Finding an agent, News, Uncategorized

It’s a Red Letter Day…

Today is one of those writerly days I’ve dreamed about for, oh, say the last six and a half years…

Today, I signed with The Nash Agency, and I finally can say I have a literary agent.


The Nash Agency is owned and operated by Haylee Nash. I was lucky enough to have something to do with Haylee when she worked for Harlequin Australia when my debut book His Brand Of Beautiful was published by Harlequin Escape.

Haylee has published some of Australia’s highest-selling books from authors such as Rachael Johns, Fiona McCallum,  Sally Hepworth and Kylie Scott, and has worked for Pan Macmillan Australia, Harlequin Enterprises Australia and Booktopia.

The Nash Agency will represent my contemporary fiction with a book called ASHES, and also my future rural and contemporary romance books, including the Chalk Hill series I’m working on now.

Thank you for your faith, Haylee! I’ll be doing everything I can to do you proud.

Finding an agent, News, Query letters

Not Shakespeare, but my query is doing the job

Slowly… slowly… I feel like the wheels on my path to publication are moving. I have only had one, flat out ‘no’ to my book and that came very quickly from a publisher that I probably never should have targeted in the first place. My error – not theirs.

Otherwise, I have received good feedback to my query letter. More feedback direct from publishers I have to be honest, than from agents.

So far, my query has resulted in the sum total of: one request for three chapters from a publisher; two requests (both from publishers) for the Full manuscript (forgive me for giving Full a capital ‘F’ but any would-be authors out there will understand!); and yesterday, an offer of publication. Yes! Cartwheel moment.

I have a lot to think about. When you get yourself in a mindset of staying positive but trying not to get your hopes up, to get an email from a publisher saying: “I really enjoyed your story” there’s a hell of a lot of me that wants to leap up waving a pen, shouting WHERE DO I SIGN…

But while I love writing, in order for me to do it, I have to be able to make a living from it – or at least supplement the ‘real’ living I make, to the point where my hubby will let me sit down in front of a laptop for hours in a day and call it work :).

So I spent much of yesterday on Facebook, chatting with some of the authors working for the Publisher who wrote to me with the offer – and their news is all positive. And once again – I marvel at how supportive the writing community is. The authors I talked to yesterday couldn’t be more helpful or sharing.

In the meantime, here is the query letter that worked for me. If the job of the query is to get the opportunity to put your story in front of agents and publishers, then this one has done, (and hopefully will keep doing), that job.

Dear ///

I write to offer you my contemporary romance, His Brand Of Beautiful, complete at 80,000 words.

Australia is abuzz right now with news of Robert Pattinson’s forthcoming movie, The Drover, to be shot in the Flinders Ranges (just a few hours’ drive from where I sit as I type); plus Ryan Gosling sent Melbourne into meltdown with rumors he has signed for an outback sojourn too, in the movie Dust and Glory.

I am hopeful that if the world is on the brink of another Crocodile Dundee moment, my book may be well timed to meet that demand.

His Brand Of Beautiful

There are some people in this world brand strategist, Tate Newell, just doesn’t want to work for and winery executive Christina Clay is high on that list. Christina collects causes like some women collect shoes and every time she opens her mouth she reminds Tate of his dead sister, Jolie.

“Wild. Fresh. Outdoorsy. Australian. And it’s a wine that has to stand for something, like everything Clay Wines does.”

That’s Christina’s brief for her new wine brand, but when she tells Tate that her vision for the brand includes donating a dollar from every bottle of wine sold towards projects that help Indigenous Australians (Aboriginals), he sees redder than the desert sands. “Aborigines would be better off if every winemaker just stopped making the stuff.”

Before Christina can say Crocodile Dundee, she’s in a two-seater plane flying into the heart of central Australia to visit Tate’s childhood roots. It’s a ‘research project’ he says, to see just how ‘wild’ and ‘outdoorsy’ she wants her brand to be.

Battling the demons of a previous miscarriage, Christina soon has a project of her own in mind when it comes to Tate, and less than a day into her outback research trip, her ovaries are ticking. She wants a baby and a brand. And she’s found the one man who can give her both.

I am a career journalist with a wine industry focus, hence the wine industry background that runs loosely behind this completed novel, and two other works in progress.

I am a member of Romance Writers Australia and earlier this year, a scene from His Brand Of Beautiful made the finals of the RWA First Kiss competition 2012.

Please find attached with this email, the items you outline on your website. I thank you very much for your time.

With sincere regards


Fingers crossed – this keeps getting me through those gatekeeper doors, and that means the only thing that is right or wrong from that point, is my writing.

Finding an agent, News

A weekend for firsts

FIRST first: I opened my emails this morning to a request for a FULL of His Brand Of Beautiful, which makes it the first request for a full I’ve ever had. Which means someone read three chapters of my writing and WANTS TO READ MORE… (breathe, remember to breathe). But I’m trying to keep a lid on this, and so I’ll just plough on through to the next first.

