Thursday, April 21, 2016

Top Three Tips for Selling Your Novel Without An Agent

by guest blogger Dani Pettrey.

I know what you are thinking: You can’t get to editors without an agent. However, that’s not true. In fact, I received a publishing contract sans agent. While I do have a fabulous agent whom I’ve been with for years now, I didn’t sign with her until months after my debut novel released. I did, in complete transparency, sign with a different agent right after I received the contract offer as the idea of negotiating a contract on my own terrified me. Looking back, I can see that I rushed into it. There wasn’t anything wrong with that agent. He’s great. He just wasn’t the perfect fit for me. 

 Which is exactly why it’s important to hold out until you find the right agent. Don’t try to force a fit or settle for a mediocre agent as I’ve seen many pre-published writers do. If you sign with an agent, you want them to be a partner with you for the rest of your career and that’s certainly not a relationship you want to jump into lightly. 

While I do highly recommend finding the right agent, it’s always better to go without an agent than to sign with the wrong one. Now, does that mean you stop writing or stop pursuing publication until you find the perfect agent for you? By no means, and that’s what this article is all about: how to get published without an agent if you haven’t found the right one yet. Once you have a publishing contract, you have much more headway in garnering an agent’s attention and it puts you in a better position to, hopefully, sign with your dream agent—as in my case. 

Until then, here are my top three tips for landing a contract without an agent: 

1) Enter contests: I know many of you just cringed. Contests can be brutal, but sometimes you get excellent feedback. I entered a number of contests before selling and several of them helped me really hone my opening chapters. While this is an important part of the process, the key when approaching contests in the most beneficial way is to not fall into the ‘polish the first three chapters trap’. I know many a writer who has fallen prey of this trap. Working and reworking and polishing your first three chapters until they shine and then being able to final in contest after contest. 

This is great, but you still need to write the rest of the book. The key is that when you final, if the judging editor asks to see more, you have the entire manuscript to send him or her. I know my editor has found several authors via judging their contest entries. I also know several agents who have done the same. Go for it! Just keep writing.


2) Get involved: Join in the writing community. Editors and Agents are part of the writing community along with fellow writers. Take time to get to know your fellow writers, to learn from experienced authors, to follow agents’ blogs. Get to know the agents out there. Discern who might be a good fit for you and join in the conversation on their blog posts. Now, I’m not suggesting stalking. Really I’m not. What I’m suggesting is showing genuine interest in what is happening in the writing world, making connections, and really getting to know the community you’re entering into. 

Yes, writers get published without ever interacting, but why chose that route, even if you are an introvert. Contrary to what most people think, I’m an introvert. I love people and sharing time with them, but after a while it is draining and I need some quiet time to recharge. But I value the friendships I’ve made along the way and value the wisdom I’ve gleaned from various agents’ blogs. I am beside myself in amazement at the mentoring available to aspiring authors through individual authors and via organizations like ACFW. If you haven’t joined ACFW, you really have to. It’s full of wonderful people and amazing resources. Joining was the single best thing I did as an aspiring writer. 



3) Attend conferences: I know that conferences can be expensive -- believe me, I do. But they are so worth it if there’s any way you can make it to them. I highly recommend ACFW and I’ll tell you why in a minute. However, if you can’t make a national conference, make a regional or local one. There are a number of wonderful regional conferences out there where you have the amazing opportunity to sit down and chat with agents and editors face to face. Some that come to mind include Marlene Bagnull’s Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference and its sister conference in Colorado, Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference, as well as Oregon’s Christian Writer’s conference. The list goes on and on. Why am I such a big proponent of writing conferences? Because that’s how I met my future agent as well as my editor. God bless my editor. I finished my manuscript and felt God leading me to attend ACFW that year. It was last minute and my super supportive hubby said to go for it, so I did, but I was so late registering that I couldn’t get appointments with either the agent or editor I most wanted to speak with. 


But when God has a plan, there’s no thwarting it. My first night there my publisher participated in the Spotlight Session. The editor mentioned he was looking for what I wrote so I approached him afterwards (actually I leapt from my chair the second he finished speaking and nearly bowled the poor man over), and he was gracious enough to ask to see the first three chapters. A few weeks later I got an email from him requesting the full manuscript and a few weeks after that an email saying he was taking it to pub committee. Within two months of the conference I had a contract in my hand. It was amazing. I truly believe that if God has a plan for you and your writing, He’ll provide the opportunities. Just be open to His whisper. 

