Thursday, October 15, 2020
                                                                                                                                                   Photo: Jude Beck                                                                                                              


Last week, I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.* The first email I opened was a notice that one of my favorite picture book manuscripts had been rejected.  Then that afternoon, my publisher called to say my educational children's book won't be published until 2022, even though she had planned to have it published this year.  I had such high hopes for both of these books.  Now, I felt so bummed out.     

The writing life is not always sunny.  It's a roller coaster ride of highs and lows.  More lows than highs, it seems.  It takes days, weeks, months to come up with an idea and put it in words, then edit and edit and edit and submit and submit and submit and quite often you get a no thank you, it's a pass, it's not a good fit for my list or the market is not right for your book.  

It's easy to feel hopeless.  But this is what I signed up for.  No one forces me to be a writer.  This is my choice.  And I have to accept the fact that rejection and setbacks are part of it.  I know this.  I've known this for over twenty years.  

A day like this causes me to look back at my life and realize that it has been a journey of learning to be patient.  At the age of 28 I thought I'd never get married.  Two years later, I met my soulmate.  

At the age of 42, I wanted to be published in a children's magazine and three years later I was published in Highlights for Children.  

From that time on, I began to look for a publisher for my picture book and many years later, it was published by a small press.  

I have been successful in my personal life and with my writing career—it just takes some time.  But patience wasn't on my mind on this very bad day.  I needed a distraction so, I took a break from writing and checked Pinterest, LinkedIn and Facebook.  Then I headed over to Twitter.  Up popped a tweet from E. S., an agent whom I follow on Twitter.  

In one of his tweets he mentioned that he had signed ten writers.  That's a big deal.  Since we interactive rather frequently, I congratulated him and then snuck in a question.  I asked him whether I should query a colleague of his.  You see, earlier this year, this colleague rejected two of my picture book manuscripts.  I hesitated submitting to him again.  But E. S. sent me a positive message:  Don't be nervous.  Submit.  This manuscript could be the one.       

Wow, that was one of the coolest messages I've EVER received from an agent.  He lifted my spirits and gave me hope.  On this awful day I decided to stay on the writing path.  I worked on a query.  Maybe this new manuscript could be the one.  The one an agent will love.  The one that will land me representation.  The one that will become a book.  

Sure, there will be rejections.  Setbacks.  Major disappointments.  I repeat my mantra:  Be patient.  And then the sting of rejection and disappointment softens and I keep on keeping on.  I can't imagine not writing, even when I feel discouraged.  And if I remember to be patient, there will be wonderful, delightful very good days ahead. 

✌ and    

* Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

PS.  Merci beaucoup to my faithful followers!  

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

<img src=”writer.png” alt=”writer querying for publication”>
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Photo: Neonbrand 

Most writers would never send an unprofessional letter to an agent or a publisher.  They know that if they want to get published it's important to craft a thoughtful, considerate query letter. 

Below is an email that I received.  This letter is an example of what you should not do if you want to publish a book.  

Dear Sir/Mam,
        I want to get published my Novella (38600 words). I want my book online and in paperback as well. I need free publication with you. If you will publish my book without any cost please let me know the procedure for publishing.
Best Regards

Let's look at some of the problems with the letter which I've highlighted in red.  

Dear Sir/Mam,
        I want to get published my Novella (38600 words). I want my book online and in paperback as well. I need free publication with you. If you will publish my book without any cost please let me know the procedure for publishing.
Best Regards

Here are my thoughts.  

Do not:  address the query to sir or mam.  
Do: personalize the query with the agent's name. 

Do not:  declare that you want to get published. It's obvious and shouldn't be stated. 
Do:  be polite and tell the agent that you are submitting your book for her consideration. 

Do not:  omit the title of your book.  
Do:  give the title along with the genre, word count, and a description of the book.  Include comparative titles and a short bio.

Do not:  tell the agent how you want your work published.  
Do:  have a conversation about ways to market your book when you land an agent. 

Do not:  mention that you need free publication.  
Do:  be aware that when you submit to an agent, you should pay no fees. She will earn a percentage of the sales if your book is published.

Do not:  query an editorial consultant to publish your book.  
Do:  know that an editorial consultant can help you polish your work, but they have little power to put your book in print. 

