I Have a Book Deal!!!

I’m so thrilled to announce that I have a book deal with Blink (HarperCollins). My book, A TOUCH OF GOLD, is set to publish in Summer 2018.

Book Deal Announcement
Annie Sullivan’s Publishers Marketplace Deal Announcement for A TOUCH OF GOLD

So what do you do when all your dreams come true? Well, if you were me and got asked that question by your sister, you’d answer with, “Go take a nap.” So maybe that’s not the most exciting reply, but it might be the most honest one because it turns out making your dreams come true takes a whole lot of work.

Most people out there seem to think that you simply write a book and then **poof** you get a book deal. But there’s so much more too it than that. It takes an army of people.

Not only do you need teachers and instructors and mentors and peers to teach you how to write and help you become better, but you need an understanding family who lets you have time to write. You need critique partners and Twitter followers. You need agents and editors. The list goes on and on.

Not to mention this process can take years. I started writing A TOUCH OF GOLD way back in 2012. That’s right. 5 years. Did it take me 5 years to write? No. But it took that long for me to write it, revise it multiple times, let it sit a while, revise it again, have friends and critique partners read it, revise it again, get an agent, revise it after my agent read it, go out on submission, and finally get a deal. Not to mention I wrote several other books in the midst of all that going on.

But it was all worth it to write this blog post because this is the blog post I’ve been dreaming of writing for years, the one that proves all that hard work was worth it. The one that proves that not only do dreams come true, but so do fairytales. And mine is just starting!

Look for A TOUCH OF GOLD coming Summer 2018.

 

***To stay up-to-date on what’s happening with my book, be sure to subscribe to my blog and follow my author Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAnnieSullivan/

 

 

 

7 Tips to Get the Most Out of Any Writing Conference

I attended my first writing conference (the Midwest Writers Workshop) back in 2013, and I went in with one goal: to get a literary agent. Every decision I made was calculated on how best to accomplish that goal. Did I leave that conference with a literary agent? No. But I did leave with the knowledge and connections that helped me land one within the next four months. So here are my secrets to how you can get the most out of a writing conference.

1.) Treat it like a job

If you want to actually make money writing, then you have to treat it like a business. Invest in business cards. Start author pages on Facebook and/or create a blog or Twitter account. Make sure people can find/contact you after they leave the conference.

2.) Define your brand

Since you need to treat writing like a job, you need to figure out what your brand is and make sure you’re consistent. This means, if you’re writing picture books and an agent goes to your Twitter and sees nothing but tweets full of profanity, they may be turned off (unless that’s what your picture book is about, of course.) You need to encompass what you’re trying to sell. This means dressing the part, too. If you’re pitching an agent face-to-face, look presentable. However, if your brand is all about goth vampires, don’t be afraid to let that show in your clothing and makeup choices. You have to be the best representative of what you’re pitching them. This also stands true with alcohol consumption. While some people may need some liquid courage before facing agents during a conference’s cocktail hour, you can leave a bad impression if you consume too much. Keep in mind your brand encompasses all that you do and say.

3.) Strategically plan your agent interactions

Many conferences offer a chance to pitch agents. Take advantage of this. Of course, do through research ahead of time to see which agent is the best fit. At some conferences, they also offer everything from query critiques to first 10 pages critiques, often by editors and agents. If that’s the case, it could be worth the money to do both, especially if there were two or three agents who might be a good fit for your story. By doing a pitch with one agent, a query critique with another, and a 10 page critique with a third, you can successfully get feedback from all three and see if they’re interested. If nothing else, when you do query them, you can include that you met them at that specific conference, which always helps.

**Bonus Tip** Sign up for the conference early for the best chance of getting to pitch/have a query critique with the agent or editor you want. Slots often fill up fast!

4.) Find your people

Conferences are one of the best places to meet critique partners. Talk with as many people as you can to find other writers who write in your genre or age group. Take advantage of activities like “Find Your Tribe” to meet people who write what you do. Even if you leave without making any headway with agents, you might just leave with a new critique partner who can help you polish your next work in progress so it catches an agent’s eye. Or, a new writer friend might have an agent already and be willing to put in a good word for you.

5.) Don’t be a wallflower

If you’re shy or introverted, it can be hard to put yourself out there. But if there are opportunities to read your work aloud or have your first sentence critiqued during a session, speak up. You never know what agent has snuck into a session and is listening. The more you put yourself out there, the more you’ll get in return.

