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Author Archives: lieslshurtliff

Say Hello to The Class of 2k14!

Yes, it’s difficult to believe, but 2013 is nearing its end. The Class of 2k13 has only one more release (Hooray, Lydia!) and though we’ll be sad to see our debut year come to an end, we are also so thrilled to pass the buck to…

CLASSOF2K14

20 amazing YA and MG authors have once again banded together to create group synergy during their debut year!

Visit their website, follow them on Twitter, Like them on Facebook, sign up for their newsletter, and get ready to read some fantastic books in 2014!

Three Things I’ve Learned in a Debut Year

1.  Teachers and Librarians are Super Heroes. I’ve heard lots of teachers and librarians say that authors are rock stars. I’m flattered, but truly, I am completely in awe of the teachers and librarians I’ve met this past year. They work tirelessly to inspire children to read, to find the right books for them, provide support in their struggles, and give them the tools to think and solve problems both big and small. They are the unsung super-heroes of our world, and without them I don’t think nearly as many kids would read my book. Bow down and kiss their book-happy feet!

2. You have to market yourself. I resisted this truth for a long time, convinced that a good book sells itself and my time was better spent writing my next book. Besides, I have a pretty big publisher. Couldn’t they handle the major marketing stuff? Yes, a good book does sell itself, and yes, your publisher can do lots of things you can’t do on your own, but here’s the other side of that: A good book that no one knows about won’t sell at all, and there’s only so much your publisher can/will do for you. When you’re a debut author, largely unknown by the world, you have to find ways to tell people about yourself and your book. You have to pound the pavement. This was hard for me because I’m extremely uncomfortable with self-promotion. It makes me squirm, but I’ve learned to get over it (mostly.)

There are a million ways to market yourself. Much of it can be overwhelming/expensive/time-consuming. Choose the marketing and publicity activities that you think will effectively reach your audience and that you will enjoy. For me that was ultimately school visits. I adore connecting with students and their teachers and librarians, and I have found it to be effective in spreading the word and getting my book into the hands of readers.

3. It’s a roller-coaster. Buckle up. Some days I am floating on cloud nine, and then the next day cloud nine rips open and downpours me into a ditch. I’ve learned nothing from this except I don’t expect this to change, so I’ve committed to just enjoy the highs and ride through the lows clinging to the hope for better days, and my gratitude for the opportunity to write at all. It’s a gift, no matter what.

 

One Smart Thing I Did To Sell My Manuscript: Hold Back.

One smart thing I did to sell my manuscript is I didn’t try to sell my first manuscript. Nor my second. I sold my third. You’ll find that many authors do the same, whether by choice or not. This is not to say that the first book a person writes can’t be great and sell and do really well. There are numerous examples of successful authors who sold their first novel they wrote, but most likely they have spent a lot of time developing their writing craft in various ways BEFORE they wrote that first novel.

“But, but…” you stutter, “what if I have the best idea ever!” 

I can appreciate a great idea. I fancy I get them every now and again. But here’s the truth: Everyone has great ideas. Your neighbor has them, your mother has them, your worst enemy has them, my toddler has them. Even your dog has them. Some of them might have the same idea as you. Some of their ideas might be better. (Impossible!) In any case, it is erroneous thinking to think that because you have the greatest idea since Nutella (Impossible again!) that your book will be the greatest book since…(choose the book you find most amazing.)

Great ideas don’t always translate into great books. It’s all about the execution of your incredible ideas, and that takes time and effort. So a smart thing you can do to sell your manuscript is perhaps write more than one and see how your craft, style, and voice develop over time. If you have writing skills to match your incredible ideas, you will find it infinitely easier to sell your work.

 

 

Our Agents and Why We Love Them

Most (but not all) of the Class of 2k13 is represented by a literary agent. Agents can be a great asset to your writing career. Over a third of publishers are closed now to unagented writers, which means if you have an agent, you are greatly increasing the number of places your manuscript can be submitted. Your manuscript arrives at a publisher pre-filtered by a professional. A good agent knows what publishers and editors are looking for and can match your manuscript with those editors who are most likely to buy. Unagented writers can wait months and years to hear back from publishers, but good agents hear back within weeks or even days. Finally, if you do make a sale, a good agent makes sure you get a strong book deal AND makes sure you keep all those complex rights that change constantly as the business and technology changes.

All that said, a writer can still get published with a reputable publisher without an agent. Sometimes you might be your own best agent for your book!

Here we share with you our agents, how we met, why we love them, and where to find them.

Mindy McGinnis, NOT A DROP TO DRINK

Agent: Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary

How they met: Query letter, baby – they actually work.

Why my agent is awesome: Because she’s in this with me for my career, not just one or two books.

Where to find her: Twitter: @AdriannRanta or http://wolflit.com

 

Lydia Kang, CONTROL

Agent: Eric Myers of the Spieler Agency

How they met: Querying!

Why they’re awesome: He’s got great experience and instinct. And he’s in this for my career, not just for a book.

