The Book Deal Announcement

Hello gentle reader,

I began seeking traditional publication for my YA Historical Fantasy books in March 2012. I started this blog at the same time, never imagining how long (!) and how full of surprises my publishing journey would be.

Six and a half years later, I’m thrilled to announce that the U.S. publisher Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan) has bought my debut IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN and its sequel! Here is the Publishers Marketplace announcement:

EMCastellan

IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN is my 7th completed manuscript. It’s the 6th manuscript I queried and the one that helped me connect with my literary agent Carrie Pestritto (Laura Dail Literary Agency). If you’re curious about my inspiration for this story, here is its Pinterest board.

If you’re reading this and you’re a writer dreaming of seeing your books in bookstores one day, I hope you’ll take heart in this post: getting traditionally published takes perseverance, a lot of work, and a bit of luck, but it can become a reality if you don’t give up, and if you keep writing the stories you love.

Have a lovely Sunday!

 

The Wattpad Endeavour (part 3)

Hello gentle reader,

Eighteen months after joining Wattpad, my stories have now reached an unbelievable total of 255K reads, with THE BRIGHT AND THE LOST alone close to 200k reads. While I’m still hoping to get my books traditionally published one day soon, I’m also eager to show my gratitude to my Wattpad readers. As a result, and after discussing it with my agent, I’ve decided to start posting online my YA Victorian Fantasy LILY IN THE SHADOWS.

The first few chapters are now available on Wattpad here, and to my surprise, it has already been chosen by the Wattpad team to feature on their “Blast to the Future Past” list as part of the June 2018 Wattpad Picks! I’m absolutely thrilled readers seem to be enjoying this story, and I’m now posting a new chapter every day.

If you’ve been following my writing journey for a while, you may remember LILY IN THE SHADOWS has a long history. I wrote the first draft in 2013, and after querying it, it’s the manuscript that landed me my first agent. Many drafts and quite a few years later, the heart of this story about a deaf flower girl in a London gripped by a magical crisis remains the same, but thanks to many rounds of revisions based on CPs’ and agents’ feedback, the plot and writing have changed a lot. Despite never finding its way to a publisher’s desk, this story remains the one that taught me a lot about writing and revising.

I hope you’ll enjoy it!

LILY IN THE SHADOWS on Wattpad

EM Castellan - LILY IN THE SHADOWS promo

Cover by Stefanie Suzaya

Blurb

A YA Historical Fantasy set in Victorian London that mixes magic, romance and mystery.

It’s 1862, and London high society’s favourite pastime is magic spells. But between trying to make a living as a flower girl, dodging local gang leaders and coping with the fact that she’s deaf, sixteen-year old Lily Scott has no time for such lofty things. The last thing she needs is a strange epidemic killing all the flowers in the city. Out of a job and threatened with starvation on the streets of Whitechapel, Lily decides she can’t leave it up to some stuffy British Museum scientists in top hats to help.

Determined to solve the mystery of the dead flowers, Lily quickly finds herself in over her head as children disappear, librarians get killed by spontaneously combusting books and newspapers blame the phenomena on ‘dark magic’. Soon panic sweeps across the city, and Lily’s investigation becomes deadly when bombs go off everywhere she turns. From East London where the fog takes on a life of its own, to the gardens of Buckingham Palace which have been turned into a haunted forest, Lily needs to follow the clues and learn magic to sort this mess out before society collapses and she loses a lot more than her job.

 

2016 Sun vs. Snow Contest for Writers

Hello gentle reader,

sunvssnow-copy2

In February, the fantastic Amy Trueblood and Michelle Hauck are hosting the Sun vs. Snow contest for the third time. And this year, they’ve been kind enough to ask me to be one of the mentors for the contest. I’m very excited to join in the fun, and I’m very much looking forward to helping a talented writer polish their entry.

Below you’ll find a brief summary of what this contest is about, but all the details for the contest can be found on Amy’s and Michelle’s blogs. Please do read them and follow both Amy and Michelle if you’re interested in participating.

Who is this contest for?

Querying writers with a completed and polished manuscript.

When can you enter the contest?

The submission window will open on 1st February at 4 pm Eastern time. Only the first 200 entries will be accepted.

How can you enter the contest?

You’ll need to send your query and first 250 words to the contest email address. More info on how to format your entry can be found here. Please do read Amy’s advice on how to submit your entry so you’re sure not to be disqualified.

Which categories and genres are accepted?

All MG, YA, NA and Adult genres will be accepted, excluding erotica.

Who are the mentors?

There are 12 mentors, divided into two teams, and you can find out all about them here and here. I’m part of Team Sun, on Amy’s blog.

Who are the agents?