6.) Make the most of every opportunity

Having lunch and there’s an empty seat next to that literary agent you know would love your book? Take it! Did an author give a great session on world building? Stop them in the hallway and let them know. You never know what interaction could open a door for you. Be kind and sincere, and don’t be afraid to take chances. (Note: DO NOT approach literary professionals in the bathroom, and do not blind pitch them when you’re standing in the lunch line. Only tell them about your story if they ask, and generally, they will ask because they’re just as eager to find good stories as you are to get published.)

7.) Don’t be afraid to attend different sessions

Are you a fantasy writer? Don’t be afraid to attend a session on writing mysteries. You never know what tips you might pick up about adding suspense and writing about villains. The biggest thing is to go in with an open mind so that you can absorb all the information being thrown at you, and then, when you get back in front of your manuscript, you can sort out how to implement it.

 

Above all, have fun and make friends. Being a writer can be tough and isolating, but going to conferences is one of the best ways to break out of those ruts. Take chances, and maybe in a year or two, you could be that author giving a session on voice or point of view. Good luck, and I hope to see you at Midwest Writers Workshop this year!

 

 

The 5 Critique Partners Every Writer Needs

Have you ever finished a draft and thought, “Wow! That’s perfect!” If you have, congratulations. Please share your secret with the rest of us.

While I’ve certainly been excited about what I’ve written, I always recognize that it’s going to need to go through revisions. And the first revision always comes from my critique partners, also called beta readers by some. These are people I trust to look at my work with a critical eye and tell me where the story isn’t flowing or where something doesn’t make sense.

I highly encourage you to have more than one reader. I have a handful of readers, and I bring them in at different points in the process. My first reader is always my sister. (I know, I know, there’s a whole group out there who screams that you shouldn’t have family members read your work.) But my sister is one of my best readers and sharing it with her is an easy transition to sharing it with the world. Plus, she catches all my stupid spelling mistakes. But you’ll need a variety of readers with different skill sets in order to make your novel truly shine:

1.) Find the critique partner(s) you trust explicitly

Sure, you’re not going to agree with 100% of their comments, but this is the person you trust to be honest about your work. Use them first as that buffer between those tricky emotions of wanting to share your work and not wanting to share your work. This person should be encouraging but able to tell it to you straight.

2.) Find the critique partner who **gets your work**

After I edit based on my sister’s feedback, I have a writer friend I send to. Since she’s a writer, I can trust her to know how plots should flow and how characters should be developed. This is usually when I have to do a major revision because things need to be clarified or expanded upon. (Side note: all critique partners should **get your work,** and you may want to alternate who you send to first based on their workload, the type of story you’ve written, etc.)

3.) Find your “reserve” critique partners

Usually after my revisions from my second reader, I send my book off to my agent. But, why, you ask would I do that when I have so many other **AMAZING** critique partners available who also get my work? Here’s why, I like to use them strategically. Once my agent sends me her edits and I revise, I like to send the book to a new critique partner each time. Are they still pointing out the same lingering issues I’d thought I’d fixed for my agent? Have I inadvertently deleted a really important scene or bit of backstory while I was revising? These new readers will catch things like that.

4.) If you’re querying agents, save a critique partner for that step, too

I know you want everyone in the world to read your work before you send it off to agents, but save one or two critique partner’s for this step. Having someone who hasn’t read your book read your query letter can really help. They can point out what doesn’t make sense or where you’ve mentioned a character but not how they’re integral to the plot. They will come to your query letter with the same knowledge an agent would, so listen to them if something isn’t making sense. This can also apply to writing your synopsis, too.

5.) The “Good Grammar” critique partner

Sometimes it can help to have one critique partner who’s really good at grammar read through before you send off to agents/editors/etc. My mom is really good at this, and while most of my critique partners will point out errors, it doesn’t hurt to have someone you know you can count on to do a final read through. Alternatively, you could also hire an editor, but as long as you’re manuscript isn’t riddled with errors, one or two misplaced commas shouldn’t be a deal breaker for agents (just make sure those errors aren’t on your sample/opening pages because that could be a deal breaker!)

 

Some of these critique partners may be one and the same. The critique partner who gets your work may also be your Good Grammar critique partner. Or maybe you don’t need that buffer of a critique partner who can ease your book’s transition out to the world. It just comes down to knowing what you need and that you’ve got all your bases covered.

If you’re looking for critique partners, feel free to comment on this post with what you write (include if it’s Adult, YA, MG, etc) to see if you can find someone else who might be interested in partnering with you and trading work! Or, check out my blog next week when I list ways to find critique partners!