Where to find him: http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/ericmyers/

Demitria Lunetta, IN THE AFTER

Agent: Katherine Boyle of Veritas Literary

How they met: Query letter.

Why they’re awesome: She has amazing editorial advice, she always answers all of my (most probably stupid) questions in great detail, and she’s definitely invested in my success.

Where to find them: http://www.veritasliterary.com/

Stephanie Kuehn, CHARM & STRANGE

Agent: Michael Bourret of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management

How they met: I actually queried a different agent at DGLM, who passed my query on to Michael. (Yes, that really happens!)

Why they’re awesome: Well, besides the fact that he’s a wonderful, wonderful agent and that I respect and admire him and all of his clients so very much, I think he’s awesome because he gets my writing. That’s important to me. My writing is strange and dark and weird and difficult, and he gets that and it makes me feel safe to be the writer I am.

Where to find them:

DGLM website http://www.dystel.com/
twitter: @MichaelBourret

Liesl Shurtliff, RUMP: THE TRUE STORY OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN

 Agent: Michelle Andelman of Regal Litarary

How they met: Good old-fashioned query, which I personalized by highlighting why I thought she’d be interested in my work. (Helps to do your homework!)

Why they’re awesome: So many reasons! Michelle is wonderfully editorial. She really understanding the elements of story and can so perfectly pinpoint an issue and how it might be resolved. She’s savvy with the market, a great negotiator, and cares deeply for all aspects of her clients’ careers. It’s not just about making sales for her, but building authors’ careers.

Where to find them: @michellelit http://www.regal-literary.com/

Tamera Wissinger, GONE FISHING

When I sold GONE FISHING I didn’t have an agent and I don’t have one now. It is possible to represent and sell your work on your own.

Justina Ireland, VENGEANCE BOUND

Agent: Elana Roth of Red Tree Literary

How they met: I queried Elana and she passed me on to my former agent, Caren Estesen. When Caren quit agenting, Elana picked me up.

Why they’re awesome: Elana is an amazingly editorial agent, which I love. She’s also lightning quick on responses to emails and our lines of communication are always open. I really value that.

Where to find them: Elana is on twitter as @ElanaRoth and her agency website is www.redtreeliterary.com

Liz Fichera, HOOKED

Agent: Holly Root at Waxman Leavell Agency

How they met: The old-fashioned way: a query.

Why they’re awesome: When my first book didn’t sell right away, she didn’t drop me like a hot potato. She gets my writing and quirky characters and gives me great feedback.

Where to find them: Twitter at @hroot

Jennifer McGowan, MAID OF SECRETS

Agent: Alexandra Machinist, at Janklow & Nesbit

How they met: I queried her, then emailed to let her know another agent had expressed interest. She emailed me back to say she’d never gotten my first email, but loved the idea… and she read the book overnight before offering representation.

Why they’re awesome: Other than the above, she also is someone who is an amazing advocate for me in good times and bad. She is fun, dynamic, has great insights and believes in me and my work.

Where to find them:

Janklow & Nesbit website: www.janklowandnesbit.com
twitter: @AMachinist

Geoffrey Girard, PROJECT CAIN

Agent: Stephen Barbara, at Foundry Literary & Media

How they met: Just like all the How To guides tell you. I made a short list (one agent) of pros I wanted to work with. I queried by email, sent the full, tweaked some based on his suggestions, and was then offered representation. The whole thing took about four months (which included the three-month rewrite).

Why they’re awesome: Because he loves books as much as I do. The tradition and magic of publishing and NY and the thousands who’ve come before us actually matters to him. I’d also heard – sorry, Stephen – that he was super smart but “too confident” and “too forceful.” My reaction was: Hell, Yes! That’s exactly the agent I want! Turns out he’s a charming gentleman. But I’m from Jersey, so my idea of confidence and force is different than some…

Where to find them:  http://www.foundrymedia.com

K.A. Barson, 45 POUNDS

Agent: Sara Crowe with Harvey Klinger, Inc.

How they met: I met her at Vermont College over a year before I was ready for an agent. I was impressed with her and her blog, and I also respect many of her other clients. When I was ready, I queried her. She requested the full manuscript that day and offered to represent me a couple weeks later.

Why they’re awesome: Sara is awesome because she’s smart and enthusiastic. She’s not overly pushy, but lets the work speak for itself–I like that. She’s a tough negotiator, and is worth double her weight in gold.

You can find her at saracrowe.com or follow her on Twitter @saraagent

Polly Holyoke, THE NEPTUNE PROJECT

Agent: Douglas Stewart with Sterling Lord Literistic

How they met: I read Publisher’s Marketplace religiously for a year and used their Dealmakers database to track which agents were selling the most dystopian fiction. Doug had made a couple of recent sales in that genre, so I knew he liked it, and I sent him a query.

Why they’re awesome: Doug is steady and sensible and completely believes in my writing. Sterling Lord is the third largest literary agency in NYC, so their resources and contacts are phenomenal. I had a foreign sale within three weeks of my domestic sale.