SECOND first: I took the plunge last week and joined the RWA Critique Partners member service and I had some lovely back and forth email exchanges with my trial partner on Saturday that resulted in us deciding to share complete manuscripts. Hers is a YA of about 56,000 words… I wonder how she feels at having my 80,000 word contemporary romance thump into the inbox… I hope she’s enjoying it. Above everything I hope that reading it isn’t a chore for her. I’d hate that.

Anyway, I just finished (over lunch) reading the book by my trial partner and have been thinking about my comments and what and how to provide these. I wanted to read the book right through first as a ‘reader’ to make sure I wasn’t tempted to pull out the red pen, because I don’t think red pens are the point of critiquing… And I went back to re-read an old post I wrote about a conversation/comment on Jennifer Crusie’s blog that dealt with critiquing. I subscribe to JC’s theories (err Crusie that is, not Christ).

THIRD first: Today was my son’s first day of pre-school. He looked so cute in his uniform, and he seems so very grown up!

FOURTH first: Home Opens… looks like this Sunday is the first one for us; we have the house looking so spic and span, I don’t think I want to sell it. 🙂

Finding an agent, News

Playing God (Agent) for a day

There was an interesting article on Nathan Bransford’s blog today: and it’s inspired me to play agent for a day, plus I have the perfect opportunity, a wet Saturday and Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write competition – voting now on.

The Harlequin So You Think You Can Write competition has more than 700 entries across all the HQN categories. In the category I entered, Harlequin Superromance, there would be about 50. So this morning and last night I’ve gone through every entry in the Superromance category, to see which ones I like best, and which one, if I was an agent, I’d select.

This is my short list:

Sierrra Sunrise (I like this opening line).

Bow-Tie & The Boys (This was the first chapter of any entries – superromance or other – that I read to the end)

Everlasting Inklination

Stealing Home

Bride For The Batchelor (Another one with an opening line I really like). It only has one ‘like’ (it’s got two now) which surprised me because I think this is really good and she’s the first heroine I’ve really cared about. Maybe because my days with a newborn baby are not so long ago that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to walk the halls with a screaming child). It’s by M. J. Esber. I got to the end of this one too. I thought it was excellent.

And I’m not counting my own entry, His Brand Of Beautiful. I’m not the best person to judge it!

If I have to pick just one – it would be Bride For The Batchelor. I like it because it lets the story and scene unfold through dialogue and action whereas in almost all these entries there seems a big info dump early on in the story.

It’s an interesting lesson in writing psychology, taking part in this competition. The Twitter chat is huge. As someone who has only just found Facebook, I’m not yet into Twitter and this is the first time I’ve watched a conversation. A whole heap of plugging is a-going on… At the end of the day they’re probably not pumping the right audience because I’d say the people watching that feed are people like me, other writers. We only get one vote to spread a day and I’d say every writer in the competition will be saving her vote madly for her own story… unless they’re saints if course, which I’m not 😉

Finding an agent

Terrified of telling

I love the internet. It’s the best thing for showing that pretty much no matter what is going on in your (writing) life, there’s someone out there who has been through it too.

I was lying awake for a few hours this morning trying to go back to sleep (like that was going to happen) and in the end I figured, bugger trying to write my thoughts in my head, I’d just get up and do it. Go Nike.

I’m a bit of a ‘list’ person, hubby always laughs at the bullet point notes of ‘things to do’ on the various notebooks I leave lying about, so in no general order:

• This jury duty is on my mind. I have to go down to the court today. I’ve been three times so far without being called for a trial. It’s like a mini-ballot every time you go down there.

• The first scene of His Brand Of Beautiful is on my mind heaps. With the jury duty, I haven’t looked at it for a while but I did again last night for a few reasons: (queue subsequent bullet list)

a) I had a two-line letter back from the agent I queried (I thought these things were supposed to take weeks!) which said: Thank you for contacting our agency. Unfortunately we are not looking at manuscripts such as the one you describe. A list of literary agents can be found at Best of luck with your writing.

Which doesn’t give a girl much to go on, but I think if you’ve sent a query letter with a pitch for what you’re doing and they say ‘send it’ and then “not looking at manuscripts such as the one you describe’… well I think that means they took a quick look and didn’t like it. (And fair enough). So I was a bit flat last night but I’m okay about it this morning.

b) Last night we watched The Descendants. It’s the George Clooney movie where his wife has a jet-ski/boating accident and is in a coma for most of the movie and they have to turn off her life support. Man what a tear-jerker. I kept running to the kitchen for tissues and in the end I had to bring in the whole damn box. Clooney of course is Clooney, but the Director, Alexander Payne? He wrote the script and there was an interview with the author in the extras on the DVD and she’s amazing too. I think when you see really brilliant & talented people doing spectacular things it shows you just how far you have to go 😉

Traffic on my blog has been fairly high (for me) over the weekend, most people looking at the opening scene of His Brand Of Beautiful I posted a fortnight ago. It hasn’t had any comments, which is fine, people are busy (or maybe too kind!) But the rejection letter from the agency made me take another quick look at the scene. I think I’m making some classic mistakes: introducing too many characters, not giving enough context. I know that my early (very terrible) drafts were full of ‘telling’ not showing and I think it’s made me terrified of giving any exposition at all. I will have to weigh those thoughts up.

