Lisa Regan: 10 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Sent My First Query

I'm happy to have fellow suspense author Lisa Regan at The Serial Killer Files today! Lisa offered to share what she's learned about publishing and what she wishes she'd known before she started querying.

Her debut novel, FINDING CLAIRE FLETCHER, is out now.

Two books. Six years from query to contract. 238 Agent rejections. 11 Publisher rejections.

It was a long, hard road. Especially because the feedback I got from both agents and publishers was very positive. They usually couched their rejection in glowing praise: "This is a great book." "These are strong projects." "You're a great writer." "I was on the edge of my seat reading this." "In many ways, this book is a home run." "It was very, very close."

Pass.

It wasn't something I could work on. It's not like they were saying my characters were flat or my plot had holes or my pacing was off. Those types of things can be fixed. Being "great" but getting passed on over and over? I was never quite sure what to do with that.

Still. I learned a lot of things from query to contract and here are the top ten tips I wish someone had given me back in 2006 before I sent out my first query:

1.    Don't let any agent or publisher read your book until it's really ready. Don't be in a hurry. Do the work to make it what I like to think of as "shelf-worthy". In other words, before it lands on the desk, or more likely the e-reader, of an agent or editor, it should be so tightly constructed and polished that it reads the same as any book you might pull off a shelf at your local bookstore. To get to that point, see #2.

2.    Get critique partners and beta readers. Use them. A lot. Ask both writers and regular old readers to read your manuscript and polish it up as best you can based on their advice. You'll need at least 5. I recommend a number closer to 10. Do not use people who have any emotional attachment to you. They will not be honest with you.

3.    Pay attention to your entire book. Plenty of people can write a fabulous opening chapter. But to get published, the entire book has to hold together. It has to make sense all the way through. Also you can't start out with a thriller and end as a romantic suspense novel. It won't work. If you're not sure your book makes sense or you're not even sure what type of book you're writing, see #2.

4.    Make sure your word count is within the acceptable range. I understand for my genre it's between 85,000 and 110,000 although the high range is frowned on, especially for debut novelists. Your "great" book will be rejected if it's too long.

5.    Don't be afraid to cut--words, scenes, subplots--to make the book shelf-worthy and keep your word count down. Not sure what to cut? See #2.

FINDING CLAIRE FLETCHER is out now! Click HERE to purchase.

6.    When an agent is on their second pass and they say they want to make a list of suggestions and go over them with you to see if you're both on the same page before offering representation--that means they're not going to sign you. That's a no. Take it as such.

7.    If an agent loves your book but passes anyway, ask for a referral. They'll usually give you one and although it certainly doesn't guarantee a contract, it will usually result in the referral agent at least reading your work.

8.    If you've sent out 10 queries and gotten no response, send more. I hate to break it to you, but 10 queries is not a lot. It is barely a drop in the bucket. If you've sent out 25 to 50 and gotten no response, then you might need to rework your pitch.

9.    Network, network, network. Find other writers and make friends with them. You'd be amazed how much easier rejection is to take when you've got a bunch of writer friends in your corner. Support them in their endeavors. We're all headed in the same direction. We need to help each other out.

10.    Do. Not. Stop. Keep writing, keep honing your craft, keep querying. This business is so hard. But if you've got a good book and you keep working at it, chances are that something will break eventually. If you stop, that won't happen for you. When you think it's madness to continue is exactly when you need to forge ahead and keep going.

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FREAK is out in the UK!

Very excited to share that Little Brown, my UK publisher, has launched The Crime Vault today, a site featuring some of the best digital titles in crime fiction!


For my UK friends, please click here to download FREAK.


Oh, and Happy December, everyone!

FREAK - Gangnam style!

Just kidding! Made you look! It's FREAK, UK style.

I'm excited to reveal my UK cover for FREAK, which launches December 1st in the UK as part of my publisher Little Brown's Crime Vault family! You can download a sampler of some of the Crime Vault books here.


Have I mentioned how lucky I've been with my covers? I'm not exaggerating; every single one has been gorgeous so far.

In fact, I think maybe we should celebrate gangnam style. This song was already all over the Philippines when I was there in September. All my cousins were doing the moves . . . and of course, hilarity ensued.




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Show & Tell in a Nutshell!

