Friday, February 26, 2016

Query Questions with Tricia Skinner

Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.


Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a new series of posts called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers for the real expert--agents!

If you have your own specific query question, please leave it in the comments and it might show up in future editions of Query Questions as I plan to rotate the questions.

What better way to start the blog up again after an amazing contest than with an agent interview! Tricia Skinner is here from Fuse Literary to share her query process.

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
It's best to visit the agency website or the social media for the agent you are targeting. Those places will usually state when they are open or closed for new submissions. Agencies take breaks around the holidays so everyone can enjoy family time or catch up on their manuscript reading. Queries that come in when an agency stated it was closed risk never reaching the agent.

Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?
I'm not that hardcore! If there's one minor mistake I ignore it. The same goes for the manuscript. Yes, I want to see it polished, but I know one or two minor mistakes can slip past the author. The flip side, though, is a query or manuscript riddled with grammar and punctuation issues. That gives the wrong impression. It tells me the author doesn't care, which is not the kind of author I want to team with.​

Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?

​I always read the sample pages if the query has a good hook. I've read queries that weren't the best, but the sample pages proved the author had potential. Keeping me hooked with the pages is the real challenge. 

If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?

​No. Even in my personal reading, I don't read prologues. The rarest time this might be different is if the world is known to me and the prologue helps place the story in that updated world. So, if I've been reading a series and a new book uses a prologue to explain a timeline jump or something like that, I'll check it out. But in a raw pitch of a manuscript I know nothing about? No. The sample pages should be strong enough to hook me without it.

Some agencies mention querying only one agent at a time and some say query only one agent period. How often do you pass a query along to a fellow agent who might be more interested?

​At Fuse Literary, we regularly communicate with each other. So, if we've met someone at a conference but that person doesn't write a genre we cover, we'll suggest they contact someone else on the team. We normally don't forward queries around as each of us have a ton already. It's just best to query the correct agent rather than rely on one of us to send a pitch to someone else on the team.

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?

​The manuscript is everything. I've had queries go on and on with the "chit chat" and forget to say much about the manuscript. Those usually are instant rejections.

Most agents have said they don’t care whether the word count/genre sentence comes first or last. But is it a red flag if one component is not included?

​Yes! The genre info and word count tell me if the author understands the market. If I received a YA romance pitch that's 150,000 words, I'd reject it. ​That's not what an editor would expect from that genre. Researching genres is the job of every author.  

Many agents say they don't care if writers are active online. Could a twitter account or blog presence by a writer tip the scales in getting a request or offer? And do you require writers you sign to start one?

​I absolutely prefer to find writers with a social media presence. After reading a query I like, I will visit the website of the author and look at all their social media. I get a feel for how well they understand author branding. I also will notice any red flags that may make them a bad match for me. I really believe an unpublished writer should at least have a website to provide basic information (bio, current project/WIP), etc. They don't need a lot right away, but I like seeing they're ready to handle the branding part of their career.​

Some writers have asked about including links to their blogs or manuscript-related artwork. I’m sure it’s not appropriate to add those links in a query, but are links in an email signature offensive?

​Honestly, a link to their website is the best. On the website should be links to the other social media outlets, such as Twitter or GoodReads. One or two links isn't offensive.  

If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested?

​Tough one. When you send a manuscript, you're saying you've polished it and it's ready to be read. I may begin reading a manuscript but stop for a short bit because of another pressing matter. I'll pick it up again and finish so I can make a decision on it. If I were to get a revised version sent, I'd likely ignore it because I expected what I had was ready to go. Time is tight for agents. The only advice here is limit how many agents you send the work to. If you end up massively revising it, you'll only have sent the original to a small number of people.

 What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?

​Anything pertinent to the manuscript. For example, if the book is about an anthropologist who tries to stop a crime lord from selling artifacts, I'd love knowing the author has a degree in anthropology or was in law enforcement. Education or careers that would add to the creation of the book. Hobbies that directly connect to the book, like being a candy maker and writing a cozy mystery, would also be fun to note.

What does ‘just not right mean for me’ mean to you?