 There are 17 amazing agents ready to read the selected entries, and you can find out all about them here and here.

Anything else you should know?

Yes. You manuscript can’t have been in the agent round of any other contest. Only one submission per person is allowed.

Any other questions?

Please feel free to contact Amy and Michelle via their blogs or on Twitter. You can find Amy here and Michelle here. If you tweet about the contest, don’t forget to use the hashtag #sunvssnow. Please note that on Friday 29th January (this Friday!), Amy and Michelle will be hosting two Twitter chat sessions with the mentors at 3 pm and 9 pm EST.  Do stop in and ask all your questions to the mentors. I’ll be there, so don’t hesitate to contact me @emcastellan.

And if you have questions for me before Friday, feel free to ask in the comments section below!

Recent posts – The Great Noveling Adventure

tgnahead

Hello gentle reader,

I’ve recently posted twice on The Great Noveling Adventure blog. Maybe you’d like to check out what I wrote about Publishing in France here or my pointers on How to Prepare for a Twitter Pitch party here.

Have a great weekend!

On Querying and Originality in Fantasy

NB: this was originally posted on There And Draft Again in January 2014, but I have tweaked it slightly to share with you again today.

Hello gentle reader,

If you’re a writer in the query trenches now or if you’re planning on looking for an agent and getting traditionally published in the future, you know that getting rejections is part of the process.

For the purpose of this post, we are going to assume the Querying Writer has done her research, finished and polished her manuscript, written a professional query letter and put together a list of relevant agents to contact, along with their submission guidelines.

There are many, many reasons for an agent to send the Querying Writer a rejection, and for nearly every single one of them there’s a solution. Sometimes, the agent will tell you what’s wrong with your submission: it’s called a personalized rejection. Other times, the agent won’t tell you why she’s rejecting your manuscript: it’s the infamous Form Rejection.

Thankfully, a few agents use Twitter to reveal the most common reasons why they reject a submission. They use the #10queriesin10tweets or #tenqueries hashtags. And one reason that keeps popping up when it comes to Fantasy manuscripts is this one:

sara-megibow-tweet

The premise isn’t unique/original/inventive enough.

In a sea of submissions, agents and editors are looking for a Unique Concept. Or a Familiar Story With An Unexpected Twist. They want the Unfamiliar. They want to be Surprised. As we do, as readers.

So how do you avoid being rejected for lack of originality? Here are a few pointers:

  • Research the industry: find out what’s on the shelves right now or what will hit the shelves in the next 18 months. This will give an idea of what agents/editors have already seen and aren’t looking for.
  • Avoid tropes in your writing: I recommend this website to find out which writing devices have been overdone.
  • Read: writing a Fantasy book requires reading Fantasy books, to avoid the annoying predicament which consists in writing a book that already exists.

Are you worried about how original your manuscript is or isn’t? Have you had rejections stating your premise felt too familiar? What have you done to ensure your book was as original as possible? Feel free to leave me a comment below!

Querying and the request for an exclusive submission

Hello gentle reader,

While querying, you may be faced with the situation of having an agent request “an exclusive”. It’s when you send your manuscript to this agent alone and stop querying other agents until she gives you the green light.

Does this happen often?

According to a completely unscientific Twitter poll of my own doing, it seems to happen more often than you might imagine. Therefore if you’re querying, you might want to think about what you’ll do if/when faced with this situation.

How do you respond?

First, you celebrate, because this is a request!

Then you have three options. Panicking isn’t one of them.

Option 1: Your manuscript is already on the desk of one or several agents, so you can’t actually grant this exclusivity. In this case, you have to inform the agent who requested an exclusive and she’ll decide whether she still wants to read your manuscript or not.

Option 2: You don’t have any material out but you want to keep your options open, i.e. keep querying. This is what’s usually advised. Granting exclusivity means you stop querying for at least a couple of weeks, which many see as a waste of time, especially since there’s no way to predict the exclusivity will result in an offer of representation. In this case, be honest and let the agent know you’re not willing to grant anyone exclusivity. Again, she’ll either choose to request anyway or she’ll step down.

Option 3: You don’t have any material out but you’re willing to grant to the requesting agent the exclusivity she asked for.

Now, why on earth would you do this?

Since the consensus seems to be that granting an agent an exclusive isn’t to your advantage, when and how should you decide to say yes to this request?

