Rookie Mistakes & the Learning Process

I find this to be a challenge, to write something of interest that might help another writer, when I myself am still learning the process.  So I suppose I’ll simply share what I’ve learned.

The biggest mistake I made was sending out pages of personal, and what I thought was moving, dialog about why my book was going to be important, or different, or special, to a hand picked list of publishers and agents.  I honestly thought someone, if not many, would obviously see the brilliance in my writing and my story and rush to sign me up immediately.  Boy was I in for a rude awakening.

Not only were there no phone calls, most don’t even respond in emails.  I began sending out queries before my book was even half way formed in my mind, let alone finished...big rookie mistake.  I had pages of what the story was about, literally three pages!  You can’t send three pages of a book synopsis in a query to an agent...what was I thinking?  Well, like I said, ROOKIE.

So I took it down a giant notch and went back to basics.  Let’s write the book first and then figure this out.  And here’s what I’ve learned.

You are going to have to whittle and cut and give up some important words of description, things that you think...well, there’s no way I can edit that out...think again...because in order to garner someone’s attention, you get a paragraph at best.  Through all my research and hours on the internet, attempting to find the best advice, the proven method, the right way to do it, the one thing that became increasingly clear...they want it short and sweet.  No frills, no expletives, and whatever you do, nothing personal...this is business.  They see thousands of these a month, and they know what they are looking for.   You’ve  got to keep it succinct, not too many names of characters, or sub plots,  just the basic striped down idea.  I know, not too magical huh?

I’m telling you, the best thing you could do is to write what your book is about in two sentences.  Yes, I said two sentences.   Once you get that down, seriously, two completely perfect sentences, then go ahead and start to embellish a bit more to round it out and get your paragraph, or your 250 words.  I read somewhere that if you can’t describe your book in a sentence or two, right off the top of your head, your days are numbered.  

Let’s say you’re at an event and there are agents, publishers, and say you actually are able to get a friendly dialog going with someone and they actually ask you what your book is better have those two perfect sentences ready to dazzle them with.  You can’t stumble and stammer and stand there thinking about it, and you certainly can’t give them a long winded dialog.  You’ll end your big chance before it’s even begun.
A tag line can go a long way if you have the right one.  A tag line is taking  two other books or a movie, that are similar in content to your book, that were well received or exciting, and putting it together to grab someone’s attention.  This is a good thing to do when it’s done correctly.  

I took my tag line from a reader, I liked what she said and I thought it would get the attention I was looking for...oh it got attention all right, but not necessarily the kind I always wanted.  It started out pretty good at first, then things changed.

Here’s how it went for me.
“It’s Harry Potter meets the Celestine Prophecy.”  

Now this went two ways for me. For adults who know what the Celestine Prophecy is and understood the idea of what putting these two examples together could mean, I usually got a really great response, which is always encouraging.  However, and this is the big thing, it took me some time to realize that my book wasn’t written for adults, A, and B the minute you say Harry’re opening yourself up to a whole other criticism, especially from book critics!   Not only did I touch on sacred ground, but I put myself on such a high level that I only left myself open for attack.  
The good news for me is that the reviews I’ve had who did mention Harry Potter (and not always in an good way at first like, “I find my head spinning when someone compares their book to Harry Potter...:however....”  I’m paraphrasing of course), all agreed it had the same flavor in adventure, or it did remind them of HP, so I lucked out on those few.  However, I have since then taken that line out of my description.  You don’t need to set yourself up that way, let critics come up with the comparison on their own.  So my advice is to pick your tag carefully.  And keep writing and rewriting and whittling it all down till you get your stock answer down to the inevitable question...”Oh, what’s your book about?”

In the meantime, do I have my perfect two lines to share with you....let’s see?  Well actually, I’m still working on that, you didn’t think I miraculously figured everything out just like that did you?

By June Pace. June lives with her husband and best friend Ray, her step-son and their two dogs, five chickens and two ducks, in Santa Cruz Ca. Her two older step-kids live respectively in LA and San Francisco.

June spends her days writing and sometimes painting her well known series of Rock n Roll icons.  June and Ray own Madrona Rust, a line of unique, hand-made rustic furniture.

This series of work, the McTish characters, are a part of June in every sense of the word.  “This work brings a deep sense of joy and passion for me in a very profound way, like nothing else that I do.

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  1. Hey, I really appreciate the post was nice to depart from the usual questions and answers…thx again, June

  2. Oh my goodness - excellent post! Thank you thank you thank you! I've never worked with agents before and wouldn't have even known where to begin, but I feel like your post has helped me and will continue to be a help down the road.

    falcondraco at Hotmail dot com

    1. Wow! Nice to hear Leslie…if I can help you further, please feel free to contact me…it's good to speak with other each other along. Glad I help someone, June

  3. Helpful post

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  4. "Very helpful. As a rookie myself, I appreciate the tips!"


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