​I want the manuscript to create a reaction in me. Since I'm focused on romance, I'd actually expect to fall in love with the characters and what happens to them. There have been manuscripts I requested that grabbed with with the sample pages, but the rest for the book fell apart. The reader promise I expected never happened. That doesn't mean the manuscript is awful. It means what I expected didn't happen or didn't work.

Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?

​Yes. I'll do everything I can to give my clients the best chance at landing a book deal. I've already chosen my client because I love their work so my main goal is to offer suggestions that will make the manuscript stronger. 


Tri­cia Skin­ner is an Assistant Agent working with Laurie McLean. Raised in Detroit, Tricia obtained her undergraduate degree from the nationally acclaimed Journalism Institute for Media Diversity at Wayne State University. She earned her graduate degree from Southern Methodist University.
Professionally, she began her writing career as a newspaper reporter and wrote for The Detroit NewsInvestor’s Business DailyMSN, and The Houston Chronicle. She’s covered small & minority business, personal finance, and technology.
Tricia has 20 years of experience working with the video game industry in various roles, including public relations, industry relations, and writing/editing. She is also a hybrid author of passionate urban fantasy (represented by Fuse co-founder Laurie McLean).
Diversity in genre fiction is dear to Tricia’s heart.  As an agent, Tricia wants to represent authors who reflect diversity and cultures in their work. The real world is not one nationality, ethnic group, or sexual orientation. She’s looking for talented writers who deeply understand that as well.
On the personal side, Tricia has a Tom Hiddleston obsession and she is definitely Team Vader. Her fam­ily includes three Great Danes (so far).
Laurie McLean and Tricia are working together on clients. Currently, they are interested in Romance in the following subgenres and specialties: science fiction, futuristic, fantasy, suspense, military/special ops, paranormal, and medieval historical. Multicultural settings/topics and diverse characters strongly encouraged. Until further notice, they are only soliciting new romance clients for their team. For all other genres, Laurie and Tricia are closed to new submissions unless met at conferences or online events.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Fresh Giveaway for Grudging!

Haven't got your copy of Grudging yet? Now you can win one of five signed copies!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Grudging by Michelle Hauck


by Michelle Hauck

Giveaway ends March 20, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Monday, February 22, 2016

Sun versus Snow Agent Round 2016

Our agents will soon be busy making their selections from the thirty-two entries! Please head over to Amy’s blog at Chasing The Crazies to find out how Team Sun is doing. And scroll down to find Team Snow!

Remember again that contests are subjective. What tickles one person’s fancy, may do nothing for another. No matter what, keep querying!

Before Team Snow covers Team Sun like a big, white, fluffy blanket, here are some guidelines!

There is no commenting in this round, except for agents. Sorry, but no cheerleading as this may lead to an unconscious bias.

But we are happy to see and retweet your thoughts and cheers over on twitter under the #sunvssnow tag! That’s the place to hang out and have fun!

I’d better be seeing my Team Snow members there. Get out your pompoms! This Frosty team is going to stick together and celebrate with each other! Ain’t no melting this blizzard of a celebration!

Also Amy and I will be tweeting when an agent makes an appearance! For the fastest notice, keep an eye on twitter—or both eyes.

Agents will consider entries at both the blogs, regardless of whether they are Sun or Snow fans. Only the phrasing of the agent’s request will let you know whether they’re on the side of SNOW (YAY!) or SUN (huh?).

Amy and I are hoping the agents go crazy with the requests! There is amazing talent here on both teams!

Good luck to all! Get your boots and hats and scarfs tightened! It's going to be an avalanche of fun!

Team Snow 1: HERE AND OPEN, Women's Fiction

Genre: Adult/Women’s Fiction
Word Count: 83,000

My Main Character would use sun or snow to battle their biggest obstacle: 

Ashley’s biggest obstacle is her own inability to pass the ball. At home as a soccer mom, and at work as FBI analyst, she’s trying to do it all herself. It’s the wisdom of her son’s U9 soccer coach that helps her learn about teamwork. While some people may feel soccer is better played in the sun, Ashley’s in western Pennsylvania. Six of the ten soccer-playing months involve indoor soccer at an arena with a bar attached. She’s on Team Snow.

