World Book Night & Amy Poehler

I was thrilled to read this first thing this morning:

Amy Poehler signs on for World Book Night

The USA Today article quotes the actress and now WBN honorary chairperson as saying, “I grew up loving books. In today’s digital world, it’s more important than ever to know how it feels to have a good book in your hands. I’m thrilled to be part of World Book Night. People who read are people who dream, and we connect through the stories we live and tell and read.”

Don’t know what World Book Night is? They’re a wonderful non-profit that enlists about 25,000 volunteers to give away about 500,000 books each year. Basically, you sign up, get a bunch of copies of an awesome book (for free!) and then everyone hands them out to non-readers and light readers. In the past, I’ve given away The Things They Carried, and Looking for Alaska, and this year I’m giving away Code Name Verity.

It’s a great chance to meet people in your community, share the love of books, and share a really awesome experience with people all over the US and the UK. And it works! The success stories are a great thing to see.

If you aren’t involved in World Book Night, you absolutely should be. Check out their website, follow them on Twitter, or like them on Facebook.

My Awesome Book News

I have just a tiny bit of news today. News I’ve been sitting on for what felt like a century. News I could not be happier to share. Any guesses? :)

Deal

My book sold. A pre-empt, and releasing this November. Yes, it’s fast. Yes, it will be a fall book. Catch me if I pass out.

Merit is a wonderful imprint over at F&W Books, and if Jacquelyn Mitchard’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she’s the author of Deep End of the Ocean (and about 20 other books, including  What We Saw At Night and What We Lost In The Dark.) She’s made a name for herself as an author and an editor, and I am so thrilled to have her as my editor. Merit and F&W are the perfect place for HOW WE FALL, and their enthusiasm for my book has blown me away. I never imagined I’d be dealing with a pre-empt, but I’m so confident in the team at Merit that it’s very much a crazy dream come true.

I love this book with everything in me. It’s a quirky YA taboo suspense about obsession and emotional honesty and not letting the world tell you who to be. And I’m so excited to send it out into the world.

I’m so thankful to my brilliant and wonderful agent, who believed in this book (and me) from the start. Her confidence has kept me going. Thank you for making this happen, Carlie.

My incredibly patient husband, Jesse, has been my biggest supporter. He’s kept up with the writing process, the querying process, and now submission through to a book deal. He’s had to deal with my insanity for years now, and I genuinely couldn’t have done this without him. A bit of who he is works its way into every YA guy I write, so thanks for being my inspiration, Jesse.

My family and friends have put up with my babbling about one day being an author since I was twelve. Evenings making dinner in the kitchen with my mother while I discussed my high school WIP with her gave me the confidence to think I wasn’t crazy in wanting to do this. (And maybe I was crazy, but hey, it happened!) To all of you (Lydia, Rebekah, Trish, Robin, Lynn, Matt, Jess, Sean, Sam, Jake, Nick, Bree, Hannah, Mark, Rebecca, oh my word, all of you) thank you for the support and encouragement and confidence.

And to my critique partners and writing friends– to everyone who read some version of HOW WE FALL, you guys have been one of the biggest factors in this happening. I love you for it. I love you for being honest with me and tough with your notes, for all the conversations and advice and patience and brilliant ideas. HOW WE FALL wouldn’t be the book it is without you.

Stay tuned, readers- there’s a lot more news about HOW WE FALL coming soon. :)

The Query That Got Me My Agent

Hello, readers!

Yesterday the lovely EM Castellan featured me on her blog with a quick interview on how I wrote my query and advice for querying writers, plus of course the query that got my agent’s attention. It’s a great way for readers to see examples of queries that worked.

Since that’s often helpful for fellow writers, I’m going to post it here today with the query results so you have a bit more info. If you want to see my advice on querying and a few more questions, head over to see the rest of the interview! (And great queries from other authors.)

Here’s my query:

Dear (agent)

After (personal detail) I’m hoping you’ll be interested in my MS. HOW WE FALL, a YA suspense, is complete at 88,000 words.

