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Tuesday
Jul182006

I've Been Dumped

I've Been Dumped: Where Do I Go From Here?
Hey Allison, yesterday I commented as an agented writer, and today I am unagented. Kind of the same thing that happened to you. My agent is pregnant doesn't feel she can manage everything in her life and have me revise my second novel for her--she liked it, but said it seemed small and quiet. My head is swimming. I admire you getting right back up there and querying. I know I need to do that, but I'm almost paralyzed. Did you just start back through your original list? Thanks for the help.

Oy boy. Been there, done that. First of all, take a deeeeep breath. Then, perhaps, reach for the liquor cabinet. (Or go for a super, duper long run, which is how I dealt with my own anxiety.) Oh, boxing classes help to.

Okay, with that out of your system, and if you're sober enough to type, get right back on the saddle. (Which is why I'm answering your question today, rather than putting it in the queue!) Yes, the very first thing I did, within one freakin' hour of deciding to leave agent #1, was ruffle through my files and contact all of the agents who were interested the first time around, even though they hadn't signed me. Actually, what I had to do first was craft a query letter, but I was so high on adrenaline that I wrote it in about 30 minutes (seriously) and knew that it was a zinger. (I'm going to talk about query letters tomorrow, and I'll post the one I used for TDLF.)

So...I contacted the previously interested parties, and about 90% of them wrote back to me within a day and were interested in reading. From there, I was off and running. With just that teeny, tiny bit of reinforcement, I stepped further away from the fear of being unagented and closer to the realization that I'd find someone who would be a better match for both me and my work. I think it helps - just a little - if you think of the agent query process as a treasure hunt. A stressful one, but a treasure hunt nevertheless. I enjoyed researching agents: for that each one hummed with potential, I saw so much possibility. I was determined to find the right match. And this really fueled me. Let it do the same for you.

And know this: getting dumped was the best possible thing that could have happened to me. It's simply not fair to be shackled with an agent who is half-hearted about your work, nor is it fair to the agent to have to submit something that she's not fully behind. Think of this as unloading your dead weight. You'll find someone who can buoy you rather than bring you down, and from there, you can thrive.

Monday
Jul172006

My Story, From Saga to Sale

Here We Go: My Story, From Saga to Sale

Okay, so as I mentioned below, I thought I'd take this week (or however long people want) to share my story about how I landed the book deal for THE DEPARTMENT OF LOST AND FOUND (Morrow, May 2007). From there, please feel free to send me any questions you might have about the query/agent/publishing process, and I'll do my best to answer. If I can't answer, I'll try to tap into a friend or resource who can. You can email me at allison@allisonwinn.com (if you want anonymity) or just post your question in the comment box.

So...here we go.

It all began about 4-5 years ago: I was a relatively successful magazine writer (more on that next week - happy to answer those questions too, so fire them to me whenever they strike), but wanted to branch out, so I started banging out a ms whenever inspiration struck. Like a lot of aspiring novelists, I got half way done and more or less gave up. Another year went by, and I added some more, but I couldn't finish the damn thing. (This is at least part of the reason that agents demand a completed ms from you: who knows when and how you'll finish it!) Finally, in the summer of 2004, just before my son was born, I figured that if I didn't finish it then, I'd NEVER finish it, so I joined an online writers' group, got my butt in gear, and cranked it out, wrapping up the ms two weeks before my babe popped out. So this was in October of '04.

In January of '05, I started querying agents, (exclusively by email, I should add), and I signed with one in late-Feb. (And yes, I do think this was a rather short query period, compared to the average, but I'm guessing that my magazine credits helped open doors that might not have otherwise been opened. But all of my queries were blind, regardless.) Anyway, the book needed a lot of work - first novels are VERY hard to do perfectly and often very rough, even when you think it's genius (trust me, I did) - but my agent really helped me overhaul the whole ms until it was ready to go. We sent it out in late-April and received glowing, glowing notes. Alas, glowing as they were, they were rejections. Several editors asked for revisions and a resubmit, but my agent thought it was smarter to simply write a second book and go back out with it, since most of the editors - even those who rejected it flat-out - asked to see my next work. Sigh. And *$%^!. That's pretty much how I felt. Oh, and demoralized too. Let's not forget that!

