Accepted: Amunet’s Gift

I’m proud to announce my story, Amunet’s Gift, has been accepted for publication in 100 Stories for Queensland. The anthology will be published on 8 March 2011 and all proceeds will be donated to the survivors of the recent floods in Queensland. This is a great cause, so please be sure to purchase a copy of the book when it is released.

I will make an announcement when the anthology is available, with all the appropriate links.

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Amulet Rejection

About a month ago I submitted a short story – Amulet of Kemet – to a magazine. The story has had the benefit of a good “working over” by a good friend of mine and I feel confident that it’s a story that can find a publisher…if I persist.

A few days ago, I received a rejection from the publisher. However, as rejections go, this one was excellent. The editor wrote a short paragraph telling me that the premise was thoroughly enjoyed, but the main character did things that didn’t fit with his status. I was then given three examples which were directly focused on the character, which is the most helpful feedback a writer can receive. This was followed by some words of encouragement and the request that I send other completed work to them for consideration.

Rejections are awful – they can often depress the writer, sometimes they can even shatter confidences – but when feedback accompanies those awful words then it doesn’t feel like a rejection at all. Of course, the feedback may not necessarily be correct, but on this occasion I believe the editor is right – the character is acting wrong for the circumstances he’s in. I can see that plainly now that it has been pointed out and I will take the time to implement changes to that affect before I submit the story elsewhere.

My Writing: Turning the Focus Around

Firstly, you might remember that a while ago I talked about trying out “writing on the train in the afternoon” – I thought I’d give a quick update on how that is going. So far, it’s working out really well. I’m doing about an hour and a half of work during this time frame, which I think is pretty good. Generally, it isn’t too difficult to concentrate and the more I use the laptop on the train, the less self-conscious I feel. The first week was spent on the Whispering Caves planning – more about that later in the post. The second week has seen me reading through my completed short stories (and doing some small adjustments). There are only four in total, which are now all newly edited and ready to submit. I have also set up a spreadsheet with sheets showing “Completed Stories”, “Submissions”, “Rejections” and “Publications”. One of the stories is out on submission, so my goal for the weekend is to submit the other three stories to likely publishers. I will then turn my attention to my completed novel length manuscripts and do the same thing. Once this is done, I’ll feel a lot happier and then I’ll move back to my main project – Whispering Caves.

Whispering Caves is proving to be a difficult story to plan. The character storylines are done, as is the history and world building and I’m extremely pleased with what I have. A single, important thread is where the problem is. I feel it isn’t as strong as it could be and I’m not sure what to do about it. Actually, if I had to put it into words, I’d say it had a wishy washy middle that just isn’t up to scratch. I’m certainly not happy with what I have and cannot start writing until I figure out what’s to be done about the problem.

Despite this small setback, I made another decision that has made me very happy. Due to the fact that I’ve been working on my small list of short stories and intend to submit them over the weekend, I came up with the idea to write short stories using minor characters from Whispering Caves. Not only will this cement the world and its people further into my mind, if I can get the stories published, they could be used to generate interest in the novel length story.

I’m excited by this idea. I know I need to stop planning and start writing. This will be the perfect opportunity to do just that. In the meantime, I can still let that problem thread roll around in my mind and perhaps I’ll find a solution.

Thanks but No Thanks

It is with a heavy heart that I write this post, for once again Cat’s Eyes has been rejected. I’m pretty sure this one was a form letter, but it did say that they didn’t think the story was “strong enough” for representation by them. By “them”, I mean Curtis Brown Australia.

That’s two marks against “not strong enough”. Maybe that’s the standard reply these days, which would mean it means nothing. But, maybe it means exactly what it means. I don’t know. I’ll be keeping tabs in the future.

Oh well, I’ll add this rejection to the others and submit it again. I’m not sure where or when, but I do know it will be soon and somewhere. I’ll keep you informed.

Looking for an Agent

For a long time, I have attempted to get published without the aid of an agent. Why? I’ve always had mixed feeling about them and preferred to go it alone.

The positives: They know the industry and the agents presumably know them, so that will get my manuscript(s) on more desks. They know what is normal and what is not in publishing contracts, so presumably they will get me the highest royalty payment obtainable. Having an agent would be like having a secretary, which presumably means that queries and full submissions are always on the go, instead of when I have time to fit them in.