I do want to point out that this wasn’t my first conference nor my first manuscript. I’d been attending conferences for a handful of years and had written several manuscripts prior to selling so don’t get discouraged. Just keep writing, keep praying and wait for God to open the door. 


Any fellow authors out there have any other tips to offer? How did you sign with your agent or get your book contract? 

Aspiring writers and readers, I’d love to hear any questions you have about the submission process and how to prepare for conferences. I’m here all day and happy to answer questions. 

Thanks so much to all the wonderful ladies of Seekerville for hosting me! 

Blessings,

Dani


Dani Pettrey is a wife, mom, grandma, and the author of Cold Shot, the first book in the Chesapeake Valor series, and the Alaskan Courage romantic suspense series, which includes her bestselling novels Submerged, Shattered, Stranded, Silenced, and Sabotaged. Her books have been honored with the Daphne du Maurier award, two HOLT Medallions, a Christy Award nomination, two National Readers? Choice Awards, the Gail Wilson Award of Excellence, and Christian Retailing?s Best Award, among others.

She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves?the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of her characters? faith, and plenty of romance. She and her husband reside in Maryland, where they enjoy time with their two daughters, a son-in-law, and a super adorable grandson.



Cold Shot
In college, Griffin McCray and his four best friends had their lives planned out. Griffin and Luke Gallagher would join the Baltimore PD. Declan Gray would head to the FBI and Parker Mitchell would go on to graduate school as a crime scene analyst. But then Luke vanished before graduation and their world--and friendships--crumbled.


Now Griffin is a park ranger at Gettysburg, having left life as a SWAT-team sniper when a case went bad. The job is mostly quiet--until the day he captures two relic hunters uncovering skeletal remains near Little Round Top. Griffin just wants the case to go away, but charming forensic anthropologist Finley Scott determines that the body is modern--a young social justice lawyer missing since spring--and all evidence points to the work of an expert sniper. When FBI agent Declan Gray takes over the case, past and present collide. Griffin soon realizes he'll need to confront some of the darkest days of his life if he--and those he cares about--are going to escape a downward spiral of murder that crosses continents.

Leave a comment today for a chance to win your own copy of Cold Shot (Chesapeake Valor) & a $10 Starbucks card. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.


BONUS!! Get your coffee on! Two more chances for a Starbucks card! Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

170 comments :

  1. Welcome Dani! Thank you so much for sharing with us - - this was helpful and encouraging. In fact, I copied one of your comments and now have it beside my computer: Just keep writing, keep praying, and wait for God to open the door.
    Love that! I think it's human nature for us to get in a hurry sometimes and want something to happen right then, but if we're doing our best then it's in the Lord's timing, I know. (Yes, I'm reminding myself of this, LOL).
    Thank you again for this post, and CONGRATULATIONS on your writing success! :)
    Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

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    1. See reply below, Patti Jo. I started off commenting at the end of the stream, but can now reply directly.

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  2. Welcome to Seekerville, Dani!

    We are so delighted to have you , and if fact you gave me an idea. We report contests in Seekerville, with our monthly Contest Update but we need to be providing a list of conferences as well. Those smaller conferences can be a great way to meet one-on-one in a more relaxed atmosphere.

    So thank you for the tip.

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    1. You are super welcome! LOVE all you ladies do to help writers.

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    2. Great idea for the WE, Tina!!!

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  3. And as I was ordering Cold Shot on Amazon, I noticed you have another release coming up really quickly. Are the novellas in this collection tied together??

    It's now on my preorder list!!

    Sins of the Past: A Romantic Suspense Novella Collection with by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, Lynette Eason.

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  4. Dani, I love your books! I Appreciate these great tips. Unfortunately I'm not going to make ACFW this year but I am being selective and entering a few contests.

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    1. Hi Terri,
      See my reply at the end of the comment stream. Just got it switched over to reply directly.

      Delete
  5. Dani,

    I'm taking your post as confirmation since I just recently joined ACFW and decided on a contest to enter. I'd been dragging my feet on these two things for awhile.

