How Did I Come Up With the Plot for THE MAN I WANT TO BE?

This seems to be the most common question authors get.  Where do you come up with your ideas? What makes you want to write about a certain character or setting? 

My answer is usually always the same -- I have no idea.  I spend a lot of time walking around with my head in the clouds, thinking about new characters or fun places to set a story. Some are great ideas, others are just that--ideas that don't fully develop into a strong plot. I have a notebook full of things that come to me while I'm trying to sleep, or in the shower, or riding in the car.  Watching movies is a big one too. I'll often watch a movie, and it will spark inspiration for me to write something about a character similar to the one I just watched on screen. 

Sometimes though, it's more personal. 

For THE MAN I WANT TO BE, it was very personal.

It's not a secret how close I was to my grandmother. I dedicated that book to her and I spend a lot of time honoring her memory in the funny grandma characters I write. She was a special lady and I miss her dearly.

When I was coming up with the plot for TMIWTB, I knew it needed some sort of suspense aspect (since it's a romantic suspense novel, after all), but it was taking place at a destination wedding. I didn't want a drug dealer coming in and ruining the perfect day for my characters (much like the what happened in ON HER SIX and IN WALKED TROUBLE), so I tried to tame it down a bit.

But for the life of me, I couldn't think of a good plot that would be fun, suspenseful, and believable for a destination wedding. 

Around the time I starting plotting this book out, we had moved my grandmother into assisted living as it was getting too dangerous for her to live on her own.  It killed us.  We hated the idea of shoving her into a place with people she didn't know, into a room that wasn't her house, with a roommate who yelled at her all day long. But most importantly, we hated the fact that we couldn't watch over her ourselves as much as we wanted to. Everyone in my family works strenuous 9-5 jobs (even me. This author thing is a side gig) so we weren't able to be home to take care of her day in and day out. So we had to do what we could to keep her safe.

One day, during a routine trip to the doctors office, my grandmother's wedding ring (the ring she wore for 50 years that originally belonged to HER mother) went "missing."  No one at the assisted living facility could locate it.  She apparently had it on that morning, got on the transportation bus they use to take folks to the docs, and she wasn't wearing it when she came back to the facility. . . 

The ring was never found.

It happened more than 2 years ago, and my heart STILL hurts to think about. 

So what does any self-respecting author do when faced with an emotional crisis? 

We write about it.

My grandmother's missing ring was the inspiration for the main suspense plot in THE MAN I WANT TO BE.  I needed to use it, to CONTROL the situation, and imagine a different outcome.  In this novel, Kenna McCord's late mother's ring goes missing at the wedding, she thinks someone stole it, so she and the hero, Bryan Tyke, go on an investigation to find it.

Although we never found my grandmother's ring, I made for damn sure that Kenna got her mother's ring back. (Sorry to ruin the ending for you, readers. But all of my characters always get their happy ending!) It was the one thing I could control. I HAD to make sure Kenna didn't have that hole in her heart that I still have today. She deserved to have that piece of her mother with her always. 

And every night I go to sleep, thinking and dreaming about my next big story, I imagine my grandmother haunting the ever-loving hell out of whoever had the audacity to steal her ring. It gives me a tiny bit of solace. And I might even smile about it from time to time. 


THE MAN I WANT TO BE is book #3 in the Under Covers series. Although it is in the same world with the same characters as books #1 and #2, it can be read as a standalone.

My Recap of 2017 & My Theme Word for 2018!

Well, folks. 2018 is upon us. I don't know how we got here, but it's time to face it. I'm not one of those people to get wrapped up into resolutions and all that, but I am someone who believes that we have to reflect on the past in order to understand and appreciate where we're heading into the future.

My recap of 2017:

2017 started out well. I spent the first few months finalizing edits for my second full-length novel, IN WALKED TROUBLE, which released 31 July 2017. I was really proud of that story. All the writing classes I'd taken, the resource books I'd read, critique partner advice I'd listened to over the last however many years culminated into a fun, action-packed novel that I'm super proud of. I just felt really good about it. Feedback was really great on IWT, too. So I was flying high! 

Once final edits for IWT were done and off to my publisher for print, I was approached by some members of my local RWA chapter, Maryland Romance Writers, to contribute to a beach-themed anthology. Uh, that was a no-brainer since the beach is my FAVORITE place in the world. If I could live on the beach every day, I would. So I gladly accepted the invite. 