Making out with your cousin has its pitfalls. Seventeen-year-old Jackie hasn’t been able to end her secret relationship with Marcus since he kissed her on a dare. He’s her best friend, which only makes it harder to quit their obsessive relationship.

Except she has to, because she’s falling in love with him. It’s not like it’s illegal to date her cousin, but her parents would never approve and the families would split up their multi-family home. Afraid of losing her best friend, she calls it off. She can’t lose Marcus right now: the cops just found her missing friend’s body.

Hurt and angry, Marcus starts dating the new girl, Sylvia. But with Sylvia comes a secret and a stranger. The stranger starts following Jackie everywhere she goes, and Marcus is nearly killed in a car accident. When Jackie finds out Sylvia lied about not knowing her murdered friend, Jackie’s certain Sylvia is connected to the man threatening Marcus.

The more Jackie finds out about Sylvia, the bigger the wedge between Jackie and Marcus, but she doesn’t have long to figure out what’s going on. She may have lost both her relationship and her friendship with Marcus, but she can’t lose him for real.

If she doesn’t act fast, Sylvia’s secrets may mean their bodies will be the next ones the police dig out of the Missouri woods.

(bio)

Thank you for your consideration,

Kate Brauning

(contact info)

Query stats:

Queries: 53

Requests: 23 (6 partials, 17 fulls)

That’s a pretty darn good request rate, but I do want to highlight that the agents who didn’t request often wrote back with a polite but definite pass. I’m pretty sure half the publishing community thinks I’m crazy now. :)

Another thing I think is important to highlight in this kind of post is that it is not your query that lands you an agent. It is your story and your writing. The query serves to catch the agent’s attention. You’ll reuse it in various ways down the road, and you want it to be as sharp as possible, but it’s really not the query that gets you an agent.

That said, the query is your foot in the door. Take it seriously, make it sing, make it reflect your story the best it can.

Have a question about querying? Ask in this post, and I’ll answer! I’ve read slush for a publishing house and a literary agency, and I edit so many hours a week I have trouble counting them– and I’m glad to help!

Contracts and Agenting 101

Today I’m blogging over at Pub Hub on the basics of book contracts– interns, writers who want to be informed, and anyone who wants a glimpse behind the scenes, take note!

Here’s a preview:

I’m a huge advocate for educating yourself and being proactive with your career. Writing is a difficult and complicated career, even when you have a fabulous agent and editor.

Whether you don’t have an agent and are navigating a small press by yourself, or you are agented and are wondering what all these terms you’re hearing mean, or you’re a writer trying to figure out goes on in this business, the resources below can give you a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes.

A note of advice: publishing terms vary from place to place, information quickly becomes outdated as technology advances, and your agent is your greatest advocate. Blog posts can’t hope to cover the scope of publishing contracts; you can read blog posts all day long and still not know how to handle these issues. I’d recommend treating these as one source of information, not a guide to your career. :)

Nathan Bransford has some older but very helpful introductory posts:

A Book Publishing Glossary

How A Book Gets Published

The Basics of Publishing Contracts

 

Read the rest over at Pub Hub.

Is This The Best You Can Do?

I’m not a particularly clumsy person. But sometimes when I’m thinking, I convince myself my body is just my brain and there’s no need to watch where I’m going or pay attention to my surroundings.

That happened yesterday, and I smacked my elbow on the corner of my upstairs hall. It hurt so bad I sat down there on the floor and gave up all hope of life.

I grew up a farm girl. I’ve nearly been killed in several accidents, I’ve stabbed my hand on sharp wire and lost a lot of blood, I’ve been bitten by dogs, been stung by hornets when they flew up my jacket sleeve, and been chased by snakes in the pond. I’m no weakling. And yet, sitting there in the hall clutching my elbow, it occurred to me that this is what I expect my characters to handle, except much more.

I expect them to take it, process it, handle it, and still win. I take everything away from them– friendships, family, health, resources. I cause them pain (for good reasons, I have to remind myself) and just when they get it handled and get back up, I knock them down again.