    Since I probably won't be able to go to a conference for awhile, what would you say is the best way to get involved with ACFW? Or maybe I should ask instead: what resources did YOU find most valuable?

    As for the contest, now I just need to write a synopsis for my manuscript that makes it sound as interesting as possible. But here's my question: Do you know offhand if it's allowable to enter an unpublished manuscript in more than one contest at a time (eg, Golden Rose and Unpublished Maggie)?

    Wow, your book sounds intense. It's nice to be able to capture that essence in such a short blurb! (Hope I can manage that with my synopsis.) AND--as if that blurb didn't get my heart pumping--how about a little caffeine too! (By the way, you don't look old enough to be a grandma. Nice picture.)

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    1. Hey Lara,
      See my reply at the end of the comment stream or further below. Just got it switched to reply directly. Hope my answers are helpful. Have a great day!

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  6. As a part of the Seekerville Diva Squad, Lara, it is totally allowable to enter a manuscript in more than one contest at once. The life cycle of a contest is from opening day to announcement of winners..usually six months.

    Judging is subjective. Contests are the one arena where you can multiple submit and not waste valuable time.

    But, you have to be sure you are entering a contest for the right reason. There is no point entering the Maggies for feedback -it doesn't give any feedback-but if it's to catch an editor's eye..great reason.

    I also recommend you always look a the contest scoresheet to find out which contest will best showcase your manuscript. This post might help.

    Pimp Your Contest Entry

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    1. Great advice, Tina. I always entered with the mind set that it was a potential way to reach an editor, but on the ones that do give feedback, I always had a rule of 3. If 3 judges (from any number of the contests I entered the manuscript in) commented on the same thing, then I fixed it. Just my way of keeping it less emotional feedback-wise.

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  7. Welcome, Dani! We always recommend entering contests around here! So I heartily agree. I first sold through a contest--although it was quite a while later. And then I got my wonderful agent Natasha Kern a few books after that.

    Your books sounds so good! What a great story idea. :)

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    1. Thanks so much for the welcome, Missy, and that's so awesome about selling through a contest. Natasha is wonderful (from all I've heard :))

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  8. How did I get signed? If you're a unpubbed writer not knowing if Dani's post is up to snuff, she covered it purty darn well, she hit everything I did.

    My crit partner was signed to my agent through finaling in a contest, and she recommended my stuff to her. She debated over 3 chapter and a synopsis for about a month, asked to meet me at the upcoming ACFW conference, she gave me a decent amount of praise, then a few weeks later ultimately turned it down saying I could resubmit.

    But I was entering contests and since I was finaling pretty consistently, I was only going for judges that were agents or editors I wanted. I won first place in one and the editor judge requested it.

    I asked the editor to wait a bit so I could talk to a few agents. Sent out queries to the top 6 that I felt comfortable with after meeting them or hearing them talk at conference and talking to people signed under them, 3 replied with a request for a full, my agent who'd seen my work before read it quickly and offered first and since she was my #1, I went with her, and then we put a plan together for Bethany, and the rest is history....

    So yep, Contests, Networking, and Conferences.

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    1. Yay! That's so awesome, Melissa :)) Love being at Bethany House with you.

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  9. Thank you for the wonderful advice Dani. I love your work and Cold Shot was an excellent start to your new series.

    May you have a blessed day here in Seekerville.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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  10. The blurb for that book sounds magnificent. It sounds like it moves above and beyond the norm of romantic suspense these days, and into the realm of true mystery suspense, that convoluted, wonderful style of layering a story over time and space. Kudos, Dani!!!!!

    Hey, thank you so much for being here today, and with such good advice. I had the pleasure of working with several agents (all very nice, but it wasn't a great match on either side) but I will be with my current agent until one of us dies or quits, and I hope neither happens for decades...

    I love her to pieces and she's just as hard working as I am, so we fit. And for me, a writer who has worked a day job as well as writing all these years, I needed an agent who understood my crazy time constraints and my goals. Natasha gets that, and my work ethic, so we're a stellar match.

    And I love her!!!! :)

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  11. Welcome, Dani! Contests rock! I received my contract through a contests without having an agent. Of course, I learned of the contest here at Seekerville.

