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.


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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