And the Literary Agent Said

New friends; My red wine!

New friends; My red wine!

Agent Katie Shea Boutillier, literary agent at Donald Maass Literary Agency. Keynote Speaker

Agent Katie Shea Boutillier, literary agent at Donald Maass Literary Agency. Keynote Speaker

Last week I attended a terrific writer’s conference put on by the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. If you write women’s fiction, you need to be a member of this great organization. The classes were fun and informative. The networking with new friends was enjoyable and educational. I took the opportunity to pitch an agent.
No matter how often I pitch an agent, I get sweaty palms. I told myself I am self-published with great reviews. I am about to publish the second book in my Knoll Cottage series. So, I had no reason—being the mature, accomplished woman that I am—to be nervous. And why pitch an agent at this point?
I wanted to chat about the new world of publishing. I came armed with a paperback copy of Missing Emily, book one in the series; comments from my editor; a synopsis of Silent Grace.
The young agent from Trident Media Group, L.L.C. was very professional and took notes. I told her I am self-published and I have done all the hard things right, based on the reviews and comments from readers. She asked me about sales. I said they aren’t good, which is why I am nervously sitting in from of her. I need guidance! All of the information I’ve read about marketing, driving sales, email lists haven’t helped me. And I wondered if, in this new world of publishing, I could still have an agent represent me.
And the literary agent said: Yes! She said having a published book would not stop an agent from representing the author.
I told her the stories of both Missing Emily and Silent Grace. She asked me questions, and I answered. I accomplished none of this with grace because my throat was a little tight. In the end, she asked me to query her on both novels. I offered her the paperback of Missing Emily and the literary agent said: Yes.
In truth, I’ve never pitched an agent at a conference who didn’t ask for more material. Even on my very first book. But the space between the query sending and rejection sending is a warm and hopeful place. I will let you know what happens!


That Darn Back Blurb



So you’ve written nearly 100,000 words. You’ve revised the manuscript 100 times. You’ve had 20 people read for you, then you revised it 50 more times. It’s perfect! It’s ready!
All you have to do is write down the 100,000 words to about 250 or less and slap it on the back of your book.
I struggled for hours yesterday and came up with a bunch of words that convinced me no one would ever read Silent Grace. Yuck!
Thank God for the internet! Today, I visited two websites:, (who knew blurb would have its own website!) and Thank you to all the folks who bring writers such terrific information on the web. I highly recommend both of these sites if you’re struggling with your own blurb. No charge, just have at it and go back to work. I did. I rewrote the blurb based on the data I mined from the two sites. I am so much happier and confident it will intrigue readers.
Next, I send it off to my trusted and capable critique partner. If she likes it, it’s a go. And Silent Grace is one step closer to publication.

Labor Day and Watermelon

Long may it Wave!

Long may it Wave!

Today, most of us aren’t thinking about the origin of Labor Day. The Department of Labor says it’s meant to be a national tribute to the contributions of American workers to the strength, prosperity, and well-being they bring to our country. If you browse around Google, you are reminded that the holiday was started by a boycott and a strike of workers. On September 5, 1882, low wages and layoffs by the Pullman company erupted in a fiery protest by the workers. The resulting boycott of the railroad caused a tremendous mess and inconvenience. The power of the people. The government made the first Monday in September a national paid holiday in 1884, dubbed as a workingman holiday.

Fun to think about the How of things. But for most of us, Labor Day now marks the official end of summer. We grab one more day to eat burgers and potato salad, before we wake up to pack lunches and get the kids off to school.

As a youth who hated school, I remember wonderful Labor Day cookouts with friends and neighbors. Potato salad is still one of my favorite foods, along with watermelon. Even when I dreaded a return to school, I loved the celebration.

Conditions for workers in the early days of the industrial revolution were pretty horrible. Labor Day celebrates changes in those conditions by honoring the workers of that age and on. But things change. My biggest regret is the change in watermelon. Remember holding a dripping hunk of watermelon is your hands, biting off a big chunk, then spitting out the seeds? No more seeds to spit—where’s the fun of that?

Seriously, thanks to all those workers, starting with the brave men and women who stood up to improve conditions at great risk to themselves, and right up until now, for the hard work they do to give us the most wonderful lives we live in America.

A Writer’s Loves her Work


The most peaceful reading I have found is The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. When I read this quote, it fit completely with my own love of writing, my spirit, so I had to share. Does it speak to you doing what you love?

“And what is it to work with love? . . . .It is to change all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit, And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.”

Self-Publishing – Is it for you?

Very Early Self-Publisher!

Very Early Self-Publisher!

