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FFF 9: LOVE SONG – Women’s Fiction

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 26 November 2018 · 14 views



Category/Genre: Adult Women’s Fiction

Word Count: 77,000 words


How Did You Fall for Writing:

In the first grade, I started writing Little Orphan Annie fan fiction with my cousin in the back of the bus. Then came journaling–then writing music. I’ve never looked back!



Dear Fabulous Agent,

I am seeking representation for my novel, LOVE SONG, which combines the heartwarming feel of P.S. I Love You with the lyricism of The Light Between Oceans.

When Atlanta-area church musician Miriam Tedesco stumbles across an app written by her daughter, a programming whiz—one that uses social media to direct a cross-country road trip—it feels like a message from beyond the grave. It’s a year since her husband and twin teenagers perished in a freak accident on the West Coast, and she’s just beginning to realize how thoroughly she’s closed herself off from life.

Armed with her husband’s guitar, her daughter’s cello, and her son’s unfinished piano sonata, she embarks on a musical pilgrimage to the place where they died, hoping to honor the family she gave up her own dreams to raise and purge the guilt of feeling she never loved them well enough in life. But when she picks up a young, pregnant hitchhiker whose social media savvy causes the road trip to go viral, Miriam’s private memorial becomes anything but. Suddenly, she’s juggling everything from a wannabe reality TV diva to homegrown paparazzi.

Tornadoes, street performances, impromptu UFO watch parties…ready or not, Miriam’s world is coming back to life. But as she struggles to keep her focus on the reason she set out on this journey in the first place, she has to confront the possibility that the best way to honor her lost family might be to come clean about the one thing she never wanted them to know.

LOVE SONG draws upon my thirty years’ experience as a classical flutist and church musician. My last manuscript won the Women’s Fiction Writers Association’s 2016 Rising Star contest. I write regularly for magazines and have published a trio of short nonfiction books with Liguori Publications, as well as a number of musical works for instrumental and choral ensembles. Other writing credits include Apeiron Review, Chicken Soup for the Soul and All Things Considered.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


First 250 words:

On her thirty-eighth birthday, Miriam Tedesco received flowers from a ghost.

She didn’t need the blatant reminder that the universe hated her. She’d known for a year. And if she’d had any doubts, they vanished the moment she got called to lead music for a funeral on a day she should have been at home, nursing her own loss.

“Miriam!” the hospitality director greeted her at the church door. “Thank God you’re here. I need the key for the janitor’s closet. A kid threw up in the cry room.”


A second volunteer touched her shoulder, not quite meeting her eyes. “Miriam, the reserved signs are missing. Do you know where they are?”

“Hey, guys!” said one of her choir members. “Somebody’s gotta talk to those readers. They both have the same Scripture, and it’s getting ugly up there.”

Miriam tried to point out that there were two readings, and it shouldn’t be that hard to satisfy everyone, but her voice wouldn’t work. Heart pounding, roaring ears—was she having a panic attack? And why didn’t anyone seem to notice?

Usually, she relished the way people at St. Greg’s counted on her institutional knowledge, her competence, for things beyond her musical expertise. She’d worked here long enough to know a music director in a Catholic parish did much more than play music.

But it sure seemed like the good Lord could’ve cut her a break on the first anniversary of the day her husband and kids had died.



FFF 10: CINDER SWEPT – Adult Fantasy Romance

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 26 November 2018 · 14 views



Category/Genre: Adult Fantasy Romance

Word Count: 90,000 words


How Did You Fall for Writing:

A fourth grade Nancy Drew fanfiction turned into a lifelong love affair. And yes, I still have the book.



Prince Hayden was doing fine. Sure, he was drinking away his nightmares of bloody battlefields, murderous witches, and the betrayal by the woman he loved, but that’s to be expected of a second son with no aspirations to the Pavian throne. But he doesn’t hesitate when his brother asks him to investigate the mysterious disappearances of high-ranking officials in Rosalia, with his cousin, Prince Dolph, as the main suspect. When Dolph offers Hayden a night with Ashen, his coveted concubine, Hayden can’t refuse without blowing his cover.

Instead of the submissive waif Hayden expected, Ashen reveals herself to be an intelligent, determined woman. After losing her parents at an early age, Ashen’s focus has been on saving the money to escape her servitude, leaving no time for anything, or anyone, else. Though she’s wary of the handsome stranger, Ashen sees the opportunity of escape her life that doesn’t leave her penniless, or worse, dead.

More importantly, Ashen’s knowledge of the prince’s activities makes her a useful ally. With Hayden’s promise of protection, Ashen agrees to spy on the prince from within his bedchamber. Together they discover Dolph is raising a magical force that could threaten the country Hayden has spent his life defending. But while Ashen searches for proof and Hayden for allies, Dolph’s followers are closing in. Ashen and Hayden must push past their trust issues to overcome the dark forces threatening to tear them apart.