Click to add me to Goodreads!
I'm happy to feature my writing friend Jessica Bell today, who's written a book called SHOW & TELL IN A NUTSHELL: Demonstrated Transitions from Telling to Showing.

Have you been told there's a little too much telling in your novel? Want to remedy it? Then this is the book for you!

In Show & Tell in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions from Telling to Showing you will find sixteen real scenes depicting a variety of situations, emotions, and characteristics which clearly demonstrate how to turn telling into showing. Dispersed throughout, and at the back of the book, are blank pages to take notes as you read. A few short writing prompts are also provided.

Not only is this pocket guide an excellent learning tool for aspiring writers, but it is a light, convenient, and easy solution to honing your craft no matter how broad your writing experience. Keep it in the side pocket of your school bag, throw it in your purse, or even carry it around in the pocket of your jeans or jacket, to enhance your skills, keep notes, and jot down story ideas, anywhere, anytime.

If you purchase the e-book, you will be armed with the convenient hyper-linked Contents Page, where you can toggle backward and forward from different scenes with ease. Use your e-reader's highlighting and note-taking tools to keep notes instead.

The author, Jessica Bell, also welcomes questions via email, concerning the content of this book, or about showing vs. telling in general, at showandtellinanutshell@gmail.com

Reviews:
“Jessica Bell addresses one of the most common yet elusive pieces of writing advice—show, don't tell—in a uniquely user-friendly and effective way: by example. By studying the sixteen scenes she converts from “telling” into “showing,” not only will you clearly understand the difference; you will be inspired by her vivid imagery and dialogue to pour through your drafts and do the same.” ~Jenny Baranick, College English Teacher, Author of Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares
“A practical, no-nonsense resource that will help new and experienced writers alike deal with that dreaded piece of advice: show, don’t tell. I wish Bell’s book had been around when I started writing!” ~Talli Roland, bestselling author

Purchase the paperback:
$4.40 on Amazon US
£3.99 on Amazon UK

Purchase the e-book:
$1.99 on Amazon US
£1.99 on Amazon UK
$1.99 on Kobo

About the Author:
The Australian-native contemporary fiction author and poet, Jessica Bell, also makes a living as an editor and writer for global ELT publishers (English Language Teaching), such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

She is the Co-Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and co-hosts the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek Isle of Ithaca, with Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest.

For more information about Jessica Bell, please visit: 
Website
Blog
Twitter
Facebook

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THE MISTAKEN by Nancy S. Thompson


HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

I'm so happy to have my good friend and fellow psychological suspense writer Nancy S. Thompson at The Serial Killer Files today! Her debut novel, THE MISTAKEN, was released on October 18th from Sapphire Star Publishing, and I couldn't be more thrilled for her.


Thanks for hosting me today, Jennifer.  As a fellow author of a psychological thriller, Jennifer asked me to write a little something on villains. I’m doing so in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado shooting in which twelve people were killed and fifty-eight others injured during the opening night screening of The Dark Knight Rises

In sight of this tragedy, it seems natural to grapple for some kind of meaning, a reason why the killer did what he did. This is always important when writing villains into fiction. Whereas in reality, we often don’t know or even care the rationale behind the crime, in fiction, the reader must have a basic understanding behind the antagonist’s actions.

It would be easy to conjure up a straight-out psycho Dr. Evil-type of villain, but much more difficult to create one with whom the reader can sympathize or even empathize, that is to understand the reasoning behind his or her actions, to realize they have some justification for what they’re doing. Oddly enough, it won’t work for a writer to base their villain on those taken from real-life headlines. It’s that whole life-is-stranger-than-fiction thing. 

Jennifer wrote this post on Canadian killer Luka Magnotta, explaining how she’d never get away with creating a villain so moronic and sloppy. Why can’t we create villains like this?  Because not only are they not clever—a trait we love in our bad guys—but they’re not sympathetic, that is to say, we can’t possibly understand the reasoning behind their plan.  And therefore, they prove unbelievable, the one trait readers cannot tolerate in their fiction.

Often, these real-life maniacal killers—like at Virginia Tech or Colombine—commit suicide rather than risk being caught. So then all we ever hear about is how troubled they were, loners, bullied and misunderstood.  Even so, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend any justification behind their crimes.

