Saturday, 30 March 2013

Zombies, Betta Betas and the Bologna Affair

Sorry I've been a bit absent of late, both here and on twitter. I'm sure if you read my posts about drafting and editing and such over the past few months, you figured I was off polishing up my latest MS, and you'd be right. So, what else is new?

I'm a Zombie. Or I was.

I had the great privilege of being one of the slush zombies for Pitch Madness, and it was awesome seeing all the requests flying with darts and favourites on pitches for PitMad and everything. Now I get to sit back and watch over the next few weeks and months as those requests from agents turn into offers and signings. That's always my favourite part of any contest!

A couple of the other zombies posted their reflections on the whole Pitch Madness event, and I really had nothing new or insightful to add beyond their wisdom, so I did the lazy thing and just copied their links here for you.

Stephanie Diaz's Slushpile Lessons (part 2)

Mina Vaughn's Tales from the Slushpile and How to Twitter Pitch

Facing the New Frontier

I'm venturing into unexplored territory (for me) with my next writing project. I don't want to say too much about it at this point, because then I'd have to spit and spin in a circle and what-have-you to avoid jinxing it, but suffice to say it's not my usual robots/magic type stuff. Once I'm a little further into it, I'll give an update about how it's going and whether I'd rather be tearing out my own teeth with pliers.

Being a Betta Beta

I also have 2 beta/CP projects to finish before I dive back into my own writing (I'm still trying to stick to my new year's resolution to be a better CP), and they're both by incredible writer friends who I feel lucky to know and be able to read for. They are Jani Grey and Jeanmarie Anaya, in case you're not watching them like hawks already. Because you really should be.

The Bologna Affair

I've been keeping my own hawk eyes on Bologna Children's Book Fair (you can check out the tweets from the fair under the hashtag #BCBF13) because this is really the first year I've had an inkling about what goes on there. I think I've mentioned previously I'm a bit of a doof when it comes to knowing about the publishing process beyond getting an agent, but I'm trying to fix that, and learning about one of the key events in the children's publishing calendar is a good step. My agent Molly Ker Hawn and her colleague Gemma Cooper at The Bent Agency have posted some fabulous posts about it, which I recommend you read right NOW.

Molly's post about the fair.

Gemma's posts about what goes on at Bologna and about Bologna book fair meetings.

So, what's new with you guys??

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Picking the Right Comparators

Whether you're writing a query, a pitch, or a blurb, picking the right comparators for your novel can be tricky. But if you get it right, it can be really effective.

There are two reasons for this: firstly, it can it can help an agent/editor/whoever mentally place your novel in the publishing market, and shows you know your shiz. Secondly, it'll set up your story, and help whoever's reading it to know something about the content/tone before they start. An example of how each of these works...

Place in the market

"My novel will appeal to fans of THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers and UNWIND by Neal Shusterman."

Now, one is a zombie novel about a group of teens who spend a large portion of the story trapped inside a school, trying to survive. The other is a dystopian story about three teens in very different situations who face being 'unwound' - a process by which their body parts are essentially recycled while they're alive. OK, so they're both SF (I know some will argue that zombies aren't SF, but if the reason behind the zombification is medical or a bio-weapon or some other kind of science, then I'm holding your stare and kicking you under the table) but otherwise pretty different.

So how does this help place your story?

Well, there are common themes: fight for survival, dealing with death, betrayal. There is also a similar tone, in my opinion: dark, with a frantic pace. So while these two novels may not at first glance be all that similar, they will help to give an idea of where you see your novel sitting in the bookstore, what themes you might be tackling, what the tone of your story is like. It also shows that you haven't just randomly picked 2 or 3 stories about zombies as your comparators. THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers, ASHES by Ilsa J Bick, and THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan are all zombie stories, but really very different in every other way. Setting, characterisation, pace, tone. Listing these as your comparators would look more like you'd googled a list of zombie stories and picked the 3 titles which stood out most.

Do your reading. Read within your genre, of course, but read outside of it too - especially the books which are really making an impact, the 'breakout' novels. If you want to stand out in the market, you need to know what you're standing up against first.

Setting up your story



"A modern retelling of GONE WITH THE WIND, set in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina."

These one-liners (awful as they may be) tell you a lot about the story in very few words, so can be really effective in a short pitch, or in the intro/summary of your query.

One more thing...

Don't just go for the big boys

"My novel will appeal to fans of HARRY POTTER, TWILIGHT and CODE NAME VERITY."