This standalone novel is a Cinderella re-telling the Grimm Brothers would steal. This novel is comparable in tone to darker fairy tales such as A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES and POISON STUDY.


First 250 words:

Ashen’s wrist throbbed as she pushed the stiff-bristled broom across the tavern floor. Back and forth, back and forth. Even though her bones ached to their core, the shine of freshly cleaned wood always made her feel better. Cleaning was at least honest work.

A flash of light glinted underneath a table. Ashen knelt down and groped along between the table legs until her fingers touched the cool metal. She held the coin up to the sun and examined it. A farthing, barely worth anything, but still, she’d add it to her stack. One piece closer to freedom.

She tucked the coin into the pocket of her apron and pulled up to her feet. Warm light streamed in through the window and wrapped around her like a hug. Father had put in the large framed glass ten years ago. Ashen could almost see her mother’s blonde hair practically glowing in the light. The All-Mother had taken Ashen’s mother to the heavens not long after, and then six years later her father. Her memories were nothing but ghosts.

After sweeping the dust out the back door, Ashen picked up the pail with her left hand–one of the hardest parts of her afternoon. The pail fit into its perfect little groove in the mud. She reached out with her left arm and heaved the handle up and down, up and down. She bit back a wince. If Stepmother saw, the bite of her words would sting nearly as hard as the crack of her cane.





  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 26 November 2018 · 14 views



Category/Genre: MG LGBTQ Contemporary Fantasy

Word Count: 34,000 words


How Did You Fall For Writing:

I fell in love with writing as a kid. I wrote a poem for a fifth-grade homework assignment and somehow discovered the value of my own voice. I realized stories could be fuel and hope and propel me forward. I could write my way into different worlds that helped me better understand my own. And still, nothing makes me feel more present and awake in my life. 



A year ago, Enzo Azzini’s father dropped him off for a summer in Arezzo, Italy with his Nonna. But at summer’s end, his dad did not return. Confused and hurt, Enzo discovered the secret of Nonna’s shoe company—she embeds magic into each pair. All year she’s taught Enzo how to add enchantments based on the wearer’s needs: sleep inducing slippers for a fussy baby, oxfords to soothe arthritis, loafers to give a young man the courage to propose.

When Enzo finds out his dad is returning for a visit, he plans to impress him with his mastery of magic, thus hopefully earning Dad’s admiration, and a ticket home to Rome. However, Nonna goes on a trip out of town, and the new delivery boy, Gio (Enzo’s covert crush) mixes up the orders. All over Arezzo, people become affected by spells intended for someone else. Like it or not, Enzo must team up with the boy that makes his cheeks a constant blush factory and get the shoes to the right customers before their futures—and Enzo’s—are ruined. If they don’t fix this mess, the town will dissolve into chaos, Enzo’s dad won’t be at all swayed by Enzo’s abilities, and the truth about the shop could come out.

THE MAGICAL AZZINI SHOE COMPANY could be described as an Italian Coco meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream with LGBTQ themes. It will appeal to fans of Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello Universe, and Kathryn Littlewood’s The Bliss Bakery series.

As a Children’s Librarian at a public library, I follow the kidlit market carefully and frequently do school and daycare visits to read stories and promote literacy. I was previously represented, but my former agent left the business and THE MAGICAL AZZINI SHOE COMPANY has not been on submission.

Thank you so much for your time and attention.


First 250 words:

Chapter One

On Enzo’s eleventh birthday, he discovered that his Nonna’s company dealt more in magic than in leather. The kind of magic that could change your destiny.

On that day, the day when everything changed, a young man named Alberto shuffled into the shop. He kept reaching into his pocket and fiddling with something. Enzo had seen him in town, and he always had the same nervous frown hovering at the corners of his mouth, as though he were uneasy about something.

Enzo gave him a quizzical look, wondering why Alberto was so on edge. He took Alberto’s order number and ran to find his shoes in Nonna’s messy back office. He sidestepped scraps, inhaling the rich, earthy smell of leather. 

Enzo’s gaze landed on a box marked 72, the same number as Alberto’s ticket. Picking it up, he turned and halted in front of Nonna’s finger, inches from his nose. 

“No. Put it back.” She turned on her heel.

Enzo trotted after her to where Alberto stood, his hands still fluttering like restless butterflies.

Nonna’s hands went to her hips. “Your order is not finished. Come back in half an hour.”

Enzo’s forehead wrinkled. The box was in Nonna’s done pile. Why would she lie?

When the man left the shop, Nonna raised a thick eyebrow at Enzo. “It’s time you learn how we make shoes in our family.”