And then had to write my TAIL off.

I had a total of two months to whip together a novella that would be worthy of the other four ladies in the anthology. We're talking USA Today Bestsellers I was publishing alongside, people. I had to bring it! I had never written a novella before and had never written anything in less than two months. This project was great because it ended up teaching me how to fast draft

And that's how ANYWHERE WITH YOU was born. Talk about a FUUUUUN story to write. While the timeline might have been restrictive, the plot wasn't. I could write whatever I wanted about a locale that I was super pumped to write about. I'm really happy how that story turned out.  Quirky, contemporary romance with loads of LOL moments. It was published as part of the Destination Love anthology with Christi Barth, Eliza Knight, Misty D. Water, Piper J. Drake, and me, and was only available for a few short months during the summer. We donated 20% of all sales to an organization called Final Salute Inc., who provide housing for homeless women veterans and their children. It's a really great cause, and we were excited to do our part to help.

ANYWHERE WITH YOU isn't available now for purchase; once the timeframe for the anthology ended, all authors got the rights of their stories back to release on our own, so that's what I'm going to do. I want to self-publish it this summer. If you're a blogger or reader and you're interested in helping to spread the word on release day, let me know! I would appreciate the support!

After IWT and AWY released, I had another bit of good career news. I signed with an agent in August! I am proud to say I am now represented by the incredible Jessica Alvarez at Bookends Literary Agency!!  For those who aren't aware of what an agent does, she is the super important business partner who helps sell an author's work to publishing houses, negotiate contracts to get us the best deals, offers constructive criticism on our writing, and all around helps steer an author's career based on the author's individual goals. Agents are also really great sounding boards when we authors are having a tough day.

Which I needed not long after signing with Jessica. I lost my grandmother at the end of August, and it was fortuitous that I wasn't working on deadline, because I would've never been able to finish anything on time. My mind and heart just wasn't into anything. For those of you familiar with my work, I write a lot of humor into my stories, most if it coming in the form of quirky and confident old lady side characters. Usually they are in the form of grandmothers to my main characters. Why? Because my grandmother was a huge influence on my life. I got 99% of my humor and quirk from her. She was a unique lady who loved her family, loved to laugh, and was always confident in who she was. She never gave a damn what other people thought about her. She was unapologetically her. I don't think I intended to write stories with as many old ladies as I have (so far my entire Under Covers series has old ladies, and I have a new, soon-to-be-announced series I just sold that includes them, as well), but I think deep down my psyche was just longing to get my grandmother down on paper. I had to share her with the world. And, as I'm writing this, I realize that was the best idea I ever had. Now that she's gone, I will always have a piece of her with me. Immortalized in my stories that I've shared with you. Her laugh was infectious, and in this day and age, I think we all could use a bit more laughter and humor.

The next few months flew by as I attempted to get my brain back in working order. I'm happy to say that Jessica and I sold a new series, which I'm working on now. It'll be a three book series, this time set in a small coastal town with everyday heroes as the main characters. The first book is about a fireman and wanna-be romance novelist who just can't seem to get their grandmothers to stop fighting and wrecking the town. I can't wait until there are more details available so I can share them with you!

So... what does all of that mean for 2018??

Well, from the outside, you might be saying, Christina, based on what you've outlined, you've had a pretty successful year. You published two books, signed an agent, and sold a new book series.

Yes, I have. But I didn't produce nearly as many results as I'd planned on 1 January 2017. I let myself down. I didn't take care of my health. I let my eating habits go by the wayside. I made excuses as to why I wasn't writing anything new. I chose to surf the internet rather than sit and write a new chapter or two. I downloaded a crap-ton of new resource books to help improve my craft, and didn't crack any of them open. 

No. More. Excuses. 

I've thought long and hard about how I want this upcoming year to go. I'm more serious about my 2018 goal setting because I know that if you don't set a goal and create actionable steps toward it, you won't achieve it. So, here's what I've outlined so far.

What I want to achieve in 2018:

- Write 3 full-length novels 

- Traditionally publish 2 full-length novels 

- Self-publish ANYWHERE WITH YOU 

- Write more blog posts and keep you guys current on the great (and maybe not so great) things going on here in my world.