Really? Just...really?

Again, you want to show that you know the market and your genre, so aim for the stars - but make sure they're the right stars. Do your research, and find the RIGHT books to compare yours to.

Think comparators are useful? Do you use them in your queries/pitches? Please share your thoughts :) 

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The 900 Giveaway


I promised a giveaway when I reached 900 twitter followers, and you guys helped me to reach that number - so THANK YOU! <3

I asked whether you would prefer books / critiques / other for the giveaway, and critiques was a far-and-away winner. So here's what I - and some freakin' AMAZING authors - are offering...

Brianna Shrum: Query & first 10 pages critique.

Bridget Shepherd: First 50 pages critique.

Irene Rose: Query & first 10 pages critique.

Kat Ellis (me): Query & first 50 pages critique.

Lori Goldstein: First 10 pages critique/copy edit.

Marieke Nijkamp: First 10 pages critique.

Tamara Mataya (Feaky Snucker): First chapter (10 pages) critique.

*New critiquer added!!*

Jani Grey: First 50 pages critique.

*UPDATED 13th March - And because the entries are SO brilliant, another amazing critiquer has joined the giveaway!*

Kip Wilson Rechea: Query & first 10 pages critique.


Now I'm sure you're wondering what do I have to do to win this awesomeness? Well, it's simple.

1. Leave a short pitch (about 50 words) for your MS in the comments to this post, along with the genre and title of your MS.

...I really didn't need to number that, did I? We're not critiquing the 50-word pitches, these are just to give us a flavour of what your MS is about so we can choose ones that grab us. It's open to all genres/categories of fiction.

I'll leave this open to entries until 10pm GMT on Tuesday, 12th March. Once it's closed, the awesome author critiquers listed above will come and choose their favourite pitches, and reply to your pitch-comment with "I choose you!" or similar. If you get picked, please email the query/number of pages specified above to: katelliswrites (at) gmail (dot) com. I'll pass them on for critique.

Tweeting about this giveaway is entirely optional, but I'd love it if you did!

Monday, 4 March 2013

My Supernatural Short

Hey folks!

In case you missed my crazy tweeting today, I'm taking part in a series called Supernatural Shorts, where I've joined 5 amazing writers to come up with a short story themed around the supernatural. Each one features a different kind of "supe", and each is tied to a different geographical location. They're all going up on Chynna-Blue Scott's blog, and mine is up today - eep!

Please go and leave your comments on The Ghouls of Gronwyn Valley.

Thanks! <3

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Submitting the Second Novel

Hey folks. If you've been following my drafting and editing journey with the latest MS, firstly: thank you for sticking with me while I dragged my ass through that. Secondly, I've hit a point in the process which is actually a first for me.

This is not my first MS. It's actually my third complete MS. The second (actually the first one I wrote, but that's another story) landed me my amazing agent. But this new MS is the first MS I'm submitting to my agent, as my agent. 

I think there are a few things that go through your head as you're querying agents - things that you look forward to never having to do again once you sign with one. Querying, of course (provided everything goes well, and providing you don't sign with an agent who's only representing the novel you submitted and not subsequent work.) Facing the prospect that you might never get a professional opinion on your MS is another thing (because if your query sucks, is an agent even going to read your pages? Yes, this was something I gave a lot of thought to while querying.) Knowing that your agent will at the very least read your MS and give you feedback (because your agent doesn't have to represent every MS you write, if they hate it or don't think they can sell it, etc.) is reassuring.

In my case, having discussed my basic premise for this MS with Molly before I started writing it, I'd had the story idea pre-vetted, in a way, so I had that slight security of knowing I wasn't going to meet with 'this story is a no-go/has been done to death/sucks harder than a Dyson'. But something I hadn't given any thought to before completing it was: what am I actually supposed to send? The MS, of course, but what else? A query-style blurb? After all, it was months ago that I first discussed the basic idea with Molly. A synopsis? I know that these come in handy when developing the pitch for editors. What??

Basically, I was clueless.

I haven't seen any guidelines for this online, and I - in a vain effort to not look like a complete div - try to find answers online before I bug Molly with questions. (The bugging part is my perception, not at all based on Molly's response - she is in all things lovely, communicative and vastly brilliant.) But I couldn't find the answer. So I emailed Molly and asked. The answer (and I don't know whether this varies from agent to agent or is a rule across the board) was this: just the MS.

So that's what I sent.

And now I just hope she likes it!