It has been a little over three months since I self-published my novel, Missing Emily. Some musings on how I feel now.

Every resume I put in for my many nursing positions–as my husband’s career involved frequent moves–contained the words “detailed oriented”. I also listed problem-solving and organizational skills. Those attributes were not my natural talents; they were learned, beginning with my nursing education. You must be sure you are administering the correct medication. You must hand the correct instrument to the surgeon. In order to care for multiple patients on a hospital shift, you must be organized.

When I began to write, I utilized those same skills. It was a huge learning curve. Writing is not instinctive. Over centuries, published writing styles have changed right along with the changing societal mores. Charles Dickens’ writing style gives me a blood sugar spike. Hemingway’s less-is-better started a whole new diet of written words. But few writers make such tsunamis when they publish a book. Most of us write because we must. Because we have stories to share, or a memoir of all or a bit of our lives we want our family to read.

I learned about writing novels. Current trends in reader popularity. I had great helpers along the way, coaches and teachers and conference speakers. When my first manuscript was ready, I began the agent search. More to learn. Query letters, synopses, credentials. I was moving forward, made it to semi-finals and finalist in some contests. Had some exciting manuscript requests, and some bummer rejections. A lot of bummer rejections. I was still climbing the hill when a dear friend, who has 11 million books of her own in print, offered me a hand up to self-publish. Her peeps became my peeps. I formed my own tiny publishing company (another learning curve), worked with a book designer, David Seager, who is fabulous; an eBook converter, Diana Birdsell, who is also fabulous. My friend, Donna Green, the artist with all the published books, who runs a foundation for children with cancer, took time to do an extraordinary illustration for my cover.

My Amazon reviews are all good, even the ones from people I don’t know. No Hemingway or Dickens, just a writer who learned her skills and lucked out with a story people like.

Self-publishing is a huge job. There are years before it that are filled with learning, wins and losses, ups and downs. There are something like 8 million books on Amazon—the absolute best place to sell a book. But think of yourself as a grain of sand on a beach, not a sand sculpture. A star in the sky, not a super nova. It’s wonderful to see your book page on Amazon! The problem is there is no filter for books that are not ready to be published. The filtering that agents and editors do for publishers. So, how do you make your book stand out?

The stigma of self-publishing is way less than it used to be. But because many not-ready books are for sale, barriers exist for self-published writers. One I recently experienced is with our local weekly newspaper here on Cape Cod. They restrict all “author published” books. I get that.

Good News. The industry is still changing. A group of book bloggers are helping to sort the good from the bad. Some publishers offer self-publishing assist and may take on the writer if the book is good enough. Agents are working with self-published authors whose books stand out on Amazon.

Bottom line: Learn your skill. Work at it and don’t be impatient. Enter contests that give you reviews; query agents who may give you some advice or encouragement. Have fun! Go to conferences and yak with fellow writers. Keep learning and keep working.
I may be a wavelet and not a tsunami, but publishing my book is one of the best things I’ve ever accomplished. It’s amazing fun. I wish the same for all of the writers out there!

A Woman Writer Wonders

Nom de Plume? Photo courtesy of Hans Splinter Wana Commons

Nom de Plume? Photo courtesy of Hans Splinter
Wana Commons

I came across a most interesting blog this morning. I had a wow reaction to it and would like to share it with you. Keep this in mind, being represented by an agent is my ultimate goal. Having self-published, and being ever so grateful for an opportunity to get my book out there, I have grown even more appreciative of the work an agent does on a writer’s behalf.
Some background on me. I’m a girly girl. Love make-up and ruffles. Still enjoy a man who holds a door open for me. An RN, worked in a female bastion—pardon to the wonderful male nurses out there in the new world of medicine. I began writing several years ago. A story-teller with women protagonists. I began by writing suspense novels. Women overcoming frightening, dangerous situations with their own intelligence and inner strength. I moved on to women’s fiction and just self-published the first novel, Missing Emily, in a three-book series.
This I did after going the agent query route, entering contests, doing pitch parties. Along the road I received many positive responses—my favorite from an agent’s reader: . . . could be a commercial success i.e.Jodi Picoult. So, I was close, but I wasn’t offered representation.
I am a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Today’s newsletter had a link to a blog: Homme de Plume: What I Learned Sending My Novel Out Under a Male Name by Catherine Nichols.
Here’s the link:
I’ll do a short summary in case you only want the gist. This young demonstrably excellent writer, in a bout of writer’s block, after sending out fifty queries to agents on a book she knew was good, wasn’t offered representation. Based on something Catherine read, she decided to do an experiment. She sent out fifty more queries–some overlapping agents she’d queried as herself–with the nom de plume, George Leyer. The results are surprising. She received nicer worded rejections, fast turnarounds, many more manuscript requests as George than she did as Catherine. An agent she’d queried and was rejected by as Catherine, requested the manuscript from George.
In her blog, Catherine gives an array of possible explanations for the phenomenon. She does in no way disparages agents. Catherine wonders if a female protagonist written by a male author holds more interest for an agent. Her small experiment is provocative to women who write. She suggests we might all use only our initials in the future when querying. Catherine is now represented by an agent based on a work of non-fiction (under her real name). Kudos to you, Catherine!
I am, at some point, going to publish my suspense novels. Do I have the courage to use only my initials or a male pseudonym? Wouldn’t an agent see right through my girly-girl writing? Worth a try?

