Sunday, June 27, 2010

Are You Trying to Do Everything?

So most of you probably know that I'm pregnant. This is my fourth baby, so you'd think by now I'd know what I'm getting myself into, but I've got to admit, this pregnancy is kicking my patoot. I have never, ever been so tired. I could easily get 16 hours of sleep a day and still be a walking zombie.

But, despite the pregnancy, I'm trying to do a lot of things, like:

-Write a novel
-Potty-train a 2-year-old
-Keep my kids fed and clothed
-Harvest and weed my way too big vegetable garden
-Read 100 books this year
-Keep my house clean enough so the neighbors won't call social services
-Host birthday celebrations for the kids
-Blog and read blogs
-Dog-sit two barky, chewy, diggy monster dogs
-Take food to sick neighbors
-Beta read for friends
-Help my grandparents house hunt
-Take my kids to swim lessons, play groups, the park, etc. (when it's 90+ degrees outside)

It's a little too much--I'm not going to lie. I'm exhausted. I need rest.

So as of today, I've decided to let some things go. The garden WILL be weedy and there will be spinach that goes to seed and strawberries that get eaten by birds. The house WILL be messy, though hopefully not unsanitary. Sick neighbors WILL have to make their own food (or have it delivered by someone else). No more dog-sitting for the rest of the summer.

And blogging, oh blogging... I hate to do it, but I'm going to mostly unplug through the end of July. I'm writing a really fun little manuscript right now and I feel like I should focus any free time, that isn't used on sleep, on that. I will try to stay in touch through Twitter, so I hope you'll all check in there.

But, the good news is at the end of July I'm going to RWA in Orlando with my writing group girls Karen Hooper, Marie Devers, and Megan Rebekah. I'm also going to meet my agent, Sara Megibow, for the first time (I am so excited about this!). So come August I should have some really fun things to blog about.

Do you have too much going on? Do you ever have to pull back on commitments to keep your sanity?

Oh, and the final Critique a Week winner is Melissa! Melissa, I'll email you later today with details.

*As of Tuesday, June 29, Sara will no longer be accepting referrals from the blog post earlier this month. Thank you to everyone who sent queries and partials. Sara said she read some excellent queries and pages and even requested a few full manuscripts. She'll probably do another guest post soon--so there will be something on the blog in July :)--about what worked and what didn't. Thanks again!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Book Reviews: Love them or Hate them?

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!! I love that we have days to celebrate mothers and fathers. They deserve the extra recognition. My father is probably the most supportive person in my life. No matter what I attempt, he believes in me 100%.

My husband is the best dad ever to my kids. Plus, he's super hot and funny.
And he's really good at cleaning bathrooms, which is good too. I hope all you fathers have a great day, and I hope everyone will take some time to call your dads and tell them how great they are.

Now onto business. The winner of last week's 10 page critique is Sandy Shin! Sandy, I'll email you sometime today. Commenters today can be eligible for next week's critique. Just make sure to say you would like to win a critique in your comment and include an email address. If you want more info, this post explains everything.

Today I have some confessions to make. They're shocking. Don't hate me, okay?

I don't like book reviews.

I won't read them unless I've already read the book being reviewed. I don't like to know much about a book before I read it and I think almost all reviews, even the ones that claim they don't include spoilers, give too much away. I might skim for the sentences where the reviewer says whether or not s/he liked the book, but that's it.

Also, I don't read jacket copy for the same reason.

I choose my reading list based on buzz and personal recommendations. If I notice a lot of people are blogging about a certain book, I'll put it on my to-read list. If a friend with good taste in books recommends something, I'll probably read it. If I already love an author I will definitely pick up his or her latest book.

This means I am a lousy bookstore browser. When I go to a bookstore I have to have a list. I pick up the books I want, skim the first few pages to make sure they look good, and buy them. I usually don't know what they're about, and sometimes I don't even know the genre. (I recently read a book that I assumed from the cover would be YA fantasy--it wasn't. It was literary fiction. I loved it.)

