3 Tips for Writing a Query Letter that Gets Noticed

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Query letters are powerful and often mean the difference between your manuscript becoming a best-seller, or never leaving the documents folder on your laptop.

But what is a query letter?

Quite simply, a query letter is an introduction that lets literary agents familiarize themselves with your work. As an author, you submit these letters to agents that you hope will sign you, and eventually, sell your book to a publisher.

No matter how amazing your novel is, it will never see the light of day (or the shelves at Barnes and Noble) if your query letter can’t grab an agent’s attention. Because of this, you need to spend extra time perfecting your letter with these three tips, before even considering submitting your story to an agent:

Follow a Formula
Unlike your work of fiction, query letters have no need for expansive creativity. Because agents get so many letters each day, it is best to follow a formula that is trusted, and has been proven to work. Keep your paragraphs short and clean, don’t brag about yourself too much, and always give the agent you are submitting to exactly what their guidelines say. When you follow the formula, you will be seen as a professional, and your work will have a better shot at moving forward in the publishing world.

Make it Personal
The quickest way to end up on the reject pile without the first page of your book even being read is to send an uninformed, generic query letter. Do your research before submitting and tailor your letter to each individual agent. Did you two go to the same college? Mention it. Is your work similar to another client of theirs? Write a quick line about that. By making it personal, your letter will convey how much you care and are committed to the publishing process.

Mention Your Accolades 
While the bio portion of your query shouldn’t turn into a memoir, always be sure to mention any literary accomplishments you have had, and how you are actively working in the writing world. Even if you haven’t previously been published in a major newspaper or won any prestigious awards, it doesn’t hurt to mention that you run a successful blog, or that you have a Twitter following of 25,000. By mentioning your accolades, you will pique the interest of agents looking for someone serious about establishing themselves as a writer.

What are your best tips on getting query letters noticed?

May Reading Wrap Up

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How is it June already?

May flew by, with barely any time to pick up any books. Between the craziness of starting a new job and general beginning of summer madness, I was only able to squeeze in 5 books over the course of the month.

While I’m disappointed in the number of books I ended up reading, I thoroughly enjoyed every one of them – especially the novel by Mr. Man vs. Wild himself.

The books I read in May were:

  1. Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly
  2. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
  3. Mud, Sweat, and Tears: The Autobiography by Bear Grylls
  4. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  5. Real Artists Have Day Jobs by Sara Benincasa

My summer reading list is piling up, and I’m hoping to be able to read way more over the next couple of weeks. What novel are you most looking forward to diving into this summer?

Top 8 Autobiographies to Read This Summer

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Schools are out, temperatures are rising, pools are opening for the season, and summer reading is in full swing! To me, the best part about summer is being able to kick back and crack open a new book. While this season is typically known for lighthearted romances and young adult comedies, my favorite way to spend a scorching day is with an autobiography.

Autobiographies are the perfect way to learn more about your favorite influential figures, and immerse yourself in a different life for roughly 300 pages. Whether you want to hike a mountain or star in a hit tv show, an autobiography will take you on an incredible journey in a personable, insightful way.

This summer, opt for one of these eight autobiographies, and unleash an adventure unlike any other.

Mud, Sweat, and Tears by Bear Grylls
In his debut novel, adventurer Bear Grylls takes you through his days of intense training, ascent up Mount Everest, and forage into mainstream television.

Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham
Even if the Netflix reboot of Gilmore Girls left you as disappointed as I was, Lauren Graham’s writing will bring you back to Stars Hollow, and even the world of Parenthood, in a way that will leave you painfully nostalgic for your favorite fast talking characters.

Sully: My Search for What Really Matters by Chelsey B. Sullenberger
The hero of the Miracle on the Hudson tells you of his life’s journey, including a look into that fateful day, and why being a hero is far from the most important thing in his life.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Telling the uncomfortable yet cathartic story of how she ended up thru hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed captures readers with her honesty.

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
The couple may be famous for shiplap, but the Gaines’ book takes a deeper dive into how they got involved in the remodeling industry, and how their faith has kept them grounded throughout the HGTV chaos.

I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short
Perfect for fans of old-school Saturday Night Life, Martin Short recounts his days growing up and into the world of comedy.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
A follow up to her first autobiography, Mindy Kaling gives readers advice on how to live their best lives, and not be afraid to go for their (seemingly impossible) dreams.

Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song by Sara Bareilles
A songwriter by nature, Sara Bareilles puts pen to paper in this book to tell readers how her music career came to be, and the stories (and rumors) behind her hit songs.

What autobiographies will you be reading this summer?

 

3 Summer Road Trips for 2017

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Summer is the perfect time to pack up your car and take a road trip. Whether you are looking to get away for just a day, weekend, or an entire vacation, there are countless travel options when it comes to your Midwestern adventure.

With a tank full of gas, you can get just about anywhere, but here are the three best summer road trip destinations.

Nashville
Whether you’re in the mood for a classic night at the Opry, or exploring 12 South, Nashville has something for everyone. If you’re feeling super adventurous, plan to head to town during CMA Fest, where you’ll be greeted by hundreds of thousands of country music fanatics, and free concerts.

Omaha
A three hour day trip from Kansas City, Omaha is the perfect place to travel this summer. Full of historic museums and beautiful parks, this Nebraska city is a bustling metropolis in the middle of nowhere. Not to mention, Omaha has one of the country’s best zoos for people of all ages.

Denver
A trek to Colorado is one of the best ways you can spend your summer. Denver is a dreamland for thrill seekers, environmentalists, and families alike. Spend your days hiking mountains and reading at the Tattered Cover, and then spend your nights at the world famous Red Rocks Amphitheater. Only a nine hour trip from Kansas City, this town has an atmosphere unlike any other.

Where will you go this summer?

April Reading Wrap Up

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April was a crazy month, but thankfully, I still found the time to finish 12 books.

These books all ranged in genres, authors, and plots, but each captured my attention in a way that wouldn’t let me put them down. I will tell you though – deciding to read Harry Potter for the first time may have been the best decision I’ve made so far this year.

The books I read in April were:

  1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
  2. The Flip Side by Shawn Johnson
  3. Bare Bones by Bobby Bones
  4. Penelope by Rebecca Harrington
  5. A Little House Reader by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  6. The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry
  7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  8. Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer
  9. Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz
  10. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  11. Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher
  12. The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

Follow along with what I’m reading now by adding me as a friend on Goodreads!

5 Minute Fiction: Brave

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My writing style of choice tends to lean toward contemporary, yet in most of my latest 5 Minute Fiction exercises, I have found myself wavering toward fantasy and darker, more adventurous plots.

While I don’t see myself becoming a fantastical author anytime soon, this change has been a refreshing way to step back and gain new perspective on a genre so different than what I am used to.

Without further ado, here is one of my latest 5MF pieces:

Brave

She’d never felt brave before, but here in this moment, facing the darkness that lay ahead, she knew she had to be.

This wasn’t an ordinary day with ordinary circumstances. She couldn’t just walk away and decide that she had had enough. No, she must keep moving forward, no matter how badly her hands shook.

Tasting the musty air engulfing her, she took slow, careful steps, furthering herself down the hallway. The only semblance of light in the castle was provided by yellowing candles, all flicking their last breaths in shallow pools of wax.

The king didn’t know where she was, but she knew he was lurking behind his closed bedroom door, a mere 20 feet ahead. His hand had started this raging war, but he’d never expect to be taken down by hers.

Approaching his quarters, she could feel his presence, heavy and deliberate, through the thick inch of wood making up his door.

With a silent prayer for strength, she turned the knob, meeting the king’s surprised eye as the last candle burned out, leaving them both to stand in the black.

How to Start Editing Your Novel

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You did it.

You typed that last word in that final pesky chapter, and your manuscript is complete. After what feels like months of intense labor, your book is done, and all of that hard work is behind you.

Or is it?

While it is a great feeling to finish the initial draft of a book, it’s important to remember that no book is ever complete without first being edited.

*Insert Groans Here*

Yes, editing can be a tiresome task, but it is an essential piece to the publishing puzzle. In fact, having a well edited book often means the difference between landing an agent and a book deal, or a sea of rejection emails.

So how do you get started editing your novel?

Take a Break
It can be tempting to start editing your work right after finishing the first draft, but taking a break from your story is for the best when it comes to editing. After finishing up your manuscript, step away from it for a few weeks, that way, when you do return to start editing, you can look at the book through new eyes that are able to catch more mistakes.

Do a Read Through
Before you begin editing even a single sentence, do a complete read through of your first draft. This reading will allow for you to take in the story as a whole before making changes, and give you the perspective that you need to fill in any missing pieces.

Make Comments
As you are reading through your first draft, keep a notebook nearby to write down any and all thoughts that pop into your head. Mark down where tenses are inaccurate, plot holes are creeping up, or dialogue is lacking depth. These comments that you make for yourself will be the backbone of the editing process as you dive deeper into your work.

Be Precise
While a book is a massive piece of work, it is necessary to keep a watchful eye on all of the little parts that make up the whole as you work through the initial steps of editing. Take the time in the beginning stages of edits to iron out any grammatical problems, spelling errors, and formatting issues so that your focus can be given to bigger, more complex editing needs later on.

The hardest part of editing your manuscript is simply getting started. By beginning with these small steps, you will be able to take ownership of your story, and prepare for the rest of your novel’s rewrites and revisions.

What are your best tips when it comes to the editing process?

13 Ways to Make a Difference this Earth Day

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Earth day is one of my favorite holidays.

No, there aren’t any presents wrapped in sparkling bows, big feasts with family, and chances are, you don’t get the day off from work, but Earth Day should still be celebrated with enthusiasm regardless. Earth Day is a time set aside each year to remember the importance of caring for the nature around us, and to encourage us to continually treat the world with respect.

Earth Day is a special 24 hours that reminds us how we should be conserving throughout the other 364 days of the year.

Sure, saving the planet and those who inhabit it may seem like a daunting task, but in reality, everyone can lend a helping hand when it comes to the environment. In fact, you can make a difference on Earth Day simply be choosing to:

  1. Ride your bike instead of the bus.
  2. Opt for a reusable water bottle instead of plastic.
  3. Organize a recycling drive for your neighborhood.
  4. Transform a corner of your backyard into a garden.
  5. Turn off the lights in rooms of your house that are not in use.
  6. Compost your fruit and veggie scraps.
  7. Plant a tree.
  8. Use fabric reusable bags when you go shopping.
  9. Cut your shower time down by 3 minutes.
  10. Reuse newspaper as gift wrap.
  11. Recycle old cell phones and laptops at a local electronics store.
  12. Plant bulbs and other flower seeds in your front yard.
  13. Turn off your A/C, open a window, and let fresh air cool your home.

By turning off a few light switches, reducing the amount of plastic you use, or even planting a new tree, you will be able to make a difference in just a matter of seconds. Get started on making the world a better place this Earth Day, and every day after.

Gifted: Movie Review

 

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Hollywood’s latest masterpiece opened nationwide on April 7th, and is taking the movie community by storm. The movie, Gifted, is being held to high acclaim by critics and fans everywhere, and thanks to a stellar cast mixed with an impeccable script, the film has become an instant sensation.

Starring Chris Evans and newcomer Mckenna Grace, Gifted tells the story of an uncle who is fighting to give his genius of a niece a shot at a normal childhood. Mary is a math expert at only the age of 7, and was left to live with her uncle (Frank) as a baby. However, once word gets out about her gifted abilities, Mary’s long estranged grandmother arrives to help push Mary on the academic research path that Frank has worked so hard to keep her away from. Full of heartache, laughter, and twists, this movie is much more than just another Oscar contending tearjerker.

Focusing on the battle between personal potential and the craving for normalcy, Gifted paints a picture of two forces trying to do what they genuinely think is right for the math prodigy little girl whose whole life path is at stake. What makes this movie so brilliant is that, even though each side paints the other to be the bad guy, both Mary’s uncle as well as her grandmother are doing everything they can to give her what they truly think is best.

The standout performance of Gifted is Jenny Slate, who is most commonly known for her obnoxiously brilliant character on Parks and Rec, and does an outstanding job of bringing a third party perspective to the battle.

However, what really sets this movie apart from any other new release is the honest humor portrayed by Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, and Octavia Spencer. In such a loaded story line, it is refreshing to laugh along with ample doses of smart comedy. Not to mention, a special shout out needs to be given to Fred, the one-eyed cat, who steals the show with his tabby charm.

Gifted is one of the year’s best films. Even with some slow court scenes, this movie captures an audience like no other summer blockbuster, and is a definite do not miss. Grab your ticket today, and experience the gift that is Gifted.

 

Why Authors Need to be on Social Media

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Whether you are a New York Times accomplished writer or simply have a half finished manuscript sitting in Google Docs, being on social media is vital to your career as an author. Gone are the days of traditional literary marketing where a publishing house would do the dirty work of getting your book noticed by potential readers. Instead, authors are now having to rely heavily on digital content creation and marketing to jump start their sales and overall readership.

In fact, having an active social media presence as an author is so important that many agents and publishing houses won’t even consider working with you and your book unless you are actively engaging with your online audience.

As an author, social media can help you:

Join a Community
By regularly posting and replying to other writers and readers via social media, you will be able to join a community of like minded authors from all over the world with just a few taps on your smartphone. Joining in on conversations using literary hashtags (#WIP , #AmReading , #AmWriting , etc.) will not only help you to find fellow authors to follow and support, but will also get your name and ideas out there for others to explore. The relationships that you build through online communities will be some of the best, most long-lasting support systems for your future literary work.

Build a Platform
The social media channels that you use automatically become a part of your author platform as soon as you press “Post”. Your platform is the way that you connect to potential readers, and social media allows for you to gain new audiences quickly and relatively painlessly. The bigger your platform, the more people your posts will reach, leading to more people reading your novel.

Get Discovered
While not always the most common path to getting published, social media has a knack for connecting aspiring authors with agents, and even book deals. Top agents with connections to all of the big publishing houses are always scrolling through social media looking for the next great writer. By being active on social media, joining communities, and building your online platform, agents will have a better chance of finding your work, connecting with your writing, and reaching out to learn more. You can even join in on organized contests like #PitMad to get your query in front of eager agents and editors quickly.

Are you an author on social media? What are your favorite hashtags to browse?