The negatives: The agent doesn’t do any of this for love, so a portion of my royalty payment (in the region of 15%) will be kept by the agent. The agent will also require a contract, but can I be sure I’m not being diddled in some way. I’ve heard horror story where agents sit on a manuscript for the term of the contract, without doing a thing!

And there are probably more that can be added to both of the above.

Being an unpublished writer, I figure I don’t have a lot of choices. I know from experience that publishing companies are squeezing out unsolicited manuscripts and using agents to cull them instead. There are very few companies that are interested in looking at unsolicited material from unknown writers of children’s works, and even less for adult fiction.

I could self-publish, but I don’t want to. Not this early in the game. I might be vain, but I honestly want to experience the joy of receiving an acceptance letter (or phone call) from a third party. I guess that means I want confirmation that my writing is of an acceptable quality.

I would like to say that I put a lot of thought into this, but I didn’t. I believe that my opinions about getting an agent has been slowly changing as the months progress and I knew that, at some stage, I’d have to bite the bullet and do it. Yesterday is the day I stepped over the line and today I announce that I’ve sent a query email to an agent regarding Cat’s Eyes.

I feel more nervous about this query (which isn’t even a submission) than previous ones. I can only imagine that it’s because of uncertainties of my own feelings. None the less, the query is gone and I intend to follow through with other queries if this one is unsuccessful.

Edited on 28 May 2009:

The company is Curtis Brown (Australia) Pty Ltd and I received a lovely reply email asking me to submit the first three chapters, which means I’m over the first hurdle and approaching the second.

The submission was posted yesterday afternoon.

Edited (again) on 19 June 2009:

Read about the rejection here.

Cat’s Eyes: Full Manuscript Requested

I used an email address for the submission of Cat’s Eyes that I rarely receive or send anything from. Moments ago, I realised I hadn’t checked it for several days. Imagine my surprise when I heard the tell-tale “ding” that announces new mail has been received. Immediately recognising the publisher’s email address, I held my breath and prepared myself for a rejection.

So it was an even bigger surprise when I read the email and discovered the publisher liked the synopsis of my story and liked the sample of my writing, and was requesting the full manuscript.

I realise this isn’t an acceptance and the manuscript could still be rejected, but this request has lifted my spirits. I now have a purpose! I now have a reason to sit at the computer and work diligently. I’ve been given hope and that is something I needed.

My plans for the weekend have suddenly changed. I won’t be working on Mirror Image as previously stated, I’ll be ensuring Cat’s Eyes is perfect before I send it off next week.

If there was a mood reader on this blog, it would be saying “happy and excited” right now.

Cat's Eyes: Submitted!

Some weeks ago I mentioned that I want to submit Cat’s Eyes for consideration. The manuscript has been completed for some time, but I haven’t done anything with it since entering it into a competition last year. Anyway, once the decision was made to submit it I set about, and spent over a week, writing a one page query letter. As I wasn’t entirely happy with what I had I did some research to ensure I was including all the right things for such an important letter (which I was). Finally…I pushed the letter aside as I still felt something wasn’t quite right.

Yesterday I mentioned in an email to a friend that I needed to get onto this submission. I questioned my reasons for not sending it out already. No reason really came to mind, except self doubt and that’s not a good reason to hold back a submission. Actually, the thought angered me so last night I opened that query letter and looked at it again. It has all the elements of a good query letter. I know that for sure, however, I still had to do some more research. In the end, I had to concede that I’ve done the best I can with it and now I have to take a chance.

Once this decision was made, I turned my research to publishers instead. Who do I want to submit to? My first choices are the big names – Scholastic, HarperCollins, Random House, Penguin and Allen & Unwin. I visited each website and found their submission guidelines. Two are not taking submissions of any kind at this time. Two would accept full manuscripts for children’s manuscripts, but only queries for adult manuscripts (luckily, my manuscript is for children). One would only accept an email query from unpublished writers, promising a response within two week. This is the one I targeted.

