Selling First Novels

Hello, AWers! Sorry about the long silence. I’ve been a bit buried, and didn’t even realize it had been so very long since the last post. Here are some of this week’s stories, interviews, and trends in the writing and publishing world that I think might interest you. I’d initially thought to do a generic links round-up, but then belatedly realized that all the links I wanted to share have to do with getting an agent, and ultimately selling that first novel to a commercial publisher.

One of my favorite new blogs to follow is OPWFT, a group blog run by denizens of the Old People Writing For Teens thread on the AW Forums. Here’s a terrific round-up of what NOT to do in your query, collected peeves from lots of different literary agents.

Speaking of blogs for writers of Young Adult fiction, YA Highway just posted Kody Keplinger’s interview with  agent Kathleen Ortiz (@KOrtizzle on Twitter.) Kody chats with Kathleen all about the road to becoming an agent, hot trends, how much they both love slush, and what Kathleen would most love to see in her submissions pile:

KATHLEEN: I’m open to all types, from dark and ‘edgy’ (sorry Kirsten) to light and funny. What would I love to find? If a well-written romance with the male point of view and a great voice fell into my lap, I think I’d record a YouTube video of my very embarrassing happy dance. I’d also love to find both a creepy YA thriller that makes me not want to sleep when I’m done (then I know you’ve done your job as a writer) and a steampunk with fantastic world building. As far as chapter books/middle grade goes, I’m all about finding the next RAMONA or MANIAC MAGEE.

And I don’t know how on earth I missed this interview back in October, but Realm Lovejoy’s interview with Kody Keplinger at The Blog Realm is another one of the best writing-related interviews I’ve read in a long time.

I have a huge soft spot for excellent YA novels, anyway, ever since devouring all the S.E. Hinton novels I could find, as a tween. So I’ve been watching with mingled delight and admiration as the current YA Renaissance builds steam. There’s an exciting smorgasbord of books for young readers, written by people who’ve managed to capture that lighting-on-a-keychain feeling so unique to young adults.

I’m very much looking forward to reading Kody’s first novel, The Duff, when it’s released, in September. Kody blogs, too—just be warned there’s embedded music on her blog, if you’re browsing from the office or have your sound turned way up. You can find her on Twitter, @kody_keplinger. She’s asked for reader input about the ARC cover (posted above) to help her publisher, Little, Brown/Poppy, evaluate the design for the final HC version. Comment there, not here, about the cover, though!

Congratulations to AW’s own Houndrat (Debra) who just landed an agent! You can read what it’s like to get that phone call, and a bit about her journey as a writer to reach this point, all on her blog at

Me: *ponders, tells herself not to say something stupid. Says something stupid anyway* But, are you sure?

So the next time someone tells you that first-time novelists don’t get agents unless they’ve already got an offer? You know where to send ’em. Debra is writing about characterization, this week, by the way:

Characters need to have layers, and almost more importantly for me—they need to have flaws. I’m sorry, but being that I’m about a bazillion degrees away from perfect myself (shocking, I know), it’s really hard for me to relate to flawless characters. You know, the ones that are beautiful, rich, have superpowers, get the guy, and gosh darn it, are just flat-out nice. All. The. Time.

And finally, Jim Hines has collected a lot of deeply interesting information from over 200 writers about first novel sales, and he’s posted part one of the survey results.

For this study, I was looking for authors who had published at least one professional novel, where “professional” was defined as earning an advance of $2000 or more. This is an arbitrary amount based on SFWA’s criteria for professional publishers. No judgment is implied toward authors who self-publish or work with smaller presses, but for this study, I wanted data on breaking in with the larger publishers.

You should definitely go take a look at the results he’s posted.

Until next time, AWers, write like your life depends on it; and live like the writing depends on it.

Heads Up, folks!

You guys know I don’t endorse very many contests. But this is well worth looking at:
Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition

$2000 Awaits Winners of Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition

Writers of short fiction are encouraged to enter the 2010 Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition. The competition has a twenty-nine-year history of literary excellence, and its organizers are dedicated to enthusiastically supporting the efforts and talent of emerging writers of short fiction whose voices have yet to be heard.

Lorian Hemingway, granddaughter of Nobel laureate Ernest Hemingway, is the author of three critically acclaimed books:
Walking into the River, Walk on Water, and A World Turned Over.
Ms. Hemingway is the competition’s final judge.