Need Help With Characterization? Look No Further Than Tonight’s Costumes.

Happy Halloween!

I hope you’ll all find some time to dress up in your favorite costume today. And whether you’re out trick or treating or staying home handing out candy, I hope you’ll pay particular attention to the costumes that are out and about.

People often choose costumes based on their favorite characters, right? So make a game of trying to figure out why someone picked that costume. What about that character makes them stand out to someone of that age group? This also applies to villains. What about that villain makes them appealing? What quirks, what powers, and what weapons make them an ideal choice?

Once you figure out the answers to those questions, apply them to storytelling. Do people like Maleficent because of her cool, commanding costume? Is Loki a favorite because of his mischievous nature – or is it because he was played by Tom Hiddleston? What about the little girl dressed as Cinderella? Maybe she just loves the dress. But maybe she also loves that her costume allows her to believe that her dreams can come true with a little luck and some hard work.

Whatever the reasons, they can help you figure out what makes these beloved characters tick and what makes them memorable. And you can borrow these reasons for your own characters.

So while you’re out and about this evening, pay attention to these details to really take your characterization to the next level:

1.) Outfit
One of the easiest ways to make a character stand out is to give them something memorable to wear. (See the Maleficent example above.) Moreover, make sure you have a good reason for them to wear it. Or, play with what readers would expect your character to wear and change it up. Why does your character always stay covered from head to toe, even in the heat? Is it because they have scars they don’t want people to see? Everything they put on needs to say something about them.
2.) Accessories
Everything from the locket that holds the last picture of your character’s parents to the mismatching socks your protagonist threw on in the rush out of the house tell us something about your character. What would Cinderella be without her glass slippers? Also, what they don’t carry with them can also tell the reader something about your character. Do they refuse to carry a sword because they don’t believe in fighting? Do they always forget to grab their house keys?
3.) Weapons
Not only do kids like weapons (for good or bad), but a unique weapon can make a character stand out. What would Darth Maul be without his double-sided Lightsaber? Just another villain.

So whatever character you’re trying to write, make them stand out using key details that will make them feel real to your readers. These small details will go a long way in making your character unique, believable, and relatable.

Are you dressing up tonight? What are you going to be be, and why did you pick it? Share in the comments below!

 

10 Tips for Writing A Query Letter and Query Letter Critique Giveaway

How do you write a query letter- those few short paragraphs that have to sum up your entire novel and seemingly hold the key to getting a literary agent? First, you have to start with a finished novel. Once you’ve got a novel that been revised and edited multiple times, then you’re ready to sit down and write your query letter. But make sure you’ve researched agents and know who would be a good fit for you.

Then:

  1. Start with either a hook or the more formal opening. The hook is my personal favorite way to start. It’s a line designed to capture attention and draw the agent in right from the start.

Example:

Cinderella: Don’t think a pair of shoes can change your life? Think again.

Peter Pan: All children grow up, except one. (This is a reworking of the opening line of Peter Pan. So if you’re looking for inspiration, see if your first line can help.)

The second way is to start a little more personally/formally by either saying that you’re seeking representation for your novel and that you think this particular agent would be a good fit. This can also be a place to include if you’ve ever met that agent at a conference or if you saw a Tweet they sent that made you think they’d like this novel. This shows that you’ve done your research on them.

  1. Include no more than 3 paragraphs summarizing your plot. You don’t have to give away every element, but try to get the overall plot communicated. Make sure you’ve got enough tension laced throughout. And it’s okay to leave the agent hanging by hinting at the decision your character will have to make or that the balance of good vs. evil hangs in their hands.
  2. Along with the plot, make sure there’s urgency in your query. Agents want to know that your novel is going to keep moving, so mentioning a timeline can go a long way.
  3. Try not to name more than 3 characters in a query. Usually, this is regulated to the main character, the love interest or sidekick, and the villain. Too many names makes it easy to get lost.
  4. Include the word count and genre of your novel in either the more formal opening paragraph or the last paragraph.
  5. Mention toward the end (usually in the final paragraph) that the novel is complete. An easy way to do this is to say “My novel XYZ is complete at 79,000 words, and I would be happy to send it to you if you’re interested,” or “I’d be happy to send you the completed manuscript if you’re interested.”
  6. Include a short biography at the end of the query letter with any relevant information. Are you a librarian? Include that. Have you had a short story published? Include that. Have an MFA degree? Include that, too. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself.
  7. Follow submission guidelines. This is so important. This goes back to researching agents. Only include what they’re looking for- whether that’s a query letter, a short bio, and the first 10 pages or if they want a query letter and the first 50 pages. Not sending what they ask for shows you didn’t do your research. And agents won’t waste time reading the submission of someone who didn’t bother to read their guidelines.
  8. Don’t send attachments when you send your query letter. If an agent comes back and asks for your manuscript, you can attach it then. But never attach anything to an original query. Paste all materials into the email.
  9. Test out sending your query letter to people with a variety of email address (Hotmail, gmail, outlook, yahoo, etc.). It’s easy for formatting to get messed up, so by testing it out, you’ll know what you need to adjust before you send your wonky formatting to an agent.

