Rank #1: Episode 22: #TenQueries with agent John Cusick
Just like #TenQueries on Twitter, he described what he was seeing--but you can hear in his voice when he gets surprising mistakes (and great queries!).
If you've ever wondered if agents are making up the stories of what's in their inbox (hint: if anything, they don't talk about the strangest things they receive), this is the episode series for you!
While we had him, we asked about his experiences with live pitches--and the awkward and wonderful moments he's had during these meetings. What works for him? What can you do to improve your interactions with agents? Listen in!
Rank #2: Episode 34: #TenQueries with Jessica
In addition to common mistakes and inbox trends, you'll learn why you shouldn't overestimate your competition--and why all of Jessica's interns end up feeling better about their own writing after reading queries. (Hint: If you're doing ANY research, you're in the top 50%. This podcast counts as research! Feel good about yourself.)
Rank #3: Episode Fifteen: A Conversation with Agent Caitie Flum
You can also find Caitie in episode fourteen, our first first pages podcast.
She's on Twitter @caitief.
Rank #4: Episode 39: Editors, Query Mistakes, and The Best Cookies Ever
Then we veer into delicious territory, talking about the best chocolate chip cookies, how to hide the taste of cake mix, and Whitney's husband's winemaking abilities. We also talk about television reboots, including Jessica's favorite, Daria.
We discuss common query mistakes, what they mean for you--and Whitney's best tips for maximizing your success.
Whitney says: You HAVE to make the cookies. Here's the recipe: http://forme-foryou.com/2011/08/the-only-chocolate-chip-cookie-i-will-ever-need-to-know-how-to-make-for-the-rest-of-my-life.html
Rank #5: Episode Twelve: Publishing and Publicity in Your Pajamas
Rank #6: 46: #TenQueries with Samantha Wekstein, Writers House
Then we asked her to go through her queries inbox, choose ten at random--and tell us what they are, why they work, what they can do better--and what this means for you at home.
You can book a meeting with Samantha at https://manuscriptacademy.com/10-minutes-with-an-expert and find her online at https://twitter.com/SWekstein
Rank #7: Episode 23: Comp Titles with Rachel Ektrom Courage
When used badly, comps can read like "This is Harry Potter meets The DaVinci Code meets Eat, Pray, Love"--both vague and an indicator of a lack of research.
How do you use them to your advantage? Listen in!
Rank #8: Episode 36: #TenQueries with Agent Kelly Van Sant
You can book time to go over YOUR query at http://manuscriptacademy.com/kelly-van-sant/.
Kelly Van Sant has a decade of experience in the publishing industry. She cut her teeth in New York working at esteemed literary agencies such as Writers House and Harold Ober Associates. After relocating to Minnesota, Kelly joined Llewellyn Worldwide as their Contracts Manager across all three imprints and then moved to Quarto Publishing Group USA where she led the contract department.
She has worked as a freelance editor and is a teaching artist at the Loft Literary Center. She also blogs about writing and the publishing industry at Pub(lishing) Crawl and co-hosts their weekly podcast. Kelly’s career came full circle when she realized that her true passion was advocating on behalf of authors. She is now an agent at Red Sofa Literary and actively building a client list. You can learn more about her and what she’s looking for on her website www.penandparsley.com
Rank #9: Episode Twenty: A Conversation With Stephanie Fretwell-Hill of Red Fox Literary
We also talk about the difference between our IDEA of what a career is like, versus the reality. (Hint: We almost never think about how creative professions usually have less time for inspiration than we imagine.)
We also talk about building a book community outside of NYC (Stephanie's in Atlanta), how to balance work and life, and how best to get an agent emotionally onboard with your work.
Want to talk with Stephanie more? You can! She's part of The Manuscript Academy's Ten Minutes With An Expert program. You can e-meet her to discuss your work here: https://manuscriptacademy.com/ten/ and follow her on Twitter here: @SFretwellHill.
Podcast edited by the amazing @ParleyCook.
Rank #10: Episode 41: #TenQueries with Agent Roseanne Wells
We also talk about what works for illustrators, and styles in query sentences that set you apart in a bad way. We have a short lesson on Caps For Emphasis, and the difference between strong female characters and Strong Female Characters.
We then share some of Roseanne's insights from her Worldbuilding 101 class (available in the Full Library), and talk about how even contemporary needs it--every book, after all, needs a world.
You can follow Roseanne at https://twitter.com/rivetingrosie.
Rank #11: Episode 43: Great First Lines with Agent John Cusick
John's class is available (with our full library of classes) at ManuscriptAcademy.com.
You can find him online at JohnMCusick.com, or at https://twitter.com/johnmcusick
Rank #12: 51: Structure, Characters + Narrative Beats with agent Hannah Fergesen
Naturally, we talk about Buffy (it was inevitable), Hannah's fascination with darker works, and why sometimes younger editors take on riskier projects.