Prizes and Publication:

The first-place winner will receive $1,000. The second and third-place winners will receive $500 each. Honorable mentions will also be awarded to entrants whose work demonstrates promise.

The Saturday Evening Post To Publish First-Place Winner:

The Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition is pleased to announce that each year — beginning with our 2009 competition — The Saturday Evening Post will publish our first-place winner in its pages. And occasionally, the Post may also choose to publish our runners-up, either in its pages or on its website.

The Post will pay a fee to winners upon publication of his or her story, in addition to the $1,000 first-place prize given by the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition. The Post’s payment will be in keeping with the magazine’s general rate structure for fiction at the time of publication. Entrants whose stories are published will allow The Post first serial rights, nonexclusive electronic (including online) rights, and nonexclusive anthology rights. This is a standard agreement for magazine publication.

For many years it has been our dream to be able to offer an assured publication for our first-place winner. The Saturday Evening Post, through its generosity and deep appreciation for new voices in literary fiction, has made that dream come true.

Breaking News:

“Lazarus” by 2009 Winner Gregory Loselle is Published in Jan/Feb 2010 Issue

Lorian Hemingway Joins The Post’s Prestigious Fiction Advisory Board Along with New Members Robert Stone, Gary Svee and Ray Bradbury

Indianapolis, IN, February 4, 2010 – The Saturday Evening Post, the nation’s oldest magazine, which traces its roots to Benjamin Franklin and is famous for covers that illustrate the lives and experiences of the American people, today announced its exclusive partnership with the internationally respected Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, publishing 2009’s winning story in its Jan/Feb 2010 issue. Joan SerVaas, chief executive officer and publisher of The Saturday Evening Post, made the announcement.

The Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition (, in its 30th year, supports and encourages the efforts of emerging writers of short fiction. As part of the partnership, The Post will have the first serial rights to and annually be the exclusive magazine publisher of the competition’s winning story. “Lazarus,” by 2009 winner Gregory Loselle, can be read in the magazine’s current issue.

Throughout its history, The Saturday Evening Post has introduced and published fiction and poetry from a long list of celebrated writers, including Edgar Allan Poe, Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain, Jack London, Agatha Christie, William Faulkner, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The magazine’s new alliance with the competition is part of The Post’s recent restoration of fiction as an important component of its editorial mix.

“While it’s important to tap into our vast archives of fiction, it is equally important for The Post to maintain its role as the leader in finding the next great American fiction writers, and forming this partnership is a significant step toward meeting that goal,” said SerVaas.”

Lorian Hemingway, author of the critically-acclaimed books Walk On Water, A World Turned Over and Walking Into The River, said, “For many years it has been our dream to be able to offer an assured publication for our first-place winner. The Saturday Evening Post, through its deep appreciation for new voices in literary fiction, has made that dream come true.”

In addition to the alliance, Lorian Hemingway has joined The Post’s prestigious Fiction Advisory Board, along with new members Robert Stone, Gary Svee and Ray Bradbury. The board advises the magazine’s editors on fiction selections and recommends up-and-coming fiction writers.

Eligibility requirements for our 2010 competition

What to submit:

  • Stories must be original unpublished fiction, typed and double-spaced, and may not exceed 3,000 words in length. There are no theme restrictions. Copyright remains property of the author, with the exception of the first-place winner, whose work will be published in The Saturday Evening Post.

Who may submit:

  • The literary competition is open to all U.S. and international writers whose fiction has not appeared in a nationally distributed publication with a circulation of 5,000 or more. Writers who have been published online or who have self-published will be considered on an individual basis.

Submission requirements:

  • Submissions may be sent via regular mail or submitted online at: Please visit our online submissions page for complete instructions regarding online submissions. Writers may submit multiple entries, but each must be accompanied by an entry fee and separate cover sheet. We do accept simultaneous submissions; however, the writer must notify us if a story is accepted for publication or wins an award prior to our July announcements. No entry confirmation will be given unless requested. No SASE is required.
  • The author’s name should not appear on the story. Our entrants are judged anonymously. Each story must be accompanied by a separate cover sheet with the writer’s name, complete mailing address, e-mail address, phone number, the title of the piece, and the word count. Manuscripts will not be returned. These requirements apply for online submissions as well.