But by June, I was writing again, and by August, I was actually done with the next ms. (This was a personal subject, so it was very easy for me to write.) My agent and I went through several rounds of revisions until she said she was happy with it. She just wanted to get one more read within the agency. So imagine my surprise when she called me a week later and said that she didn't love the book, that she thought it would do "more harm than good for my career" to send it out, and gave me three options: 1) we could revise book #1 and send it back out, 2) I could start on another ENTIRELY NEW book, or 3) I could break the contract and seek other representation. Sigh. And *$%^!. That's pretty much how I felt. Oh, and demoralized too.

Actually, this time, I only felt demoralized for about 1/2 a second. See, I KNEW that this book was excellent. I KNEW that it was 10x better than the first, and that my agent's opinion was just one opinion. (Granted, I also had some outside readers' opinions as well, all of whom told me the book was great.) So...I made the scary but still thrilling leap of parting very amicably with my agent and getting back on the query bandwagon. As soon as I walked away from agent #1, I knew it was the right thing to do. I felt liberated and fabulous about leaving a person who only half-heartedly believed in the book (she admitted as much, so I don't think it casts her in a bad light to say this) and was determined to find someone who loved it as much as I did. Because the book was so much stronger this time around, I received a lot of agent interest immediately. Within three weeks (by early December of '05), I had several offers of representation and signed with my current agent who, quite possibly, loved the book even more than I did.

From there, we did some minor tweaking over the holidays, and she sent it out on January 3rd of 2006. Ten days later, we had four offers - wildly exceeding my expectations - and accepted the offer from William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.

So...that's my story. Certainly, there are a few lessons in there about I learned along the way. One has to do with accepting advice from others (without a doubt, agent #1 helped me hone my writing); another has to do with trusting yourself and your instincts; a third has to do with knowing when to let go (book #1) and when not to (book #2); and..on and on.

Okay, so that's my (long) story. Now, fire away any and all questions! If I can help and answer 'em, I will!

Saturday
Jul152006

Q and A on Book Publishing Next Week

Q and A on Book Publishing Next Week

I know that there are a lot of aspiring novelists out there, so, as promised below, I thought I'd spend next week chatting about my road to publication, the pitfalls, the perils, the persistence. I'll spend Monday (and possibly Tuesday) explaining how I got here, and then open up the blog to questions, which I'll do my best to answer the rest of the week.

If people are interested, I can do the same the following week, only this time, I'll deal with magazine writing.

So - if you have questions about the query/agent/publishing process, mull 'em over this weekend, then check back in on Monday! I don't know if I can really be an answer guru, but I'll certainly try my best.

(And yes, I know I'm posting for Saturday a bit early, but I'm out of the city most of the day tomorrow at a 2-year old's b-day party!)

Friday
Jul142006

Note to self: don't read US Weekly before going to bed. Disturbing dreams about Lance Bass (driving a white Cabriolet...do they even make those anymore??) and Reichen ensue.

So I got a note yesterday from the lovely Ginger Roddick, who happens to be Andy Roddick's sis-in-law and publicist. I've known Ginger for a few years but you know how it goes: life gets in the way and somehow, you go months without emailing. Anyway, she wrote to tell me that she checked out the blog and she passed along Andy's blog, which I check in on too. Now, I know, I know, you're rolling your eyes: it's only her second day of blogging, and she's already name-dropping? Man, how lame. But let me just say that a) I don't know enough famous people to really name-drop, and b) there's a reason I'm writing this.

I met Andy about a year and a half ago when I flew down to Florida to interview him. I had no idea what to expect, other than that I swooned when he kissed Mandy Moore (girl crush alert!) when he won the Open. I met him at his annual fund-raiser for the Andy Roddick Foundation, and was just so, so impressed by him. Dashing, articulate, smart, witty...and only, I dunno, maybe 21 at the time. But the kicker came when, at some point in the conversation, he learned that I'd just had a baby ("have breast-pump; will travel"), and said, "you had a kid eight weeks ago? Seriously? You look amazing." Now, at that moment, had my (equally dashing and articulate) husband not been at an adjacent cocktail table, I surely would have fallen to my knees and kissed his feet, only to jump up whisk him away and run off with him forever. (The whole age gap thing aside - true, I'm old enough to be, well, not his mother, but certainly his babysitter, which definitely ups the squick factor.) Now, I'm sure that Andy has no recollection of these comments, much less meeting me, but my point here is that he's is a kick-ass guy who knows just how to make a post-partum mom feel dandy. So check out his blog. (And root for him this August/September at the U.S. Open!) It doesn't hurt that he's also a fan of The Office and raved about it in his blog.