Authors of fiction must examine and explore the mind of their antagonist so that readers can have some inkling of where they might go next and why. Readers want to know why the bad guy feels justified in doing such awful things. In my own novel, THE MISTAKEN, readers discover a long-held secret of past transgressions, so in the end, they can say, “Aha! That’s why the Russian mob guys hated them so much, why they wanted their own brand of vengeance.” They weren’t just evil for evil’s sake. They had family they loved and lost, just like the protagonist. They have a history just as rich. 

A good way to express the villain’s malevolence toward the protagonist is to show the damage his actions have on the main character’s emotions. Balance each act of evil against the protagonist’s wellbeing and tendency toward action or inaction. How does it impact his life, and how will he react? Does he spiral out of control, or will he find some way to overcome? 

The evil of the villain must have some equilibrium with the inherent decency of the good guy. The push of the hero must be compatible to the pull of the villain. That is to say, just as the bad guy should not be pure, psychotic evil, neither should the hero be all goodness and sunshine. They must each straddle both the dark side and that of justice in order to be believable and, therefore, relatable.   

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Guys, please visit Nancy’s blog, follow, and leave a comment during her book tour for a chance to win an ARC of THE MISTAKEN. Plus, she's giving away ebooks to five runner-ups!

You can also find her at Sapphire Star Publishing, Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook

Purchase THE MISTAKEN here:  
Amazon
Amazon Kindle
Barnes & Noble
B&N Nook
Sapphire Star Publishing

THE MISTAKEN will soon be available at Sony, Kobo, iBooks, Diesel Bookstore, and Baker & Taylor.

Early praise for THE MISTAKEN:

“Nancy S. Thompson's debut novel, THE MISTAKEN, is a first-rate thriller full of hair-raising twists and turns.  Pursued by the police and the Russian mafia in San Francisco, brothers Tyler and Nick Karras are fascinating, fully-drawn, desperate characters.  The action is non-stop.  Thompson's taut, intriguing tale of revenge, mistaken identity, kidnapping and murder will keep you enthralled and entertained.”
   ~ Kevin O’Brien, New York Times Bestselling Author of DISTURBED and TERRIFIED

“A deliciously slow burn that builds to a ferocious crescendo, Nancy S. Thompson's THE MISTAKEN kept me riveted until the very last page. Tyler Karras is a complex and flawed protagonist, and his redemptive journey makes him the perfect anti-hero. This psychological suspense is a standout, and I can't wait for Thompson's next book.”
   ~ Jennifer Hillier, author of CREEP and FREAK

“Fast-paced and emotionally gripping - once the ride begins, you won't stop reading until it ends."
   ~ Alex J. Cavanaugh, author of CASSAFIRE and CASSASTAR


The Mistaken Blog tour:

10/23:  Julie Musil
10/25:  Matthew MacNish
10/26:  LG Smith
10/27: Aimee Jodoin
11/19:  Arlee Bird

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October is full of good news

I'm a little bit late, but Happy October, everyone! October has always been my favorite month, thanks to pumpkin spice lattes, the trees changing colors, and Halloween, among other things.

And! I have all kinds of good news to share (so please excuse all the exclamation marks):

#1 – I'm excited to announce that my third book, MAGNOLIA, has been sold to Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books!

It's a standalone, so you won't see any of the folks from CREEP and FREAK in this one (at least I don't think you will, but I guess I shouldn't say that since I haven't actually written it yet). But I will say that I'm stoked to write something new with all-new characters who have totally new flaws. Release date is tentatively scheduled for June 2014, but I'll keep you posted. And since I haven't written it yet, I don't want to say anything about what it's about, because things always change as I'm writing.

#2 – The cover for the mass market paperback version of FREAK was sent to me while I was at Bouchercon

This cover may not be final yet, but here's a sneak peek of what they've come up with so far (it may change, and if it does, I'll post those versions, too). What do you think? I love the red! It's so bloody eye-catching. The release date for the mass market version is summer 2013.



#3 – I was on the Lifestyle Network in the Philippines! I remember doing a few TV interviews while I was there (at least three, I think) and I was told this particular clip aired about a week ago. While I have to admit I'm a little freaked out about seeing myself on TV (okay, a lot freaked out), I'm still glowing from the amazing coverage my books received while I was in Manila last month. I really couldn't have asked for a better book tour.