Enzo had seen his Nonna make shoes before. He’d watched her hands stretch and measure countless bolts of soft leather. Had she forgotten? 




  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 30 October 2018 · 147 views



The submission window for Fall Fiction Fest opens tomorrow, October 31st, at 4:00 pm EST!  The instructions and rules for entry are below.

No need to rush. We will be open for 24 hours. That’s right, submissions can be sent on Halloween or All Saints Day, depending on whether you’re feeling saintly or slightly more evil.

Please do not enter early or your entry will be deleted. You can resend at the proper time if this happens accidentally. Confirmation emails will be sent. If you don’t receive one, don’t resend. We don’t want duplicate entries. Please check with us on Twitter first to confirm your entry did or did not arrive, then you may resend.

There is only ONE, yes that’s right, ONE entry per person allowed. Any attempt to cheat will result in entries being thrown out. This contest is only for finished and polished stories.

Important note: The story can’t have been in the agent round of any other contest in the last three months. This doesn’t mean twitter pitch events with hashtags, but multiple agent blog contests. If you entered PitchWars and didn’t get a mentor, we welcome you.

Though we love picture books, Michelle holds special contests just for them. We do accept all MG, YA, NA and Adult genres, excluding erotica. We’d like you to be followers of our blogs. Click the “follow” button on my blog. You can find Michelle’s blog here and Marty’s blog here. If following our blogs doesn’t work, follow us on Twitter. Don’t sweat this. Do your best.



The Format:

Send submission to Sunversussnow (at) yahoo (dot) com. (Yep, we’re recycling the address.) Only one submission per person is allowed. It doesn’t matter if you write under different names or are submitting different manuscripts. You are still one person and get one entry.

Here’s how it should be formatted (yes, include the bolded!) Please use Times New Roman (or equivalent), 12 pt font, single-spaced, and put spaces between paragraphs. No indents or tabs are needed. No worries if your gmail doesn’t have Times New Roman. No worries if the email messes up your format. Yes, we will still read it! 🙂

(Here’s a trick to keep your paragraph spacing: copy and paste your entry into your email and then put in the line spaces. They seem to get lost when you copy and paste. It may look right but sending scrambles the spacing.)


Subject Line: Fall Fest: TITLE, Age Category + Genre

(example: Fall Fest: GRUDGING, Adult Epic Fantasy)


In The Email:

Title: MY FANTASTIC BOOK (yes, caps!)

Genre: YA dystopian Ownvoices (Age category and genre. Add “Ownvoices” here if it applies)

Word Count: XX,XXX (round to the nearest thousand)

Twitter Handle: (Optional so we can contact you. Will not be public.)

How Did You Fall for Writing: (Share your origin story in 100 words or less.) My husband dared me that I couldn’t write a book. And–ta-da–I could!



Query goes here! Include greeting and main paragraphs. You may include bio, closing, but not the word count + genre. We already have that. You may include comps if you’d like. There is no word count limit on the query but please aim for 250 – 300 words.

You may include if your story is OwnVoices or otherwise has diversity up in the genre line and in the query.

Remember a query has several paragraphs with spaces. Don’t send us a pitch.


First 250 words:

Here are the first 250 words of my manuscript, and I will not end in the middle of a sentence. But I will not go over 257 words. Be reasonable and don’t make us count. Don’t forget to space between paragraphs! No indents!


That is it!!! See you at 4:00 pm Eastern time on Halloween. Good luck!



Now for the fun stuff!

Watch on Wednesday for our Twitter Party!  We’ll have a list of daily topics to talk about on Twitter under #FallFest.

Also join us for a very special party on November 6th! That’s when we’ll try to get 100 voters to give us shout outs and blow this contest wide open by adding extra (!!!) picks for each co-host. On Election Day just share with us on Twitter how you voted using #FallFest and if we get 100+ Tweets we will add picks!






  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 27 October 2018 · 99 views


Hello friends! Just a quick post to say that my debut, NOTHING BUT SKY is a featured deal today on BookBub. That means the e-book version is available for only .99 on all digital platforms. My publisher is not going to leave it at this price for long, so if you love a fearless female lead who hangs off biplanes for a living, and doesn’t blink at death-defying stunts, NOTHING BUT SKY may be the book for you! Also, if you’ve already read THANK YOU, and I hope you’ll pass along this awesome deal to family and friends who might enjoy a thrill-ride of a read!



Grace Lafferty only feels alive when she’s dangling 500 feet above ground. As a post-World War I wing walker, Grace is determined to get to the World Aviation Expo, proving her team’s worth against flashier competitors and earning a coveted Hollywood contract.