It's safe to say this writer needs practice writing query letters.  When I reply, I'll give him some direction and tips on what a query should look like.  My response will include a link that will show him how to write a query letter. 

I get the feeling that he has sent out this identical letter to a multitude of editors.  (Hint, it's not been personally addressed).  I feel the urgency that he has in wanting to meet his goal.  But he doesn't know the first thing about pitching his book.  And it's a shame because he'll be met with disappointment.  It's kind of sad.  He has crafted the perfect letter that will prevent him from getting what it is he so desperately seeks. 

✌ and

Please follow me on Twitter and RT my pitches on October 29th for #PBPitch (and I'll reciprocate)  

Saturday, August 15, 2020

<img src=”BookEnds Literary.png” alt=”writers tips from Bookend's Literary">                querying for publication”>


I have to hand it to the agents at BookEnds Literary.  They offer expert writing advise for those who want to get published.  When you watch their Youtube videos, you'll learn about querying, being represented, marketing and much more.  

In this post for The Maggie Project, I'll present a short overview of one of their latest Youtube videos that centers on tips about writing.  But first, let's get to know a little about BookEnds. 

BookEnds was founded in 1999 by Jessica Faust and Jacky Sach.  They wanted to represent books that they had fallen in love with and to help authors achieve their dreams. 

This agency represents fiction and nonfiction for an adult audience. In fiction agents specialize in romance, mystery, suspense, thrillers, science fiction and fantasy, women’s fiction, historical fiction, literary fiction and upmarket fiction.  They are also seeking nonfiction in the areas of memoirs, history, food, current affairs, business and career, parenting, pop culture, and general nonfiction.

BookEnds Jr, represents fiction and nonfiction for the young adult, middle grade and picture book markets.  

Jessica Faust, President of BookEnds
I've watched nearly all of their Youtube videos.  What's nice is, you feel like you get to know each agent and their personal preference for books.  I also like that the videos last about 15 minutes and are concise, well-organized, and engaging. 

Listed below are four writing tips from BookEnds, recorded on Youtube June 5, 2020: 
  • Give yourself time in between drafts and come back to your work with a fresh mind.
  • Write from your synopsis and query before, during and after you write your manuscript.
  • Know your specific audience so that you can meet their expectations.
  • Write what you care about.
Each of the agents go into more explanation in the video:

Remember to check the BookEnds Youtube video often.  They update frequently and offer new information three to four times a month.  

Writing, editing, and submitting can be intense.  So, it's nice to switch gears and listen to valuable advice, especially from the agents at BookEnds.   

✌ and 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020


Most everyone assumes that signing with a publishing company is like having a marriage made in heaven.  This is not always the case.

Three years ago, I was published by a small press.  This company helped me reach a goal:  to have a manuscript illustrated and published for children.  But there can be drawbacks working with a small press.  And you have to decide if the pros outweigh than the cons.

Cons, you say?  How can writers even think about cons when they have the chance to have a book published?

I get your starry-eyed enthusiasm.  It can take years to land a publisher or an agent.  Nothing is going to squash your dreams.

Still...if you submit to an indie press and they offer you a book contract, proceed with caution.

I researched my publisher and didn't find any negative comments about them.  A year later after signing the contract, I had to deal with issues that could not have been foreseen.

Before you sign a contract, google the small press to find out more about them.  See if there have been any complaints.  Contact some of the published authors and ask them about their experience with the press, both the good and the bad stuff.

Even after learning as much as you can and feeling safe with the publisher, you may find as I did, that concerns may flare up months afterward.  That said, be aware that certain matters are beyond your control and cannot be predicted.

Below are some facts to consider.

With a small press you may: 
  • publish a book in less than a year after signing a contract
  • have an opportunity to choose an illustrator if you write picture books
  • be able to take part in the revision process 
  • be able to make suggestions for the illustrations
  • have your book promoted on the small press website and sold by Amazon
But you may:
  • find your name and title of the book missing from the spine 
  • find the paper weight lighter than desired 
  • receive no help with marketing 
  • get little compensation for the money you invested in marketing 
  • find libraries will not purchase your book 
  • find your book dropped from the small press website after the contract has expired
  • discover the publisher expects you to buy back returned books (check your contract)
  • realize your publisher is not interested in your career    

I was excited to have my first book published by a small press.  But the relationship with this publishing company was lopsided.  I was putting in way more effort and receiving little in return.