I have a good friend who loves reading reviews. She likes to know a lot about a book before she decides to invest time in reading it and finds almost all of the books she reads through reviews. She wouldn't even consider reading a book without first knowing the basic plot.

Both of us read some books we love and both of us read some books we really don't like, so neither method is infallible, but they work for us.

So how about you? Do you like reviews? Where do you go when you need to add to your to-read list?

My agent Sara Megibow is still looking for romance writers. So if you write romance, romantic YA, fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, etc. and are ready to query agents check out this post. I'm giving blog readers a referral!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Client Referrals and Critique a Week

First off, anyone who writes romance, romantic YA, fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, etc. and who is ready to query agents needs to check out my last post. My agent Sara Megibow is looking for romance writers and I'm giving blog readers a referral.

Second, the winner of last week's 10 page critique is Tracy! Tracy, I'll email you sometime today. Commenters today can be eligible for next week's critique. Just make sure to say you would like to win a critique in your comment and include an email address. If you want more info, this post explains everything.

Since Sara's offer has created such a stir, I thought I'd write a little about client referrals, (or at least my experience with them).

What is a client referral?

Referrals are basically a recommendation from a client. I have given Sara 3 client referrals since I started working with her last fall. I only refer when:

1. I have read a full manuscript AND loved it
2. And I feel like the piece might be a good fit for her
3. And the writer is interested in being referred

(That probably gives you an idea of why this blog referral is so cool!)

Why would I want a referral?

The reason client referrals are desirable is that an agent is more likely to request material when a writer is referred. A referral gives a query letter a little more weight. If an agent is debating over whether or not to request a partial from a query letter a referral might be the deciding factor.

What happens after a partial (or full) is requested?

At this point the referred piece gets about the same consideration as any other requested material. The agent has to LOVE it and believe it's salable. The agent knows their client loved the manuscript, but unless the agent loves it too they can't offer representation.

So, in summary, referrals are cool. They can definitely help to get your writing (and not just your query letter) in front of an agent. But they aren't magic. In the end, the only thing that will get you an agent is a great book that an agent thinks she can sell.

But remember, just because one agent doesn't connect with your work doesn't mean another agent won't. There are hundreds of agents and it only takes one yes.

Have you ever been given a referral to an agent or editor? Was your experience similar to what I outlined or totally different? Agented authors: Have you ever referred writer friends to your agents?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Visit from My Agent Sara Megibow

*As of Tuesday, June 29, Sara will no longer be accepting referrals from this blog post. Thank you to everyone who sent queries and partials. Sara said she read some excellent queries and pages and even requested a few full manuscripts. She'll probably do another guest post soon about what worked and what didn't. Thanks again!

Well, I said I'd only be blogging once a week, but that was before I got an email from Sara with some news I knew you'd want to hear. I'll let her tell you all about it.

Dear Natalie's readers -

My name is Sara Megibow and I have the true honor of being the literary agent representing Natalie and her writing. It is my privilege to be working with such a talented, hard-working and passionate writer!

Natalie is being kind enough to allow me to post this message to all of you - thank you.

So, here goes...I am on the hunt for romance writers. If you have a completed romance novel of about 100,000 words, please send me a brief query letter before the end of June. Let the floodgates open - I really, really want to read your work!

The project must be complete, not represented by another agent and be in any sub-genre of romance except category or inspirational (yes, this includes young adult, fantasy with romantic elements, paranormal, etc). Email me at query (at) nelsonagency (dot) com with a note in the subject line saying "referred by Natalie's blog" and a 2-3 paragraph overview of the work in the body of the email. Yes include your website or blog address, no don't include sample pages, synopsis, headshot or attachments.

You can find out more about me and my tastes at

and more about our agency at

Happy writing!


I hope you'll enjoy this little referral. If you have questions feel free to ask in the comments section.

*This just in: The 100,000 word guideline is for adult romance. YA should be quite a bit shorter.