- Serve as a resource to up-and-coming authors. This is a big one. There were authors I looked up to when I was an unpublished author who offered pointers and tips. I'd really like to pay it forward. (hint, hint. If you're an author and you need help, don't hesitate to send me a message. Writing is an awfully lonely profession sometimes. We're all going through the same things, though we don't always talk about it out loud.) 

- Network more this year. I'm a hermit by nature. I'm only usually outgoing in small groups of people. I'd like to put myself out there more. Attend events. Serve on panels. Talk about myself and my writing without feeling like I'm bragging or like I'm inexperienced.

- I want go to a huge author signing event and, well, sign my books for readers.  I've never done this. And I want to do it so badly! Despite the fact that I'm a hermit, I LOVE meeting new people. Especially readers. I really want to meet them in person.

- Hire a personal assistant to help me keep up with and post on social media. I didn't post very much last year and really want to increase my presence. I need a guru to keep me engaged!

- Get a better handle on my schedule. I'm not a full-time author. I work a full-time job, have two young kids (7 and 4), with a husband who is a cop and works unconventional hours. I want to stop using our crazy schedule as an excuse not to write more. I have pockets of time where I can sit at my computer, I showed that in 2016, so I need to do a better job of setting aside time to do it. I want to start using The Compound Effect again to do it. 

- This kind of goes with the more blog posts thing, but I want to give my readers more of a glimpse into my real life. Apart from my love of Chris Hemsworth, Marvel movies, and hot weather, I don't really talk about other things I love. I want to show my readers that I'm a real person just like them. It's what I love seeing from authors I read/follow, so I want to be able to do that for my readers, too.

- And finally, I want to take better care of my health. Specifically, I want to start making better choices on food. We made the decision back in 2015 as a family to eat clean, but I most definitely didn't follow the basic principles last year. It was so much easier and quick to forgo my meal planning and basic exercise in lieu of ordering out and sitting on my butt binge-watching Teen Wolf, Vikings, and Outlander. (All AMAZING, btw!)

So, in an attempt to wrap up everything I want to accomplish in 2018, I've decided my theme word will be: 


It perfectly describes what I need in order to accomplish all of that, but more importantly, it signifies that I simply need to keep going. Keep up the momentum and the rest will take care of itself. The list feels daunting at the first of the year, but it's not if I keep moving forward and ticking items off one-by-one each day, week, and month of the year.

So there you have it, folks. My plan for 2018. I've outlined all this not so I can just say, "Hey look what I'm going to do!" 

No, I laid this out because I know that if I make it public, if I put it out there for others to read, then I'll feel more compelled to hold myself accountable to it.

How about you? What are your goals for this year? Let's do this!



Getting Published is HARD

It is. 

There are so many factors that play into getting published:

Writing your novel.
Editing your novel.
Letting other people read and critique your novel.
Querying your novel.
Finding an agent.
Finding an editor.
Selling your novel.
Editing your novel again.
Editing again.
Rereading your novel. 
Hating your novel.
Loving your novel.
Hating it again.
Falling back in love with your novel.
Getting excited that your novel's pre-sale links are up.
Getting reviews from real readers.
Your book going on sale officially.
Sharing your story with others.
Enjoying the glow of being a first-time author!
Writing another book.

But if I could tell an aspiring author one thing that matters most about the entire publishing process, whether she is choosing traditional or self-publishing, it's have PATIENCE.  

This industry takes A LOT of patience. But it's totally worth it. The first time you see your book cover. The first time you see buy links. The first time you get a review--someone other than your mom or sister actually READ your freaking book! It's exciting.  

But it can feel like a roller coaster too. There are MANY times I told my husband I was going to give up. I wasn't sure I was good enough. I wasn't sure I had anything important enough that anyone would want to read. I wasn't sure I could do it.

I read a ton of stories from other authors who talked about their road to publication. How the road was bumpy. Some had hills, while others had pot holes, flat tires, and natural disasters to contend with. Hearing their stories gave me hope. I realized it's not meant to be easy. It's not meant to be quick. 

I had to earn it.

So if you're interested, or you need a boost of confidence like I did, below is my story of how I got published.