So, after much soul-searching, I decided to part ways with this publisher after the contract expired.  It was the right move for me.  I have no regrets.  Working with the small press was a good learning lesson for me.  But now, I have higher expectations.  I want a better match.  Because a publishing partnership should be more than two people working toward a goal.  It should be like a great marriage—one that is built on commitment, teamwork, mutual respect, and decency.

✌ and 

Monday, June 15, 2020

                                                                                                                                                                                             Photo: Sammie Vasquez 

I'm not what you'd call a risk-taker.  Even still, I decided to take a gamble.

I contacted my former agent to see if she'd take a look at two of my manuscripts. Specifically, I wanted to know if they were marketable.

You might think, what's the big deal?  The big deal is, this move is generally not practiced in the literary world.

If a writer wants to know if her book is marketable, she has to send a query letter to an agent.  But agents will not tell you if your work is marketable.  The only way you'll know is if they offer representation, which means they love your story and they think it will sell. 

I believed that Mel would give me unbiased opinion about my work.  She was my literary agent up until the time she decided to start her own publishing company.  But approaching her for feedback would be risky.  Writer's usually don't ask this of publishers and it could sour our friendship.  This move could make me look foolish and unprofessional.

Though I was conflicted, I thought contacting her was the right thing to do.  Mel and I had worked together on a book.  And since we still stay in touch and have a professional and friendly relationship, I got the nerve to politely ask her if she'd take a look at my work. 

Mel agreed to read my manuscripts and said she'd get back to me.  And so, three things could happen:
  1. She could tell me that these manuscripts didn't have a chance in hell to get published.
  2. She could tell that that the manuscripts had potential, but would need significant revision.
  3. She could tell me that she'd like to publish them. (It did hurt to be positive.)
Photo: Ian Stauffer
I honestly didn't know what to expect, other than a sincere and honest opinion. Then several days later, Mel sent me an email.  She wrote that she loved one of the manuscripts. In fact, it showed so much promise that she offered to publish it!  That surprised the hell out of me.  In this case, taking a chance proved to be worth it.

But that's not always the case.  Taking a risk can set us up for rejection.  So, what does a writer do?

An article at gives seven reasons why we should at least consider taking risks:
  • Unforeseen opportunities often come from risk-taking.
  • Taking risks shows confidence and helps you stand out.
  • We learn from risks — and those lessons may lead us on an important, new path.
  • Success won't fall in your lap—you have to pursue it.
  • You don't achieve your dreams by playing it safe.
  • Embracing risk-taking helps you overcome a fear of failure.
  • Taking a risk doesn't mean doing so haphazardly—you must not only consider the fall-out, you must implement and follow through.
No doubt, taking a chance is unpredictable.  A crapshoot.  It can bring about an unfavorable outcome.  But then again it can also generate a surprising result.  If you have met an agent at a conference or have a good relationship with one on social media, then it's worth asking for her thoughts about your work.  What have you got to lose?  All she can say is no.  Sure, it's a risky move.  It's a gamble.  But just think, you could get feedback on your manuscript.  And that would be a monumental payoff.

✌ and 

More on risk-taking:

Friday, May 15, 2020

                                                                                                                                                                                                               Photo: Jonathan Borba 

We want our lives to get back to normal, like they were before the onset of COVID-19.  As you know, that is going to take a while.  So if you're like me, you've found you have some time on your hands.  That said, you might like to think about developing a marketing plan for the book that you want to get published.

But, you say you're not ready for marketing because you haven't found an agent yet.  That's no excuse.  Agents want to see that you have a website.

Still, you push back on that idea.  I reacted the same way.  But the truth is, it's better to prepare now.  Case in point, the small press that published my book Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell expected me to carry the weight of marketing my book.  Which was daunting.  And frightening.  And worrisome.  I didn't know how to begin.