Team Snow 2: SPY ACT, Adult Thriller

Title: SPY ACT
Genre: Adult Espionage Thriller
Word Count: 93,000

Nathalie Qadir would use the sun to battle her biggest obstacle: 

Though I grew up in London, my Palestinian blood revels in the baking Levant, where my native Arabic rolls across the sun-whipped wind. I need no air-con to maintain my cool while facing the jihadist menace of the exorbitantly well-funded New Caliphate. My searing desire to stop their western-born suicidals is more than a match for their ill-defined, false Islam. I escape across sandy Syria, using desert dust storms, bombed-out highways and the mirage effect to throw them off my scent. They gasp for air, beg for water, and covet shade; weakened by the sun, they cannot catch me.

Team Snow 3: IF YOU'RE EVER IN TOWN, NA Contemporary Romance

Genre:  New Adult Contemporary Romance
Word Count:  82,000

Would my main character use sun or snow to battle their biggest obstacle:

I think Nate and Charlie would both use SNOW to battle their biggest obstacles.  For them, they're both guilty of not dealing with their troubles head on.  They'd rather cover them up and pretend that all is fine on the outside when it's really a disaster underneath.  Just like the first snow of the season where it's pretty, and fluffy and perfect. But under it is black ice, brown grass and ugliness. But eventually snow melts, and you're still left with the mess that you eventually need to address.

Team Snow 4: DOWN AND ACROSS, YA Contemporary

Genre: YA Contemporary
Word Count: 58,000

My Main Character would use sun or snow to battle their biggest obstacle:

Scott Ferdowsi would be jealous of the solar system. Planets orbit the sun; they know exactly where they belong in the greater universe. Scott does not have that luxury. He feels passionless and unsure about his future—which doesn’t sit well with his demanding father. So he runs away. In DOWN AND ACROSS, Scott embarks on a journey to find the center of his universe. What he wants more than anything is the fiery passion of the sun. He's looking for heat—the potential energy burning somewhere inside him.

Team Snow 5: THE FIRST IDOL, YA Fantasy

Genre: YA fantasy
Word Count: 77,000 words

My Main Character would use sun or snow to battle their biggest obstacle:

Amateur alchemist Johnny Trekken already harnessed the power of the sun—once, by accident—and three of His Majesty’s Royal Navy airships were bludgeoned by an enormous sword made of fire that sank them into the hungry sea. Johnny knows that those sun-driven flames still reside within his pocket watch alchemy weapon. But until he masters the watch, he can only hope it will be the sun’s power that answers when he again calls it to his defense.

Team Snow 6: THE WISH STONE, YA Contemporary Fantasy

Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
Word Count: 60,000
My Main Character would use sun or snow to battle their biggest obstacle:
Frannie shrinks away from the stares the other school kids give her because of the symptoms of her disease. She hates having to explain what is wrong with her. Because of this, she prefers snow, especially when the drizzling flakes turn into a blizzard, and school is canceled. During snow days, she can cuddle up with her best friend and her mom in front of the TV without need of an excuse and temporarily forget how Huntington's is ravaging her body.

Team Snow 7: MONGRELS, YA Science Fiction

Genre: YA Science Fiction
Word Count: 86,000

My Main Character would use sun or snow to battle their biggest obstacle: 

Definitely snow. Warmth reminds Erin too much of her Mom's embrace when she had the sniffles, or her Dad's Sunday roast—he always smoked up the kitchen, but never tried a different recipe. Using the sun would be like tearing her happy memories apart, all over again.

Cold is impersonal, logical, direct. The nights spent shivering in the base only fuel her desire to return to her parents' warm protection. And the people who've torn her away can freeze to death a million times over, for all she cares.

Team Snow 8: THE GREEN WELL, YA Fantasy

Genre: YA fantasy
Word Count: 81,000

My Main Character would use sun or snow to battle their biggest obstacle:

The eternal summer has lasted beyond memory. Isobel doesn’t know spring, winter, or fall, so she’s never encountered cold, much less snow. Neither of those forces would do much good against her enemy, the immortal Alder King, but she admits she finds the idea of hurling a snowball at his face delightful.