No one’s ever questioned Grace’s ambition until Henry Patton, a mechanic with plenty of scars from the battlefield, joins her barnstorming team. With each new death-defying trick, Henry pushes Grace to consider her reasons for being a daredevil. Annoyed with Henry’s constant interference, and her growing attraction to him, Grace continues to test the powers of the sky.

After one of her risky maneuvers saves a pilot’s life, a Hollywood studio offers Grace a chance to perform at the Expo. She jumps at the opportunity to secure her future. But when a stunt goes wrong, Grace must decide whether Henry, and her life, are worth risking for one final trick.



A Spring 2018 Junior Library Guild selection


“Post World War I wing walker Grace Lafferty is the kind of spunky, stubborn
heroine that will make readers feel like the sky’s the limit.”
Stacey Lee, award-winning author of OUTRUN THE MOON


“Adventure-minded girls of all ages will be inspired by Grace Lafferty, a fearless
heroine whose grit and persistence overcome every obstacle she faces.”
Gwen C. Katz, author of AMONG THE RED STARS


“Trueblood’s action-packed first novel explores the post-World War I époque with
visceral period detail.” –Publishers Weekly


“An exhilarating historical novel with a strong feminist core that will appeal to a
broad range of readers.”—Booklist


“Action scenes play out with a cinematically breathtaking intensity; it’s a gas” – Kirkus 


Now just .99 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and Google Play.





FALL FICTION FEST-Welcome Mentors!

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 25 October 2018 · 102 views


Michelle, Marty  and I are very excited that so many mentors have agreed to help us out with FALL FICTION FEST this year. These talented authors/mentors will be split between the three teams. Once we have selected our picks, the mentors will work with their assigned entry’s query and first 250 words and provide feedback.

To refresh your memory about contest details you can go here.

Many thanks to these amazing writers for agreeing to share their time and expertise with the selected picks. We are looking forward to seeing how polished and beautiful the final entries will be for the agent round!

My list consists of eight mentors. The rest of the mentor team can be found over on Michelle and Marty’s blogs.

Submission window for the contest opens October 31. Get those entries ready!


Ian Barnes

Ian Barnes is a writer of bad jokes and various flavors of fantasy. A former computer engineer-turned-technical writer-turned-purveyor of puns, he lives outside Boston with his wife amid an ever-expanding fort of books. He’s a lover of video games and whiskey, and will happily talk your ear off about either. When he was four, a ghost said hi to him. Ian is represented by Matt Bialer of Sanford J Greenburger Associates. For more on Ian, follow him on Twitter (@imbarnes) or check out his website.


Ryan Dalton

Ryan Dalton is the author of the young adult Time Shift Trilogy. He splits his time between writing books, fighting crime at night, and hanging out in his awesome underground lair. Please don’t tell anyone he’s Batman. It’s a secret. For more on Ryan, follow him on Twitter (@iRyanDalton), Instagram (@RyanDalton), or check out his website.


Sarah Janian

Sarah Janian is a Progressive educator and MG writer. She attended Swarthmore College (’05) and earned her master’s in literacy education (’09) from Bank Street in NYC, and has worked for over a decade with elementary-aged kids. In between teaching and parenting her littles, she also binges on SF shows like The Expanse and plays the ukulele badly but enthusiastically.  She is repped by Sarah LaPolla at Bradford Lit. For more on Sarah, follow her on Twitter (@sarahjanian) or check out her website.


Léonie Kelsall

A Professional Counsellor, Léonie (Lee, because no one can pronounce her name!) lives in the wilds of Australia. Okay, not so much the wilds, as in a country town…but it is inhabited by a generous mix of bitey, stingy, poisonous varieties of Australian wildlife, as evidenced on her Twitter feed.

Represented by the Donaghy Literary Group, and writing historical and contemporary YA, along with Women’s Fiction, sci-fi romance and erotic romance, Lee is big on extensive research, including archaeological digs and…ah, other stuff that shouldn’t be listed here, given that last genre. Her books are published by The Wild Rose Press under a pseudonym (again, because of that last genre!)

Being an Aussie, her spelling can be a bit off. A finalist in the YARWA Rosemary Award ‘17, and WisRWA Fab Five ’18, she swears she duz no how too rite gud, though. For more on Léonie, follow her on Twitter (@leehotline) or check out her website.


Syed Masood

Syed Mushahid Masood grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, and currently lives in Sacramento, California, where he is a practicing attorney. He received his J.D. from the William and Mary School of Law, after attending the University of Toronto, where he studied English Literature. He wrote a few couplets in Urdu when he was a teenager, and his family still tells everyone he is an Urdu poet. He is not. His interests include good food, video games, sitcoms, and books of all kinds. For more on Syed, follow him on Twitter (@smushahidm) or check out his website.


