readers. I would also not spend money again on the tote bags. While they were fun to hand out to raffle winners at events, and as online giveaways, that money could have been better spent in other areas.

One quick tip if you’re hiring a designer to create your swag. Ask that they make two templates for you. One with pre-release details (ISBN number, on sale date, etc.), and then another one for after your release. I didn’t do this and ended up paying an additional design fee to have my release date removed from my bookmark and postcard designs. Also, order fewer quantity than what you think you’ll need. It’s better to run out and have to reorder then to over order and never use.

Navigating your debut year can be stressful. Take your time to really think about what swag items will help best promote your book. Others around you may be going all out, but only create what you think is best for your own promotion and marketing plan.

Please feel free to leave questions in comments.

 



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Navigating Publishing: Anatomy of a Cover

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 15 April 2019 · 125 views

 

 

The process of cover design is yet one more thing that seems hidden behind the publishing curtain. We see “subtweets” from writers about the process. Get hints on social media that a reveal will be coming soon. Then, maybe days or weeks later, the cover is shared on a publisher’s website, on an online entertainment site like Hypable or Bustle, or even an author’s blog. But what really happens before then? How much say does a writer have when it comes to their cover? What part do they have in the process?

In today’s Navigating Publishing post, I’m walking through the stages of my cover design experience with Across a Broken Shore with permission from my publisher, Flux. I hope that by sharing these details you’ll get better insight as to how the process works.

Now, let me say first that this is my own personal experience. Other authors, with deals with other publishers, most likely have a completely different experience. Each publisher has its own plan when it comes to covers. It’s important to keep that in mind as you continue to read.

Whenever I think about the cover design process I get a little queasy. It’s hard sometimes for a writer to verbalize what they see in their head. How they know one specific image will be the perfect fit for their cover. I also have one statement that drones in my head over and over, “In Young Adult, covers sell books”. I heard this a few years ago from a long-time bookseller, and I think it is true. Often times the wrong design can hurt book sales. I know for a fact this keeps many of us writers up at night.

I’ve been lucky. The amazing people at Flux have been very open to my input. In the first step of the process, the editors asked me to provide examples of book covers I admired and specific elements I wanted included. In the case of Nothing But Sky, I requested that a propeller be incorporated into the design. With Across a Broken Shore, I was pretty adamant that the Golden Gate Bridge be featured in some way.

In the case of AABS, I sent a half-dozen attachments to Flux which included covers I liked, period-specific clothing styles, and images that resembled my main character. Once my editor reviewed my email, she asked more specific details about tone and setting elements.

Once all the details were pinned down, I waited for several weeks until my editor sent me the following designs created by the talented Sarah Taplin:

 

CONCEPT 1

 

CONCEPT 2

 

Both of these concepts rendered me speechless. Each did an amazing job of capturing elements of the story I loved (the bridge & medicine). Numerous emails were swapped as those involved (editors & designer) chatted at length about the merits of each design. After much discussion it was decided that while we loved both designs, “Concept 1” captured the heart and setting of the story best.

With the design selected, the next focus needed to be on historical detail. I sent an email to my editor with more attachments this time. They included several examples of what 1930s dresses looked like (thanks to catalog and sewing pattern images from the time), the accurate length of the hem, and the importance of including a period-accurate doctor’s bag. Once all these elements were conveyed, another concept was sent to me a few days later.

 

Concept 1 (Revision #1)

 

At this point, even though the featured image is locked down, there are still small tweaks needed. While the doctor’s bag is now period-accurate, and the dress material is correct, the belt and hem length need adjustment. One other thing the designer has changed is my name at the top. The conversion to a bright red color now pops from the muted background.

Based on this minor feedback, I was sent the following design which ended up being the final approved image.

 

Final Approved Cover

 

While I am beyond thrilled with the final design for Across a Broken Shore, it did not come without some work. It takes thought and A LOT of patience to get through the cover design process. What you have to keep in mind is that a cover needs to jive with what the editor, publisher, and marketing department feels is right for your book. The truth is that often times this requires many emails and compromise on both sides.

Do you have questions about the cover design process? Feel free to ask them in the comments below.

 

 



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Witty, Wonderful Podcast Wednesday: April 10, 2019

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 10 April 2019 · 113 views

 

 

Hello readers! When I first started this blog back in 2012 I had two main goals: share the ups and downs of my writing journey and shine a light on people who were doing great things in the book/publishing community.

Over the years this blog has evolved and morphed into many things. I’ve had varying features, series, and posts which aimed to help writers at every level. As things have changed, so have aspects of publishing. One of the fastest growing platforms I’ve seen over the past two years is the skyrocketing development of podcasts.