Genre: YA Humor/Fantasy
Word Count: 60,000

My Main Character would use sun or snow to battle their biggest obstacle: 

Cannibals, like slightly drunken moths, are naturally a little slow, a little prone to veer off course. So sending down a frigid blanket of snow would be just the ticket Billy would need to keep him a few booted steps ahead of their hungry agenda. Not that his axe couldn't take care of few eager mouths, but a little help from some sub zero temperatures would be just peachy. Plus, a wicked snow fort never hurt a soul. 

Team Snow 10: OPHELIA, YA Gothic

Genre: YA Gothic
Word Count: 84,000

My Main Character would use sun or snow to battle their biggest obstacle:

My MC would find the sun more helpful in fighting her biggest obstacle, since the answers to some mysteries are buried deep and snow would make it that much harder to unearth the truth. The sun would also shed light on the harsh realities Ophelia needs to learn about those closest to her.


Genre: YA Mystery
Word Count: 80,000

My Main Character would use sun or snow to battle their biggest obstacle: 


Because you know what doesn’t mix well with snow? Construction. Below a certain temperature, cement foundations and brickwork won’t set. Shingles won’t seal, and are apt to be blown off by high spring winds.

If there’s one thing Julie learned from working in her grandfather’s construction business, it’s that business BOOMS in the summer. Which would be the perfect time for say, working on a half-finished mansion – left to you with more strings than a marionette puppet. Not now, not with winter coming.


Genre: MG Mystery
Word Count: 41,000

My Main Character would use snow or snow to battle their biggest obstacle:

 Sonny (a.k.a. Kid Fire) likes the cold and damp of remote Vallon Island. Until he doesn’t.  He’d hoped that here there’d be no such things as unexplained fires that he could be blamed for, but two blazes near his school have put Sonny in the “hot seat” and his only hope is for a spate of frigid rain until he can come up with a plan to clear his name. Whoever is starting the mysterious fires that are popping up must be stopped with a cool and cunning trap—and Sonny needs time to figure out how to set one.



Genre: Upper MG Fantasy
Word Count: 86,000

My Main Character would use snow to battle their biggest obstacle: 

Here in the heat of the c-c-castle kitchen, if anyone looks past my scullery rags to wonder what sort of mind I might possess, their c-c-curiosity is quickly dispelled when I open my mouth to sp-sp-sp-speak. Upon hearing my st-st-stammering words, I’m dismissed as slow-witted, whatever their c-c-content might be. 

Oh, but the chill of winter makes everyone sp-sp-speak like I do!  And layers of warm clothing hide my rags!  So it’s the snow that I cherish, when I can go cr-cr-crunching across the c-courtyards of Castle Stonegruffle and, at least on those wonderful, frost-filled evenings, seem a normal g-g-g-girl.

Team Snow 14: RILEY COOPER, INVENTOR, MG Contemporary

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Word Count: 47,000

 My Main Character would use sun or snow to battle their biggest obstacle:

Riley would use snow, not just for his heat-seeking snowball launcher, but also as his own nature-made personal freezer to cool his lasers. And that means he wouldn’t hold his breath when mom reached for the mysterious container in the back of the refrigerator. And his parents wouldn’t ask the dreaded question heard throughout the neighborhood (they never used their inside voices) “Riley, what have you done now?” He needed a secret snow freezer because he couldn’t tell them the box contained an emotion-changing laser he invented to save their marriage. 

Team Snow 15: #MoMoLives, MG Contemporary

Title: #MoMoLives
Genre: MG Contemporary
Word Count: 53,000

My Main Character would use sun or snow to battler their biggest obstacle:
My main character, Tim Ellis, would find snow the most helpful. It’s great for making fake Sasquatch footprints. On the other hand, it also makes it harder for the person faking the prints to hide their own. Hot, dry weather isn’t as good, the ground gets too hard and dusty for the plywood cutouts to sink into the dirt deeply enough to make a lasting print. Snow would also make it easier to spot a brown-furred Sasquatch sneaking up on him, unless it’s got snow caked all over it from making snow angels. Don’t laugh, it could happen. 