I started writing seriously around the summer of 2010. I was pregnant with my first son and something happened to my brain.  I'd always had a creative side, but it was amplified by a million while I was pregnant.  All I knew was that I had characters talking to me (got worried for awhile that I had actual voices in my head) and they had to be heard.  So I started writing. I listened to what they had to say about their struggles, their family, and their secrets. And I found that I really loved learning about them. And I especially loved using the things they told against them. I purposely put them in funny situations just to see how they would react.

But during that same time, since I was writing for my own enjoyment, I also realized that my stories didn't have a lot of structure. So I joined some writing groups and took online writing classes to learn about plotting.

And the entire time I was in the "learning" stage, I was dying. I didn't want to take the time to slow down and learn. I just wanted to get words down! I wanted to be published NOW! Which would explain why a lot of my early works had small bright spots, but as a complete novel they lacked depth and substance. 

I'd joined Romance Writers of America and Maryland Romance Writers, and found critique partners that were far more talented than me. But instead of backing away from their skill, I tried to leverage it. I asked questions. I listened to their advice. I read their work. And I started to see a difference in my own writing.

After about a year and a half, I had finally completed what I would call my first REAL novel. I felt more confident that it had three dimensional characters, it had the semblance of a plot, it had suspense, humor, and my voice. I feel like the last is the most important piece. Finding your voice as an author will help you more than anything. It's you. It's how you phrase things. No one can take that from you. 

So once I'd found my voice and my style of writing, and had a viable completed manuscript, I started querying agents. Also around the same time, I entered contests. RWA has a lot of great local chapter contests where you can submit the opening pages of your MS, and if you final, those pages can be viewed by judges, who are agents and editors in your genre. I focused a lot of my time on contests. I had a good number of requests for partials and fulls, and it really helped to boost my confidence. But it also helped me to see that I was on the right path. My writing was up to par. My hook was garnering interest. I was onto something.

I started to become more active on Twitter, attempting to network with other writers and experts in the industry. That's when I came across #PitchMadness.  It's a contest that Brenda Drake hosts with a slew of other really awesome authors and bloggers. I can't say enough about Brenda and her peeps.  Holy cow.  They go the extra mile for non-pubbed authors and really help give exposure to our work that I honestly feel we normally wouldn't get. It was a fantastic experience. I have to give major props to Summer Heacock, who is SUPER GIRL! She supported my pitch from day one.

If you're interested in reading my pitch, click here.  That contest was in September of 2013.  Three years after I started writing for real. Like I said, patience. I received a great number of requests from agents from that one pitch. It took two additional months to allow the agents to read through the partial or full they'd requested. I spent that time updating the MS based on their comments/wishes. Then November 2013 (Thanksgiving evening, actually) I received an email from my agent, saying that she'd like to represent me. I couldn't believe it. After three long years of blood, sweat and words, I had landed an agent!

But the story doesn't end there, folks. After I signed with her, we spent the next few months cleaning up the MS and making sure it shined. Then by January 2014, we had put my MS out on submission.

This is where the most patience comes into play.  This part of the process can feel like it takes FOREVER. For me, it was an entire year.  I signed with Entangled Publishing in January 2015. Five years after I'd started writing. And two years after I entered the querying/contest world. 

I continued to write to pass the time, honing my craft and working on stretching my abilities as an author. By January 2016, my editor and I were knee-deep in edits for my debut novel. And I'm happy to say that on Monday May 23, 2016, my novel, ON HER SIX, published!

Six years. It took me six full years of learning, trying, succeeding, failing, loving, hating, and learning some more before I was able to make it happen. I am a published author!!  

I know it might have taken much quicker for some authors, or much longer for others. To that I say CONGRATULATIONS. You didn't give up. You held onto your dream, and that's what matters. It's so easy to doubt yourself. To say that it isn't worth it.

But it is. Hold onto that feeling you get every time you sit down at the computer. Hold onto the feeling you get when you laugh/cry/love something your characters say or do. Hold onto it.

It's worth it.

Keep writing.


How to Write in Deep POV

Deep Point of View is essentially getting into your character's head and letting the reader view the world as the character sees it and interprets it. It's the ultimate SHOW, DON'T TELL method.  It creates first-person intimacy with the reader even when writing in the third-person.