When I first discovered podcasts there were just a handful that were talking about writing and publishing. Now, there are dozens that tackle craft, as well as the business of publishing. I have to admit I’m sort of hooked now because each week I find myself intrigued and/or motivated by a topic that teaches me something new in regards to the reading, writing, or publishing worlds.

Because I find so many of these shows worthwhile, I decided I wanted to use this platform to boost my weekly discoveries and thus Witty, Wonderful Podcast Wednesday was born!

Today’s inaugural offering is from the AMAZING Literaticast hosted by literary agent, Jennifer Laughran of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

In the latest Literaticast episode, Laughran talks to Newbery Medal winner, Meg Medina about her writing career and how she creates a diverse and interesting cast of characters. Medina also discusses the way she builds an intriguing contemporary world in all her books. Her comments on coming to writing later in life and her bravery in tackling difficult subjects is truly awe-inspiring.

Here is the link to the podcast titled: Meg Medina Changes Gears.  Hope you enjoy!

 

Side note: Most of the individuals hosting podcasts provide content with little or no funding. If you enjoy what you hear, and have the means, please consider contributing to the host’s funding sites to help support the good work they’re doing. Thank you! 

 

 

 

 



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The Problem with Perfection and Publishing

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 09 April 2019 · 101 views

 

 

I think I’ve deleted and rewritten this post at least five times now. This has been a difficult piece for me to write so I hope you’ll bear with me.

For the last two weeks I’ve been in a deep, dark place. I’m really not sure what brought it on but it could be a combination of things: two tragic and untimely deaths in my life, the worry of having a second book on the way, the pressure of being a “Type A” personality in a business that follows no rules. If I’m honest, I’m pretty sure it is a mixture of all these elements that’s kept me from sleeping these past two weeks.

Sleep deprivation causes havoc on all parts of the body including the creative mind. Lately, the thought of sitting down at the computer has filled me with terror just as much as the idea of putting my head on the pillow. What if I could never sleep again was scrambled right in with what if I never write another story.

Both these thoughts have kept me up late into the morning and pretty much ruined any real semblance of life. It’s been a tough road, but I’m slowly clawing my way back. How have I done it? First, I talked over my worries and fears with family and friends and then I asked for help. Second, I came to this truth: NOTHING IN PUBLISHING IS WITHIN MY CONTROL.

This is a very scary thought for a total control freak like me. What’s even harder for a perfectionist is the thought of constant rejection-which I’ve had a lot of recently.

Here’s where I get totally transparent because I think writers at every level come up against these kinds of walls, but many are too embarrassed or uncomfortable to admit it publicly.

The truth is I’ve been without representation for almost two years. In that time, I’ve queried about twenty agents with two new books. One is a YA Contemporary and the other is an Adult Contemporary Romance. In both cases, I’ve received full requests but unfortunately no offers. For someone once agented, this is a bitter pill to swallow.

Now here’s the kicker (and I’m keeping it real here) many of the agents I queried knew I already had an offer on the table for my next book. They could have agreed to rep me for that book and take on whatever I was writing next. One would think I’d get some automatic offers, right? Bird in the hand and all. Sadly, no offers came. I can’t explain it away except to allow my head to go to a dark place. Maybe my writing sucks. Maybe I’ll never get another agent. Maybe I’m only a “two-book” girl.

It’s really easy to fall down this rabbit hole. To think your past books were total flukes. That somehow you pulled a “fast one” on your publisher and they just “thought”you were a good writer.

With clarity and time I’ve come to realize NONE of this is true. What is wrong is my idea of perfection. For all my claims of not wanting to compare myself to other writers’ careers, I’ve done exactly that. I’ve been chasing an unrealistic picture of success, and that picture has turned into a monster with nasty, sharp teeth.

Publishing is a fickle friend. Sometimes it lays a golden path in front of you with beautiful offers and accolades. Other times, it’s an unforgiving beast that knocks you down at every turn. You see none of this when you start out. You write that first book with stars in your eyes and a dream in your heart. This is a wonderful place to be. Hope is eternal and the sky’s the limit. Unfortunately, as you dig deeper into the business things get a little rocky. But here’s the truth, and I know it’s corny, but you don’t get the damn rainbow without the rain.

Ask anyone in this business about their path and MANY will tell you their horror stories. If you get in deep enough, you learn about people who are on their third agent and have had four books on sub with no deals. People will share that they’ve queried five books and still don’t have an agent. Critics and pessimists may say this is because those writers don’t have talent or the right story. I call b.s. Those people grinding and hustling every day are the ones who will be successful. Right now they’re just at the mercy of the beast called publishing.

I’ve been writing for close to ten years now. You would’ve thought I’d  learned all these lessons sooner, but we all have our own timing in figuring things out. That’s okay. What I want to share is that publishing is a rough business. Some may not have the wherewithal to stand the dark days and the frequent rejection. But for those who do, I hope you’ll learn from my story.