#4 – If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, FREAK will be featured tomorrow, October 17th, on Good Morning Texas, at 9 a.m. Central time, on WFAA Channel 8. I'm told it's the fifth largest US television market! If you can't catch the show, there will be a link to the segment on the show's website after it airs (and I'll add it to this post once it does). Woo hoo!



#5 - My good friend JB Lynn's newest book, FURTHER CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN, is out today! I loved JB's first book and can't wait to read this one. Congratulations, Jen!


Whew! Are you having a good October? Any good news to share?


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Bouchercon 2012

I wasn't able to go to Bouchercon in 2011, and I swear all I heard for months afterward was how awesome Bouchercon was. So there was NO WAY I was missing the event this year. After all, it's geared towards mystery, suspense, and thriller writers. Just like with ThrillerFest, THESE ARE MY PEOPLE!

I will say this: Bouchercon, for me, was all about the social aspect. I very nearly didn't go (because of a strained SI joint which resulted in the worst back pain I've ever had), but I wanted to hang out with my writer friends. And squeal over the authors I've long admired. And okay, maybe drink a little (but just a little). Don't get me wrong, the panels were great, but really, it was about the friendships.

Here's a roundup of my time in Cleveland, Ohio, in pictures!

At the bar the first night with good friend and debut author Nancy Thompson. Her book, THE MISTAKEN, comes out on October 18th! Can you tell my back was killing me?

With Nancy at our first panel of the conference.

Finally got to meet my writing friend, Alice Loweecey! Alice and I were in a writing group years ago, long before either of us got published. She now writes a mystery series about an ex-nun turned private investigator (and her books are awesome).

With author and friend Sandra Brannan, author of the LIV BERGEN MYSTERY series. I was lucky to see Sandra twice this year, first at ThrillerFest and again at Bouchercon.

With Nancy and Sandra, after Sandra's panel "Have Gun Will Travel" (which was about novels set in the wild west – so much fun!)

With new buddy Jeff Miller. We have the same agent, and his book, THE BUBBLEGUM THIEF, will be out this December.

Together at last! Best friends Nancy and Lisa Regan (whose book, FINDING CLAIRE FLETCHER, comes out this December) finally met for the very first time! I snapped this pic right when Lisa got off the train.

Bouchercon provided us with trolleys to get to and from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Arriving at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the Bouchercon opening ceremonies and party.

The Three Musketeers waiting for the doors to open.
 
Inside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – over 1,000 people attended the opening party!

At my favorite panel, "Mysteries & Movies", where Charlaine Harris, Robin Cook, Chelsea Cain, and Joseph Finder discussed their experiences with Hollywood.

With my buddy Dan Friedman, author of DON'T EVER GET OLD. Dan and I met a couple of years ago. We also have the same agent.

Finally got to meet fellow Canadian author, Robin Spano! She writes the CLARE VENGEL UNDERCOVER novels.

Lousy picture of me, but who cares! I'm with John Connolly and Karin Slaughter. You have my permission to be jealous.

Always so great to see amazing author and friend Hilary Davidson, whose latest book, EVIL IN ALL ITS DISGUISES, comes out this March.

Dinner with good friends and new friends at Flannery's Pub

Hanging with author Mark Pryor. His debut novel, THE BOOKSELLER, is out now! I highly recommend it.

With Will Lavender, author of the puzzle thrillers OBEDIENCE and DOMINANCE. I'm a huge fan of his books!

With my awesome friend Lisa Brackmann. I can't wait to read the sequel to ROCK PAPER TIGER!


At my panel, "Serial Killers", with Rick Murcer, Jennifer McMahon, Chelsea Cain, and Patrick Kendrick. Do you see me sitting alongside these amazing writers, trying to act like I'm not freaking out?

With Chelsea Cain. CHELSEA CAIN! I had stars in my eyes! Of course when we met, I couldn't help but blurt, "I'm your biggest fan!" in a very Kathy Bates/Misery kind of way. Luckily she was cool with it.

All in all, Bouchercon was such a great experience, and I would definitely go again next year. And if you write in the mystery/thriller/suspense genre, you should come, too! But for now, I have no more trips planned, and it's finally time to get back to the business of writing books. Which I'm itching to do.

And! I may have some good news to share in the next few days, so stay tuned . . .