Aden Polydoros

Aden Polydoros is the author of Project Pandora (Entangled Teen, 2017), Project Prometheus (Entangled Teen, 2018), and Hades Rising (Entangled Teen, 2018). He grew up in Illinois and Arizona, but is currently living in Germany. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys traveling, going on walks through the city, visiting flea markets, and daydreaming about the stories he will write. He is represented by Caryn Wiseman of Andrea Brown Literary Agency. You can find him at https://www.facebook.com/adenpolydorosauthor and https://twitter.com/AdenPolydoros.


Sara Stevenson

Sarah Jamila Stevenson is a writer, artist, editor and graphic designer in Northern California. She is the author of three YA novels: THE LATTE REBELLION (Flux, 2011), UNDERNEATH (Flux, 2013) and THE TRUTH AGAINST THE WORLD (Flux, 2014). Her first novel for young adults, THE LATTE REBELLION, was a Scholastic Book Club pick as well as an IPPY Bronze Medalist in Multicultural Children’s Fiction. Her work has been featured on Capital Public Radio’s Insight and NPR’s Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is also an active blogger: since 2005 she has been posting children’s literature reviews and information at Finding Wonderland (writingya.blogspot.com), a blog she shares with fellow young adult author Tanita S. Davis, and she is a regular participant in the Cybils Awards. Her next project is a middle grade graphic novel with artist Veronica Agarwal, ALEXIS VS. SUMMER VACATION, forthcoming in 2019 from Avenue A Books. For more on Sara, follow her on Twitter or check out her website.


Gail Villanueva

Gail D. Villanueva is a Filipina author born and based in the Philippines. She’s also a web designer, an entrepreneur, and a graphic artist. She loves pineapple pizza, seafood, and chocolate, but not in a single dish together (eww). Gail and her husband live in the outskirts of Manila with their dogs, ducks, turtles, cats, and one friendly but lonesome chicken. Her debut novel, My Fate According to the Butterfly, will be released on July 30, 2019 by Scholastic Press. Gail is represented by Alyssa Eisner Henkin of Trident Media Group. For more on Gail, check out the following links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Fate-According-Butterfly-Gail-Villanueva/dp/133831050X/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39884772-my-fate-according-to-the-butterfly
Website: www.gaildvillanueva.com
Twitter: @gaildvillanueva
Instagram: @gaildvillanueva
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gaildvillanueva/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gaildvillanueva/







  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 18 October 2018 · 119 views


We have 15 agents joining us this year for FALL FICTION FEST!!!  Some are new. Some are established. All are looking to make requests. To everyone entering this year, best of luck! The Slush Pile is going to be VERY competitive.

Only a third of the agent list is here. You can find the rest of the participating agents on Marty and Michelle’s blogs.

Mentors will be revealed next week, and they will be followed by instructions to enter. This is not a twitter pitch event but an online contest where you will email your entry. For the announcement post, go here. Remember that the submission window opens on October 31st!

If you have questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

Now for the agents…



Having grown up with the same name as her favorite Sweet Valley High twin, Jess has always had a love for books, especially those that feature kickass female characters, child psychopaths, and serial killers. She loves a book that can scare her, that can make her cry when she’s least expecting it, and a book that she can’t put down no matter what time it is or what rerun of SVU is on. She has a BFA in Writing for Film and Television from the University of the Arts and worked in entertainment for eight years before returning to her home state of NY where she worked at a literary agency for two years before joining Brower Literary & Management.



Jessica Errera was born and raised on Long Island and credits her love of reading to the built-in book club that is her large family. Jess attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she earned a BA in English and Dramatic Arts before returning home to New York in search of the elusive “real world job.” Luckily, JRA was in need of interns and, in the tradition of good romance novels, it was love at first sight. Jessica now works full-time as an assistant to Meg, reading to her heart’s content while also tracking book sales and PR. A self-proclaimed book nerd, Jess can often be found curled up on the couch with the latest bestseller. Her favorite genres include young and new adult, contemporary fiction, fantasy, and anything that can be read in a day on the beach.



Ann Rose is Prospect Agency’s newest agent, but she isn’t new to publishing. Over the last few years she has been exploring this field by working and mentoring with literary agents in various capacities. Everything she has experienced from editorial work to the magic of finding the perfect match between author and editor has hardened her resolve to join this wonderful profession. Now she’s thrilled to be building her own list and is actively seeking clients ready to grow amazing careers with her. Ann’s perfect manuscript is a character driven story that isn’t afraid to push boundaries. She loves an unlikeable character — even though she is incredibly likeable herself!