It means avoiding words like

felt, thought, saw, hoped

. . . and just recounting what the character actually felt, thought, saw, and hoped.


rivet your readers with deep pov-third person point of view-amazon-kindle-writing tips-romance-author-publishing tip-how to-write

Well, first because it pulls the reader deeper into the story. It invokes deeper emotion and attachment from the reader toward the characters and story.

Second, because the character wouldn't tell someone a story by saying, "When I opened the door, I saw the bird fly away." She would simply say, "When I opened the door, the bird flew away."

The key is to pull the reader into the story and let them experience the excitement, fear, suspense, and happiness with the character.


Not deep POV -

"He smelled her perfume and then felt her come up behind him and wrap her arms around his waist. He figured she was trying to butter him up."

Deep POV -

"Her alluring floral scent hit his nose seconds before heat infused his back as she wrapped her arms around him. Must be her way of trying to butter him up."

The first is a boring account that he smelled her and felt her come up behind him.  The second is a first-hand account in his words how her coming up from behind affected him. He's explaining to the reader how it made him feel, without saying, "It made me feel..."

Another example: 

When you hear a car horn, you don't think, "I hear a car horn."  Instead, your brain says, "That's a car horn."  Do the same with your writing.  Filter out the extra unneeded words that TELL the reader what the character is experiencing. Get right to what's happening instead.

You wouldn't think to yourself, "I think brussels sprouts are gross." You instead think, "Eww, brussels sprouts are gross!" 

One of the best books I've read about deep POV is Rivet Your Readers with Deep POV by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. She gives great, specific examples to show the difference between telling the reader what happened and showing them.

Here's one: 

Shallow POV: "Noxious fumes filled the air."

Deep POV: "Was that sulfur? Her nose scrunched and she pinched her nostrils closed with her thumb and index finger as she held her breath."

I like to think of deep POV as the character telling their best friend a story. Recounting exactly what happened in their own words.

I wouldn't tell my best friend a story and say, "I felt the ground shake so hard." Instead, I would tell her, "The ground shook so hard that I had to grab onto the wall for balance." See how the second example is more interesting? It also gives the reader a more specific gauge of how hard the ground shook.

What I love about deep POV is the fact that it's different for EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER.  

Based on who they are, where they're from, their education, background, beliefs, and values will dictate HOW the character describes the story. They will use certain dialect, profanity, and direct thought exclamations that are specific to them. Two characters who are in the same situation will react to and recount the situation MUCH different.

This is especially helpful because then the reader knows exactly who is talking without the use a dialogue tag. 

What is your experience with deep POV?  Have you tried it? I'd love to hear your thoughts about how you make it work in your writing.


How to Write a Query Letter to a Literary Agent

If you're going the traditional publishing route, meaning that you want to land a literary agent and want your novel pitched to big-NYC publishing houses, then you have to learn how to write a query letter.

This is probably even more important of a task than actually writing your novel. 

Why?  Because a query letter can make or break your chance at getting an agent or editor interested in your novel. If you don't peak their interest right away, then it won't matter how amazing your novel is.

There are four parts to a successful query letter: 

  1. The Intro/Hook
  2. The story (think back-cover blurb)
  3. Your credentials/accomplishments
  4. Call to action

The Intro/Hook

This is the opening paragraph in your query when you hint at what your novel is about and hook the agent/editor into wanting to read more. This is (some say) the most important piece of the query.  I would agree.  A good hook shows that you have a great handle on what your book is about and you know exactly where it fits into your niche.  Think about what it is you have to offer and what would make an agent/editor stop and take notice.

It's good practice to include the word count, genre, and title of your work in the opening paragraph. It also helps to offer if your work is similar to another author they either represent or might be aware of.

The Story

This is where you introduce the agent or editor to your story. It is usually two (but no more than three) paragraphs showing the plot, characters, and conflict. Keep it short and interesting. What is the theme of the novel? Who are the characters and what is their main struggle? If it's a romance novel, how does the romance either help or hinder the characters in achieving their goals? Did you summarize the story enough that it's intriguing without being confusing?

Summarizing an 80,000 word novel into two paragraphs can be a feat.  But if you know who your characters are, what their main goal is, and who/what is keeping them from it, then that's most of the battle. Agents and editors want to see that you recognize and can define your plot and conflict.

