If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you might know that I’ve been working on a book that I’m trying to get published. Well, last week I sent out my first query letter to an agent. I probably won’t hear anything back from her considering it was my first query letter, and I have a long way to go toward refining it, but it was a step forward in doing something that I’ve been needing—and afraid to do—for quite some time.
I’ll be going to the Writer’s Digest conference this weekend and live pitching my book to agents. Here’s the pitch that I plan on giving them (I’m currently working on memorizing it):
Three years after her brother’s tragic death in a car accident, 16-year-old Brooklyn native Marisela feels all alone and wishes she were dead too. She is fresh off her latest suicide attempt when she meets Pastor Edwards, a smooth-talking Baptist preacher, who welcomes the Roman Catholic teen to his church family.
Marisela finally has a renewed purpose for living and begins making friends until the married youth pastor makes a sexual advance on her. When vicious rumors spread around the church about Marisela, she—already prone to low self-esteem—despairs and finds her thoughts slipping back to suicide.
Will Marisela lose the friends, and the life, that she’s worked so hard to gain?
It’s also the pitch that I plan on using in my query letters as I try to obtain an agent.
Basically, the way traditional publishing works is that as an author, I have to obtain an agent before I can try to sell my book to a publisher. (Well, I could try to sell my book to a publisher, but I’d have to get a lawyer well versed in publishing contracts to navigate that murky world for me. Agents do that for a cut of whatever I earn.) The agent then tries to sell the book to a publisher, and once the book is accepted, goes through revisions before getting published. Depending on what a publisher would pay me, agents would get a 15-20 percent cut of whatever I get.
I could self-publish but that’s not the route that I seek as I don’t have a large platform and would have to do the marketing all on my own. Traditional publishers like authors to already have their own platform, but publishers help with the marketing aspect if the author is not already established. It’s a long slog, and a tough one too, but I suppose I’m tougher than I consider myself to be. I can handle this.
If I could have my choice, I’d rather have acceptance rather than rejection from the first agent I’ve queried. But I’d rather get a rejection response than nothing at all.
So my streak has run out. I’ve had a nice run of regular posts for the beginning of the year, but I’ve run out of things to post daily. Maybe I’ll settle for posting weekly. Maybe I’ll post as the mood strikes me. Regardless, it’s been nice to have regular posts daily.
Perhaps, you my fellow readers, can give me some suggestions on what to address in the future?
So I’m attending the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City in 2013. I will be there pitch slamming my little heart out. I’m not sure what to expect out of the conference. I’m excited to hear James Scott Bell, who’s a fantastic speaker and writing coach. And I’d like to read an Adriana Trigiani book beforehand since she’s the keynote speaker, but I have a dilemma…
I’ve determined that I will write a book during the month of April. So I lose 3 valuable days to conferencing. I hope I learn something worthwhile. I’m so afraid that what I hear will be a rehash of what I learned in 2011. (On the other hand, I suppose a rehash could be a good thing.) But another part of me is excited because my novel is in much better shape for sending to agents than it was in 2011. I feel more confident about hocking my book now. It’s just a matter of nailing down that “hook” so I can properly pitch to agents and get them interested in what I think is a compelling story. (Of course I think it’s compelling—it’s my book!)
I’m trying to decide whether I should attend the Writer’s Digest Conference or not. I attended 2 years ago and found the information to be helpful, but I’m afraid that it will be a rehash of what I learned 2 years ago. James Scott Bell is to be the opening keynote speaker, which has me somewhat excited because I attended one of his breakout sessions, and he was a fantastic speaker, full of vivid illustrations and examples. The early bird price (before February 16) is $449 and the regular price is $499. I don’t know if I want to do the pitch slam. I can’t decide whether it’s fear or laziness holding me back. I can’t quite figure out the “hook” of my novel. Every good song needs a hook and so does every good book. I need a hook that will sell an agent on my novel. Two years ago, I tried doing my pitch and I didn’t really get any bites. There wasn’t an agent that was really excited to see a query letter or synopsis of my novel. And I want an agent that thinks, “Yeah, what a neat concept. This could work.” I just need to work on revising my query letter and synopsis. It’s also a matter of finding the time to plop my butt down in a chair and revise.