Maybe I can take the laptop down to the courtroom instead of the book I’m reading (currently One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – which is also adding to my feelings of writing inadequacies… my god that book is brilliant.) There’s a whole heap of waiting that goes on down there. Waiting for the sheriff’s officers, waiting for lawyers and judges, waiting for a courtroom, waiting to see if you are needed. Maybe I can find a little quiet corner and tap, tap away!

I need to retain the faith that the story for His Brand Of Beautiful is “there” and that I know how to tell (oops – show) it. The next deadline for me is the RWA STALI. I think that opens in a few days and closes about 5 October. So that’s something to work to, and the good thing about competitions is, it will help me with feedback.

Cheers, Lily.

Finding an agent, News

Court and order

My jury service starts today, and I’m on call all month. I’ve been giving myself justice vibes for weeks.

On Friday we had an orientation day at the courts filled with discussions about how real life is not like CSI or Law and Order SVU (which is a shame, I had visions of seeing Elliot from SVU on the witness stand). We were also told not to come home and turn criminal investigator, as in, don’t start researching what we’ve heard all day on Google…

I have my impartial, innocent-until-proven-guilty, hat firmly on.

So my writing will most likely take a backseat this month, unless I take up the offer of bringing my laptop to the court where you’re invited to fill in time waiting with reading or computer work etc. I don’t know how much of a muse I shall find in the jury pool room which was very much grey-beige and not a speck of green to be seen.

We’ve also decided to put our house on the market in the spring. So there’s heaps going on. Lots of open inspections (gah) from October. Hopefully by Christmas we’ll be in a whole new mind-set/environment.

And the good news. The first person to lay eyes on His Brand Of Beautiful, tells me she loves it. She is the friend we visited last month at the Sunshine Coast and I told her then I had just about finished my book. She’s a voracious e-reader of books by Fiona Palmer and Rachael Treasure and I figured if I was ever going to show anyone this book I’d be nuts not to make it Sam.

Here’s what she said.

LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!!! Just finished your book would have finished yesterday but the day was so nice i had to do outside things !
Fantastic loved the characters the outback was great, it didn’t have a slow bit as most books do, I didn’t have to skim read any of it! I didn’t want to miss anything. Great pace, great start loved that!! Yep get that sucker printed!!
Big congrats from me keep me in the loop.
Sam and Moet xxx

(Moet is her dog! I’d hate anyone to think she had to be pissed to enjoy it!)

I’ve sent my first query over the weekend, hopefully I can get it in front of an agent soon and start the rollercoaster…

Finding an agent

An agent’s voice

I said in an earlier post that I spent most of my time early in this writing life researching agents and the publishing industry because I figured I already knew how to write… a couple of rejections bashed that misconception on the head fairly darn quick. A journalism career does not a creative writer make…

But I’m now getting to the very pointy end of feeling His Brand Of Beautiful is ‘finished’ (or at least at the point where I’m game to query it again — about another month) and my thoughts have turned back to publishing. The reason I think I’m close to finished is, the book isn’t talking to me about plot anymore. For 12 months or more I’ve been thinking about plot points and scenes in my head night after night, or when I’m out walking or pushing the pram. Anytime where there’s been some type of peace and quiet. But since early July, that ‘voice’ has stopped. It’s like my head figures I have it all down and it can relax. Now it’s a case of polish, polish, polish, edit, revise; rather than plot, plot, plot, write, write, write.

It’s interesting to me how much as a would-be writer you hear about an author’s voice. Right now, I’m looking at agents’ ‘voices’ in the hope I can find one who feels like a good fit for me… and who I shall do my best to impress while trying not to get my hopes up!

From the beginning I’ve been a fan of the people at Bookends.

They had a great blog that stopped in April. It was written almost solely by Jessica Faust. I think she is an agent with a voice that really appeals to me. I always found her blog tone positive, even if she was talking about negative people or negative topics. She sounds like she’d be good fun to know.

There was a great article in the last Hearts Talk newsletter from RWA with information about royalties and advances from publishers and the main thing that came out of it for me was that it seemed those publishers paying better dollars were ones less likely to accept a submission from a non-represented author. Particularly if you make that non-represented & previously unpublished author (which hopefully I won’t always be). Stay positive. Stay positive!

I don’t mind the idea of submitting to publishers alone, but I think I’m on the side that if I can get to the point of attracting an agent, I will have far better professional guidance and expertise on this writing route I so want to travel.

In the meantime as Jenny Crusie would say: don’t worry about it and just write a great book.