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  12. Welcome to Seekerville, Dani! I've made some great friends through Seekerville and ACFW. I appreciate your encouraging post. Today I really needed to hear the words not to settle for an agent who may not be a good fit. I'll take your advice and continue to pray and listen for God's answer.

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  13. I love Dani's books! I can' twait to read Cold Shot. Hoping for a win!!!

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  14. HELLO DANI! I brought CHOCOLATE CHIP SCONES!!!!!

    Have a TERRIFIC THURSDAY! It's Friday Eve.

    Please enter me for copy of Cold Shot (Chesapeake Valor) & a $10 Starbucks card.

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  15. DANI, these are good points and a good tri-fold strategy. I'm doing okay on your first two points. Conferences are out of reach right now, but always a gleam in my eye.
    We should also constantly be working on craft. I've had the same critique partner for 20 years, and I also make good use of every chance to get a 5-page critique from the Seekers. Hint, hint, it's been a while. One of my tricks is to attack my manuscript, after a critique, as soon as possible, within the week after I get the judges' comments, the Seekerville input, or my crit partner's patient coaching. IF I let it go too long, I'll start to pout or rationalize my mistakes, or forget it entirely. When iron is sharpening iron, it's best to strike while the iron is hot. (I DO NOT WRITE THAT WAY IN MY FICTION).
    Enter me in drawing and pass scones over here.
    KB

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    1. HI Kaybee,
      So awesome you've found such a great, long term critique partner :))

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  16. Dani, Welcome to Seekerville. This post is helpful to me. This is my year of taking my writing to the next level. I joined ACFW this year. I have entered a couple of contests and have a couple more I am hoping to do as well. Unfortunately unless the Lord provides the money I will not be able to attend the ACFW conference. The cost is too high. It is too bad because it is so close to me. I have even looked up the cost of traveling by Greyhound which is very reasonable. I told the Lord that since the cost for the conference would be the equivalent of a month and a half of my social security check, that if He wants me there, He will provide the way and the money.

    I would love to be entered in the drawing for your book.

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    1. There is a season for everything Wilani. So will be praying for doors to open to an event that is just right for you. And you are right. He does provide a way. That's his job. :)

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    2. Ditto on what Tina said. Praying for open doors for the right conference He has in mind especially for you.

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  17. Dani, I'm so excited to read this post! I've bookmarked it and will read it as soon as I can, which may be midnight tonight. Our daughter (27 yrs old) has developed a case of shingles, so Mountain Man drove 8 hours round trip Tuesday to get our 10 month old grandson. We will be babysitting this darling for about two weeks while his mommy heals. I'm enjoying every moment, but it does mean working around his schedule, not mine.

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    1. Thanks so much! Oh no on the shingles. No fun. Have a blast with your grandson. They sure keep you hopping, don't they? :)

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  18. Dani: thanks for sharing such good information. It is an inside scoop for all of us who hesitate to enter contests. I think I'm one of them. This column should help push me over the edge. Your new book sounds intriguing. I wish you lots of success with it. Keep doing what your doing. It's working. P.S. I love the title.

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    1. Thanks so much, Suzanne :) Hope you have a great contest experience.

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  19. Thanks so much for the lovely welcome, ladies. I'm honored to be here.

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  20. CatMom--I am so thrilled you found the post inspirational. I LOVE that you posted that by your computer. It's so true, I believe. Thanks so much for dropping by today. Really appreciate the warm welcome.

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  21. HI Dani! Great advice! I need to check the Seekerville archives and see what an agent does. I'm curious as to why or how you will know if they "fit" you or not.

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    1. Hi Annie,
      So nice to see you here. Knowing if they fit... My advice pray over it big time, chat with them, get to know them, ask them questions, now what kind of writer you are and what you'd need from an agent and see if that's the kind of agent they are. You can usually 'feel' if an agent is right. I felt super peace and elation when I signed with my agent and I'm with her as long as she'll have me :)
      Some agents are very contract oriented, others editorial oriented, some are warm and friendly, some are more business-like. Determine whats most important to you and pray God would pair you with the right agent. Does that help?

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    2. Thanks Dani. I'm not a writer but was just wondering. Thanks!