  • The agent is your Dream Agent: in this case, you might not want to risk saying no to her. You might decide granting exclusive is worth it, even if the agent ends up rejecting your manuscript.
  • The agent is from a Big Agency: there are agents from big/famous agencies who ALWAYS request exclusives and refuse to read if this exclusivity isn’t granted. On the plus side, it often means they request material they’re really excited about: they believe in it and they want to have the chance to make an offer before anyone else. It’s flattering. On the downside, they might not make an offer in the end and you’ve wasted time. Again, it’s up to you to decide if you think it’s worth it.
  • If you grant exclusivity, make sure you set a deadline of no more than 4 weeks and make sure the agent agrees to it. If you haven’t heard from the agent after 4 weeks, nudge and feel free to start querying again (unless the agent replies and asks for more time… or makes an offer!).

Whichever the case, GRANTING AN EXCLUSIVE SHOULD FEEL LIKE THE RIGHT DECISION AT THE TIME. Dahlia Adler has a great post on querying red flags, and she explains that if it feels like an agent is making an unreasonable request, they most likely are making an unreasonable request.

To finish this post on a personal note, here is my own experience with exclusives:

I had one request for an exclusive in my querying life. I said yes. Here is why:

  • I had no material out at the time. I hadn’t even started querying. I met the agent at a writers’ conference. She read the first 10 pages of my manuscript, and asked for the rest – as an exclusive.
  • She was from a Big Agency, and she was used to requesting exclusives when she loved a project.
  • She was one of my dream agents.
  • I asked for a 4-week deadline. She replied to me within 2 weeks.
  • She didn’t offer representation, but she did give me valuable feedback.

To this day, I don’t regret granting this exclusive. So my advice on this topic is: do what feels right and what you think is best for you and your manuscript at the time of the request.

What do you think? Have you experienced a request for an exclusive while querying? What did you do? Feel free to leave me a comment below!

Successful Queries – Day 8 – Marieke Nijkamp

Hello gentle reader,

Welcome to the Successful Queries Blog Series! The idea is to share with you Queries That Worked and to find out what made them stand out in the slushpile. My hope is that it’ll help you, querying writers, to write an amazing query for your own manuscript and to find Your Agent.

Today Marieke Nijkamp, aka The Queen of Queries, is sharing her advice on how to write an outstanding query. Marieke writes YA and MG fiction and she’s represented by Jennifer Udden of Donald Maass Literary Agency.

Marieke Nijkamp

GUEST POST

I’ll let you in on a secret. I’m one of Those People who loves to write queries (and occasionally, even synopses *gasp*). I love the clarity in brings when you have to sum up a story in roughly 250 words, when you have to force yourself to get to the very core of a tale. I love the structure of queries and synopses, I love writing them, and I love critiquing them. I’ve probably critiqued close to a thousand over the years.

I know. Annoying, isn’t it?

But I also love to talk about queries, so when Eve asked me to talk about advice for querying writers, I knew I couldn’t pass that opportunity up.

First of all, learn the formulas

Query formulas are amazing to understand what works, and why. Whether it’s by perusing the archives of Query Shark, subjecting yourself to AbsoluteWrite’s Query Letter Hell, or workshopping queries at a conference, you have to get an ear for queries. Know the rules, read a lot and critique more, because all those things will help you a great deal in writing your own perfect pitch.

Second, less is more

Once you’ve figured out those bare bones, the easiest step is to try to fill the out with the entire story. Far too often, I see queries that try to do and be everything. Introduce ALL the characters. Explain ALL the plot points. Mention ALL the themes. And often it’s a matter of overkill—and of the writer overthinking it.

I love specifics that make the story come to life, but if you pick up a book in the bookstore, do you want the blurb to explain everything that happens in minute detail? Stick to what entices.

Thirdly, trust your readers

The best way to know if a query still makes sense and hits the right spots? Ask a CP or beta who’s read the manuscript. The best way to know if a query entices? Ask a reader who hasn’t.

So take your time, reach out and get feedback. And revise it until it shines.

And finally, break the rules

And with that in mind… trust your own gut, too. Because formulas are amazing. But, sometimes, when we turn them into a tight set of rules, they can get very overwhelming. Use a tagline. Don’t use a tagline. Start with personalization. Don’t even bother. Use comp titles. Have a good bio. Explain the story in one paragraph, three paragraphs, two, four… When really, formulas are also just a means to an end.

In the end, your main goal is simple and very straightforward: to hook your reader. Nothing less, nothing more.

So don’t be *too* intimidated by those 250 words. It’s only one page! You’re a writer, just tell the story! After all, as a reader, I read to love a story, not to hate it. I only want to know three things:

Who is the main character?

What choice do they face?

And above all, why should I care?

GIVEAWAY (closed)

Querying Writers! Marieke is giving away a QUERY CRITIQUE to THREE lucky winners! To enter, please fill in the form below with your name and email adresss, and include the genre of your mansucript. Good luck!

The giveaway is open internationally until Sunday 16th March 2014 at 11pm BST.

Any questions? Ask below!