It’s also a good idea to have someone who hasn’t read the book read your query letter. That way, they can point out what doesn’t make sense to them.

Then, after it’s all ready to go, send that query letter off, sit back, and relax. Okay, who am I kidding? Sending out queries is super stressful. Throw yourself into your next project so you don’t go insane checking you Inbox for responses.

Have a finished query letter? You’re in luck! Since my birthday is this Saturday, I’ve decided to give you, my readers, a present! Enter my giveaway for a QUERY LETTER CRITIQUE from literary agent Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis. Click on the Rafflecopter link to enter!

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How I Landed my Literary Agent While in Antarctica

Getting a literary agent can seem like finding the Holy Grail! You’ve accomplished your goal, and all is right in the world. However, what most people forget is that it’s usually a long, strenuous quest that leads to Literary Agent Land. Of course, you could be one of those lucky few, those fairytales in the flesh, who gets an agent in the first few days (or weeks) of trying. It’s not impossible; it does happen. But the odds are that you’re going to have to face a few more feats on your own journey.

At least, that’s what my journey felt like.

But let’s start at the beginning. Fresh out of my MFA program, I was ready to query my thesis project. It was as shiny as I could make it, but I had no idea where to begin. I did all the right things. I researched how to write a query letter. I found the agents who represented the books that I loved. I submitted queries without any attachments. And…..crickets. Okay, I got a few little requests here and there, but nothing stuck.

I felt like a failure. No one wanted my amazing book? Well, maybe that’s because my novel needed a complete rewrite (but that’s another story….literally!). I regrouped. While I was waiting to hear from agents, I’d written another book, a better one. This time, I had a better plan of attack, too. I was going to query a smaller group of agents who were the ones I actually wanted to work with. I’d do it in smaller batches to see if my query letter and first few pages were garnering the right level of attention. I also added a conference to the mix.

I attended the Midwest Writers Workshop, where I met top agents and got to pitch them my book. Better yet, they loved the idea! So…is that where I met my agent? No. But I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have landed my agent without Midwest Writers Workshop because while there I talked with an agent who gave me an R&R (a revise and resubmit request). Based on her feedback, I changed the opening of my novel so that it was stronger and more attention grabbing. I also learned from Midwest Writers Workshop that I should be on Twitter because virtually every writer in the world was on Twitter.

annie-at-mww-panel
Annie at the Midwest Writers Workshop doing a panel on the Agent/Author relationship after signing with her agent.

So I joined Twitter, and I saw that an agent I was following (who liked fairytale retellings!) was having a contest on her blog. I posted the first 250 words, and I waited. Well, I lost the contest because a winner was randomly selected to win the free query critique. Yet, I won in the end because that agent requested the first 10 pages from me based on my first 250 words.

However, this request came at a very odd time for me. I was sitting in the Atlanta airport about to embark on a trip to Antarctica. (If you’ve read my About Me blog post, you’ll know I love to travel.) That’s right ANTARCTICA…a place where I would have no Internet access for a couple of weeks.

annie-in-antarctica-1
Annie in Antarctica

 

I had materials out with a few other agents, so I did what any sensible writer would do when heading off on such an adventure- I wrote a book for my sister on how to handle any literary matters that might arise in my absence. That manual covered everything from how not to respond at all if I got a rejection to how to properly send materials if I got a request and, of course, what to do if I got an offer.

Well, while I was happily off playing with the penguins, that same agent came back and asked for the full manuscript. My sister obliged by sending it. Then came the offer. AN AGENT WANTED TO REPRESENT ME!!! Of course, I didn’t know any of this until a few weeks later, although thankfully my sister had followed the guidelines I’d set out for her and told the agent I was out of town and would respond to their offer immediately after I returned.