Deadlines and Entry Fees:

  • The entry fee is $12 for each story postmarked by April 1, 2010. The late entry fee is $17 for each story postmarked between April 2 and May 15. We encourage you to enter by April 1 if at all possible, but please know that your story will still be accepted if you meet the later deadline. Our dual deadline must be imposed this year due to information already in print in Writer’s Market, etc. that states May 15 as our final deadline. We apologize for this inconvenience. Beginning with our 2011 competition we will have a single deadline. Entries postmarked after May 15, 2010 will not be accepted. Entries submitted online after May 15 will not be accepted. Writers may submit for the 2011 competition beginning May 16, 2010.

How to pay your entry fee:

  • Entry fees submitted by mail with their accompanying stories may be paid — in U.S. funds — via a personal check, cashier’s check, or money order. Please make checks payable to LHSSC or The Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition. Entry fees for online submissions may be paid with PayPal.

Announcement of Winners and Honorable Mentions:

Winners will be announced at the end of July 2010 in Key West, Florida, and posted on our website soon afterward. Only the first-place entrant will be notified personally. All entrants will receive a letter from Lorian Hemingway and a list of winners, either via regular mail or e-mail, by October 1, 2010.

All manuscripts and their accompanying entry fees should be sent to:

The Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition

P.O. Box 993

Key West, FL 33041

or submitted online at:

For more information, please explore this website or e-mail:

Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition Online Submissions
We are pleased to announce that we are now able to accept online submissions to our competition, in addition to continuing to accept entries by mail. We have been accustomed to doing things the old-fashioned way for so long — 2010 will mark the 30th anniversary of the competition — that accepting stories online seems like a bold step into a brave new world, and while we have a bit of stage fright we do believe that this additional option of submitting your stories will help save a few trees in the long run.
Below please find what we trust are rather simple guidelines for online submissions:

Online Submission Guidelines:

  • All submissions must meet the requirements set forth in our regular guidelines. Stories must be original, unpublished fiction. Word count: 3,000 words or less.
  • A Paypal account is required for online submissions. If you would like to sign up for Paypal, please click this link to be taken to their signup page: Paypal Signup. If you do not wish to have a Paypal account, please follow the normal submission procedures described on the Guidelines page.
  • Use the PayPal drop-down selection to pay for your submission prior to sending your story. You will be given a choice of paying for the April 1 deadline entry fee or for the April 2 – May 15 late deadline entry fee. Please make sure you choose the appropriate one.
  • In the subject line of your submission please write the Transaction ID number given to you by PayPal, along with your full name as it appears on your PayPal receipt.
  • Please print out a copy of your PayPal receipt for your records.
  • Once your transaction is completed you may submit your story to after following the very important guidelines provided below:
  • Stories must be submitted in Microsoft Word Document format, as an attachment. Please do not send your story in the body of an email.
  • Each story must be accompanied first by a cover sheet that includes the writer’s name, the title of the story, his or her complete mailing address, e-mail address, phone number, and the word count of the work submitted. The author’s name should not appear on the story. Only the title should appear on the manuscript.
  • Writers may submit multiple entries, but these must be submitted as separate Microsoft Word documents, with separate cover sheets and separate entry fees.
  • If you have questions regarding online submissions please do not hesitate to contact us at:

Many thanks and the very best of luck to all who enter!

Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition Submissions
Through April 1st, 2010 $12.00

April 2 through May 15, 2010 $17.00

Requiescat In Pace, Dick Francis

Dick Francis
Mystery novelist Dick Francis

I’m very sad to announce that British mystery writer Dick Francis, 89, has died.

Mr. Francis wrote the first mystery novel for adults I ever read. I was a child who was too grown-up for my chronological age, but I loved horses passionately. I’d read all the Walter Farley books, Black Beauty, and pretty much any other book about horses you can think of. If a book even hinted that it might mention horses, I’d read it. I was also at that in-between age; I was reading widely, but had only just recently made the jump to reading both fiction and nonfiction written for an adult audience.
Whip Hand

So when a book-loving neighbor gave me a copy of Whip Hand, it was like discovering a kindred soul. People wrote books for horse-crazy grown-ups, too! I’ve happily read my way through an awful lot of Dick Francis horse mysteries, in the years since.

Mr. Francis was a renowned jockey, before he became a best-selling mystery novelist.

He’ll be missed.

Paranormal Roundtable on Suvudu!

