Showing posts with label interviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label interviews. Show all posts

Friday, August 5, 2011


hello from SCBWI!

full report here on the blog when i get back, but just taking a quick time out to say:

check out my interview over on the Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire blog! - all about being on submission and selling Butter!

Monday, September 6, 2010

behind the curtain! and my first real CONTEST!

so many of us in the literary blogosphere are writers. but there are many out there who aspire to take on a different role in publishing.
if you’ve ever dreamed about being an agent (the power! the pleasure of reading and getting paid for it!) or if you’ve ever just wondered what the heck is happening on the other end of that query… then oh boy, do i have a treat for you today!

one thing i’ve gathered about getting a job in the publishing industry is that it often – i’d venture to say MOST often – begins with an internship. but believe it or not – it’s NOT EASY to get a job with long hours and no pay!

fortunately, if any of you ever apply for an internship, you’ll be armed with information – thanks to Gemma Cooper! Gem is fresh off an internship with FinePrint and Nancy Coffey literary agencies, and she graciously agreed to answer some pressing questions about what it takes to land – and then ROCK – a literary internship!

and Gem is offering more than her insight today. she’s providing the prize for my first-ever BLOG CONTEST! (but more on that later.)

so let’s put Gem in the hot seat and jump right in!

EJ - What was the application process like for your internship? How stiff was the competition?

GEM - From talking to a friend of mine who is a literary assistant, I found a great resource for internships - I’d been to the Backspace Writers Conference in November last year, and some of the people that impressed me the most worked at FP/NC (Joanna, Janet, Steph, Colleen). So, imagine my excitement when I saw they had a summer internship! For the initial contact, I had to write a cover letter talking a bit about myself and why I wanted to be an intern at a literary agency. Also, I sent my resume. This was a joint internship program to work at FinePrint Literary Agency and Nancy Coffey Media and Literary Representation and they had around 100 applicants. From these applicants, they interviewed 40. For the interview, we had to bring a short reader report on something we had read recently and be prepared to talk books (which is of course one of my favorite things to talk about!) I picked ‘Before I Fall’ from Lauren Oliver for my report, which was a great choice as agent Suzie Townsend had just read it. Reader reports are a HUGE part of an intern’s job, so they were checking that we could write a short synopsis and convey the strengths and weakness of a story concisely. I was lucky enough to be one of 6 that got the internship for the summer. (I love my fellow interns *waves*)

EJ - Walk us through the typical week of an intern for FP/NC.

GEM - A typical week means reading. Lots and lots of reading. We are the second eyes on client manuscripts, submissions, and queries. We also write reader reports for all the manuscripts we read. I used to be horrible at writing short synopses (when I think back years ago to my own poor attempts at queries... oh dear) but the more you practice the better you get.

EJ - What did you learn about the publishing biz that you never would have known without your internship?

GEM - I would never have known just how much everyone works! Having been on the writing side of publishing first, I always thought I was the only person slaving away until the early hours of the morning. But no, agents work long hours and even as an intern I would be reading very late - but that's okay, because I love books and I loved this internship. Which brings me to something else I learnt from spending time with agents - publishing is not just their job, it’s a big part of their lives. Agents are all genuine book lovers (who will even go to midnight book parties for books they don’t rep). And this is important because, if an agent signs you, you want them to have a breadth of knowledge of what’s going on in the industry.

EJ - Interns work for free, and from what I’ve heard – for the first few years at least, so do agents! What else should people consider before jumping into a career in publishing?

GEM - Well, you mentioned the main one – books need to be something you love, because initially you do have to get by on love of the job alone! I would also suggest that people research the different sides of publishing to see where their skills would be most suited – agenting, editing, film/foreign rights, marketing, sales – there are so many facets to publishing that you could rush into the wrong area just because you love books and not consider which area is the right fit. Also, you do need to realize that unlike some jobs, publishing is not 9-5.

EJ - I’ll bet one perk of interning is getting a sneak peek at some highly anticipated books – and some great stories we haven’t even heard of yet. Go ahead – make us jealous.