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    3. Thanks Dani. I'm not a writer but was just wondering. Thanks!

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  22. Tina,
    Thanks so much for the warm welcome and for hosting me! I love how active and inspiring Seekerville is!

    So...Sins of the Past is a novella collection I'm doing with Dee Henderson and Lynette Eason (I'm so honored and humbled to be a part). All three novellas are stand alones, but weaved together by a common thread (sins of the past :))

    My novella, Shadowed, is a prequel to the Alaskan Courage series. It's the McKenna parents' love story. I really hope readers enjoy getting to know Libby and Ben, and to see how it all began.

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    1. I made it work!!! Okay, great to know about the novellas.

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  23. Terri,

    Thank you so much! Thrilled you're enjoying the stories. I wasn't able to attend conferences every year either. I had to pick and choose, but it's great you're entering contests. Wishing you the very best! Thanks so much for dropping by.

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  24. Hi Lara,


    I'm going to respond right after your questions. Hopefully that works to make it the easiest way to communicate :) Love your questions, by the way.

    <> Yay! So glad God could use me to be inspiring!

    <>
    Definitely joining the main discussion loop. You'll be amazed all you pick up by just listening and by asking questions. Authors are so awesome about taking time to share what they've learned. Also, join a local group if you have one in your area. I believe they are called chapters and you can find that information on the website. I just soaked up whatever was offered--classes, genre loops, the conference mp3 is always an option and I grabbed one every year I couldn't go to conference.

    <> Absolutely. You can enter as many as you want and I encourage you to do so. Just pick contests that have judges you are interested in getting your work in front of in case you final. Both of the ones you mentioned are great ones.

    Wow, your book sounds intense. It's nice to be able to capture that essence in such a short blurb! (Hope I can manage that with my synopsis.) AND--as if that blurb didn't get my heart pumping--how about a little caffeine too! (By the way, you don't look old enough to be a grandma. Nice picture.)

    Awww, thanks so much! I LOVE being a grandma.
    Thanks for all the great questions. Wishing you all the best. If you have any questions along the way feel free to email me at dani@danipettrey.com
    I'm always happy to answer questions, but because of time constraints I just can't read or review anything, but always happy to answer questions :)
    Best,
    Dani

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  25. Sorry all. I managed to pick up a lovely sinus infection while on vacation with my hubby last weekend and have to pop out to the doctor real quick, but I'll be back soon to answer all your questions and spend the rest of the day with you so keep those questions and comments coming. Thanks so much!
    I'll be giving away two more Starbucks gift cards for the inconvenience :))) So, Tina, pick two more winner.
    Best,
    Dani

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    1. WOW. Will do and will add a nice graphic while you are gone.

      Let Them Drink Coffee

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  26. Dani, thank you for your encouraging post. This information is timely for me. It's nice to know I'm on the right track.

    That blurb gave me goose bumps. Please add my name to the pot for a copy of your book.

    I do have a question about what kind of numbers you had for your platform before you landed an agent or editor and do you feel that it make a difference? Thanks so much for sticking around this morning.

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    1. Hi Renee,
      I didn't have a platform before I was published. That just grew naturally as my books came out. Tina or one of the Seekerville gang might have a better answer for you on that...

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  27. Hey Villagers, note that Dani has extra fun bonus material for Cold Shot on her web page.


    Bonus Material

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  28. Since we're talking conferences..which conferences will you be at this year Dani. So we can stalk..er catch up with you.

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  29. So glad you could be with us today to share your wisdom, Dani! You are on target with the advice about waiting to find the RIGHT agent, not jumping at the first one who shows interest. I had a VERY brief sojourn with an agent who was new in the business and showed initial enthusiasm for my work but then did absolutely nothing. My current agent is a dream, and like RUTHY said, I'll stay with her until one of us either retires or meets our Maker.

    You made several important suggestions about how to keep progressing in your career while seeking the best agent match. I sold my first four (I think it was) novels without agent representation. So I had a bit of a track record, which I do believe makes a difference when you're looking for an agent.

    However, even a contract offer isn't necessarily enough to convince an agent to represent you. A reputable agent I queried after receiving an offer on one of my early books took a look at the story, said it didn't "resonate" with her, and declined.