We also talk about structure—how to make sure that your characters motivate action, why this can be so difficult, and how to make sure your character is active—so your story maintains tension, so readers (and agents!) keep turning pages.
Hannah's class, Structure, Characters + Narrative Beats, is now availble. Tickets are $25 for the recorded, edited class + Live Q&A April 24, 8:30pm EDT. Join here: https://manuscriptacademy.com/structure
You can find Hannah's podcast, Good Witches, Bad Bitches, here: https://www.patreon.com/gwbbpodcast
And find Hannah on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/hannahfergesen
Rank #13: Episode Sixteen: Reaction: The First Pages Podcast
We also answer Lindsey's questions and talk about how much self-deprecation can work on the page (versus in real life) and how to create (and why you should try to create) an emotional and aesthetic range.
Want to volunteer as tribute? Submit your page for consideration by sending it to Academy@ManuscriptWishList.com as a Word document (yes, we know! The opposite of querying: we WANT an attachment). Please put "First Pages Podcast" in the subject line.
For your reference, here is Lindsay's first page, which we went over in episode fourteen:
My Life Without You by Lindsey Danis
It’s the last day of the first week of school and the air has this incredible warmth, like summer’s just a tease. I unzip my navy-blue mechanic’s jacket, which I’ve been warned is not sanctioned as school uniform. I’m meeting my best friend Birdie at our sanctuary, the appropriately named Haven Diner. The Square feels like home and I breathe in its smell of incense, sweat, and garbage, happy to be here.
Harvard Square is about a mile from my parents’ house (correction: my father’s house) and it’s ground zero for any street punk/riot grrrl/alternative kid in the Boston area. Street artists, protesters, musicians, writers—everyone who cares about arts, culture, and activism hangs out here, learning from and inspiring one another.
The Square as we all call it shares nothing but a name with that Ivy League school. You would think it would be totally pretentious, just like the university barricaded behind 27 iron gates, but it’s the opposite. Harvard students cut across to go from dorm to class and back again, but the Square belongs to everyone. University janitors eat their packed sandwiches and rub shoulders with teen runaways, retail store clerks take smoke breaks, homeless folks play chess outside the coffee shop. Even the diehard Cambridge hippies pause and take in the scene on their way to poetry readings or theater performances.
Worlds blend and cultures mix, especially when you’re waiting outside Haven for a seat. Popular girls from my old school who would never smile at me in the hallways call out my name to ask how summer was. At my new school I may be the weirdo, but whatever I am is all right here in the Square. There’s no judgment.
Rank #14: Episode Ten: An Interview With Harlequin Editor Carly Silver
You can learn more about Carly at @CarlyASilver.
Rank #15: Episode Nineteen: A Conversation with Jaime Coyne of St Martin's/Macmillan
Back in the real world, we discuss how different edits can lead you to the same place (yes, really! Sometimes editor A's suggestion X and editor B's suggestion Y can get you to the same draft Z), why that's true--and why you shouldn't idealize editorial life.
Plus, of course, filming day--which Jaime attended, jackhammers and all.
This episode was edited by the amazing Parley Cook.
Rank #16: 52: A Real Live Consultation with Agent Danielle Chiotti
Want to see Danielle's LIVE first pages panel on May 14, 8:30pm EDT? Send your page and a question ahead for a chance of live feedback from Danielle, Jessica and Julie--or send it ahead and watch the digital replay on your phone, tablet or laptop. https://manuscriptacademy.com/danielle.
You can find Kayla at kaylakingbooks.com and on Twitter @KaylaMKing.
Here's Kayla's first page, shared here with the permission of the author:
Home existed on the map beneath the painted bee’s wings. Camryn memorized the design of her city as a distraction. The framed artwork used to calm her, but now she couldn’t contain her anxiety. She sat on the cool metal table with four pristine walls of the clinic around her. Waiting. All week she’d worried about what would happen next.
Once every year.
The past few days, Camryn counted those facts from one to three on her fingers. She hoped the practice would settle her nerves. The last time she searched trypanophobia, the results provided breathing exercises, and suggested focusing on a word or phrase to subdue her fear of the needle. She focused on three: the word, and occasionally, the number. Counting consumed her uncertainty most days.
But not today.
Everything gleamed like the tip of the needle within the white-walled room; too clean and perfect and permeated with the pungent smell of antiseptic.
“One. Two. Three. Two. One.” Those words were a whisper, but even in her head they sounded like Gram. The memory of the voice couldn’t soothe Camryn because it made her think of Gram before she’d gotten sick. It took a knock outside the door to silence the thought.
“Are we ready?” Dr. Rambert was supposed to administer the injection, but he smelled like spearmint. He corrupted her calm.
