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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Who You Are and What You're About

When I finished my "first" book (meaning the first one I thought was saleable) in 2006, there weren't a whole lot of writing blogs out there. Or if there were, I certainly couldn't find them. Maybe it's just me but blogs by writers at every stage of the writing/publishing continuum seemed to have proliferated in the last five years. I think this is awesome. I have had so many questions over the years about everything from the writing craft to the publication process and now pretty much any question I have can be answered by perusing the blogs and websites of various writers and agents. Within this online community of writers--aspiring or published--I can find both inspiration and commiseration. I can learn all kinds of new things. I can find new and exciting books to read. I can make friends and score some awesome critique partners.

In fact, one year ago today I met Nancy Thompson on Nathan Bransford's forums. I was looking for critique partners and she approached me. Thus began a kick-ass critique partnership and an intense friendship that I will treasure for the rest of my life. Nancy and I have only "known" each other for a year but I cannot live without her! She is warm, brilliant, talented, intelligent and kind. She is like a missing puzzle piece to me. Also she is a fabulous writer and I love her book.

Back in 2006 pretty much the only blog that I visited was Nathan Bransford's because it was the most informative of the agent blogs I had seen at the time and also because he was and is extremely accessible. With the emergence of Facebook and Twitter there were ongoing discussions about writers using social media to build platforms including having their own websites--even if they were unagented and unpublished. I resisted creating my own website for a long time only because it seemed silly since I had neither an agent nor many publishing credits. But the idea was that if you were querying agents and they liked your query letter and wanted to know more about you, your website would be a great way to showcase yourself and any other relevant points you might want a prospective agent to know. So I broke down in 2009 and created my own website. You can visit it here. It has a little bit more than you would find on this blog.

The longer I had it, the more I liked the idea of having a site dedicated just to my writing life where a prospective agent or editor could go and get a sense of who I was, what I was about and what I was offering. I came over to blogger earlier this year, at Nancy's suggestion and have been publishing blog posts simultaneously on blogger and my website ever since. I get a lot more traffic here and get to interact with a lot more wonderful people on blogger than on my website. For me, whenever I check out a new blogger, the first thing I do is try to find out what kind of writer they are (i.e. do they write YA? Mysteries? Fantasy?) and then I look for information on their work. This can be anything from an icon indicating how far along they are in their WIP to a blurb about what they're working on to an excerpt or a pitch for what they've completed. Everyone is at a different stage. Some people are working on a first draft. Some people are polishing up a 3rd or 4th draft. Some people are working on their 2nd or their 7th book. Some people are just starting their first novel. Some people are just in the brainstorming or outlining stage. Some people write primarily short stories or poetry. Some people are gearing up to query. Some people are actively seeking representation. Some are on subs. Some are self-pubbing. Some are agented. Some are legacy published. In my experience, everyone of these writers has something to offer and I love learning about their work and hearing about where they are in their process.

Since I am a writer trying to connect with other writers, I want to know first and foremost who they are as a writer and what they are about. Most bloggers have this information nicely encapsulated in their About Me section. Some, like Nancy Thompson, have their pitch as well as their work or query posted. I think this is a great idea and here's a little personal story about how this helped me:

October 6, 2010 - I was watching the Phillies' Roy Halladay pitch a no-hitter in his first-ever post-season appearance. Three weeks prior to that, I had begun a new querying frenzy. I had just finished a brand spanking new draft of Finding Claire Fletcher and this time I felt it was finally agent-worthy. I was right. In those 3 weeks I had received 8 requests for fulls/partials from agents. After four and a half years I sensed I was finally close to landing an agent. I had been checking my email obsessively for those 3 weeks--about every 2 minutes. Literally. I had just figured out how to check my email from my phone which really sent my obsession over the edge. Seriously, I think family members were ready to throw my phone directly into the toilet. And my laptop. And maybe me too.

And then . . . That night, watching Halladay's no-hitter, I actually did NOT check my email for four hours straight. I was completely captivated and enthralled. My finding-an-agent obsession receded into the background. God that was an incredible game. Ah, the sweet relief of distraction!

Well what do you know . . .

When the game was over and I had had my fill of post-game commentary and highlights, I pulled out my laptop and checked my email and there was an email from Jeanie Pantelakis. Sensing another "your book is good but I'm going to pass" rejection, I didn't even get excited. I had to read that email about ten times to figure out that it was not a joke, that she was actually offering me a contract. I had already researched Jeanie and knew that if she offered me representation, I wanted to go with her so I wrote her back and asked her to send me the contract.

A few days later it was signed, scanned and emailed to her. Then I got an email from her which said, simply: "Send me Aberration too."

Aberration is my second novel. A novel I had never mentioned to Jeanie. I figured if things went well with Finding Claire Fletcher, I might bring it up to her later but I didn't have to do that. How did Jeanie know I had written another novel and that it was called Aberration? My website.