Caitlen joined the LKG Agency in 2008, thereby disproving the theory that no English major ever does anything with their degree.  Before that she worked at another literary agency, Don Congdon Associates, where she had the behind-the-scenes thrill of seeing Kathryn Stockett’s The Help first come in (and getting one of the first reads). And before that she was getting her Masters in English and Publishing from Rosemont College. She has enjoyed her apprenticeship under Lauren very much, and is now actively looking to build her own list, which includes (after a surprisingly minimal amount of begging and pleading on my part), securing Lauren’s agreement to open the agency to considering middle grade and young adult fiction.



A literary agent for over fifteen years, Andrea represents a wide range of fiction and nonfiction, including projects for adult, young adult and middle grade audiences. Her clients’ books have been NYTimes and USABestsellers, as well as nominated for The Governor General’s Award, the Lambda Award, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and have been chosen for ABA’s Indies Introduce Program. Andrea is a guest instructor for MediaBistro and Writers Digest.




Monday Musings: Realities in “Queryland”

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 08 October 2018 · 100 views


Last Friday I was excited to share a new post about the upcoming contest, FALL FICTION FEST I’m hosting with Marty Mayberry and Michelle Hauck. While promoting the contest on Twitter, I used the hashtag #amquerying. I was curious to see what people were saying about being in the trenches these days so I scrolled through the thread. As I read, I gasped once, then twice. I couldn’t believe the amount of misinformation and non-reality based conversation I was reading.

Now, let me put this out there – I am NOT a literary agent. But, I have been in the query trenches more than I’d like to admit. I’ve been there, signed with an agent, been on submission, parted with an agent, sold two books, and been back into the trenches again. With this blog, I’ve also had the unique opportunity to interview dozens of writers about their publishing journey, and talk to agents about the process of querying and submitting those first pages.

Here are a few things based on my experiences and interviews I’ve learned about querying:

  1. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS follow submission guidelines. Part of your job as a writer is to do your due diligence in researching each and every agent you want to query. This means going to the agency website and reading their submission guidelines thoroughly. If it says only submit to one agent at a time, then follow this rule. If it says a “no” from one agent is a “no” from all, then heed this directive. What I’ve heard from most agents is that a good portion of their slush pile gets deleted for these reasons:
  • People do not follow submission guidelines
  • Writers submit material the agent does not represent

Agents often say that if writers follow guidelines, and submit the proper category and genre, they are already rising in the slush pile. A well-written query, and an intriguing premise, will move you up higher. Don’t think that you can be one of those people who buck the system because it makes you stand out. What will happen is that your hard work will end up in the circular bin.

WORD OF NOTE: I’ve seen a few whispers about writers sending queries and manuscripts to agents’ private residences. DO NOT EVER DO THIS. The publishing world is very small. Agents talk. Just don’t do it. EVER.

2. Giving up too soon

I saw in the thread that people were quoting things like how many times TWILIGHT, HARRY POTTER, or THE HELP was rejected. Here’s a reality-check. First, you have to define whether those rejections came from agents or editors. This is important because it is the difference between being in the query trenches or being agented and on submission. The two are VERY DIFFERENT processes.

For the sake of our discussion here, let’s say we are referring to querying.

If you are talking about a writer getting 20 rejections in the query trenches and are alarmed, I’m here to tell you THAT IS NOTHING. Seasoned writers, who’ve been in the game a long time, will tell you it took numerous manuscripts, and most likely 100+ rejections, before they signed with an agent. The rare unicorn is the writer who signs their first manuscript quickly with very few rejections. Querying is a grueling process. If you want to be published, you have to be in it for the long haul.

Let’s say now that the quoted “12 or 15” rejections were about books being submitted to editors. Again, from experience, I’m here to tell you this number of rejections is LOW. And to be even more honest, I’m going to share this fact: many, many, many agented writers do not sell their first book. As hard as that is to hear, it’s a truth in this business.

My overall point here is that you should keep querying beyond 10,12, 15 rejections. Most people send out queries in batches of 5 or 10. If their query and submitted materials are not getting any bites, they go back and rework the query and those early pages. Once that’s done, they submit to 5 or 10 more agents on their list. Keep working and pushing through the process. I know people who signed with an agent after receiving 50, 75, even 100 rejections for the same book.

3. Nudging on requested materials

Most agency websites will share their reading timeline on requested materials. If they do not, the best rule of thumb is to err on the side of caution. You must take into account that the agent has other clients and requests they must juggle along with your submitted materials. The typical rule of thumb is not to nudge until after 12 weeks. My additional recommendation would be to nudge using the same email thread as the original request. By doing this, the agent has a frame of reference for your inquiry.

