One Fiftieth

I am as shocked as these two squash that it is already almost the middle of January.

s squash

The holidays zipped by and 2019 came crashing through–ready or not.

January is a favorite month of mine. I love new starts, new calendars, and fresh planners. As soon as the Christmas decorations are tucked away for their rest, I’m eagerly planning the days and weeks to come, setting goals, and clearing out the old to make way for the new.

I’ve got some personal goals, but I’ve also got writing goals. One of those goals is listed as:

50 rejections, an agent, or a book deal.

It might seem strange to have the goal of being rejected, but here’s what I mean: if I don’t get a literary agent or a book deal this year, it won’t be because I didn’t try my darndest. I’m pleased to say I have already completed ONE FIFTIETH of this goal. Last week I sent my book Justin’s Cupcakes to a new agent at a new agency. Each time I send my work, it means I must complete the following:

–Research agents and agencies using the internet and industry lists (these come in a book that is updated each year and also from an organization of which I’m a member–the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).

–Select an agent and be sure that the agent is accepting submissions and would be interested in a book like mine.

–Carefully craft a query letter that introduces me and my book in the most positive way possible. This letter is crucial–not too many words, not too few. It has to convince someone to read my manuscript AND want to sell it to a publisher.

–Proofread the letter many, many, many times, because careless errors are an easy way for agents to narrow down their slush piles.

–Include or attach my manuscript according to the agency’s requirements (and they are each very different).

–Hold my breath.

–Press send.

–Track my submission on a detailed spreadsheet I’ve created to monitor what I’m sending, when, and to whom.

I’ve promised myself I’ll do this at least 50 times this year, and collecting rejections (though it’s not fun to read “no thanks,” means that I’m not giving up, that I believe in my work–that I believe in myself.

All of this is to encourage you–and me–to have goals and to be persistent and steadfast in your efforts to meet them. ONE out of fifty doesn’t seem like much, and it would be easy to focus on how far there is to go. But even if it’s only one mile, one pound, one book, one garbage bag full, one less cigarette, one class, one smile or hug: it’s one step toward your goal, and it’s the most important one, so give it the credit it deserves.

Today, we are all only about three and a half percent through 2019. The number is small, but these days have mattered, and we are on our way.

We have begun.


Seasons Readings

joyIt’s the holiday season, and people (including me and my family) are making all kinds of preparations for December celebrations. This year, some of my holiday cards will be hand painted–if you didn’t get one, don’t get your feelings hurt. I WAY underestimated the time it takes to paint them, so I won’t have enough. But hey, some is better than none.

There’s another season coming up that I didn’t know about until I was involved in the publishing industry (and by involved, I mean desperately hoping to be published someday). READING SEASON. When working on query goals (GOAL: Submit one more manuscript to an agent before the end of November), I learned that many agents close their email boxes to submissions in December and January. This allows them a some time to work through the gazillion submissions they receive.

There are many ideas about the “slush pile,” and how agents and editors peruse their mailboxes:

Some people believe in the subject line: READ THIS! YOUR LIFE WILL CHANGE!

Others feel that the greeting matters most: Dear most gracious and powerful literary agent who needs one more client.

Still others count on listing the qualifications of the author: I am a member of a reputable writer’s club, I won the school spelling bee in 5th grade, and also I live near Mark Twain’s house, so of course my stuff is good.

I believe a little bit in all of those things, but I mostly believe in my manuscript. It’s a story about believing in yourself and your own ideas, and I think kids everywhere (and adults!) need to hear more about that.

Truth is, no matter how good my book is, the agent (or editor or publisher) must READ it to decide if it’s good, so the query letter matters a lot. So on that note, I give you this holiday tune about getting published. Sing it to the tune of “White Christmas.” Ready? All together now:

I’m dreaming of a new agent,

who loves my book more than I’ll know–

Who each word will cherish–

All doubts will perish.

The love for characters will grow.

I’m dreaming of a fast book deal

With big book store signings galore

May my query show off

my skills–don’t blow off

’cause this is revision ninety-four.

May my agent find me–and soon!

And I hope you liked this Reading Season tune.

white christmas

Happy Holidays!