Wednesday, December 6, 2017

IWSG and Celebrate the Small Things

Good December morning, everyone! Have you recovered from Thanksgiving? Gotten your Christmas shopping done? Writing anything during December? It's time to check in with the IWSG writing community and see what's up. A big shout-out to our fearless leader, Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh and his merry band of cohosts working harder than Santa's elves:  Julie Flanders, Shannon Lawrence, Fundy Blue, and Heather Gardner!

Today's optional question: As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?


Okay, y'all. This is important, especially if you are thinking about participating in the January 18 IWSG Twitter Pitch Party.

As of last summer, I'd never Tweeted, but I wanted to enter the first IWSG Twitter Pitch Party. So I did and to my happy surprise, my pitches got a few likes. I thought this was a fantastic way to kick off querying my novel, so I sent out my query packages straightaway. After revising this novel for years, I was so excited to have people read it that I didn't think about who I was sending it to.


Now nothing horrible happened. In fact, something extraordinary happened. I got an offer of publication. Cue the high fives and pop the champagne, right? Well, not so fast. The offer was from a small publisher, not an agent. At the time of this offer, I had a few partials and a full out with various agents, and I knew it would be some time before I heard back from them. So I had to make a hard choice: accept the publisher's offer or pass and try for an agent.

What to do? Publishing offers do not come every day and this was a good match, but I had hardly begun my agent search. And that's where I wish I had handled things differently.

The right thing to do is decide what path of publication you want BEFORE submitting query materials and manuscripts.

If you really want an agent, query agents first. You can always query small publishers later if you change your mind. Research the pros and cons of getting an agent vs. signing with a small publisher before you participate in a Twitter pitch event. You may get likes from both agents and publishers, and you should know the difference.

Here's another pitfall. Suppose an author submits their work directly to a publisher and then receives a rejection. If they later get an agent, that agent can not submit a more polished version of that manuscript to any publishing house that has already rejected it. So an author can burn bridges without realizing the consequences.

My situation caused a lot of stress that could have been avoided, but in the end, I decided to try for an agent. There are days when this seems like an insane choice, since most agents say "yes" to about two projects a year after receiving 10,000 queries. So will I participate in the January IWSG Twitter event? Probably.


This is a weekly blog hop hosted by Lexa Cain with cohosts L.G. Keltner and Tonja Drecker.

1. I thrilled to celebrate the re-emergence of our host! Glad to hear things are on the mend.

2. I survived the death of my computer without suffering a mental breakdown.

It happened on a Thursday. I was browsing through various news stories on CNN (when I should have been writing) and the screen went wonky. Lots of horizontal lines and black and white pixels twitching hither and yon. I knew right away it was bad. 

Image: Shawn Allen

I didn't panic. I rebooted, got out a USB flash drive, and downloaded all my current writing projects. When my husband got home, he gave me a much larger drive, and I downloaded every file from Word, along with videos and images that date back to when our kids were babies.

He took the computer in to see if it could be repaired, but it was fried. I asked him nicely if he would pretty please pick up a new one at the university bookstore. (He's a math professor there.) A shiny new laptop came home.

Mac Book
Image: GB

We did have a problem with the password I chose. The computer refused to recognize it and my husband spent 40 minutes on the phone figuring out how to reset it. (Thirty of those minutes were spent on hold.) But after that, he was able to download my Word files, and I resumed working. Eventually. After Thanksgiving break. Not so much because we were traveling or I was slaving away in the kitchen, but because my youngest got sick.

So how's life with a new laptop? There are frustrations. I find when I'm typing fast, the curser will, without warning, skip back up in the text several lines and start adding letters in the middle of stuff I've already typed. And don't get me started on the new scrolling bar features. Whoever designed the disappearing scroll bar on the right of documents should be forced to watch nonstop episodes of  The Fresh Beat Band or some other suitable form of torture.
Fresh Beat Band by Boris Kravchenkowww.boriskravchenko.com347-341-9477
Image: MajesticEmpire


Have you ever screwed up your query process? Would you have taken the publication offer or gone for an agent? Ever lose important stuff with the demise of a computer? Have a most hated television show?


  1. Great post, Tamara! Really useful for authors to read this. It's is a tricky situation.

  2. Sorry that you had such a hard decision, but great advice to search for one or the other: an agent or publisher. Awesome that you have been getting good feedback and the offer on your manuscript. Fingers crossed that you get an agent.

