Friday, March 31, 2023

From the Archieves: Query Friday: Querying Strategically

Hi all!

Can you believe we are already a quarter of the way through the year?!?

Following last weeks post I thought a piece on querying stragically might be appropriate and pulled this one from the archieves. Happy querying!



Does your query strategy ever feel like this...

Oprah Give Away GIFs | Tenor

Sure- it's fun while it lasts, but after you've sent out all your queries what do you have left? Well, if you're Oprah, billions of dollars, but the rest of us may not be so fortunate.

Sometimes in all the excitement of querying

Oprah Giveaway GIFs | Tenor

we forget to think strategically. 

You've spent hours, days, weeks, or months crafting your agent list. 
You've attempted to find common ground or a way to personalize each query. 
You've format your letter by agent preference
  • book info at the beginning or end
  • 5 pages, 10 pages, 30 pages- in body of email
  • synopsis (oh dreaded synopsis) attached

After all that work, are you going to query every agent and perhaps blow your chance with a subpar query?

 𝑵𝒐𝒑𝒆 | Facebook

Not today. 

You've got to work with strategy in mind. 

When I query the first thing I do is to separate my list into rounds. I've already vetted all the agents and feel like they'd be a good fit before they make it onto the list, so it's not a question of ranking. I like to mix in bigger agencies with smaller, those who seem like they'd be a good fit along with agents getting positive buzz, newer agents and more established agents.

I like to use Query Tracker to help me build my query list. In addition to other features it lets me track agents by response time. I usually send out a first round of 10 queries and try to make at least half of them fast responders, from days to a couple of weeks. 

If I get even a couple of nibbles- I'll consider the query solid and continue querying with it. In this case, I like to send out a new query for every rejection to keep the momentum going.

However, if my first round of 10 queries results in zero interest, it's back to the drawing board on the query.

The saying 'Back to the drawing board' - meaning and origin.

I'll rework the query, get some opinions, and keep up that cycle until I'm getting some requests. Once the query is solid I feel free to send out as many or as few queries as I'd like at a time.

Do you have a query strategy you follow? Please share it in the comments below.

Happy Querying!!!


Thursday, March 30, 2023

Dear O'Abby: My critique partner says my book is hate speech. What do I do?

Dear O'Abby,

I recently got feedback from one of my critique partners that really upset me.  She said she felt my book was incredibly harmful and that it was essentially hate speech.  I was completely shocked by this because while I know some of the views the characters voice in the book are not views many people subscribe to these days, they are views these particular characters hold and to remove that content from the book would irrevocably change both the characters and the story that is driven by these characters and their views.  And we live in a country where free speech is allowed, so these characters have the right to say what they say.

I really want to be able to publish this book, but I really don't want to deal with being cancelled or called out for spreading hate speech when all I'm trying to do is be authentic to my characters and their stories.  I've seen too many authors bullied on Twitter and Goodreads over the years not to know it can happen, but I never thought I'd be one of those authors.  Now I'm beginning to wonder if publishing this book might just be setting me up for a public flogging.

Any advice?

Not a Hater.

Dear Not a Hater,

Obviously, not having read your book or knowing the content, it's a little hard for me to give specific advice.  

I'm interested that you mention free speech in there because it's something I've been thinking about a lot this week.  And yes, people do have the right to say what they want to say.  Where it gets grey is when what the person says is harmful to an individual or a community.  Words have power and can have tremendous impact.  So think about what your characters are saying and whether their words are something that could be weaponised to hurt people, incite violence or discrimination.  

It's not just what they are saying, but how. Writers (and in fact all artists) explore difficult questions in their work and there are often fine lines between what one person calls challenging and another calls hate speech.  Perhaps your book sits in this space for your critique partner. 

My advice would be to get another set of eyes across it.  If the book deals with a particular race or community, a sensitivity reader is probably a good idea, especially if you are not someone who is a part of that community.  It may be that this particular critique partner is sensitive to a specific issue and is responding to this in your book.  Another reader may not have the same reaction.  

Best of luck navigating these tricky waters.  Do let us know how it turns out.

X O'Abby

Monday, March 27, 2023

Week 13 – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week 13 – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The story is told by 6yo Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, and set in the years 1933–1935 during the Great Depression in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama. Scout’s father Atticus, an attorney, is appointed to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a young white woman. The book explores racial and social injustice. It won a Pulitzer prize in 1961, and was made into a movie in 1962 starring Gregory Peck, who won an Oscar for his performance as Atticus.

An earlier draft called Go Set a Watchman was published in 2015. It is set 20 years after To Kill a Mockingbird but appears to be an earlier draft of that novel, not a sequel.

Significant quote:  "I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird."  The mockingbird is a symbol of goodness and hope, so killing it - destroying innocence - is a sin.

The mockingbird is the state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas.

The mockingbird can imitate many sounds, including the chirps of 35 different bird species, plus insects, frogs, toads, and several man-made sounds. They are territorial, and their chicks leave the nest just 12 days after hatching.