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    1. Hi Myra,
      Thanks so much for sharing. So glad you love your agent. It's soooo important to have a friend and advocate on your side.

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  30. DANI, loved your post! We are writing for God's glory so He cares about our stories. You've given us a great blueprint on how to be prepared for publication and then grab opportunities when God opens a door.

    Seekers met and some sold through contests. Contests helped me hone my craft and when Love Inspired announced the launch of the historical line I shot off a query and proposal, which led to a sale. I didn't have an agent at the time, but writers do not need an agent to submit to Love Inspired.

    Congratulations on your book! The story sounds amazing!

    Janet

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  31. Dani, Thanks for your encouraging and educational post. I joined ACFW this year on the recommendation of a guest poster on Seekerville and I've been amazed at all the help and opportunities available with ACFW. And of course I love the Seekers. I learn from them continually and they really are the coolest authors I know.

    I have a couple of questions about conferences. It seems like to go to the ACFW conference a person should have a manuscript that is ready to go. Is that correct? I assume it is probably not a good idea to attend just to lurk? (It actually is a question)

    As far as regional conferences go in general, are they open to people from outside their area? I have not found much around My area yet.

    Thanks again for your post. Cold Shot sounds great.

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    1. Wait until you go to ACFW, Barb. I can assure you, we will then officially not be the coolest authors you know.

      Seekerville is like the school yard with a twist. It's our school yard and we let EVERYONE play dodge ball on our team. ha!

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    2. Barbara, of course you can go to ACFW and lurk! With all the workshops offered, it's a fantastic learning experience. There's no requirement to have a finished manuscript unless you are requesting editor or agent appointments and hope to get a request to submit.

      Yes, regional conferences are open to anyone who can travel to them. I know they'd love to have you!

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    3. Barbara,
      Yes. You can most definitely go to ACFW and lurk. I did several years. You LEARN so much. It's absolutely worth going just for the workshops, not to mention that fabulous friends you'll make and the networking. It's a great crowd.

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    4. AS far as regional conference go, anyone can attend from anywhere :))

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  32. Thanks for being here, DANI! I've been looking forward to your post.

    I've attended local/regional conferences several times and recommend them. It's nice to become acquainted with writers in your area, even if they don't write the same thing you write. That said, a lovely thing about daily visits with online groups (like Seekerville) is that when you meet in person you feel like old friends being reunited :-)

    Best wishes for your writing!

    Nancy C

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    1. And isn't that crazy, Nancy. Nine years doing this blog and some of my closest friends are Villagers I have never met. Which sounds like a version of Sandra Bullock's THE NET.

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    2. Thanks, Nancy. That is soooo true. You really do feel like old friends when you finally meet.

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  33. Great Post, Dani. I have to agree with you 100% on joining ACFW. It has made all the difference in my career in even the short two years I've been a member. It's my first recommendation for new writers who ask my advice. My second is to follow this blog ;) Contests have also helped a lot and I look forward to attending my first conference in August (babies have made it difficult to get away in the past). Thanks!

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    1. Angela, thanks for the kind words. First conference!!! WOOT!! Good for you!

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    2. I'd say I'm pretty excited, but that would be putting it mildly. ;)

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    3. Hi Angela,
      So awesome to hear ACFW has been a great group for you too. So excited you get to go this year. Hope you have an amazing time. I'll be teaching two workshops. Be sure to stop by and say hi if you can :)))

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  34. I just fan-girled like a LOT!!!!! Dani, I LOVE your writing and can't wait to devour more of your books. The Alaskan Courage series was so good, I didn't want it to end!! In fact, a friend and I were discussing whether you'd scrounge up a distant cousin or something to continue the series! We LOVED your characters, and for me, when I can connect with them like they were my own set of friends and/or family, you have a reader for life :-)

    Ok, I got that out of my system now *huge grin*. Seriously, I do enjoy your writing so much and have been looking forward to your newest books, "Cold Shot" being on the very tippy top of my TBR pile. I guess my only question for you, is how do YOU prepare for a conference? I'm sure there is much excitement and maybe a little trepidation involved? And I bet you've made quite a few writerly friends. Also, I'd love to hear where you get your research for your books, do you travel to the various areas you are writing about or if not, how do you make it so it sounds like you did *another huge grin*? Because your vivid descriptions of Alaska made me put that on one of the places I want to visit someday list! Thank you for taking time to both indulge my questions & throwing a huge fan-girl fit...haha!