The guidelines were clear, so I adjusted my letter accordingly. They also only wanted the first 250 words of the manuscript, as a sample of my writing. This once again reiterates the need for strong openings, which I’m a believer in, so that shouldn’t be a worry. I read through that one and a half pages … oh, three dozen times, at least. Still not confident enough to send the email, I sent it to myself first as I wanted to see how it would be received. Seeing the email made me feel better. It looked professional and there were no errors, but there was a problem. There was an attachment! I didn’t include an attachment and the guidelines clearly stated that emails with attachments would not be read. I fiddled with settings, which made no difference. Then I copied and pasted the contents of the letter into a fresh page and emailed it to myself again. No attachment. Yay. I emailed it again to be sure. OK, we’re in business and now it’s time to send the real email.

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to press “send” when the email is this important? My cursor hovered over the button for several minutes; I kept wanting to read the entire thing one more time (just to be sure). Finally, I had to force myself to click on the button and trust in myself. The email – the submission – has been sent. I have done the best I can, with the manuscript and the letter. Now I must wait and see if that is enough.

Cat’s Eyes: Getting Ready to Submit

Cat’s Eyes is the first book in a fantasy series for children aged 8 to 12 years. It has been 100% completed for some time now. However, something niggled at me about its length. At 30,000 words, I felt it was too short and this made me hold back from submitting it.

A few days ago I decided to ask a published author about this. I emailed Pamela Freeman, Australian author for children who has now also published the first two books in an adult trilogy. I briefly explained my concern and asked her advice. She was quick to get back to me and reassure me that the manuscript is the perfect length for the age group and that her own manuscripts varied between 22,000 and 35,000 words. This shouldn’t have surprised me because I did do my research and plan the stories so that they would be the desired length, but I guess with thick books like Harry Potter on the shelves I lost confidence in my own research. This will not happen again.

Anyway, this quick email exchange has taken all my concerns away and I now plan on writing the query letter and synopsis so that I can get it in the post. Since I don’t have an agent I’ve decided to take the “query approach” and send the covering letter, the synopsis and a sample of my writing. I will have no more than five queries out at any one time.

This is an unexpected turn of events that I hadn’t planned on…and it’s exciting. I will use part of my writing time over the weekend to get the “package” ready.

Note: I’ve added a link to Query Shark to the sidebar. There are some good tips to be found on the site.

Another Amulet of Kemet Submission

Amulet of Kemet is acting more like a yo-yo than a short story. It is bouncing back and forth between me and publishers at a speed which is frightening. I have a very high opinion of this story, but it’s a bit worrying how quickly it is being rejected. I guess I should think myself lucky that I do not have to wait months between submission and rejection, but the turn around time between the two is a little worrying. It’s obvious the story is not well received. I have to work out why.

This got me thinking about how the story fits into genres. I’ve been treating it as a fantasy story with science fiction elements. That obviously isn’t helping the story find a publisher. In the last few days, I’ve been thinking I need to treat it as historical fiction with a fantasy twist.

This morning I submitted Amulet of Kemet to Solander, which is a magazine for enthusiasts of historical fiction. A history buff will see how finely tuned the characters and setting in the story is to our history. I hope the effort put into writing the story isn’t lost on the reader. I just have to find the right editor and I’m hoping the editor of Solander appreciates this type of story.

Just in case he doesn’t, I better start putting a list of historical fiction markets together. If you know of any, please leave a link in a comment. I will be grateful for the leads.

Submission: Amulet of Kemet

As the saying goes, “better late than never”, and that’s how I view this submission. I should have done it within days of the rejection, but I was waist deep in website coding at the time and have only gotten around to doing the necessary research today.

This afternoon, I submitted Amulet of Kemet to Fantasy Magazine. It’s a paying market, which accepts electronic submissions. As the cost of sending manuscripts overseas is expensive, I’ve decided to only find and submit to markets that will accept submissions electronically for the time being. Besides, International Postage Coupons cost an arm and a leg so I really want to avoid that stress if I can. Personally, although I understand editor’s hatred of reading manuscripts on-screen (I’m the exact same), I think it’s a bit stupid insisting on return postage when a simple email costs nothing and is instant (and few people reuse the old manuscript to send out again; I certainly never do, so why not just recycle it).

With this submission out of the way, I can safely report that one of the goals in my four day plan is now complete.