Everything in publishing will not be sunshine and roses. Most days it will feel like an uphill battle. The key, at least for me, is to remember why I’m putting myself through this meat grinder. The answer is story.

Right now in the “Notes” file on my phone I have four concepts I’d like share with readers one day. As I learned of late, maybe those stories won’t make it that far. Does that mean I stop? Probably not. Every time I try to walk away the stories dig in deep and drag me back.

While it’s true publishing is a tough world, what I’ve learned in my struggle is that first and foremost I write stories for me. If I’m lucky enough to connect with an agent again and sell another book then that’s icing on the cake. Again, tough lesson to learn but it’s the truth.

Writing in its most base form is about spilling out your creative well. It’s not about perfection, advances, royalties, signings, or awards. It only took me ten years to figure this out. For you, writing friend, I hope you discover this truth sooner. Once you do, all the rejection in the world won’t matter because you’ll still have the most important thing: your story. Hold onto it tightly because in the end it’s really what matters most.

 

 

 

 



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It’s here!! Cover reveal for Across a Broken Shore

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 03 April 2019 · 70 views

 

One of the hardest things in publishing is having to wait. Often times when you get good news you have to stay quiet until the announcement goes live before you can crow from the rooftops. The same thing holds true for when you get a final cover design for a book. You want to share it with the world as soon as possible, but often you have to wait until the perfect time to reveal.

Well today, I have to wait no more! I’m so excited to share that Hypable has released the cover for my next YA Historical, Across A Broken Shore along with a first chapter excerpt.

In an upcoming post in my Navigating Publishing series, I’m going to talk about the cover process and reveal what it takes to get to the final design. For now, I hope you’ll celebrate this happy day with me and head over to Hypable to see the cover and read the chapter excerpt! Sarah Taplin at Flux did an amazing job of capturing the look and feel of this book, and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with the world today!

Here’s a little sneak peek of the cover…

 

 

If you’re interested in reading, I hope you’ll add to your TBR on Goodreads! Pre-order links are now up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound and Book Depository!

 

 

 

 



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FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Amy Stapp of Wolfson Literary

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 29 March 2019 · 69 views

 

 

 

Writing the opening chapter of a book can be a struggle, especially penning those critical first pages. There are always questions about where to start, what you should include to have the most impact, and more importantly, how to get the reader to turn the page.

The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first few pages of a manuscript. It’s tricky to get the right balance, but I hope by reading each agent’s comments you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that’s requested over and over.

Today I’m proud to share Amy Stapp’s perspective on what’s important in those first five pages.

 

Amy T.: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?

Amy S.: It’s important, but maybe let’s say a great first paragraph is more important than just a punchy first sentence. You can tell pretty quickly whether a character is speaking, a character I’d love to get to know better, a character in the middle of some intriguing moment in her life, or whether the author is speaking, perhaps even trying just a bit too hard to make that first sentence a bomb-drop moment. Think about it this way: When you’re home on a lazy night in, flipping through shows on Netflix, you’re only given one sentence telling you what a show is about, and then if that hook is enough to catch your attention, you maybe have a thirty second trailer to decide if you want to spend the next hour or two of your life with these characters. Query letters and first pages are no different; this is our first impression of your work.

 

Amy T.: A lot of books open with common things like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, starting at a new school, etc. What are some openings you recommend writers stay away from?

Amy S.: Oh yes, I see these a lot. Dreams and flashbacks are rarely the best way to tell the story, but the one that irks me personally is when the protagonist breaks the fourth wall and acts like we’re already besties or like they’re a 19thcentury grandpa about to tell me a tale. Ha! “I remember it well… It all started when…” Writers sometimes feel the need to give a big preamble about how they’re about to tell us what happened instead of just fully immersing us in the world without any big setup. Trust your reader to pick up on your subtle clues without the need for a flashback or overly voicey narrator.

 

Amy T.: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?

Amy S.: Often, it’s the hook. If I see a hook that reminds me of something I loved, or on the flip side just feels totally fresh and unique, I’m dying to read more. And you can tell very, very quickly whether someone can write. Don’t let that discourage you though; it’s called craft because it’s something that can be learned, studied, improved; so if you’re not getting a lot of responses from agents, maybe put that manuscript aside for a few months and work on a new project, or find some critique partners who will help you see where you can sharpen your manuscript. The biggest mistake I see is people simply submitting their work before it’s ready. A lot of writers finish a manuscript and immediately submit it to agents. The real professionals who have multiple ideas in the back of their minds and long careers ahead of them, take the time to look at their work with a critical eye, to work with critique partners and writing groups on multiple rounds of revisions, to get to know what specific agents are really looking for. There is zero need to rush to get your manuscript out the door before it’s ready.