GEM - I have been very lucky to be interning just before the release of Personal Demons (Sept 14th) and The Duff (Sept 7th). It’s a very fun time at both agencies! I remember coming into the office one morning and seeing Suzie’s excitement when the first ARC’s of Personal Demons arrived. And last week I got to hold a hardback of The Duff – seriously the most beautiful thing you will put on your bookshelf this year. It’s so great to hold the finished books and see the culmination of all that hard work from so many people.

Talking about The Duff, I was super excited to meet Kody Keplinger during my internship. The first day she came in I only managed a ‘hi’ – instead of what I wanted to say which was, ‘I’ve been stalking your blog since I saw you on AW and I can’t wait to read The Duff, but I haven’t found a convenient time to ask Joanna to read the ARC yet, so I just keep staring at it every time I’m in the office.’ Fortunately for me, Kody came in a few more times after this and I reined in the crazy. She talked about her path from query to agent to book deal and was happy to answer any questions - so helpful to hear all about the different stages. And I was lucky enough to read The Duff in July and gush over her/it when she visited for the last time.

My other big highlight was reading some fabulous unpublished manuscripts – I have three that easily landed in my top 20 YA books of all time, and one that would make top 5! I love picturing the day when manuscripts I’ve read and worked on this summer eventually turn up as ‘real books’ in the office. I mean, how lucky am I that I can read these years ahead of their pub date?

EJ - What was the hardest part of the internship?

GEM - I found that when I was reading 3 or 4 MS’s a week, my reading for fun had to take a backseat. Sometimes I was desperate to read but my eyes would just not allow me to focus. I did however find a way round this by buying some audio books to read on the packed subways and while cleaning the apartment. I’ve never tried audio books before, but I really enjoyed them.

EJ - You’ve witnessed agents in action, rejecting fulls or making offers. From what you’ve seen, what makes them say “I want it” – writing? Concept? Hook? Marketability?

GEM - It’s a mixture of all of these, plus an amazing voice. A fantastic hook with a flat one-dimensional character isn’t going to work, and neither is a vivid main character in a boring story. However, I wouldn’t get hung up on all these things to start off with - just write the best book you can. Write a book for you, rather than worrying about the afterwards.

thank you TONS for your insight, Gem!
i hear the scratching of pens on paper and fingers on keyboards, as people add Personal Demons and The Duff to their “to be read” piles. i know they’re both on mine.

whether you’re looking to break into the business or just looking to learn more about the agenting side of the biz, i hope this interview was helpful. there was definitely a lot i didn’t know myself.

NOW – here’s a chance to get even more of Gem’s expert insight!
interns are a second set of eyes for agents on everything from queries to manuscripts. so how would you like the chance to have an experienced intern give you feedback on YOUR query? Gem has generously offered to give a query critique to one lucky winner! (and let me tell you – Gem is my beta, so i can say from experience – you want her input. It’s invaluable!)

To enter, just leave a comment on this post.
for bonus entries, let me know in the comments if you:
- follow this blog (+1)
- tweet or blog a link back to this post (+1)

the contest closes at 8pm Central Time Wednesday. the winner will be determined by a random drawing and will be announced this Thursday, September 9th.

thanks again to Gem for taking the time to give us a peek behind the curtain at the magic that is interning/agenting. if you have any additional questions for Gem, go ahead and ask in the comments. she'll be back by to answer any pressing Qs i didn't think of.
Good Luck in the contest!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

mi beta es su beta!

today is the day!!!

this is your chance to win a query or 5-page critique from my beyond-awesome beta reader and FinePrint super intern, Gemma Cooper!

to win, enter the EPIC SUMMER CONTEST hosted at the links below.

also, absorb tons of good advice from both Gemma and Meredith Barnes (assistant to uber-agent Janet Reid) in a spectacular two-part interview!

part one is HERE. link! click it!