On the bright side, I had about seven months to prepare before the book was released.  After reading and researching everything I could get my hands on, I developed a plan which is presented below.  It may give you some ideas how you can go about marketing your book.  It takes lots of time to market a book.  So get started now.  Sooner or later, your book is going to get published and when that happens, you will need to have a plan.

Before you get an agent: create a website

  • Check out famous authors' websites.  Take note of what appeals to you.
  • Decide how to incorporate some of these ideas for your website. 
  • Establish your brand.  Your style and personality should be apparent on the homepage.

Before the book is released:  create some buzz    
  • Website:  Update pages at least once or twice a month.  Offer new content.  Tell followers about your writing projects.  If you blog, announce new posts along with the link to your blog. 
  • Marketing team:  Assemble a group of volunteers who will promote the news about your book on their social media platforms.  
  • Book reviews:  Give reviewers an advanced copy of your book.  Add the reviews to your website.  
  • E-mail list:  Compose a list of your friends, business associates, classmates, and family.  Platforms like Mailchimp, MailerLite, or Mad Mimi offer solutions to create a list.  Send a monthly email to the list to report news: book signings, awards, upcoming articles, book fairs, etc. 
  • Writer's magazines:  Create pieces for writer's magazines to inform people about the inspiration for your book or the process of writing your book. 
  • Online interviews:  Ask bloggers if they'd accept a guest post or if they'd write a blog about you and your book.  Find a way to reciprocate—feature them on your blog or use social media to promote their work. 
  • Local newspaper and magazines:  See if a newspaper journalist or a magazine writer would be willing to write an article about you and your book.  Your pitch should mention a current event, a fact, or a statistic that ties-in to your book.  Explain how an article would serve the audience.  
  • Lesson plans.  Develop activities, games and teaching ideas that kids can enjoy during a school visit.
  • School visit program.  Decide how long the presentation will be, how many classrooms you can visit, and how you will engage the students.  Discuss your plans with the school coordinator. 
  • Book signing.  Call a book store manager to set up a date to sign and sell books.  Send out e-invites to friends, business associates, and family six weeks before the date.  Make arrangements with the manager to discuss the location of your table, how to charge people for your book (will you handle selling or will the bookstore take control?), and what profits you and the bookstore will make.  Think about exciting ways to decorate your table. 

After the book is released:  create some more buzz
  • Press release:  Ask your publisher to send press releases to newspapers and bookstores so that your book can be advertised.     
  • Library story times:  Ask librarians if they have the funds to buy your book; and if so, offer to read your book at story time.  
  • School visits:  Talk with the school librarian to see if she would be interested in having you give a presentation for students.  Keep in mind that safety in a school environment is a priority, so it helps to have personal connections with teachers when trying to arrange school visits. 
  • Visit day care facilities.  Make fliers about the book and how to purchase a copy so that the day care can send them home to parents.  Arrange a time to read your book to the children.  Bring games or activities to engage the children afterward. 
  • Local craft fairs or book fairs:  Create an interesting table top display to attract readers to visit you.  Have items like cookies or bookmarks handy to give away.  
  • Local shop owners:  Figure out how your book is similar to the products sold in the store.  Tell the owner how your book would benefit the customers.
  • Online selling:  Ask your publisher to put your book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. 
  • Speaking Engagements:  Give a talk about your journey from idea to publication.  Meet the fans of your book.  Bring copies to autograph and sell.
  • Book Signing:  Arrive at least 30 minutes in advance.  Check in with the manager.  Stand in front of your table to greet guests.  Have someone take pictures of the event to post online. Celebrate afterward.

Preparing for the next books:  keep connecting  
  • Twitter:  Connect with other writers and agents by tweeting encouraging quotes, writing news, and personal opinions.  
  • Blogging:  Create amusing, poignant, or informational blog posts that followers can relate to. 
  • Pinterest:  Develop your brand visually by creating boards and pins for your boards.
  • LinkedIn:  Connect with business associates and advertise blog posts or writing news. 
  • Facebook:  Share your writing projects with friends. 
  • Website:  Keep updating, sell your book, highlight your achievements.  

As you can see, there are many facets to marketing, before and after an author publishes a book.  My advice to you would be to learn about marketing as you write your book and as you pursue a publisher or an agent.  It may seem early, but the sooner you work on a strategy, the better prepared you'll be when your book is published.

