Category Archives: Agents

Apparently, Twitter approves of my new agent

Today I announced that I am officially represented by Eric Smith of P.S. Literary! And then both of our Twitter notifications exploded and didn’t stop for hours. I’m floored by the love, guys! Thank you so much! I never expected this much excitement over this news, but I’m ecstatic that everyone else is as happy with my new agent as i am! ?

It’s been a while since my previous agent and I split, but I had so much going on with my Entangled and Riptide books that I didn’t have the time to query. Or anything to query with, really. When both of those houses began asking me “What’s next?” though, I realized that I needed help. I started querying, and Eric Smith was one of the first I sent an email to.

I’d been following him on Twitter for a while, and he’s geeky, kind, and hilarious on social media, so when a wonderful friend of mine, Tristina Wright, added her recommendation to all the other things I already liked about Eric, it was hard not to hope that he’d say yes.

Then I got an email, a request for materials. All I had to send was a proposal package for the project I planned on writing next, so I sent that out and crossed my fingers. It only took a few days for me to get another email, and this one started with, “So I devoured that sampling today. Did you… did you finish anymore of it by any chance? That was such a tease! It’s SO GOOD I WANNA FINISH IT. :-)”

One phone call and week for me to field requests from other agents later, I officially accepted the offer from Eric Smith and P.S. Literary and signed to be represented by them. I am so happy about this decision, and I’m extremely excited to begin working with Eric! And apparently Twitter approves of my decision, too, because there was far more excitement and enthusiasm for my announcement than I ever expected. So, thank you for that, and be sure to look for more news from Eric and me soon! (hopefully ;))

An interview and a little bit of news!

Microphone (c) Acuzio

A while back, I received an email from the wonderfully sweet Amy Trueblood over at Chasing the Crazies. Which is an awesome title for a site. Amy asked if I would be interested in participating in a series of interviews she has been doing called Writer Odyssey Wednesday (W.O.W. for short). Of course, my answer was, “YES, PLS. WHERE DO I SIGN?”

The idea that I’ve finally reached the point where I can legitimately be included in a series like this is still a little strange. My debut release is nine months away (250 days, but who’s counting?). It feels like forever. In fact, it’s so far away that it still doesn’t seem real. But that’s just in my head, apparently. To other people, I’m already there. I made the deal, signed the contract, and am officially an author with credits to my name. Wow is right.

So, I agreed! Amy sent me a list of great questions and now you can read both those questions and my answers! I talk about my strange relationship with querying, how I found my glorious editors at Spencer Hill and my wonderful agent Danielle Chiotti, as well as a little bit about Sing Sweet Nightingale and the process of writing it and finding it a home. Click here to see!

In other news, this morning I sent a new book to my wonderful agent Danielle! It’s the second in a contemp series I co-wrote with my bestie Lani Woodland and I cannot wait until these books find a home and I get to share more details about them. I adore these characters and this world and everything about writing them. It’s FUN. There’s a lot to be said about partnering on a book with someone, too. Especially someone I get along with and work with as well as Lani. co-writing is probably not for everyone, but if you find the right partner, it’s divine.

In other other news, I’m heading back to Manhattan next week!! For the first time ever, I’m going to spend the Fourth of July in the Big City. Of course, that’s not the purpose of the trip, but it’s still convenient timing. I’m actually going in celebration of my sister’s 25th birthday and my cousin’s wedding (she’s getting married at the BRONX ZOO! How freaking cool is that?!). The reason for the trip doesn’t matter, though. I still get to spend an awesome week in New York City with people I love. I even get to drop by the Upstart Crow offices and meet some more of the interns and agents in person. So many fantabulous things packed into one trip! If you’re not already following me on Twitter or Facebook, go fix that! I’ll be posting about my trip on those two places more often than on my blog. Easier to access on the go!

That’s all for now! I’ll check in again soon. 🙂


I should be working on revisions right now. So, obviously, I’m writing the second part of my I HAVE AN AGENT story instead. You know, AS YOU DO. Also, a warning: this is long.

A journey (c) L. Emerson

Strange as it may seem, this story actually starts in 2008. I was querying my first book Fallen (which will never ever see the light of day again). On my shortlist of agents was a guy named Ted Malawer who worked at an agency called Firebrand. I submitted and then, lo and behold, he wanted to see more! He read more and enjoyed it enough to bring it to his company’s acquisitions meeting only to find out someone had just signed a similar project. He couldn’t represent the book.

Disappointed, but also hopeful, I went back out into the world. Until I finally realized that I had written myself into so many corners with the structure of the plot and the world and the characters that the only way to fix it was to scrap the whole project and start over. Which I tried to do. And it got even worse.