Camryn took three deep breaths, and offered a small smile, hoping to convince the doctor and her mom that she would be okay. “Please, Mom?” Camryn tried to keep her voice steady because the thought of the needle shook her. She focused on the painting of the honey bee, but remembered reading about how they died after stinging. The thought made her feel worse. She couldn’t remember why the painting was supposed to placate her nerves.
“This should feel like routine by now,” Dr. Rambert said.
“You need it.” Her mom always sounded so detached at the clinic, and right now, Camryn needed her to sound like a mom.
“But it’s real.” Camryn didn’t want to explain her trypanophobia again. Talking about the fear only made it worse.
Her mom moved to the side of the table. “This has always been nonsensical. I thought you’d outgrow it by now.”
Camryn’s reasoning was too real. The memory of Gram’s failed injection was real, too. She remembered the way a similar needle pierced Gram’s skin. The injection had atrophied the muscle to the point where she could no longer lift her arm to hold a book or a cup of tea.
“Please?” Camryn wasn’t sure anyone heard because she hadn’t taken in enough air to say the word. She couldn’t breathe. But she must have looked ready then because her mom sterilized her arm with a clear solution, making her eyes water. The smell stung inside her nose. She closed her eyes, and waited.
Rank #17: Episode 31: First Pages with Author Cameron Rosenblum
This page by author Lauren Shade.
I can't get caught.
My stomach turns as I unclench my fists and wipe my palms down the side of my shorts. I can’t. I am so close…so close to the truth I can taste it, and if I get caught, she’ll take it away from me. She did it once. She’ll do it again.
I keep my eyes locked on the kitchen archway. Toes curled in the plush living room carpet. Sweat gathers under my arms and behind my bent knees, in the area where my boobs meet the underwire of my bra. My heart beat drums in my ears, much louder than the air conditioning or the gentle wind pulling the smell of salt-water and rain through the open terrace doors. The wall separating us is streaked yellow with sunlight. I can almost see her through it, phone pressed against her ear, probably pacing and definitely with a drink in hand, but nowhere close to suspecting what’s going on right under her nose. With a shaky breath, I inch my hand into my mother’s coat pocket. Slowly. Slowly. Fingers touching metal and plastic.
This is wrong. Stealing her keys. Breaking into her office.
I should stop.
Maybe I should listen to Dante’s advice for once.
The first time he told me some things were better left alone was when I was twelve. It was during primary school. I would spend each summer at the Arzola Estate in Coral Gables.
The manicured lawns were my playground. The ocean front was a mini paradise I would swim in for hours on end. One day when the chauffeur dropped me off, he turned to me with dead-set eyes and said, “Nobody has this much money unless they’re involved in bad things; if you know what I mean.” But, I didn’t know what he meant…though I’d soon find out.
Dante and I used to love playing hide and seek at night.
That night was no different.
The mansion was a fortress. I would fade into the shadows of the hallway or climb the stairs to the third floor, maybe higher to the fourth where the library was and the art studio. This time I was it. I stood in the middle of the common room, shouting the countdown behind cloaked eyes and a smile that grew wider by the second. When I finally found him, Dante was hiding outside the boathouse, but he wasn’t hiding from me. There was a blizzard in his eyes, a frozen panic that raised chill bumps on my arms. He had turned into a statue—stone-faced and stone-silent. I was cautious as I approached him.
I jumped as the gun exploded.
A metallic jingle—the keys scraping against each other. The memories vanish, and I’m back in the den. My mother’s voice floats from the next room, low and quick. I strain to make out the conversation she’s having, gauge how close or far she is, but her words all mesh together.
“Damn it, Javi! Who gave him access to the accounts? Do I need to come there myself?”
I go completely still, the keys swinging back and forth in my fingers. In the kitchen, cabinets open with a creak and shut with a bang. Her accent draws closer as though she’s walking toward the living room. I pinch my eyes closed and grit my teeth until my jaw starts to ache, and though inside I’m on fire, outside I’m ice. I’m Dante on the night we heard those noises.
Rank #18: Episode Eighteen: Five Days To A Fab First Page
Just head to ManuscriptAcademy.com/Five to learn more.
Rank #19: Episode 28: An Interview with Kiana Nguyen
PLUS, we talk about her unusual journey into publishing--which involved Twitter networking, a contest, and getting killed in a work of fiction, The Intern's Handbook by Shane Kuhn: http://www.shanekuhn.com/the-intern-s-handbook.html
We also discuss why a form letter is just a form letter--but that still doesn't make US feel better, and very important topics including trains that get across the country in under an hour (see https://www.wired.com/2013/07/elon-musk-hyperloop/).
You can book a meeting with Kiana here: http://manuscriptacademy.com/ten/