part two is HERE. link! click it!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

secrets of a successful BLOG

in 2005, Technorati (the ultimate tracker of the blogosphere) reported: a new blog is created every second.

by 2008, the same group was tracking more than 100 million blogs.

it's now 2010, and you're trying to grow your blog following, to create a voice that can be heard over the online cacaphony. i understand why the above statistics may make you want to give up.
but a successful blog can emerge from the din. in fact, one blog that started quietly in march of this year, is now screaming louder than just about any other page in the circle of pre-published YA author blogs - netting hundreds of followers in a few short months.

don't be jealous. just Grab a Pen, and get ready to take some notes... because i present to you an interview with represented author and blogosphere sensation, the one and only:

(but you can call her Tahereh)

ej: you've been blogging since march. some people have been blogging for years and have only a couple dozen followers. you have 425! as a pre-published author, that is a fairy tale. do you have any idea how your blog exploded virtually overnight??

thmafi: um. yes and no. i mean, i don't think my blog actually exploded or anything, but i do think it's pretty cool that people like it enough to follow. i really want to say i have no idea how this happened, but that's not entirely true -- because i researched industry blogs for nearly six months. i read EVERYTHING. i watched popular blogs not only for their amazing content, but because i wondered at how and why they were successful. i studied these things pretty closely. i took the time to ask myself what *i* would want to see in a blog, and made it happen. from the aesthetics to the content -- i never post anything haphazardly.

a couple of points:

a. write with a specific group of people in mind. this helps tremendously, because having a target demographic makes it easier to customize posts. in the literary world, our interests are simple enough: we're looking for a community. we want support. we want to feel like we're not flailing, miserable, lonely and doomed to fail. we want to laugh off the bad times and smile despite the rejection that is an invariable element of the publishing world. there's enough dreariness in life that there's no need to point it out on in a space you hope to share with others. we can't stomach so many depressing things every single day; there has to be an outlet. there has to be a bright spot of hope somewhere, and as much as i try to create that in my own life, i try to recreate it on my blog.

if i had to guess at one thing, i'd say that the upbeat atmosphere i try to maintain in my small internet space is by far my most effective tool in bringing people together.

b. your blog has to look GOOD. if you have enough of a platform, this isn't always necessary, because people will want to read what you write regardless. but it's just like going into someone's house -- if their living room is cluttered and chaotic, it doesn't matter how many times they invite you to stay for tea -- you're going to want to run. you have to create a welcoming environment with soothing colors and graphics and SIMPLICITY. too much clutter is never a good thing -- especially not on a webpage. and if you have too many graphics glittering and glowing and blinking at people, it'll only serve to distract from the focus of your blog. your MAIN header. your MAIN objective. create categories, spaces, different areas that focus on different things. keep your posts clean, minimal, easy to read.

BOTTOM LINE: make things as easy as possible in every single way. links? easy to access. articles? easy to access? pictures? easy to access. everything has to be user-friendly. don't confuse people. (ej note: i should point out here that the green "grab a pen" and "TH Mafi" text above this interview are both clickable links to Tahereh's blog. i probably should have made that clear. on Tahereh's blog, anything clickable is clearly stamped with a 'CLICKY!' note. i'm learning already.)
ej: authors/bloggers often struggle to find topics to write about. you seem to have a bottomless well of ideas. what have been your most successful blog topics - the ones that drew the most hits and/or comments?

thmafi: this is hard to answer, because the response is so varied and vague. people love Funny just as much as they love Inspirational. they love Motivational just as much as they love Informational. it's not JUST content. it's about how you PRESENT that content. be focused when you need to be, be researched when you need to be, be self-deprecating when you need to be, but no matter what, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS be humble, be patient, be kind. ALWAYS.