After some revisions, Jeanie offered me a contract for Aberration as well. I never even had to pitch it. It was there on my website. She went there, read the pitch and asked for it.

The lesson here--for me--is that if you're looking for representation it can really help to have a blog or a website that clearly showcases who you are and what you're about. Now that I'm on subs, I have a Work In Progress page. My hope is that if an editor reads one of my books and likes it, he or she can visit my website and see that I am actively working on something new. I would hope that shows that I'm productive. Regardless, the point is that a prospective agent, editor or reader should not have to work really hard to find this information whether they are visiting your blog or your website (or both.)

So in the interest of this platform-building campaign: who are you and what are you about? What do you write? What have you written? Where are you in the writing and/or publishing process?

19 comments:

  1. I like the idea of a WIP page. Wish I knew how to create tabs on my blog. Haven't figured it out yet. Yeah, not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to tech stuff. :)

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  2. Wow, that was a mouthful and I read every bit of it. I love the idea of having your pitch and query on your blog. When I'm ready I'll be doing just that. You know I write Fantasy. I'm in my final stages of edits before sending it out. Need good critique partners. I also write Paranormal Romance. Have 100 pages into first book. Have about two chapters into Fantasy YA. You suggested once that I stick to one story until I finish...so the other genres are to one side until I'm done with Untroubled Kingdom. I'm guessing you joined the campaign. I'm glad. :)

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  3. L.G. - I just did one for my books. if you gp to go New Post, to the right is a button for Edit Pages where you can create a new page.

    Laila - Thanks for reading it all. I know I am extremely long-winded sometimes! I'm also available for critiquing anytime!

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  4. Oooh--this answer will take some time.

    I'll be back.

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  5. This is terrific advice for both beginning writers and those that are more established. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. A blog seems nearly essential now. :) Great post.

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  7. I've been away for so long that I feel I've missed something BIG! I gotta do that platform thingy soon. Well, anyway, happy anniversary to us, baby! It doesn't seem like it's been a year yet I feel like I've known you my whole life. And now, I couldn't imagine my life without you! Thanks for all the kind words. I love having you in my corner.

    I've been having second thoughts about putting my current query, pitch and tagline on my blog. Not sure if I like putting it out there, but it stays for now.

    I like your Jeanie story. I'm hoping to have a story like that soon. I try not to think about my ms being out there 3 times over. Haven't thought much about over the last 2 weeks though now that I'm back home, I will probably start obsessing over it.

    The WIP page is interesting. Once I really get going on my next one, I'll probably do that, as well.

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  8. Hey, thanks Lisa. I never noticed the "edit page" button before or knew what it was for. Success!! It worked. Though who knows where this may lead. :)

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  9. When I read this post, all I could think of was: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLl0DVzRksk

    There's something wrong with me...

    You and Nancy are killing me today with all of this authoromance stuff. *grins* Happy Anniversary!

    Oh, I almost forgot there were questions at the end! I'm not new, but I'll answer anyway. I write paranormal romance, and I'm in the revising/finding critters stage. :D

    Ahem! Anyway, this was a great post. You always have such a great insight when it comes to topics like these. :)

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  10. Hey Lisa, I'm in the suspense/thriller campaign group. I just launched my writer website/blog a few months ago. It was tough because I write all kinds of things, and I wanted to convey that, but conventional wisdom is to brand yourself in one area. So I mentioned the other stuff while stressing that my current focus is YA thriller.

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  11. Hi Lisa, what a great story you have! I am published in middle-grade and YA fiction. I do have an agent. Most recently, I've written YA horror/fantasy.

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  12. Catherine & Jocelyn & Heather: thanks for stopping by!

    Jeff: I'll expect you back later!

    Carrie: I laughed so hard when I saw that. I LOVE that movie.

    Nancy: You WILL have a story like that soon--hopefully better than that one! Love you!

    Libby: I think you're right.

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  13. Hi Lisa. Just stopped by to thank you on the great critique. I've applied some awesome changes. I'll be away from blogger for a week so happy weekend! :)

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  14. Hi, Lisa! I'm in the Campaign suspense/thriller group as well, and I'm so glad to come upon your page. What a great post, with fantastic advice.

    I had to laugh a little about the Roy Halliday no-hitter. I remember that game very clearly as well but, as a Reds fan, my reaction was a little different. ;)

    Great story, and wonderful post. I'm really glad to meet you!

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  15. Damn! I missed the deadline for the campaign and it won't let me participate. I miss all the good stuff!

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  16. Hi Lisa--I'm in your suspense/thriller campaign too. I'm just starting my blog and reading your thoughts on what to include is a big help!

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  17. Hello from a fellow campaigner in the suspense/thriller group. Congrats on your successes with your suspense/crime novels. It's hard to land an agent, so job well done!

    You're right. Five years ago, I had trouble finding blogs too... and I really relied on Nathan Bransford's blog too.

    Enjoy the campaign.

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  18. Oh, I have been on the fence about the whole website thing, but this convinced me. Great post!

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