Writer’s Media Kit

Missing Em Books Pic

I have one more item to add on the Media Page for my website media kit. What’s a media kit, you ask?
A media kit is a combination of photos and text documents that busy journalists or book bloggers may download. They may use them verbatim or as a base. They may pick and choose which items they will use.
As always, there is a plethora of information on the internet given freely to help writers market their books. Imagine what it was like before the internet. A day at the library searching current information and taking longhand notes. Or carrying home a load of books to research. Now, a few clicks and some well-posed questions, and you have answers, many of them. I usually copy info from two or more sources and pick and choose what seems the best for me. A beginner. A newbie.
Creating the website itself was a challenge. I did mine on Godaddy, and though I read negative reviews about their customer service, they have been terrific. If you don’t have a website, start there. It’s your business card.
On my Media Page at present you will find pictures of me. Self-promotion is personally difficult—it was a bit of a challenge. I also have buttons to click, one for a press release, one for a sell sheet. Feel free to check out my website, The last page is the Media Page. It has its own URL, that way, I can refer to it in my press release.
Now here’s what I need your HELP with. The last item for my Media Page is FAQ. It provides several questions and answers for a busy journalist or blogger or interviewer to use. Every time-saving item you can provide raises the chances one of those people who help you market will take you on.
If you visit the website, and there is a question that comes to your mind, will you let me know? You might have read Missing Emily, and have questions about the book. Or about my writing in general.
Thanks again to all of my follows on this blog!

A Writer’s Slant on Aging (Gracefully!)

Aging Rhodie

Aging Rhodie

Nature has a way of teaching us. The Rhodie in the picture is preparing the observer to grow old gracefully, vibrantly. The ancient shrub has gnarly joints and brown spots dot its leaves. Its branches are thinning and growing fuzz in places that once were smooth. Yet as spring warms her roots, she puts out her fragile blooms. The color is deep; the petals are soft but strong. Those flowers brighten up a rainy spring day. They bring beauty to the corner where she lives. And she is proud!

Memorial Day 2016

Stars and Stripes

Stars and Stripes

Happy Memorial Day is an oxymoron. We gaze up at our flag today, and sadly remember those who died, so that we can raise those stars and stripes. God bless them all. God bless our most splendorous country!!

You Self-Published. Now What?

Steps to Success?

Steps to Success?

Someone gave you a fabulous book launch party. You have some book sales under your belt. You have a handful of reviews that are stellar. Now What?
The research I’ve done boils down to one thing: Get your book reviewed. A lot. A variety of ways to do that include book bloggers; free book for review exchanges; and reviews for a price. And for me: begging my friends or readers to get back on Amazon and review my book, Missing Emily.
My first experience with book reviews was the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. My book, still pre -published, made it to the semi-finals. Some ten thousand books were entered in that contest. My entry was well-reviewed. Many of the reviews were great, but others pointed out my amateur mistakes. I was amazed at how many reviewers Amazon had on hand to do the job. Where the heck are they now?
Self-publishing is huge. Some Indie books are ready, some not. Sites like Goodreads gives authors a place to post their book. Goodreads is mainly for readers and it’s a great program. But there are many authors posting their book every month. How to stand out in the crowd is still a mystery to me.
I have been contacted on Twitter by several entrepreneurs who have a cottage industry helping authors market. You can purchase Twitter blasts for you book. Facebook will help you by boosting your author page, for a price.
Here’s my problem. (Disclosure: I believe in angels and garden divas.) I would love my book to be reviewed by people who searched for a women’s fiction novel, who loved the cover, who loved the story. I would love those people to say so on Twitter and Facebook, but especially, on my Amazon book page.
Millions of books are being published each year. The odds are tough. But am I discouraged? Not! I just purchased two books published on Amazon that are going to tell me exactly how to reach my sales goals! I hope . . .