Team Snow 16: SIXTH GRADE SECRET SERVICE, MG Humor, Mystery

Genre: MG, humor, mystery, adventure
Word Count: 49,000

My Main Character would use snow to battle their biggest obstacle: 

Abraham Truman, leader of the team who rescued the sixth grade class president from her captors, would once again call on Arlington Adams, who loyally served as Tech Officer during the mission. As the son of a janitor in Washington D.C., Arlington has access to the Lost and Found, a cache of misplaced spy gadgets his father recovered while cleaning various federal buildings. One such gadget, code-named The Snow-Baller, can produce 100 snowballs per second. Arlington would use these non-lethal, frozen projectiles to neutralize threats to school cabinet or ensure victory during playground snowball fights.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Contest Goodreads Lists

More and more books are being published for entries that were once in one of my many contests. There's the adorable MG from last year's Sun vs Snow, Karma Khullar's Mustache. I just heard of a two book deal for an entry from last summer's Query Kombat. That one isn't even announced yet. It's getting hard to keep track. Isn't that wonderful!

So I made a handy-dandy list! If you were in Query Kombat, New Agent, Sun versus Snow, Nightmare on Query Street or Picture Book Party and now have a publishing deal for that book, please add your book to the Goodreads' list!

You didn't have to get your agent from the contest. Maybe your agent came afterward from a query. But once a part of the family, always a part of the family! You also don't need to have been picked by me. If any of the other hosts picked your entry--this is for you also.

Please spread the word to your friends. I'm sure you have better memories than I do. I don't want to miss anyone!

And honor our former contestants by picking up copies of their books!

Bonus for the mentors and judges:

The mentors and judges work so hard to help out with the contests. They deserve a list too! If you were a judge or mentor for any of my contests, please add your books to this list. And you know what I'm asking next--help out the writers who give back by buying their books!

So don't be shy, add your books to our lists if you qualify! And join the contest fun so you might be the next person on the list!

UPDATE: I guess authors can't add their own books to lists anymore. Nudge me on twitter and I'll add your books. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Getting the Call with Diana Connors

Can I just say that Yes, I've played Pokemon. I want to live in a place of pajamas. And thumbs up to characters suffering more. Congrats, Diana! You deserve this!

Just when you’re thinking about shelving a book (or: You never know when that YES might come)

Back in 2010, when I was young(er), I wrote my first book. In my naïveté, I thought it was the absolute best thing ever written (ok, maybe not so, but the concept was pretty neat). I googled about subbing my super shiny novel to publishers, and imagine my surprise when *gasp* I found out you were pretty much required an agent to sub to traditional publishers abroad.

Now, I’m Portuguese. Agents aren’t a thing here (there is a single agency operating in Portugal, though I’d only find out about it in 2013). Moreover, getting published here is extremely hard unless you have a) money (Vanities are a thing here, and people actually believe it’s the way to go if you’re unknown) or b) connections. I had neither, and it’s one of the big reasons I don’t write in my native tongue. Another is that it’s much easier to find CPs when you write in English, but I digress.

So, there I was, a fresh young thing who didn’t have a clue about querying. I did my research. I wrote a crap query letter. I sent it out. Of course, I got mostly rejections, but among those, a few requests came. One actually led me to become friends with a great agent (who incidentally reps my favorite authors of all time), who’s actually been a godsend and helped me so much throughout the following years. Bless you, Russell, and the patience you had towards a girl you don’t rep.

Needless to say, I wrote another book. Then another. I found out about twitter contests and Pitch Wars through my partner in crime, BFF, Alaskan Snowflake and all-around amazing person, Dana. I never got into any of them, but I met the greatest (my Walruses, Renée, Dakota, and so many others!) people through those contests. Back then, I was playing with a NA Fantasy, and those who read it said, “Diana, bb, I’m sorry to inform you, but you got the main character wrong. You should write about Zéphyrine.”