That book went away. I worked on other things, projects that may or may not ever see the light of day. I haven’t decided yet. Also, not the point of this story.

THEN, I wrote Sing Sweet Nightingale. This book spoke to me. It possessed me for an entire month and forced me to write it all down. I won an award. I met the editors from Spencer Hill. With this interest, I sent out a round of queries.

Ted Malawer had left Firebrand and now worked at an agency called Upstart Crow. He was also closed to submissions. However, someone else at his agency was accepting queries and she was interested in young adult! Yay! So, I put Danielle Chiotti on my list and queried her along with a few others.

They ALL rejected the book. In very polite, nice ways. But…

I STILL didn’t have an agent.

HOWEVER, Danielle Ellison and Patricia Riley at Spencer Hill loved Sing. They wanted it. I was more than thrilled to let them buy it.

Happy and slightly confused, I tried to figure out what to do from here. I had a book deal, but no agent. Did I need an agent anymore? Did I want one? At this point I knew I could survive without one for a while, but I did want representation in the long run. I want to be a full-time author. I want to be able to support myself and whatever size family I end up one day having from the sales of my novels. I want to write in a wide range of YA subgenres and I want someone to help me navigate the market to make the best decisions I can both for my books and my career. I want an agent.

I just didn’t know how to get one. How do you query someone with a book that’s already sold? I didn’t have any other projects completed and I highly doubted anyone would want to sign an author who didn’t have anything they could sell in the near future.

Bruce Coville, Me, and Michael Stearns

In the meantime, I revised a ton based on Danielle and Patricia’s suggestions. Entire subplots and even a character was removed from the story. It was a lot of work, but I came back with a better version of the book when I was done. Didn’t think it would be possible to get an agent with it, though. Because, you know, it’s still been sold.

Then, in January, I went to the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Miami. While waiting on my edit letter for Sing Sweet Nightingale, I’d started writing this fantasy novel. Totally different from anything I’d ever tried, I wasn’t sure if the story was working or not. So I signed up for a 10 page critique. Luck and fate paired me with Michael Stearns, co-founder of Upstart Crow Literary where–for those who’ve lost track–both Ted and Danielle work.

He loved the pages. He said only kind things, gave me a couple of notes for expansion/revision, but generally just kept telling me how much he enjoyed the pages and that he would have willingly read more. He asked me about where I was in my career and I explained my slightly odd predicament.

“Send me your book,” he said. “I’ll take a look at it and maybe I can pass it along to one of my agents.”

Literally grinning from ear to ear (seriously. Ask some of the people who saw me that night. Muppet flailing ensued!), I went to the end of the night party and sat down while the music was blaring to email Michael my book. I was giddy enough to ignore the little voice in my head telling me, “Shouldn’t you wait until the morning when the adrenaline wears off?”

I didn’t listen to that little voice. I emailed away and sent out several other queries the next day. And then I waited.

In the next couple of weeks, I gathered a couple of rejections (all very polite ones). I kept Michael up to date on some news I received while I was waiting and he promised to get back in touch soon.

And then I got an email from Danielle Chiotti. Michael had passed the book to her and she’d started reading it immediately. Fifty pages in, she emailed me to set up a call. Four days later, we had an hour and a half-long phone call during my lunch break and talked about everything book and career and agent related. She was awesome. She even laughed when I told her she’d actually rejected this very same book last year.

“Really?” she said. “I can only think it may have been one of the interns who read this one because I don’t remember seeing it.”

So an old draft of the book couldn’t get past her intern gauntlet, but my new version she loved. Which I was totally okay with! Possible moment of awkward passed by without a blink and in the middle of the conversation she assured me that this was an official offer of representation.

“I would love to work with you!” Danielle said. “I think you have a very strong career ahead of you.”

Considering that those words were almost verbatim what I’d always hoped my future agent would say to me, I was hooked.

It’s only been a few weeks, but in that short space of time Danielle has already proven herself invaluable. Not only for career things, but for sanity things. Talking me down from crisis moments and making sure I kept my eye on the important things. I’ve heard it said that agents are part therapist and I can only say YES. They are. And I couldn’t be happier with mine!