In trying to be a good writer, I have to test my characters. I have to throw everything at them, push them to change and become active and either fall or rise. The whole process of telling the story is me asking them, “Is this the best you can do?” I expect the best from my characters. Is this the best fight you can put up, the sharpest thinking you can do, the greatest love you can give, the hardest you can try?

When we expect so much from our characters, we’d better not be expecting less of ourselves. As a writer, are you doing your story justice? In the time I’ve spent editing and writing (not nearly enough) I’ve started to realize the humble writers, the ones who are willing to go back to the drawing board and read books on writing craft and take the harsh critiques, are the ones who make it.

When you’re asking yourself if you’re ready to query, if you’re done with edits, if you need to change this or that, here’s the question to ask: Is this the best you can do? We ask for the best, the most, the hardest things, from our characters. Give your writing your best, and keep asking yourself, “Can I do better? Is this all I’ve got? Is this the best I can do?”

Find the answers to those questions, chase them down, settle for nothing less, and you’ll become a good writer.

Follow Me Around

As I climb out from underneath the heap of writing/teaching/editing/freelancing that accumulated while I was in Costa Rica, I’ve been blogging more lately.

You all know I run the group author/agent/editor blog Publishing Hub, right? We’ve got a fantastic community over there, so check it out if you haven’t yet.

Here are a few of my recent posts from Pub Hub.

Editor’s Eyes: Fixing Flat Scenes

Editor’s Eyes: Fixing Stilted Prose

Editor’s Eyes: How to Get Started in the Writing/Publishing Community

Welcome New Publishing Hub Member, Agent Amy Boggs!

I will also be blogging once a month over at YAtopia, another great group blog. I love YA, and it’s a great way to keep in touch with YA writers and readers. Here’s my very first post for them that went up not too long ago:

Writing A Novel 101

I was also interviewed by writer Natasha Neagle, and if you go check it out, you can hear about my WIP, my writing style, what’s most challenging to me, and what books influenced me most!

Meet Kate Brauning

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I’ll leave you with a photo of my Husky, Charles, that my husband took during this recent snowfall we’ve had.

Charles

The Chuck Wendig Writer Evaluation

If you guys haven’t seen yesterday’s post on Chuck Wendig’s blog, you should check it out, because he posted a great post on evaluating yourself as a writer, and gave us these questions to ask ourselves.

So, here is my Chuck Wendig writer evaluation!

a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

Tension– I hope! I love how much character it brings out and how much it adds to the stakes of a moment.

b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

Layering. Balancing everything going on in a moment and keeping all of it present in a scene.  I usually write out the action, then have to go back in and increase the tension, add more thought and emotion, foreshadow, fill in atmospheric details, etc., to make sure I hit all the layers that need to be happening.

c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

I have finished three novels. One I have on the back burner for eventual revision, and two are with my agent.

d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

Oh, man.  It’s hard to say what’s impacted me most, because so many wonderful people have helped me in so many ways. Connect with other writers and listen to what they have to say, don’t give up, realize a first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, finish the book before you judge it, read books on writing, read in your genre, etc.

I think the stand-out advice, though, has been to read a book a week. It’s hard with a writer’s busy life, but we can’t expect to be good storytellers if we aren’t good story consumers. Reading great books has been the absolute number one biggest factor when my writing improves. Want some recs? Read everything in this box.

e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

Write what you know. If that were good advice, the world wouldn’t contain most of my favorite genres. I think it’s a much better interpretation of that old piece of advice to write what you emotionally connect with– core human experiences. Betrayal, revenge, guilt, fear, hope, healing, determination, wonder, love. Write that.

f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

Read a ton, and when you react or connect, stop and think about why. The writer worked magic (okay, used a psychological principle) in that moment. Stop and think about why you had a reaction and how the writer built that moment. Connections happen sentence by sentence, and it’s all there on the page. Break it down. Figure it out. Use it yourself.

What about you? Fill out the evaluation in the comments! I want to hear from you.

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