Where to find them: Doug, most sadly, rarely takes on new clients. You can try for Doug, who is fabulous, or go for one of the younger agents at Sterling Lord (www.sll.com).

Tara Sullivan, GOLDEN BOY

Agent: Caryn  Wiseman of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency

How they met: We got a SCBWI writers-group development grant and invited Caryn to a Skype conference to tell our group more about the querying and agenting process.

Why they’re awesome: Caryn is amazing! She has a very helpful, hands-on approach to the pre-pitch manuscript, and great business connections when it’s time to launch. I only received thoughtful, personalized rejections (and, of course, my acceptance, yay!) from the people she selected for GOLDEN BOY. I’ve felt very solidly that she’s on my side every step of the way and I couldn’t imagine a better agent.

Where to find them:

https://twitter.com/CarynWiseman

http://www.andreabrownlit.com/agents.php

 Cristin Terrill, ALL OUR YESTERDAYS

Agent: Diana Fox of Fox Literary.

How them met: In a completely random way. She ran across an old blog of mine, liked my writing and invited me to submit the novel I had mentioned I was working on. After I regained consciousness, I did. That novel was terrible and she wisely passed, but I queried her again with a later novel and she offered rep. And the moral of the story is, completely random crap you write on the internet MAY be being read by an agent at this very moment, so try to make it good!

Why they’re awesome: She took a chance on me because she thought I had potential and has made my writing a thousand times better. She’s tough as nails when she’s negotiating for me but also will geek out with me over the terrible teen TV shows we both like.

Where to find them:

Foxliterary.com and @dianafox on Twitter.

In Defense of Fantasy

Sometimes fantasy is written off as the unwanted step-child of “real” literature. Practical persons may consider fantasy as merely escapism, a way to ignore reality and its inconvenient laws of nature, and therefore a waste of time. However, the best fantasy, and any fiction, is not so much about escapisms as offering a lense in which to view the real world, so that when they return from the pretend world they’ve occupied for however many hours and days, they have greater understanding of their own world. Comparisons and metaphors are powerful tools in revealing truth.

Take Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland…

Image

It is not only about a girl having adventures in a bizarre world that defies logic, but also about that hazy line between childhood and adulthood, work and play, and the difficulty of making decisions and choosing paths in a world that makes no sense, particularly to children who have not yet been conditioned or resigned to social expectations. I think our world is more bizarre and fantastical than most adults are consciously aware of, even outside of social structures. Giraffes anyone?

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Bizarre. 

Fantasy jolts us into new ways of thinking, so we can reconsider our own world and various social, political, familial, or personal issues. While a child may read the book for entertainment, at some point they make comparisons to their everyday experience, and perhaps discover certain truths or conflict that they might not otherwise had they not slipped into another world. If the fantasy makes us dissatisfied with our real world, hopefully we can endeavor to change it for the better. I for one am dissatisfied with current modes of transportation and would really like to learn how to apparate.

Comparable Titles for RUMP: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

There are LOTS of fairy-tale retellings out there, and they could all be compared to RUMP in one way or another, but here are a few books that I think give a reader an idea of what they can expect from RUMP.

ELLA ENCHANTED, by Gail Carson Levine. The fairy-tale worlds in RUMP and ELLA ENCHANTED have a similar feel—timeless, magical, and adventurous. And just as Ella goes on a quest to break her curse of obedience, Rump also goes on a quest to break his curse, which results from only knowing half his name.

A more recent comparable title is Adam Gidwitz’s A TALE DARK AND GRIMM. They both weave in other fairy-tales, so you get a rich sense that all fairy-tales are connected, and things that happen in one tale might affect another. The children in both GRIMM and RUMP go through some very difficult things and face brutal foes, (though I have to say Hansel and Gretel probably trump Rump on the brutality contest. I’m not so violent or gory.)  .

And last but not least, I just had to include THE TRUE STORY OF THE 3 LITTLE PIGS by John Scieska, because my book is RUMP: THE TRUE STORY OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN. They each show a classic fairly-tale from the villain’s point-of-view in a humorous and endearing way. One of my biggest goals for RUMP was to get the reader to not only understand and sympathize with Rumpelstiltskin (probably one of the most demonized fairy-tale villains) but to actually love him and root for him. I had a lot of fun rising to the challenge!

Also, check out our giveaways this week, which includes a copy of MAY B. by Caroline Starr Rose!

Liesl Shurtliff & The Inspiration for RUMP

I was actually brainstorming another story idea when I imagined a world where names are much more than just a title, but a person’s destiny. Instantly my mind gravitated toward the Rumpelstiltskin tale, for if there was ever a name of great importance in a story, it’s that one. And yet, for the crucial role he and his name play in the story, we know so little of Rumpelstiltskin in the traditional tale. We know nothing of where he comes from, what his name means, how he learned to spin straw into gold, or why on earth he would want someone’s first born child. I wanted to tell a story from his point-of-view, not only so we would understand Rumpelstiltskin, but also love him. Shortening his name to Rump got me on the right track and everything grew from there.

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