Have you seen mockingbirds in your yard? I have. In previous years when I had a dog, they would dive bomb my dog during nesting season if he dared get close to a certain tree! Here's one dive bombing a Cooper's hawk

Friday, March 24, 2023

Query Friday: The Agent Search (and research)

If you are looking to be traditionally published, then querying is an inevitable part of the journey. 

 Sherlock Holmes, Detective, Investigator

While casting a wide net is a strategy, it's not a great one unless your goal is a lot of rejection. Narrowing the agent search down via research is one the most important steps along the way.

 Process là gì? Work in process là gì? Ý nghĩa trong từng lĩnh vực cụ thể

There are probably as many ways to approach this as there are books to be queried, but I can only speak to my method, which is:

1) I use QueryTracker to filter agents by genre. If I have a sub-genre that is appropriate, I will filter using that too. Then I will hide closed agents.


QueryTracker also allows you to filter to Country, Gender, Members of AALA, Agents on Twitter, and more if those factors are important to you.

2) Next I will go to Manuscript Wish List or use the #MSWL tag on Twitter. This is hugely valuable. Sure, an agent takes fantasy- but do they love sword fighting werewolves set in the 18th century? This step might help you figure it out.

That said, I would strike someone off my list if they didn't specifically list a love of sword fighting werewolves, but if they mention they hate werewolves, or sword fighting is an auto no/trigger then I will proactively avoid that rejection.

3) Agent/Agency websites are next for me. They can provide good insight into the agency, who their clients are, and what kind of books they represent.

4) If you have access to Publisher's Marketplace, this would be my next step. You can look at an agent's recent sales (if shared- they aren't always). This can give you a sense of if the agent you're looking at reps similar books- which can be great.

But, if the agent has a recent sale for a book that sounds super similar to yours, it might be too similar to work for their list. 

5) You can start to narrow things down here. Check out Writer Beware, the Absolute Write Forums, Query Tracker comments/forums. Publisher's Marketplace can also be a good indicator of legitimacy as it shows sales.

Don't discount a newer agent with no sales, though! Consider the agency, and who might be mentoring this agent. Everyone has to start somewhere!

6) Individual agent research!

If you are planning on personalizing your query, you will need to do this anyway. I prefer to do it upfront and take notes on why I thought this agent might be a good match for me. 

I look at the agency website, search for interviews on YouTube and Literary Rambles. Read/watch "How I got my Agent" posts specific to the agents I'm interested in. You can also follow agents on socials that they share on. #AskAgent on Twitter is also a great chance to learn more about an agent.

Word tools. stock vector. Illustration of design, engineering - 20433468

QueryTracker   (free or $25 a year)

Manuscript Wish List


Publisher's Marketplace ($25 a month, or $10 quick pass)

Writer Beware

Absolute Write


Literary Rambles

The Good Place GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

Happy querying!



Thursday, March 23, 2023

Dear O'Abby: How can I autograph e-books?

Dear O'Abby,

I'm a published author and one of the things I keep getting asked for by readers is autographed books.  Tis is fine for the ones I have available as paperbacks etc, but some of my titles are e-book only.  What's the easiest and least expensive way to create an autographed e-book?

Kind regards,


Dear Unautographed,

That's a good question! 

There's something special about going to a signing, meeting an author and then going home with a signed copy - possibly even personalised to you or a loved one who you're going to gift it to - clutched in your hot little hands.  But these days, many authors, like yourself, don't have physical copies to sign, yet fans still want that personalisation and connection with their favourite authors.

The easy way to do it would be to insert a generic message and signature into a published e-book file, but that, of course, means anyone who purchases that particular edition book gets a signed copy and it isn't personal to an individual reader.

There is a tool out there called Authorgraph that allows you to autograph e-books and personalise them for individual readers.  The autographs don't become a part of the e-book, but if you get more than one, they can be gathered together into a collection on your Kindle.  Authorgraph only works for Kindle books, so if your book isn't available in that format, you can't use it.  The upside is that you can specify the message you would like and the signature is drawn, rather than being printed in a script font so it's more like a real autograph.  Authorgraph is also free, so that is a bonus for readers.

And that really seems to be it, I'm afraid.  I guess that points to there being a market for this kind of thing...

Hopefully that is at least a bit helpful.

X O'Abby

Monday, March 20, 2023

Week 12 – The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week 12 – The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is a series of mystery novels set in Botswana by Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith. The main protagonist is Mma Precious Ramotswe. She opens her country’s first female detective agency using an inheritance from her father.

There are more than 20 books in this series

It was made into a TV series

Botswana is a country in the south of Africa

Fun facts about Botswana


I’ve read the first book in this series. It was a very different type of mystery and I loved learning about a new setting and culture. Have you read any of these books?

Friday, March 17, 2023

Flash Fiction Friday

It's Flash Fiction Friday! For this week's contest, go to HuffPost's Weird News page and write a short piece based on a headline! 

Catching my eye this week is

What? How? Why?

Read all about it here.

Or feel free to choose any of the many lovely offerings.

Length: 2000 words or less
Deadline: Sunday, March 19th , 2023, 2am Central Standard Time

Leave your entry in the comments, please. As always, the winner will get bragging rights!