**This offer will be good for at least a week or two, so there is no rush to submit today. :)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Critique a Week

It's finally summer! The kids are out of school, the weather is warm, and I am getting quite humongous (I'm pregnant so this is sort of okay). It will be pretty busy having all three at home 24 hours a day, so I'm going to cut down my posting schedule to once a week (every Sunday). I'm hoping to do some cool things over the summer to make up for my infrequent posts.

During the month of June I want to give something back to my blogging writer friends. It's been so fun to beta read for friends during these last few months, and to see a few of them get agents and book deals. I thought it would be cool to get to know more of you through your writing, so I'm going to offer a ten page critique to one commenter every week.

This is how it will work.

-You must follow the blog and comment on this post to be eligible for this week's drawing. You'll have until next Saturday to do so.

-Tell me in your comment that you'd like to win a critique. Most weeks I'll probably write a real post about something writing related too, so people who don't want a critique can still comment on that and stay in touch. :)

-Next Sunday I will randomly choose one of this week's commenters to win.

A few things to consider:

-I will be nice but I'll also be 100% honest, because I don't think anything less will be helpful to you. If you can't take an honest critique you probably shouldn't enter.

-I write MG and a little YA. The only genres I've critiqued in the past are MG and YA, so if you write literary fiction or romance or thrillers or something I might not be the best person to critique your work, but you can still enter and I'll do my best.

-I won't be posting these critiques on the blog. They are just between you and me (and I'm nice, really), so you don't need to be nervous.

I hope this will be a fun little experiment.

I also want to say congratulations to my friend Thomas who just accepted an offer to publish his MG book! I hope you'll pop over to his blog and say congratulations too.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Jury Selection and Query Reading

I'm sorry I've been absent all week. It's the last week of school for the kids and got called into jury duty yesterday, and everyone is sick. So basically it's just a normal week and I have no excuse for not blogging. :)

Anyway, jury duty was a bit anticlimactic this time because I didn't get selected to be on the jury. I don't know if jury selection is the same in every state, but where I live they have 24 jurors go into the jury selection process. The lawyers have 1 hour to get that jury from 24 to 6.

They start by asking questions to weed out the people who might be crazy or have biases that would make it difficult for them to judge fairly. It's pretty easy to tell who these people are. When asked if they would have a problem trusting law enforcement testimony they say policemen are all out to get us. Or when they are asked about how they feel about children testifying they say that kids are stupid and unreliable and they don't think they could believe anything a kid says.

Then the prosecution and the defense get to exclude 3 jurors each just because the attorneys think they might be sympathetic to the other side. They could easily make a mistake at this point. They've only had an hour to get to know 24 people. They can't know everything about them. Maybe they excuse jurors who would have been on their side. The first 6 people not to be excluded have to/get to be on the jury.

Some of the people who are excused feel a little rejected. They are competent people. They didn't do anything wrong. But the judge reminded us that it wasn't personal. The lawyers were just doing their best to put together a jury that would be fair to both sides.

I was one of the very last jurors in the room so I knew I wouldn't get picked unless more than half of the people in the front two rows were crazy. So I had plenty of time to contemplate other things, like what it must be like to sort through queries looking for clients.

I think it must be a little like jury selection. The agent or assistant starts with way more authors than they could possibly represent. It's easy to do the first cut. There are many people who don't follow submission guidelines, there are a few crazies, and there are probably some letters that are so poorly written the agent knows the writer couldn't put together coherent novel. I'm guessing none of you fit into this category.

The second round is more difficult. The agent has to read each letter and decide if the the story being offered is something they would like to read AND something they can sell. They have to make guesses. They don't have unlimited time so they have to limit their requests to the works that are most promising. They miss the mark sometimes. They might reject a piece they would have enjoyed and they might request pages they don't care for at all. But they do their best.

Query rejections (and sometimes even partial and full rejections) are done quickly and I think writers need to remember that rejection isn't personal. It doesn't mean the agent hates our ideas, or our writing. It doesn't even mean they didn't like it. It just means that they had a lot of material to get through and our project wasn't the one that stood out.

Have you ever thought about what it must be like to read all those query letters?