To which I said, “Nah, you’re wrong. I KNOW BEST!” And then I flipped my table and buried myself in my cocoon of writerly depression.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t know best, and they weren’t wrong.

Once I saw that, I wrote a book for Zéph. I entered contests (didn’t get into any). I entered PitchWars again and this time around I actually got requests! I got my hopes up, and then got crushed (absolutely crushed) when I wasn’t picked.

I can’t complain about the mentors. They were all extremely nice to me. One (hiiii Laura!) even wrote me an e-mail that had me ugly-crying (good tears, though), while another (who wasn’t even on the age group I subbed to) critiqued my query (hiiii Jami!). Max Wirestone (oh, awesome Max, may your life be filled with hot dudes and magic sprinkles) gave me a referral to his agent. So, after I’d licked my wounds, I went out querying.

I got requests. I actually got into a contest (Nightmare on Query Street), and got more requests. Amidst all these, I sent a query to Natalie Lakosil, at Bradford Lit. Two months later, she asked for the full.

I sat down and waited. I started working on Sightless (remember that first novel I mentioned? It’s a revamp, with the same concept, but different everything else), and I LOVED it. I was actually beginning to say, “Screw A Trace of Madness, that’s not going anywhere. THIS, THIS IS IT!”

(except I didn’t say “Screw”, but a far nastier word, which I won’t replicate, so as not to tarnish Michelle’s blog with my colorful swearing)

Again, I was wrong. SO WRONG.

Fast-forward to mid-January. I get an e-mail from Natalie saying “Reading it, and loving. Will get back to you this week!”

Cue panic attack.

“WHAT DO I SAY TO THIS?” I asked in our Facebook group for Neurotic Writers. A lot of them left comments along the vein, “Diana, calm your pants down, and reply politely, saying you’re happy she let you know.”

So, that’s what I did. Then I waited. Until the next day, when I get an e-mail from Natalie with a header that said, “OFFER OF REPRESENTATION”. Yup, all caps. She asked if we could talk the next day, and we set a time.

Cue me screaming at the office (I was working). “EDGAR, ZÉ, I GOT AN OFFER OF REP FOR MY NOVEL!” while I typed a DM to my aforementioned partner in crime, BFF, Alaskan Snowflake and all-around amazing person, Dana, and called my dad on the phone. Then my boyfriend.

As you can imagine, by then I’d morphed into the Energizer Bunny. I was electric. My cats stared at me funny when I got home, and my bearded dragon gave me the stink-eye because I kept taking him out of the terrarium so we could do a dragon-dance, which, in turn, only increased my speed and attack, stats I didn’t need to be raised at the moment. (if you play Pokémon, you’ll get this, and I apologize. If you don’t, it begs the question of WHY AREN’T YOU PLAYING POKÉMON?)

Then, the time came. I was curled up in my pajamas (it was already evening for me, and my house is a place of pajamas), waiting. Then Natalie added me on Skype, and we talked. Or rather, I mumbled and she talked.

Natalie had great comments on my book, and an awesome vision. She told me the strengths, asked me if I was OK with some changes (which I was), and then the time came to nudge everyone. I got some “Congratulations! I don’t have time to read it right now, but best of luck!” and some rejections, but even before I send my nudges, I was pretty sure I was going to sign with Natalie. When she said she wanted my characters to suffer more, it felt like a match made in heaven.

And that was how I ended up represented by Natalie Lakosil of Bradford Lit AND became agency sisters with one of my Walrus CPs!


Diana was born in Lisbon, Portugal, but lived in Estremoz for the next eighteen years. She moved to Lisbon in 2007 to study Computer Engineering at Instituto Superior Técnico and stayed there ever since. In her free time, she writes, paints, and  games. Otherwise, you can find her in my day job, where she works as a designer and tester of serious games. Keeping her company are two awesome kitties, Sushi and Jubas, and a bearded dragon named Norbert!

Her portfolio can be found at or Together with three colleagues, she made Sightless, the runner-up for the 2014 Innovation Awards. Since then, she’s been creating new game concepts that can be tied into her novels, thus giving them a wider reach.