4. Having a bad agent is better than having no agent

The plain and simple answer here is NO. This goes back to something I talked about in number one. I know it’s hard to imagine that after you’ve slaved for months, maybe even years, on a manuscript that you still need to do more work, but it’s the truth. In order to get the best possible outcome, you need to figure out who is the best fit for your manuscript. This means taking your time to research and weigh who are the agents that might be a match for your work. There are many things to consider here:

    • The agent’s sales record. How many books have they sold in your category and genre? Do they have a proven track record? The caveat here would be new agents. If they are with a reputable agency, and have a mentor they’re working with, they are still a viable choice. Every agent had to start somewhere and many times newer ones are eagerly looking to build their list.
    • Their agency. Is this a one-man shop or a bigger business with many agents under their roof? There is nothing wrong with a one-man agency as long as that person is respected in the publishing community and has had a long run in the business with a proven track record of sales. If it’s a larger agency, often times if your query doesn’t work for one agent they may pass it on to another within the company.
    • The idea that any agent is a good agent. This is certainly not true. There have been many incidences in the past where people have hung out a shingle without the proper qualifications. Again, do your research. Make sure you are sending your beloved work to someone with proven experience and who has your best interest at heart. Talk to other writers. Read up on agents in important periodicals like Writer’s Digest, Publishers Weekly, and Publishers Marketplace. This goes for contests too. Just because you get a request, it does not mean you should send your work right away. Look into that agent and their record before sending off your manuscript.

I love that Twitter has opened the conversation about the process of querying. What I would suggest is that you take each comment with a grain of salt. Talk to seasoned writers if you have questions. Read and keep up-to-date about changes in the publishing world. I know better than anyone the difficulties of this process, and I want to make sure you are getting honest information so you can avoid some of the common pitfalls.

As always, my comments are open if you have questions!






New Contest!!! FALL FICTION FEST is coming soon!

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 05 October 2018 · 120 views



Who is ready for something new this fall? Because of the many changes in the contest world recently, we’ve had to rethink Nightmare On Query Street and Sun versus Snow. As we didn’t want to let these amazing contests (who have many years of success) go, Michelle Hauck, Marty Mayberry, and myself have come up with a brand new fall contest called, FALL FICTION FEST!

Like past contests, this will be a query plus first 250 words event. We will open a contest window for twenty-four hours and accept entries that meet the contest requirements and guidelines. Once all entries have been received, Michelle, Marty, and I will review the entries and make ten selections each. After these thirty selections are announced, the writers will be paired with seasoned mentors who will help them polish their materials for the agent round. Currently, there are ten agents on board with hopefully more committing soon!

The agent round will be open for a full three days and will allow the participating agents to travel between our three blogs and make requests based on what they represent. To keep a bit of fun (and tradition) in the contest, we will continue having the agents request in a fall-flavored way. Like “Add an extra marshmallow to my hot cocoa and send me the full!”

As always, once the agent request period is over we will direct the participants on how to send in their requested materials.



Now for the guidelines and rules…

  • Entries can be Adult, New Adult, Young Adult, or Middle Grade. All genres (excluding erotica)
  • Entries must be for a completed and polished manuscript (please check word count guidelines to make sure your entry qualifies!)

Some great online posts to check out:

Agent Jennifer Laughran’s Word Count Dracula

Writer’s Digest Guide to Word Count

  • The entry cannot have been part of an agent round in a contest for the last three months

Important dates:

October 31: Submission window opens (will be open for 24 hours)

November 19: Selected 30 entries announced

November 20- 25: Mentors work with entries

November 26-28: Agent round

As we get closer to the submission window on October 31, we will post full details on submission guidelines and entry rules.

If you have a beautiful, stunning, exciting entry polished up and ready to query, we hope you’ll think about joining us for FALL FICTION FEST! It is certain to be a “CHILLING and THRILLING” time!






Monday Musings: Transparency and My Writing Journey

  Posted by Amy Trueblood , 17 September 2018 · 121 views



For a while now I’ve been promising to share the wild ride that lead me to publication. I’ll admit I’ve been a bit tentative about writing this post. While I love all the recent transparency in publishing, it can feel a lot like pulling off a Band-aid when you have to share your own story.

What has pushed me to write this post is that I know people are languishing out in the query trenches feeling hopeless. I understand that people are grappling with the question if whether or not they should leave their agent. Questioning if the book they love will ever see the light of day.

I have been in every single one of those situations and I am here to tell you there is HOPE!

I started my writing journey in 2010. Writing a book was a gift to myself as I approached a very momentous birthday. My idea was that I would give myself a year to write that book. I finished it in eight months. IT WAS TERRIBLE. Every single thing I know now as being bad form in writing I did in that book. I opened with a dream. My character described herself as she looked in a mirror. I even went so far as to send that very bad book to a freelance editor. It was single spaced. Written in Courier. When the editor returned it, he schooled me in what was proper manuscript formatting. I was beyond embarrassed, but it was a lesson learned.