So, there you have it. We’ve caught up with today and now the world knows my very strange story of how I queried and cajoled my was through almost an entire agency. 😉 What my experience with everyone at Upstart has taught me over the past couple of years, though, is that they’re all knowledgeable, passionate, funny, and kind. And I am lucky to be working with them all! It also goes to show you that you never know how things may work out and that just because you get rejected by an agent doesn’t mean the doors leading to that path is closed forever. You may just have to figure out how to jimmy open a window! 😀


Lovelies, I have been sitting on this news since February 11. That may not seem like such an extraordinarily long time, but OMG IT IS. Because all I wanted to do is tell the whole wide internet exactly what I can finally say right now:


I would like to introduce everyone to Danielle Chiotti of Upstart Crow Literary

Danielle has been working in publishing for nearly a decade. Formerly a Senior Editor at both Kensington Publishing and Adams Media, she has worked on a wide variety of books ranging from contemporary women’s fiction to narrative nonfiction, from romance to relationship stories, humorous tales and young adult fiction. Thanks to her extensive editorial background, she enjoys working closely with authors to develop projects.

Just this morning, I was finally granted permission to share the news. The conversation (via email) was literally as follows:

Me: Does that mean I can officially announce soon?! 😉

Danielle: You can announce right this very second if you like!

Me: If I like?! IF I LIKE?! *runs to twitter*

And then I did exactly what I warned her I would do and ran to Twitter. SQUEEING ensued and it was awesome!

When I have a little more time and a little less piercing headache behind my left eye (seriously. OWW), I will come back and post part two of this awesome news which will include the actual story of how this partnership was born. Like my tale of a magical night in NY when I met my editors, this one is a little out of the usual. Which makes it perfect for me! 😀

So, until then, loves! Have a glass of your favorite beverage and raise it high in toast tonight. I know I’ll be doing the same with my pretty pink Starbucks Refresher while buried in my editing cave. 😉

Life: Never Stop Learning

One of the many reasons I’m crazy busy right now is I’ve signed up for a Writer’s Digest online class called Fiction Pitch Slam where my query letter and pitch gets critiqued by working agents and editors. Between today and Monday I will be listening to lectures by industry experts and submitting my query letter for revisions.

The man giving the first lecture is Chuck Sambuchino, an author and expert who works with Writer’s Digest. His blog is a wealth of information on and interviews with agents and I’m hoping this weekend will help me work out the kinks in my pitch which I’m having a hard time simplifying to less than ten sentences. The point? Even though I’ve been doing this for years now and I’ve written more than a few query letters already, I never feel as though I know everything. In fact, I still feel like what I know is only a drop on the bucket.

Never think you’ve learned it all. If you have, what else is there to live for? If you keep learning and discovering, you’ll keep finding stories to tell, and that is exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Publication: Advice On How To Get There

There is no easy answer to this question and no road map for you to follow.

Just so we’re clear.

There are, however, steps you can take and things you can try that might get you one step closer to publication. Agent Rachelle Gardner offers some tips, but no one can make you promises. Other agents and bloggers have as well and, in a nutshell, their combined advice is as follows.

One, improve your writing. In fact, this is kind of a must. If your book is not absolutely the best you can make it, don’t even think about submitting it and please, please step away from thoughts about self-publishing. For advice on how to improve without spending a lot of money, check out Elizabeth Spann’s post or my version of the same.

Two, enter contests. I mentioned this in my post on improving, but it’s a subject that is worth repeating. Romance Writers of America has a list of contests for 2012 here (chapter hosted contests) including a few for unpublished manuscripts. Many others exist for both published and unpublished authors and a Google search can help you turn up ones relevant to your genre.

Three, fine-tune your query letter, but stay away from query-letter services. I’ve read from multiple reliable sources that most agents can instantly spot a pre-fab query letter and using one of these will not get you on their good side. Free services for query letter critiques include sites like Critique Circle and Query Shark that can provide edits once you have a letter written, but if you’re struggling to get a solid letter on paper (or on computer) try one (or a few) of these resources:

  1. Agent Query – How to Write a Query Letter
  2. Query Shark – just reading through the posts can be enormously helpful
  3. Writer Beware Blogs – How to Write a Query Letter
  4. Nathan Bransford – How to Write a Query Letter

These are just a few of the thousands of sites available, but they are sites I know are reputable and thorough. The advice they offer is more valuable than gold and you should treat it as such.

Four, find an agent to query. Do your research and don’t bother querying agents who A) aren’t accepting submissions, B) don’t represent your genre, C) show up on Writer’s Beware, D) ask for money before reading your query, E) don’t follow the guidelines of the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR). They don’t have to actually be a member of the AAR, but even those who aren’t should follow the ethical guidelines established by this organization. To find an agent you should do some Google searches or search through the databases of Agent Query (free) or Writer’s Market (subscription required). These sources include most of the agents currently working in the industry and will be invaluable in your search.

Five, attend conferences and pitch sessions. You can do a Google search for conferences in your area, but unless you live in New York or California, you will probably have to travel for most of the major events. Personally, I hope to attend the RWA conference, the New York Book Expo, and the NYC Pitch and Shop Conference in 2012. These types of conferences are a fantastic way to meet other writer and industry professionals and maybe start forming a network. Often, skill alone isn’t enough. A single recommendation can go a long, long way.