“Most of us are excellent at being self-deprecating, and are not so good at the opposite. Tell us your favorite thing about yourself.”
I’m a loyal friend. Always have been. I can’t think of a time when I haven’t been loyal to a person. Problem for me is that being loyal opens me up to being burned. Betrayal is not something I really do so when it’s done to me, it stings worse than a wasp. I have been betrayed more times than I have betrayed.
But once I’m someone’s friend, I’m a friend for life unless he or she conspires to really hurt me. I’ve had falling outs with friends and made amends (sometimes to the point where I should have let the friendship go). I’ve also had falling outs, tried to make amends and was not successful.
I’m not loyal in everything—I haven’t worked at a company for 10 years. And if I get burned professionally, I’m not above cutting myself off from that connection. But if I could choose one favorite thing about myself, it’s that I’m a loyal friend, and it’s the reason that I am still friends with some of my former middle-school classmates. I feel very fortunate to have the friends that I do.
When I was 16, I thought my life would be something out of 13 Going on 30 or The Devil Wears Prada. I thought I’d be living a posh life in New York City as a magazine editor who wears fabulous designer clothing and makes a ton of money. I imagined the fantastic dress suits like Donna Karan and Elie Tahari that I would wear. I figured I’d be prancing around in Jimmy Choos. My purses would have a seal that bared Prada or Fendi.
Now that I’m 30, my life doesn’t look anything like that. The closest to designed I can get is Coach (affordable designer if I save up for a few months). Prada leather is still kept in glass cases locked from the likes of me. I have yet to even try on a pair of Jimmy Choos or Christian Louboutins. I haven’t bough anything Donna Karan since I pulled myself out of my bipolar credit card debt. And by the way, I’ve discovered I don’t like Fendi or Louis Vuitton. But I never fail to be envious when I see others carrying the namesake totes.
My life consists of middle-class labels—Old Navy, Gap, Express, New York & Company. I used to care more about designer garments and shoes but not so much anymore. I buy what I like whether it’s an affordable $17.99 or a splurge of $300. (Yes, $300 is a splurge for me because it’s money usually saved up during the course of a year.) I own a ton of Jessica Simpson shoes (I like her fashion more than her music), Skechers shoes, and assorted purses (such as Puma and Adidas) bought at warehouses like DSW. And to be honest (because I’d lie to you), I’m okay with what I buy. I’m too “fat” to fit into anything designer anyway. I can’t imagine the eating disorder I’d have if my closet were full of designer clothing.
So, yeah, I’m pretty much okay with the life I have.
If I could tell my 14-year-old self anything now that I’m 30, it’s that life will get better. And it has.
On February 14, 1996, I tried to kill myself for the first time. Well, it was at least the first time I vocalized it to anyone. And as a dumb 14-year-old, I called all my friends to say good-bye because I was despondent over not having any friends. (Insert eye roll here.) Well, these friends called the police who promptly showed up at my door. I’m also happy to say I’m still friends with those same people today.
If I could tell my 14-year-old self anything, it’s that I’d find a wonderful husband, marry into an amazing family, and settle near a mall with the most commercial square footage in the United States. (Malls are important to a mallrat like me.) I’d tell her that she’d develop some fabulous, godly friends and have two jobs that meld her love of reading and writing. I’d tell her that one day she’d head a successful consulting business and have the ability to manage her own income.
I’d tell her that she’d still deal with rough spots in life. That things wouldn’t always go as planned, that prayers wouldn’t always be answered the way she’d like them to.
I’d also add that she would be diagnosed with bipolar disorder and her mental illness would be well managed with medication, therapy, and love.
I’d tell my 14-year-old self not to despair and that the only way out is through. That she has to travel through the tunnel of dark to get to the light of dawn. But that darkness is only a tunnel, not an endless dark sky without hope.
And finally I’d add:
Get over yourself, you little shit. You’ll deal with worse problems that you can’t even fathom. And what’s more? You’ll surive. You’ll be a survivor.