  3. You learned an important lesson, one you shared with all of us and one that will help you moving forward. Good for you! And good luck with the next IWSG Twitter Pitch event! :)

  4. Any of my computers die, I will have a meltdown.

    That's what I teach in my publishing seminars - know what path you want to take first. Small publisher, big publisher, agent - they are all different. I do hope the best comes for that story because it's wonderful.

  5. I went with a small publisher for my first book and now I've been trying for an agent with my second and third books. I've been so close too many times. It's disheartening. But good luck! I think medium to larger publishing houses might be a better deal. Just my opinion. At least you got interest from publishers. You're on the right track!

  6. Hope it works out with that manuscript. And that you participate again in #IWSGPit.
    Disappearing scroll bar? That's annoying. At least you didn't lose anything.

  7. It is probably best to decide which path you want to take per book before traveling down several, but if things don't work out with the agents, perhaps the publisher might still be interested. You never know.

    Since I was struck by ransomware back in 2014, I've backed up everything everywhere, but I still would not be happy with my computer dying on me. I'm glad you were able to save everything and move it over to a new one.

  8. Sorry about your computer but glad you were able to get a new one and didn't lose everything. And congrats on that offer!! Had to be a great feeling even though you decided to go for an agent in the end. Here's to another offer soon! :)

  9. That crossroads--agent v publisher in hand--is a big one. Understand 100%

  10. I haven't started the query process yet, but you're right. I'll make sure I know exactly what I want before I send anything out.

  11. It couldn't have been a simple bad-screen problem, could it? No--it had to be the hard drive. Yikes!

  12. That would be a tough decision. My fingers are crossed that you get your agent soon.

  13. Hahaha my kids would watch them total torture for me.

  14. Hi--I'm stopping by from IWSG. As a new member, it's great to meet you.

    Yeah, from what I've observed it is far worse to go with a small publisher (if they do very little to market your book) than to self-publish. At least with self-publishing, you can fiddle with pricing and so on.

    Having an agent has its pros and cons, too. I have one, and she is terribly specific about what she handles. In addition to writing inspy romance, I write YA romance, which she won't handle for me. So in that market, I'm on my own, or looking for a different agent ...

  15. Knowing what path you want to take is important. For one of my projects, I'd only accept an agent. For others, it's different.

  16. Wishing you much success with your manuscript. Toes crossed, fingers firmly on the keyboard, that it finds a good home with the perfect agent.
    Don't you HATE it when computers crash? May your new one live long and prosper.

  17. All the authors that went with small presses have as of this date taken back their manuscripts and published them on their own. So, I think you dodged a bullet with the small publisher. (Not that they're all bad. But I haven't heard good things about them lately.)

    Does the university have better deals on computers? Or does your husband get a deal because he's a professor? Just wondering why you had him get it.

    OMG Fresh Beat Band! Middle nephew watched that. Ugh.

    I hope your youngest is feeling better. When I was a kid, I always got sick the weekend of Thanksgiving. Every year it was the throw up kind of thing. For years. Ick. (I hadn't remembered that until I read about yours. Sorry. I hope it's just a one year thing.)

    Are you accidentally hitting the insert key or leaning your hand on the trackpad? Both give me that same thing where the cursor ends up at the wrong part of the screen.

    1. Yep, there is a faculty discount at the university bookstore and we also got a good deal for purchasing around Black Friday.

      I probably am hitting the trackpad. Not sure how to get out of that habit.

  18. Good advice about preparing and deciding first the direction you want to go. If an agent is what you want, be careful. Getting a bad agent is worse than no agent. Research them well before agreeing to go with that agent. Same with a small publisher. Research well. Best wishes.

  19. I enjoy self-publishing, but not every author does. Hope you find the path that works for you. And thanks for the reminder to back up my files! I use Mozy to back up my computer twice daily, and I also back up files from my flash drive to Dropbox.

  20. Yes - knowing the path you wish to travel is important - and so is taking risks and learning something new! Nothing wasted :)

  21. Its been so long since I had a query process I don't remember if I screwed it up or not. Knowing me, its a sure bet I did :)

    I had to turn off the touch pad on my laptop because I'm always "thumbing" it and losing control of the cursor. I've lost large chunks of writing when it deletes things.