Have fun developing your marketing plan.  Be original.  Get creative.  Think out of the box.  Do things differently than others.  Let it be all about you, because well, it IS all about you.  Remember most of the marketing will fall on your shoulders.  It's just how things are done these days.  But it won't be so daunting or frightening or worrisome when you figure this stuff out now.

✌ and 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

                                                                                                                      Photo by: Gesina Kunkel


Because it had been a while (and since I was curious), I decided to step on the scale.  Let me just say, the number did not please me.    

Not that my weight should be a concern during these troubled times of a pandemic. But controlling my weight through strenuous exercising was something I had been doing before the outbreak.  

The weird thing was, the weight gain was imperceptible to me. Back during the 2018 Christmas season, I baked holiday cookies for my family and believe you me, I had my share of the sweets.  After Christmas, I had a cup of ice cream every night.  Unbeknownst to me, my weight crept up from winter and into the summer of 2019.  Over those months I was never aware of the additional pounds.  There was no need to weigh myself because my clothes fit perfectly.    

On a whim, I decided to check my weight.  That's how I discovered the weight gain and then immediately decided I had to do something about it.  People looked at me strangely when I told them I wanted to lose weight.  One of my husband's friends said that I must weigh 100 pounds soaking wet.  Looks can be deceiving.  And the scale does not lie. 

According to the charts, women at my height are supposed to weigh between 107 to 140 pounds.  I'm petite, not even close to 140 pounds, but I'd like to weigh less than the median value of 123.5 pounds.   

I had always worked out three times a week.  Obviously, that was not enough.  When I told one of my workout friends that I had gained weight, she replied, "Don't weigh yourself.  That's what I do."  I liked her approach.  Why step on the scale and get upset?  This philosophy appealed to me. 

But it didn't feel honest ignoring my weight.  A week later, I checked.  I had gained another pound.  

John, another workout buddy told me he had lost over fifty pounds.  He challenged me to come to the gym every day and ride the exercise bike for thirty minutes each day.  

How could I go to the gym EVERY DAY?  That would mean the time for marketing my book, consulting with clients, and composing blog posts would be replaced with being at the gym. 

   Photo: Gesina Kunkel 
To do as John suggested meant I would mess with my schedule and keep me from my writing obligations.  This would be a difficult commitment for me.    

But then I thought of the number that had registered on the scale.  That ugly no-good number.  I would meet John's challenge.

So, my strategy was to replace weight-lifting (which I did three times a week) with riding the exercise bike for thirty minutes seven times a week.   

Over a few days, I was able to gradually increase the resistance on the bike.  It took everything ounce of energy I had to keep going.  To deal with the discomfort, I concentrated on my heart rate and the calories that were burned.  I listened to music on Spotify.  I pedaled for thirty minutes despite it being tiring, painful, monotonous, and sweaty. 

Going to the gym everyday was not the only change I made.  I decided to cut back on snacks and give up sweets.  Good-bye cookies.  Sayonara white chocolate raspberry ice cream.  This was equally as painful as riding the bike because salt and sweet cravings are like to murder to manage.      

So, until the coronavirus outbreak, I had been going to the gym EVERY DAY and giving up sweets and limiting snacks.  I was able to work up from level 5 to level 16 on the bike, the highest level.  I had reached my goal and surpassed it by two pounds.  But staying at this new weight will be challenging.  My gym is closed like other businesses in the United States.

Like many others who like to stay active, I'm trying to figure out how to exercise.  For now, I walk around the neighborhood for one to two hours a day.  Sometimes, I carry hand weights with me.  Then, I do a ballet barre at home by watching YouTube videos taught by ballerinas.  I do this routine every day.

Will these things help me stay in shape and keep my weight constant?  Who knows?  But when I feel doubtful, I remember my conversation with John, and it motivates me and fires up my can-do attitude.  If I was able to find the physical and mental strength to lose fifteen pounds, then I should be able to maintain my weight—even if the gym is closed.

Just like everyone else, I'm trying to live a normal life.  I'm trying to stay healthy, and for now, this will be one of the biggest challenges I will ever have to face.

✌ and