Mark of the DemonNeed a remedy for the late-winter blahs? Suvudu announced they’ve got your cure. They’ll be hosting a live round-table discussion of Paranormal and Urban Fantasy. See the website for details:

On February 17 (at 4pm EST), we’re bringing in some of the hottest voices in Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy for a round-table discussion and we’re going to be bringing it live! Use the quick form above to sign-up for a one-time email reminder for the event, then sit back and prepare for the heat!

Here’s a list of participants; Suvudu’s roundtable will host some of the hottest writers in these enormously popular genres:

Kelley Armstrong – |@kelleyarmstrong on Twitter

Diana Rowland – |@dianarowland on Twitter

Jenna Black – | @JennaBlack on Twitter

Lucy A. Snyder – | @LucyASnyder on Twitter

Carolyn Crane – |@CarolynCrane on Twitter

Win a Signed Copy of Peter Straub’s New Book!

A Dark Matter, by Peter StraubDetails on the official Peter Straub Facebook page:

Win a signed copy of A DARK MATTER! Straub’s Madison, Wisconsin is a scary place, but every town has its secrets, right? Describe the scariest thing about your town here. The best entry as judged by the administrators will win a signed copy of A DARK MATTER. Contest ends midnight EST, 2/9/10.

Don’t post your descriptions here! Post ’em over there!

But if you’re wanting to comment here, tell us what you’re reading, what you like, and what you’re dyin’ to read next. I’d love to hear from you!

I’ve just finished reading an ARC of Connie Willis’ new book, Blackout. I’ll be posting a review tomorrow.

Navigating Self-Publishing, Interview with Victoria Strauss

Lisa Abbate of has done a terrific  interview about self-publishing with author-advocate and co-founder of  Writer Beware, novelist  Victoria Strauss. Ms. Strauss outlines some of the hows, whys, and best-practices writers should be aware of when they’re investigating self-publishing options, for Absolute Write’s readers.

Self-publishing is a perfectly viable model for a number of writers and a number of niches, but the various business models out there introduce a whole set of complications and dangers for any savvy writer to be aware of. In addition, it’s important that anyone planning to self-publish understands what they’re looking at, in terms of distribution and sales numbers:

Writer Beware often hears from authors who believe they’ve been scammed by self-publishing companies, when in reality it was their expectations that were the problem—they didn’t realize that the average self-pubbed book sells fewer than 200 copies, or that the wholesale distribution offered by most self-pub companies is only half the distribution picture.

Read the whole interview here!

Victoria Strauss is the author of seven fantasy novels for adults and young adults, including the Stone duology (The Arm of the Stone and The Garden of the Stone) and the Way of Arata duology (The Burning Land and The Awakened City). She has written hundreds of book reviews for magazines and ezines, including SF Site, and her articles on writing have appeared in Writer’s Digest and elsewhere. In 2006, she served as a judge for the World Fantasy Awards. She maintains the popular Writer Beware website ( and blog ( She received the Service to SFWA Award in 2009. Her personal website is

Lisa Abbate is a nonfiction author’s coach, writer, and editor for many innovative technology companies. She’s been a longtime contributing writer at Absolute Write and editor at Coyote Wild. Her website is She is also the founder and executive director of an environmental organization,

You can find more interviews with Victoria Strauss on these websites:

FMWriters interview

Writer’s Write interview

WOW (Women On Writing) interview

Previous Absolute Write interview

Stumped by Dialogue?

This is just to let you know that one of our advertisers,, has a very affordable online class for learning to write effective dialogue beginning February 1st.

The course instructor is writer Catherine McLean:

“Catherine McLean is a published author of science fiction, paranormal, and contemporary (romance) short stories. She has had more than two dozen articles published on the craft of writing. For more than ten years she’s given workshop for writers at conferences, college personal enrichment courses, and online writing courses.”

You can find out more about Ms. McLean at her Web site,

Interview with Laura Kinsale

Lessons in French
Lessons in French

I get to read a lot of interviews with writers, editors, publishers, and other assorted interesting people. This interview posted on Tartitude is very fun. Not just because award-winning NYT best-selling author Laura Kinsale has a new book out, but Hope101’s interview questions aren’t just the same old standards, either, and Ms. Kinsale’s answers have humor, heart, and a sense of fun that’s a joy to read.

Ms. Kinsale has more advice for writers in a Q&A posted today on Apprentice Writer, as well.

You can follow Hope101 on Twitter: @tartitude

You can follow Laura Kinsale on Twitter: @LauraKinsale

You can find Lessons in French at your local bookstore, or your favorite online bookseller.