This is a great part of the query to think about what sets your story apart from others in its genre. Mention it. Sure, your story has to fit into a niche somewhere, but what is it that helps it stand out from just another romance novel?

Your Credentials/Accomplishments

This paragraph is where you'll speak about your experience and accomplishments. 

  • Did you final or win a writing contest? 
  • Do you belong to a local or national writing chapter? 
  • Did you work for a publishing house as an assistant editor?
  • Did you query this agent before with another project and they requested a partial or full? (This shows that they like your style and voice, the previous project just wasn't right for them, but the new project might be)

Don't be shy and don't be afraid to toot your own horn. Agents and editors want to know if your story resonated and/or generated interest with others. 

Call To Action

Invite the agent/editor to contact you if they'd like to read more. If you've been querying and have had interest from other agents, be sure to say that you have the partial or full MS out for consideration. (No need to say you're querying other agents. That's a given.) Again, if agents are requesting a partial or full of your MS it shows that your story is garnering interest from others and is worth taking a look. 


End the query thanking the agent profusely for their time. Make sure to include all of your social media links in your signature so they can see how serious you are about helping to promote your work. (This is of course IF the social media links you're including are up to date.)

Writing a query takes a lot of time and patience.  Most authors don't get it right on the first try. Even veteran authors have to write and rewrite their queries to get them just right.  That's why valuable critique partners or writing friends come in handy. You HAVE to have someone in the industry read through your letter to make sure it shines.  

You get one chance to make an impression -- make sure it's a great one.

Below is an example of a winning query I used for my debut novel, ON HER SIX (the original title was changed).

Dear Ms. NAME,

I am seeking representation for my 86,000 word single-title romantic suspense novel, ON HER SIX. This story has placed first in the Smoky Mountain Romance Writers Laurie Contest and the North Texas RWA Great Expectations Contest, and placed second in the Maryland Romance Writers Vixen Contest. It has also been requested in full by an editor at XXX Publishing House.


New neighbors are bad news according to Samantha Harper. Especially ones as suspicious and brooding as the one who just moved in next door. So when Sam learns of a new highly-addictive drug sweeping the city, threatening those she loves—and her neighbor seems to know everything about it—the aspiring cop in her takes action. Leading her elderly, all-female neighborhood watch in a stakeout to learn as much as they can about the new guy, the group instead sees more of their buff neighbor than they bargained for.


After his screw-up in South America, resulting in a demotion and loss of his team, all DEA agent Ash Cooper wants to do is lay low and survive this crappy surveillance assignment. But after a run-in with his annoying neighbor and a pack of meddling grannies, he realizes that’s going to be much harder than he planned. Doing all he can to keep the women at bay, Ash begins to repeat his past mistakes and does the one thing he swore he’d never do again—trust a beautiful woman.

I am an active member of Romance Writers of America, Maryland Romance Writers, as well as an online critique group. 


As stated on your submissions page, below you will find the first chapter and synopsis of my manuscript.


I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time.

There you have it.  Now go out and send yours off! Good luck!!

*If you'd like to check out my publishing journey, from writing and sending out my query letter, to getting an agent, and releasing my first published novel. You can read that here


How To Land a Literary Agent to Represent You and Your Novel

Common questions most published authors get are, "How did you do it? Where did you start? How did you get your agent?" 

There are a ton of avenues for publishing once you've completed your novel. For me, I knew I wanted to go the traditional publishing route by finding an agent and having him/her pitch my manuscript to a publishing house. I didn't have enough experience in publishing to even attempt to know where to start with editing, publishing, and marketing my novel on my own. I needed a team of experts helping me. (That's not to say you can't have a team of experts helping you self-publish. I just knew I wanted to start my author journey with traditional publishing.)  Keep in mind that just because you land an agent doesn't automatically mean you'll get published, either. But it does increases your chances a lot. 

Agents are a great direct connection to the publishing world. They know what editors want and keep track of trends. 

There are lots of great ways to meet an agent and pitch to them. 

Some common methods are: 

  • Write a query letter
  • Pitch an agent at a conference
  • Enter a writing contest 
  • Be referred by another author

Pitching to agents can feel like a full-time job sometimes because of the time it takes to write and rewrite your query letter, make a list of which agents fit into your genre/interests, keep track of who you've sent letters to or spoken with, and who requested a partial or full of your MS.