Speaking of The Office, I just want to rant very briefly about this year's Emmy nominations. Now, my husband is always telling me that these award shows are total crap (right before he sinks into the couch and becomes entranced with a slightly glazed-over look until the final award is given out), but this year? Well, he's right. Because on WHAT PLANET could John Krasinski NOT been nominated for his stellar, subtle, hilarious work in Casino Night or Booze Cruise or Drug Testing or...on and on. (The smart folks at Television Without Pity agree.) And don't get me started on Lost or Patrick Dempsey or Hugh Laurie or Zach Braff. (True though: hurrah for 24, possibly the best show on TV right now.) I mean, half of the nominees aren't even on the air anymore. Why not nominate Captain Steubing and Mr. Drummond while they were at it? This might just be the first time I actually have to boycott the awards. (Oh, who am I kidding, like I won't be glued to E! for the preshow, at the very least.) Anyway, at least I know that Andy agrees with me.

So who got robbed in this year's nominations? And is my husband right? (Egads.) Are these nominations simply Hollywood's way of tooting their own horns?

And check back in next week - I'll talk about my road to book publication! (Finally, something relevant.)

PS - If you're new here (well, I guess that everyone is new here, technically), drop me a note or post a comment, and I'll be happy to add you to my links on the left!

Thursday
Jul132006

Cereal musings

So I've finally figured out how to deal with the HTML of the blog, and so, despite a major pressing deadline, I'm busy tooling around with the site. Whee!

This is my thought of the morning: if I had to survive on one food alone, surely, it would be cereal. I adore, adore, ADORE cereal. Seriously, I mean it: I think I could live off of it. In the mornings, I have a whole system down. I layer five different cereals on top of one another - right now, I'm working Kasha Heart Healthy (which sounds nasty but is really sweet and yummy), Kix (I steal them from my son), Quaker Toasted Oatmeal, All-Bran (because I'm a health writer and know how good fiber is for the bod), and Golden Grahams (again, pilfered from my son's stash). My husband is a fan of Oreo Cookie Cereal (yes, they really do make that) and Honey Bunches of Oats, which I occasionally dabble in myself, but only when he buys the kind with strawberries or bananas.

So...if you had to survive on one food alone, what would it be? Or more importantly, am I missing out on any to-die-for cereals? (Because you know that I could spend hours lingering in the cereal aisle, so I'm always up for suggestions!)

Thursday
Jul132006

If you start a blog, and no one reads it, is it still really a blog

If you start a blog, and no one reads it, is it still really a blog?

That's the question I'm pondering this morning.

Ah well, we'll give it a go.

Let's see, it's hard to know where to begin. Perhaps with a little intro as to why you should check back in? Hmmm, I'll discuss, in no particular order, what it takes to be a successful freelance writer, why I have serious back pain but refuse to make massage appointments, how my 21 month-old son continually outwits me, how I'm able to wile away an entire day reading (and contemplating) celebrity gossip, my TomKat baby theories, how to write a novel (and hopefully, get it sold), current books I'm reading (as of now, nada because I'm out of ideas - anyone have a few suggestions?), my eternal love of Felicity (and why, at 33, I still have a raging crush on Scott Speedman), mommy guilt, mommy wars, love, cancer, marriage, ex-boyfriends, friendship and all - both good and bad - that comes along with them, pooches, body image, popular culture, and well, seriously, is there any subject that I haven't mentioned? Probably not. So that should be incentive enough to check back in.

A little bit about me: I'm a freelance writer who spends her days toiling for most of the major magazines which you flip through while on the Precor at the gym or waiting for the subway in the morning. My first novel, THE DEPARTMENT OF LOST AND FOUND, will be published in hardcover by William Morrow, a division of HarperCollins, in May 2007.

Thanks for poking around here. I'll be back with a much more enlightening post (see above topics) in a bit!

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