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Philippine Book Tour, in pictures

I'm back! Sorry for the delayed update, but between jet lag, a horrible cold, and then a tweaked back (I'm in total pain as I type this), it's taken me a little while to get all my pictures organized.

If you follow me on Twitter or you "like" my Facebook page, you've probably seen most of these already, but just in case, here are the highlights of my three-week trip to the Philippines. There's so much more that happened than what I'm showing here, but there was just no way to include everything.

First day in Manila! After receiving a VIP welcome at the airport, I checked into my hotel and then the amazing folks from National Book Store took me, my dad, and my uncle out to lunch.

On the day of my Powerbooks/National Book Store book signing, with Jenny Javier from Simon & Schuster right before my media interviews.

Being interviewed by Xandra Ramos from National Book Store on stage. The sign behind us was huge!

Signing (photo courtesy of National Book Store).

Signing (photo courtesy of National Book Store).

Signing for my family in Manila (that's my Dad watching over me).

Who's this beautiful girl beside me? Why, that would be Samantha Sotto, author of BEFORE EVER AFTER. So happy we finally got to meet!

It was amazing to meet all my readers!

With Christine Lina from National Book Store, who made me feel completely comfortable at all my book events.

Dinner at a Japanese restaurant after the book signing with the National Book Store gang.

After my morning radio interview at 94.7 with Vince & Tracy. Radio is so much fun!

Hanging with Chad from National Book Store, who got me through all my media interviews. He's so much cuter than I am.

Taking a break between interviews. I kept having flashbacks to that movie Notting Hill – was the guy from Horse & Hound going to show up? ;) Maybe if I was Julia Roberts...

Hanging at the casino after a long day, where Manny took all my money.

Finally in Cebu! This sign greeted me as soon as I got to my aunt's house.

Dinner with the family! The men folk must be in a different picture.

Lunch at another aunt's pizza parlor. So yummy.

This is the beach at my aunt's resort, Hale Manna (which translates to "house of good energy"). Not a bad place to call home for a week. It was the perfect place to decompress after my first few crazy busy days in Manila.

Lounging in a hammock, reading my Kindle.

And at night, losing at mahjong.

Getting adobo cooking lessons from the chef at Hale Manna. Adobo is a traditional Filipino dish, usually made with pork or chicken and cooked in garlic, soy sauce, and vinegar.

While I was relaxing in Cebu, my feature in the Philippine Daily Inquirer came out!

Another feature (different day) in the Philippine Daily Inquirer!

My feature in the Manila Bulletin! There was also another feature in the Philippine Star, but I never got to read it.

When we got back from the beach resort, I happened to walk into a National Book Store and was bummed I couldn't find my books in stock. Then my Dad told me to turn around... I didn't realize I actually had my own little SECTION! Woo hoo!

At a different book store. CREEP is an "International Best Seller", right next to FIFTY SHADES!

Back to Manila for the Manila International Book Fair! Standing next to another huge sign. Oh how I wish I could have taken these signs home with me.

With Alex Gilvarry, my co-author at the event.

Being interviewed by Xandra Ramos of National Book Store. There were so many people watching.

And taking pictures of us...

Alex, me, and Xandra.

Having fun with the people attending the book fair!

Always so amazing to meet the readers.

I'm chatty. Clearly.

Book events done! At the Manila Polo Club having lunch with more family.

My dad took this picture of me towards the end of my trip. I think my expression says it all.

The trip to the Philippines was a dream come true. The wonderful people at National Book Store made me feel like a celebrity, and I had a great time at every book event and interview. In total, I had two book signings (one at Powerbooks and one at the Manila International Book Fair), I gave maybe seven interviews (four with national newspapers), and did three TV interviews and one radio show. Whew! And in between, I spent time with my dad and huge extended family, both in Cebu and Manila.

Oh, and I ate. A LOT. And yet somehow managed to lose seven pounds while I was away – and no, I didn't get sick at all! Go figure . . . maybe all that Filipino food agrees with me? 

I hope to go back to the Philippines again next year. It's a thrill to see my books in so many stores, and it was just plain fun to meet all my readers.

All right guys, I'm off to Cleveland, Ohio for Bouchercon, the huge crime fiction conference, and I'll be back next week with all the news!

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