Here are some steps to follow in your attempt at finding your perfect literary agent: 

Step 1:

Write your query letter

Make sure it's succinct, shows off your voice, and has a killer hook. Share it with your network of writer friends, your family, your mom--whoever.  Show it to SOMEONE so they can read it for typos, grammar, and also to see if it entices them to want to read your novel. If they aren't dying to check out your novel, then you still have some work to do.  It needs to draw them in and make them salivate to read more.

Step 2: Check out online resources like Query Tracker to help you find agents that represent the genre in which your write. 

Step 3: Make a list of all the agents, their contact information, authors they rep that are similar to your style, and how to contact them. I chose agents who ONLY accepted email queries.  Much faster to send and get a response back. Plus, in this digital age, I wanted someone up with the modern times.

Step 4: Prioritize your list of agents from OH MY GOSH YES! to THEY WOULD BE GOOD to THEY SEEM DECENT.

Step 5: Start testing the waters and send your query letter out. I chose 5 agents from each of my priority lists to start.  I gauged how well my query letter was based on the reaction I received back from them. If I received very few requests for a partial or full the first time I sent the letter out, I knew I had to go back to the drawing board. If I received some interest, I sent my letter out to 5 more agents on each priority list to test again. By the end of my list, I had a great response rate for partials or fulls.

Step 6: Keep track of the comments you're getting back, requests for partials or fulls, and rejections. It's not cool to resend your query to an agent if they've already responded once. Also, keep track when you sent your MS to agents so you can follow up.  Agents are busy, so don't send your MS out today and then expect a response back by next weekend. They need at least 4 weeks, some might ask for even longer. Once a reasonable amount of time has passed and you haven't heard anything, it's okay to follow up. Check out the agent's website to see if they list their anticipated response times. Most do.

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Step 7: If you get serious interest in your MS (and/or an agent would like to represent you), it's common courtesy to reach out to the agents who currently have your partial or full, and let them know so they can decide if they would like to have a chance to read it. Most will move your MS up in the queue and get to it quicker.  But DO NOT tell them you have interest or an offer from another agent if you really don't. That's definitely a NO-NO.

Step 8: Don't simply sign with an agent just because they offered representation. Make sure you and said agent are a great fit. Make sure you feel confident that they understand your desires for this business. Make sure they are the best-suited person to rep you and speak for you. 

Step 9: Ask questions to the prospective agent.

There are questions you can ask the offering agent(s) to help you decide if they are your best candidate: 

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  • What does the agent like best about your project?
  • Does the agent feel the project is ready for submission to publishers or will he/she require revisions?
  • If revisions are needed, are they small things or does he/she want a major plot or character development change?
  • Which publishing houses does the agent believe would be a good fit for your book? 
  • How many editors does he/she plan to pitch in the first round of submissions? (six or more at one time is average)
  • What is their communication strategy like? How often will he/she update you regarding the status of your submissions?
  • Is the agent interested in only this project? Or are they interested in your future books too?
  • Does the agency handle the sale of subsidiary rights (foreign, film, audio, translation)? 
  • What is their success rate? What projects have they successfully sold recently?
  • Can they offer referrals of current or previous clients that you can reach out to?

Step 10: Read and review the agent and author contract to make sure you can comply and agree with everything. There are standards of commission that agents earn, so check what the standard is in your market/genre. Most are 20% from what your publisher pays you.

Step 11: Once you've made your selection, be sure to reach out to the other agents you've queried and let them know that your project is no longer available for consideration. This is a SMALL industry. Don't be inconsiderate. 

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Step 12: Don't stop writing. Submitting your MS to publishers TAKES TIME.  Don't sit around waiting for word back. Keep your brain active and start working on another novel. It'll help you to pass the time quicker, plus it gives you a leg up if/when publishers want to see more work from you.

Step 13: Use your agent as a resource.  They are the expert when it comes to dealing with publishing houses. That's what you're paying him/her for. Get them involved in any hairy situation.

Step 14: Congratulations on your accomplishment!! Be proud of your hard work and that others are appreciating it.  Keep learning, keep honing your craft, and keep writing.

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*If you'd like to check out my publishing journey, from writing and sending out my query letter, to getting an agent, and releasing my first published novel. You can read that here