    If I asked your Hubby nicely, with lots of pretty please, will he get me a shiny new laptop? My hubby informed me that just cuz he's as fat as Santa, doesn't make him the man.

    1. Knowing my husband, he might. He doesn't look like Santa, but he loves to act like him. :)

  22. Hey Tamara, interesting story. I would like to know if anybody who participated in the twitter pitch got a publisher. I won't enter again as it goes all night here as I live in the bottom of the world. I participated and got likes from 2 presses who turned out to be vanity presses and I ran a mile. Thankfully, I've now got 2 'real' publishers looking at my work.

    Happy Christmas! Have a fantastic holiday season and a glorious 2018!

    Denise :-)

  23. Yours was a hard decision. Hopefully, it was the right one for you. Best wishes for finding an agent next year. Happy holidays!

  24. Great advice! Or at least I'm hoping so. :p I also got asks from publishers, but not agents, on the Twitter pitch party. After much internal debate and a lot of research online, I decided not to query the publishers at this time, because I'd prefer to have an agent first, with a chance at a bigger publisher. I did save their submission information in a document, though. Good luck to you with your queries!

  25. I guess investigating a small press before submitting would be the right move. I'm with a small press and it has good and bad things. Congrats on the new computer. I have a new one also and I can't get used to the mouse pad.

  26. Good advice there. I didn't even have the nerve to try the Twitterfest thing--not that I had anything to pitch. And I still don't, since I'm in the middle of a series I started as self-published. And there's another decision to think about, because once you start a series, well, what publisher is going to pick it up in the middle?

  27. What a horrifying experience to have your computer die! You were very lucky to be able to get all your files backed up! That's something to celebrate for sure!

    I had a laptop where the cursor jumped around like yours. It was the sensitive mousepad built into the laptop. I bought a separate mouse and taped cardboard over the laptop mousepad. It remedied the problem for the most part. I don't know if that would help for you. Good luck with your new computer!

  28. Goodness, that was lucky, being able to save your files while the screen was playing up! However did you do it? I have an external hard drive for back-ups, though I don't use it as often as I should. Really, it's just a huge USB drive, in the end, but it does what it should and it pops up to remind me to save.

    I gave up looking for an agent years ago. I acquired one for about six months before she closed down her operation to concentrate on her own writing and I have to say that the ONLY time I got a printed slip for my novel manuscript was when she submitted it! My own submissions at least got personal letters, even though they were rejections. Of all the other agents I queried some said their books were full and others didn't bother to reply. And I never sent any manuscript without invitation, only an inquiry. It wasn't as if they knew it sucked!
    Things are, I think, different here in Australia. We have a small population, so not a huge market. Your book is doing well if it sells a few thousand copies. Most speculative fiction, such as I write, is published by small press. VERY small press, run by fans who are having a go. You aren't paid as much as a big press, but you are in print, and small presses can take chances to big ones can't. And they look after you, unlike the big press, which will stop promoting your book as soon as it's out, unless you're a big-name. I should know, I've been published by both. So nobody here would turn down a small press offer in case something better comes along. In fact, some well-known SF/F writers are also published by small press here! :-)

    An Interview With Deborah Abela

  29. Some interesting thoughts to ponder in this post.

    I'm sure I've lost a lot in computers. I try to keep multiple back-ups. Stuff that I wrote in notebooks or typed hard copies of dating back to high school in the 1960s I still have. If I've lost anything, it hasn't been much.

    Tossing It Out

  30. So glad you made it through that computer nightmare! Ugh.
    Congrats on the publication offer! That is great news, but you're right about knowing what you want to do before hand.

  31. It's always tough to have to turn down an offer of representation, but another word of caution...those Twitter pitch parties are frequented by agents who couldn't sell their way out of a paper bag, and vanity presses posing as the real thing. Another reason it's so important to do your research.

    I have some books I have on reserve that I query agents with, and others I sell to smaller presses. Some smaller presses can make you quite a bit of money, so it's worth it while you wait for the agent ship to come in--assuming you choose wisely.


I will do everything in my power to visit commenter's blogs unless I've been abducted by aliens or my children get sick. (If my children get abducted by aliens, I will be very busy, of course, catching up on my sleep.)