 

Amy T.: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?

Amy S.: Yes. 😊All of those things. Sometimes I can just tell immediately I’m going to like this character, the way you just know when a first date is really going well and you’re both going to want a second. Sometimes the writing isn’t necessarily blowing me away, but the hook is so unique, or just really hits a wishlist/catnip item for me (another reason to do your research before querying), that I can’t help but turn the pages. In the best queries, you’ve already finished the sample pages before you even realize it and can’t believe you sped through them so quickly, so you just have to ask to see more.

 

Amy T.: What is one piece of advice you’d like to give writers about their opening pages?

Amy S.: Unfortunately, if you haven’t hooked me, you’re not going to hook a reader either. Readers skimming the shelves at Barnes & Noble are much less forgiving. So if you know this is a genre I love or a trope I’ve said I’m looking for, and I don’t ask to read more pages, don’t take it personally. Take it as a cue that maybe you just need to workshop this a bit more to find out what’s not clicking with readers.

Read everything you possibly can in the genre you want to publish in, and think about these books critically—what worked well and what didn’t quite resonate with you. If you pick up a new book and already in the first chapter you keep getting distracted by your phone pinging messages, what would have kept you engrossed?

At the end of the day, we’re all just book nerds, so don’t stress too much. The same things that make you fall in love with a great book are going to make readers (and agents and editors) fall in love with your book.

 

Amy Stapp received her BA from Samford University and MA from Georgia State University before beginning her publishing career at Macmillan, where she was an editor for seven years and had the privilege of working with many New York Times bestselling authors. Amy joined Wolfson Literary in 2018 and is actively building her list, with interest in women’s fiction, mystery, suspense, historical fiction, young adult, and select nonfiction.  She is particularly drawn to well-paced prose, immersive settings, and smart, multidimensional characters.

If you are interested in querying Amy, please follow the Wolfson Literary submission guidelines.

 



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FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Elizabeth Bewley of Sterling Lord Literistic

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 01 March 2019 · 61 views

 

 

Writing the opening chapter of a book can be a struggle, especially penning those critical first pages. There are always questions about where to start, what you should include to have the most impact, and more importantly, how to get the reader to turn the page.

The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first few pages of a manuscript. It’s tricky to get the right balance, but I hope by reading each agent’s comments you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that’s requested over and over.

Today, I’m proud to share Elizabeth Bewley’s perspective on what’s important in those first five pages.

 

Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?

Elizabeth: I do love a great first line! But, as an agent, I’m most interested in reading a really strong opening chapter. So, I guess I give writers a little more time to convince me to stick around.

 

Amy: A lot of books open with common things like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, starting at a new school, etc. What are some openings you recommend writers stay away from?

Elizabeth: As a reader, an editor, and now as an agent, I’ve learned to never say never. A brilliant writer can open a book in whatever way he or she wishes. That said, I oftentimes feel slightly bored by opening scenes that depict a protagonist’s normal routine, especially if there’s nothing unusual happening or if the telling of the scene is very straightforward. For example, I don’t necessarily need to see a middle-grade character picking out clothes and eating breakfast before the first day at a new school. The minute the character walks into a classroom and meets his or her new peers—that’s probably when the real drama begins, so why not start the book there? I’m a fan of in media res.

 

Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?

Elizabeth: I either really connect to the narrative voice or see something unusual or interesting in the premise of the story. Ideally, it’s both!

 

Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?

Elizabeth: All of the above. But, it’s usually a strong, specific voice that gets me most excited.

 

Amy: What is one piece of advice you’d like to give writers about their opening pages?

Elizabeth: Don’t bury your lead by saving a genius scene or excellent series of dialogue for a later chapter. Let those gems shine in the very beginning of your novel, so that readers will know that this book—your book—is one that they can get excited about.

 

Elizabeth Bewley of Sterling Lord Literistic in New York represents young adult and middle grade fiction and nonfiction, as well as a select number of adult fiction and nonfiction works. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2002, Elizabeth got her first job as an editorial assistant at St. Martin’s Press. She then went on to hold editorial jobs at HarperCollins, Intervisual Books, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, where she was an Executive Editor. Elizabeth has worked with bestselling and award-winning authors including Jennifer E. Smith, Estelle Laure, Claire LaZebnik, Linda Williams Jackson, Ashley Herring Blake, Sophie Flack, Kass Morgan, Josh Sundquist, Alyson Noël, and Nic Sheff, amongst others. She joined Sterling Lord Literistic in 2017, and she has an affinity for upmarket commercial fiction and accessible nonfiction that illuminates real world issues.  She enjoys working closely with authors on each and every stage of the publication process. You can follow Elizabeth on twitter @elizbewley and visit the agency’s website at www.sll.com.

 



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