Six, think positive. This may seem silly, but it’s important. Crucial, even. Getting published can be a long, winding, uphill road and letting yourself feel negative is one step closer to letting yourself quit. If you want it bad enough, you’ll get there come hell or high water. Just remember that each rejection you get is one closer to an acceptance and each bad review is one more way you can make your work better.

This probably seems like a lot of work. That’s because it is. There is another route to publication, the DIY path, but since the weight of every single decision rests on your shoulders, you have to make sure you do your research before committing to this. J.A. Konrath has a lot of information on his blog about self-publishing even if he sometimes phrases his opinions in ways that tend to offend. Not me, but I’ve seen it happen. New sites with advice or offers of publishing services are popping up every day, but do your research before signing with a company. It’s free to load your ebook onto Amazon or Barnes & Noble, so don’t pay for anything you don’t have to. This is a very valid option, but not one I’ve done a ton of research on, so I can’t offer much more advice on the subject. Not anything that I’ve personally tested, anyway.

So, here it is. Hopefully, it helps someone. Satisfaction is in no way guaranteed, but it’s a possibility.

Agents: A Day In The Life

This one shall be short, but interesting. Hopefully. 😀

I have been trying to find an agent for a few years now. I query them and they read manuscripts and eventually sign people they like, but what exactly do agents do all day? Rachelle Gardner gave an overview of her days:

When I’m not handling crises and talking writers off ledges, here’s how I prioritize my daily work:

1. Contracts and Payments.
Fielding offers, negotiating deals, scrutinizing contracts, discussing clauses and terms with publishers, walking clients through their contracts, making sure the contract gets executed properly. Following up on advance and royalty payments, making sure publishers pay clients in a timely manner, examining royalty statements for accuracy.

2. Submitting projects to publishers.
Working with authors to prepare their proposals and manuscripts; preparing lists of editors to whom we’ll submit; getting projects out to publishers; following up appropriately.

3. All other client-related work.
Answering random questions; reading their latest work and offering feedback; coaching on marketing, promotion, career planning; brainstorming ideas for future projects; handling interaction with their publishers on everything from titles to book covers to extended deadlines and more; being a listening ear whenever necessary.

4. Finding new clients.
Reading incoming queries, reading requested partials and full manuscripts, sometimes offering feedback whether or not I’m saying yes to representation. It also includes proactively pursuing authors I’d like to represent.

Publication: Indie Houses v. Fatcat Publishers

Because of a lot of things happening in May (namely my birthday and my sister’s recitals), I took the month off from everything but work. Hey, I still gotta eat. 😉 But just to catch you up with my life…

No new news on the agent search.
Nothing to report on the writing front. I’m still revising.
I really need a vacation.

And that’s pretty much it.

On to the reason for the post!!

It’s kind of weird how many times I’ve heard this from people who know I’m trying to publish a book. “Well, if you don’t get picked up by a major house, you could always self-publish.” While this is a true statement and I have nothing against self-publishing, people tend to forget a whole third option in today’s publishing world: the independent houses.

Just like self-publishing, independent houses are not for everyone, but they shouldn’t be excluded as an option entirely. There are strong benefits to working with a smaller house including, but not limited to, working with people who are truly passionate about what they do.

Joshua Mohr recently wrote an article entitled A Faithful Grope in the Dark where he talks about his path to publication and how he ended up working with Two Dollar Radio, a small press that is about to release his first novel Some Things that Meant the World to Me. Listen to what he says because he makes some really good points. But, in the end, all I’m suggesting by this is that if you land an agent and they tell you there’s a small “boutique house” interested in your work, consider it. It may end up being the best choice for you.

Perseverance: For Anyone Who Has Ever Dreamed A Dream

In her most recent post, Janet Reid, Literary Agent, pointed me toward a blog post by Toni McGee Causey. This post is inspiring, beautiful, and everything that is good and magical about following your dreams.

Go read it.


Writing: Messy First Drafts

Perfectionism has no place in the early stages of creativity. Mistakes are gold mines and should be treated as such, and first drafts are the best place to make those mistakes. But who am I to tell you this? Luckily, I’m not the only person who thinks so. Go read this article featured in Writer’s Digest:

Get Messy With Your First Draft

And, for those interested in my own writing progress, here’s an update. I’m currently working on my ninth (I think…) revision of Fallen. Once this is complete, I will send the story out to a new batch of agents and hope for a bite. There’s a connection my mom has that might turn into something useful, but I’ve learned enough by now to not put all my hopes in on basket. 🙂