I found out about the offer while sitting in the southern most city in the world, Ushuaia, Argentina, using a shady internet connection that I only used BECAUSE I HAD TO KNOW IF I HAD ANY OFFERS!

The first person I told that I got offer was this old guy sitting next to me in the airport because I whispered, “I got an offer,” as I stared around trying to locate my parents in the airport terminal.

The next few weeks were a whirlwind as I informed other agents that I had an offer, got another offer, and ultimately had to make a decision. But I know I made the right decision in the end.

So if you’re still looking for a literary agent, query the agents you really think would be a good fit for you, and stay with it. Sometimes it takes one or two or ten books! Don’t give up. Because it doesn’t matter if you’re frolicking with penguins in Antarctica or sitting on your sofa in Reno when the offer comes. The feeling of joy will be the exact same.

 

 

 

 

How Publishing is Like Playing Super Mario Bros.

First off, you start off small.

That’s right. You’re tiny, vulnerable. Maybe you’re even unsure of the rules. You run ahead only to run straight into a goomba. And you die.

That’s what sending your first query feels like. You’re one tiny voice in the slush pile. You send your query off only to get a rejection 6 weeks later. And in some ways, it does feel like you die. Your hope dies. Your spirit dies. Maybe even your dream dies.

But the great thing about Mario is that you have more lives left! You can start all over again. And this time, this time you’re coming back with more knowledge. You’re better prepared. Maybe you had a critique partner read over your query letter and show you where an agent may have gotten confused. Or maybe you strengthened your opening few pages. And now you’re ready to jump over that first goomba when it comes.

What happens after you sail over that goomba? You find some blocks. One even contains a mushroom! You grab it, and you feel ten feet tall, just like you do when you get your first request from an agent for 50 pages or the full manuscript!

Now you’re on a roll! But then, you encounter a series of pipes. Some you can go down, and some you can’t. Think of each of those pipes as literary agents. Some just won’t be interested in your novel. Some maybe just signed a client who writes too similarly to you. Whatever the reason, those pipes just don’t lead anywhere. They’re just not the right fit for you.

But stick with it! Work past those Koopa Troopas, those pesky individuals who say you’ll never succeed and shouldn’t be spending so much time writing or those thoughts that keep coming back saying you’re not good enough. Keep a close eye on those because just when you think you’ve squashed them, those shells shoot back out of nowhere and knock you off a cliff. And you have to start all over again.

Yet, if you don’t give up, if you don’t give in, if you dodge those shells when they come for you, you might just find a pipe that leads you to a strange new world. It might be a world filled with terms you’re not familiar with yet, like R&Rs (Revise & Resubmit), but it’s usually a world that holds secret treasure (hello signing with an agent!).

While it might feel like you’ve found the Holy Grail, you’re still a long way off from defeating Bowser. So you keep going.

But once you’ve found an agent (hey there, Luigi!), you’ve got help on the journey. Your 1 player game has now become a 2 player one! Now it’s off to the castle! You and your agent…I mean Luigi, burst through those doors, dodge fire and lava and goombas galore. Then, you meet that castle’s boss…aka The Editor at the publishing house your agent submitted to…the one who holds your fate in his or her hands!

Sometimes, in a few moves, the boss kicks you into a flaming lava pit and you die (aka you get rejected.) Sometimes, though, you might defeat the boss only to learn that your princess isn’t in that castle, meaning that even though the editor liked it, they couldn’t buy the project for whatever reason. So you move on to another castle. And another. Always looking for your elusive princess.

And then, one day, many goombas later, you find the right castle! And you realize that all those levels you beat before have been preparing you for this moment. You’re ready. You march right up to Bowser and show him what you’re made of!

And you win!!! Before you know it, Princess Peach is running into your arms, all wrapped up in a nice publishing contract!

Congratulations! You’ve done it! You’ve won the game!

They’ll be time for celebrations and congratulations. But, you can’t rest on your laurels because as the saying goes, “The only thing harder than getting your first book published is getting your second book published.” You’ve got to keep practicing because everyone knows there’s going to be a sequel to the game, and it’s going to be even harder than the first one. So put on your red hat, keep an eye out for Yoshi, and grab all the Super Stars you can because you’re going to need them on your quest to make the New York Times Best Seller list….I mean get a new high score. But from this little Toadstool, who’s always full of advice, encouragement, and helpful tips, I just want to let you know that you’ve got this! We’re all rooting for you, Player 1. Good luck!