ej: ZOMG, your blog is TOTES overflowing with voice! FOR SERIOUS, it has more voice than edward cullen has sparkles!!
do you think a consistent voice/persona strengthens your blog and why?
(if that question reads like it's in another language, you clearly haven't been reading Tahereh's blog: Grab a Pen)

thmafi: absolutely. i never even thought about this when i first started blogging because my "voice" is just my "voice". it's the same voice i use in text messages, in emails to my family, in random notes passed back and forth between friends. but in retrospect i realize the same "voice" we ache for in literature is just as important in a blog. after all, you expect readers to READ. people want to know there's a human being behind those words. so be HUMAN. be willing to laugh at yourself; don't be cold, collected, sterile or TOO PERFECT. no one wants to be friends with a machine. we like people we can relate to, people who have shared our pain and can empathize with our struggle. being sincere, being GENUINE -- this is your voice. embrace it.

ej: are you - and if so, HOW are you marketing your blog? do you cross-pollinate with tweets and forum link love?

thmafi: i don't market my blog except through twitter. i always let my twitter-friends know whenever i've posted a new blog entry. i try to keep up with the blogroll on the AbsoluteWrite forums, but sometimes i forget to update it. so... no, not really marketing it.

ej: your blog posts often come with fun and fancy graphics (that i believe you create yourself, right?), which can only mean your blogs take twice as long to put together as everyone else's. how do you possibly find the time?

thmafi: yea, if i remember correctly, every single graphic you've ever seen on my blog thus far has been of my own creation. so yes. my blog posts sometimes take FOREVER to make -- sometimes upwards of a few days, sometimes a few hours. (wow. and i thought i spent a lot of time on my blog!) i don't think i've ever written a post in under an hour. in addition to writing the post itself, i read and reread my posts for editing, formatting, grammar-mistakes, etc., at least five times before i even post it. and then i read and reread the post at least a few more times after i post it. i hate coming across blog posts that seem to have been written carelessly, riddled with errors of every kind. i never want to be that way with my readers. i never want to let them down. but i have no idea where i find the time, haha. i think the answer is i don't. i just never seem to sleep.

i don't mind though -- i blog because i love to do it.

ej: what made you decide to start blogging (and in what way is that decision related to your writing, if at all)?

thmafi: i've always wanted to blog. always. i've loved the idea since middle school. i had a couple of personal blogs in high school, and random people would always find me and tell me i was funny and/or strangely entertaining. i'd always be surprised that someone thought my trip to Home Depot was hilarious. i've always been comfortable with words, but i didn't want to start blogging as a WRITER until i had an agent. in a strange way, having an agent gave me a sense of purpose -- a kind of validation for devoting this much time to a blog. i think i needed that push.
(Tahereh is represented by Amy Tipton of Signature Literary Agency.)

but i also think it's incredibly important to build a platform as an author. i think anyone interested in pursuing the literary dream should have internet presence. the internet is our oyster these days, and we need to take advantage of it. it's FREE. it's a free resource. it's incredible. and the possibilities are ENDLESS. we just have to know how to use it.

ej: pay it forward! whose blogs inspired/impressed you and whose would you recommend following?


ej: this one is open. give us your best advice for bloggers looking to grow their ranks of followers/besties.

thmafi: this is a dangerously open-ended question. i could write a BOOK in response to this question. but if i have to boil it down to a few simple points, i'd reiterate the importance of being sincere. reach out to others and spare people a comment or two on their blogs. be kind. be supportive. don't bring angst and negativity into the blogosphere. connect with people on a human level while supplying them with something they can actually use -- information of any kind, as long as it's PERTINENT. and even then, don't go overboard. mix it up. don't be too serious or too outlandish all the time, because people will get bored. don't be pretentious and don't OVERSHARE with personal details. leave people wanting more.

it sounds kind of complicated, but it's not -- it's called being human. we have a million different interests and emotions, and our moods are constantly changing. think about yourself and your own interests. think about the things blogs have done that've turned you off.
and then AVOID all of those things.

but no matter what, don't forget to SMILE. :D
and i hope this interview made all of you smile.
now, the best way to better your blog is to watch and learn, just as Tahereh suggested. so I suggest you start by observing how she does it. check out the "Grab a Pen" blog at: