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Selling Your Teen Novel Manuscript, by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Writing an entire novel that’s rich with character and appeal, and that has a clear beginning, middle and ending in which the character grows, facing obstacles along the way, isn’t an easy task. Once this is done, congratulations are in order.

Then it’s time to immerse yourself in the selling market by doing a lot of research.  Go to the new release section of bookstores armed with paper and pen, find books that are like yours, and take note of who wrote them and which publishing houses published them.  Then go home and do a Google search to find the name of the agent and/or editor for those particular books.  Sometimes, you won’t even have to Google; you’ll get lucky and flip to the Acknowledgements page of the book to find that the author has thanked their beloved agent and hardworking editor.

Start to keep a list of these names.  The editors and agents are the people that you should be targeting for your work.  Write an intelligent and presentable one-page query letter that summarizes your book and gives a brief introduction of who you are.

Sound easy?  It isn’t.  It takes patience and a thick skin.  Some people get lucky and get requests for full or partial manuscripts right away.  For most of us, it’s a much longer process – one that requires a sense of humor, a lot of waiting, and hopefully a cheering squad of writer-friends.

I’d recommend sending out batches of query letters, five at a time.  Once a rejection comes back, send out another, keeping a log of names, dates, and responses.  But, again, always do your homework.  Make informed decisions as to whom you’re sending your query.  Know who that person is, what books are on his or her list, who his or her clients are, and what he or she is looking for (if anything at all).

Once you start to get responses you’ll find there are different levels of rejection letters, from the standard form letter to the more personalized ones.  I’ve gotten fortune-cookie sized rejection letters that simply say “No, thank you”, as well as personalized letters that explain why my work wasn’t a good fit at the time.

Try not to take any of it personally.  Sometimes you’ll get a rejection purely because the market is trending in another direction or because a particular editor already has a novel like yours on his or her list.  Just keep working and learning.  When I was trying to sell Blue is for Nightmares I was continuing to write my next manuscript, Bleed, which became my fourth book published.

Personally, my initial path to publication was a rough one.  I approached editors and agents at the same time, trying to target those who worked with writers like me (namely, writers who wrote in the Young Adult supernatural/paranormal genre).  It took me a long time to sell my first novel.  I have a folder filled with rejection letters – over a hundred. My favorite one is from an editor who said: “While this is an interesting project, I do not feel it is strong enough to compete in today’s competitive Young Adult market.”  That same Young Adult novel, Blue is for Nightmares, has sold over 200,000 copies, been translated into numerous languages and has appeared on many different award lists, not to mention it’s been optioned for a TV series.

So, in addition to doing your homework, my next bit of advice is to persevere.  There are many talented writers who give up after 5, 10 or even 50 rejection letters.  Be open to learning and to getting better at your craft.  If more than one person criticizes the same point in your work – i.e. your main character whines too much – chances are you need to look at that point again.  Lastly, consider joining a writers’ group.  There’s nothing better than being in a group of like-minded writers who can help inspire and cheer you on, and who can provide constructive feedback that can help to strengthen your work.

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Laurie Faria Stolarz’s author website: www.lauriestolarz.com

Laurie Faria Stolarz’s bio page

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Why I Write For Young Adults, by Laurie Faria Stolarz

As a child, before I knew how to write – before I could even put pen to paper – I loved telling stories.  I’d go out into the neighborhood and tell the other kids about the time I went into the meadow and battled with a mountain lion.  And the time I wrestled a boa constrictor from around my neck in the fields behind our house.  My stories, of course, were lies, but I didn’t hesitate passing them off as truth.  I got a bigger reaction that way, which encouraged me to create more vivid details to heighten the tension and up the stakes.

When I got a little older and actually could write, I’d draft scripts for my Barbies and have them star in my plays and movies.  In elementary school, whenever I was asked to write about my summer or holiday vacations, I never thought that my own life was interesting enough, and so again I made things up.

You’d think that because I loved writing so much, I’d naturally enjoy reading.  But the opposite couldn’t have been truer.  I remember being in elementary school, reading pages and pages of text, and nothing sinking in.  As soon as I got slightly bored, my mind would wander and I’d have to start all over again.  I remember getting assigned to read certain novels in junior high and high school, staying up late at night, trying to absorb the words on the page.  But, so often, even though I was physically doing the assignment, mentally I was someplace else.  My eyes would scan the words, I’d flip the pages at the appropriate time, but by the end of a chapter, I’d have retained very little.

This reading phenomenon followed me to college, where I’d be assigned to read textbooks on things like microeconomics and statistical analysis.  So anxious that I wouldn’t be able to grasp what I was reading, I’d stop myself at the end of every paragraph and then summarize that paragraph in my own words (in writing), in the margin.  If you looked at any of my college textbooks now, you’d see that the margins are full of my ink.

When I graduated college with a degree in Business (because Business was “safe”), I knew that I wanted to give my dream of becoming a writer a try.  I ended up pursuing a graduate degree in Creative Writing with the full intention of writing for young people.  Those years of young adulthood are full of such angst: emotions are heightened and life is exciting and miserable at the same time.  I knew that there was so much opportunity for a writer.  But, even beyond that, I knew that I wanted to target readers that were like me as a young person – those who found themselves getting discouraged by reading, whose minds tended to wander as soon as they got bored on the page.  I wanted to create high concept, page-turning books that would grab the reluctant reader and get them excited about reading.

I remember the second week of graduate school;  I was in a class called “Writing the Young Adult Novel” and we had to go around the room and discuss what our first novel was going to be about.  Students in the class had these amazing, ground-breaking ideas for young adult literature.  But, when it got to my turn, I only knew one thing.  “I want my novel to be juicy,” I told the class.  And juicy to me meant I wanted my character to be relatable.  She couldn’t be the prettiest, the most popular, or the smartest.  She had to have drama with her friends and a rocky relationship with her parents.  I knew I wanted her to be in love with her best friend’s boyfriend (juicy). She had to have a lot of secrets (super-juicy).  And (the juiciest) the novel had to have a stalker, thus propelling it into the suspense/mystery genre, which is what I tended to gravitate toward as a young person when given the choice about reading.  And so I wrote a novel for my teen-self.  Blue is for Nightmares was the product; it was my graduate thesis, and so far it’s been my best seller, spawning a five-book series, a publishing imprint, and a potential TV series.  It’s also been translated into numerous different languages and has appeared on many different award lists, including the Top Ten Teen Pick List and the Quick Pick List for Reluctant Readers, both through the American Library Association.  But, even after all of the novel’s success, the thing that excites me most is when a young person writes to me saying that he or she used to hate reading, but that my work has since inspired him or her to read, because that is exactly what I set out to do.  I feel so grateful to be able to do this for work.

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Laurie Faria Stolarz’s author website: www.lauriestolarz.com

Laurie Faria Stolarz’s bio page

***

United States (and beyond)

   

United Kingdom (and beyond)

   

Australia (and beyond)

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Writing Teen Novels
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