Knowing that book was hopeless, I wrote another manuscript. This one was just as troubling, but I thought for sure it was a winner. I even went as far as to travel to New York to go to an agent/editor pitch conference. I did get requests, but those eventually turned into rejections. At this point I was three years into my writing journey. I went on to write two more manuscripts and have each one rejected. Just to give you insight, I was well past 200 rejections now.

By this time I’d been lucky enough to make friends in the writing community. They were all in the same place I was: writing, querying, being rejected, until they weren’t anymore. One by one they all signed with agents and then got deals. I vividly remember sitting at a happy hour during a conference with all of them toasting their successes, and while I was so happy for them, I thought “I am a fraud. I have no right to be at this table.” On the plane ride home I cried because I was ready to give up on my dream.

But then a funny thing happened, I took a trip to Chicago and that writing bug came back to bite me. Wandering through a museum I happened upon an exhibit with a mannequin hanging upside down from a plane and the idea for NOTHING BUT SKY was born. Here is the truth though…It would be a long journey to see that book on the shelves.

Here are the stats:

Started writing NOTHING BUT SKY: 2013

Began querying: 2014

Queries sent: 100+

Fulls requested: At one time I had 12 FULLS OUT – all but one was rejected

Offers of representation: 1

I went on to sign with that agent and we revised for close to three months before it went out at the end of 2014.

The submission journey was BRUTAL. I was on sub for over a year, and while we had a few nibbles, every single one of the editors who requested NOTHING BUT SKY (33 in total) rejected it save for one. I did get a request for an R&R, but in the end I turned it down because the notes did not align with my vision of the book.

I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t I just try, especially since it was from a Big 5 imprint? It was a really DIFFICULT decision, but sometimes you know when a direction is wrong for your book and I knew the notes weren’t right for NBS.

At this point, I was in a very dark place. My next manuscript was having issues and I knew I needed to make a change. Take a break. Step back and figure out what was next. I parted ways with my agent, who was very kind about my decision, and then took a break from writing.

Here is the honest truth though, when a story gets hold of you it is very hard to let go. A few months after leaving my agent, I went back to NOTHING BUT SKY and read it again. I felt that same early elation about this book and knew I couldn’t give up on it. My choices at this point were very limited. I emailed a friend who was an editor and asked her to read. If she told me the book was fraught with problems, then I was going to put away NBS for good. Her notes came back and they were filled with inspiring comments and great direction on what needed to change. I knew that if I made those revisions, I’d be ready to give it one last chance.

So after revising NOTHING BUT SKY for what was the tenth time (including three full re-writes), I sent to three publishers who took unsolicited manuscripts. This was in March of 2017. I received two more rejections. Then a month later, April 19, 2017 to be exact, I got the email I’d been waiting on for seven years. Flux wanted to publish my book. Full disclosure, I was standing in the produce section at COSTCO (freezing my butt off!) and I started to cry. An older man next to me was so startled he approached and asked if I was okay. I told him I was fine and then ran off the wine aisle to call my husband.

In March of 2018, my dream came true. NOTHING BUT SKY was published, but my journey did not end there.

This is the hard part of the post that I’ve been terrified to share. I’m going to be brave though because I think it might help someone who is struggling right now.

Here it is. My rejection did not end once my book was released.

My wonderful publisher, Flux offered on my next book. It just so happened that I was querying another book at the time. Now for honesty’s sake, I will tell you that the book I was querying was way outside my YA Historical brand. It was Adult Contemporary Romance. I had a ton of people tell me I should go back and tell the agents them I had another offer on a different book because, of course, they’d want to sign me. I was handing them a deal on a silver platter. All ten agents ended up rejecting that manuscript-even with the offer.

My pride is taking a huge hit by sharing this but it’s important I be honest about the rough tides of this business. Publishing is full of exhilarating highs and soul-crushing lows. One day you feel like you are queen of the business, and the next you literally feel like the world’s worst hack. I am here to tell you that life goes on. You feel sorry for yourself, curse A LOT, lick your wounds, and then get back to work.

I am so lucky to have made a real partnership with Flux. They continue to believe in me and my writing and are publishing my next book in Fall 2019.

Do I still want an agent? Yes. Will I begrudgingly go back into the query trenches with another book? Absolutely. I’ve been knocked down a lot, but every single time I come back stronger. I’m in this publishing game for the long haul. I want to make this a career, and I want a partner who will help make that happen.

For the time being, I remain optimistic about the future. I love my new book and can’t wait for it to be in readers’ hands. I hold onto that fact during the rough times.

I am a storyteller. Even as this business spins me in circles, I refuse to give up because I know deep within my bones that this is what I was meant to do.








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