    Like you too, I'm an introvert & the idea of joining something like a writing community (in your case) would people me out just thinking about it! But I know you have to sometimes push through that to make the connections necessary for your dream job (writing). I'd just have to have massive amounts of "me time" afterwards :-)
    Thanks so much for sharing your writing journey with us Dani! I'm always fascinated on learning how God took your dream and made it reality! And please, please put my name in the draw for "Cold Shot", I promise to really, really love it...haha! Barring that, I could just drown my sorrows in a cup or two of Starbucks :-)

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    1. "Barring that, I could just drown my sorrows in a cup or two of Starbucks " lol. Trixi, you are so funny!!!

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    2. HI Trixi,
      Thanks so much for the awesome message. I'm SO thrilled you enjoyed the Alaskan Courage series. I do have a novella coming out May 2nd called Sins of the Past and my novella within the collection is the story of the McKenna parents. Hope you'll enjoy seeing how it all started :))

      As far as preparing for conferences go, it really depends on what your goals for the conference that year are. For example, some years I've just planned to go, relax and spend time with friends and enjoy all the fellowship. Some years I've attended every workshop I could to focus on learning and honing my craft. Some years I've focused on volunteering, and some years I focused on pitching to agents and editors. For me I needed to have a top priority for the conference or it all felt too overwhelming so I'd pick my priority and plan accordingly. Does that make sense? You get a little bit of everything when you go, but it helps me at least to have a focus. Let me know what yours is and I'll give you some pretreating ideas if you'd like :)
      Being the introvert I am, I definitely schedule in blocks of chill time where I just go to my room for a 1/2 hour or even a couple hours and have my Bible time, enjoy a cup of coffee, or even take a nap. That's really helpful for me. I envy the folks who can go, go, go.

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    3. Dani thanks for answering my question. I'm not a writer, but a very avid reader and the thought of going to something like the ACFW conference makes me break out into a sweat! I would probably do exactly as you said, make a specific plan for each one you attend. I'm a huge planner and I'd feel so lost without a goal :-) And I can see where it would be overwhelming! Maybe it's not so bad once you get to know some of the "regular" attendees and begin to make friends. Then you don't feel so lost. I (almost) envy Ruthy and Julie Lessman who probably are a natural when it comes to large crowds :-)

      I'm really impressed with the new format here! You can reply directly to someone's post, instead of all willy-nilly. Thank you whoever did this....loving it!!

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  35. Dani, so good having you with us today! Great advice. I was a contest girl. Won three different contests where three different editors at Love Inspired were the final round judges, including the Executive Editor at that time. THE CALL came soon after that!

    I had been searching for an agent and had known the one I finally signed with for years. But we got together officially after I had that first book contract. We've been a good match, and I'm pleased with her representation.

    Congrats on your success! I have two of your wonderful Alaskan stories. Looking forward to your new series.

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    1. Thanks so much, Debbie. Yay for you on the contest success. So fun hearing everyone's stories about how they got published or met their agent.

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  36. Those are great tips, Dani! I finaled in the Golden Heart Contest, sold my book, Love on a Dime, and then found an agent. So I really believe in contests! I also attended ACFW (then it was ACRW) conference and met several authors, editors, agents etc.

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    1. Very cook, Cara Lynn. LOVE the name of your book, by the way!

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  37. Great Tips, Dani! I have been discouraged by contests because comments were all over the board...not consistent. I decided it was all too subjective for me! LOL But, I like your Rule of 3...(Isn't that what you called it?). Your tips for deciding which contests to enter...and Melissa's tips also make so much sense. I guess I hadn't put much thought into the strategies of contests!

    Your books look exciting! Will be praying your infection goes away quickly!! Take care.

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    1. You know, Kathryn..your comment and others have made me realize it's time for a contest strategy post. May. I will do this in May.

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    2. Super glad it was helpful, Kathryn. I came up with the rule because I was exactly where you are at with contests--discouraged. I feel for you. Try the rule of three and definitely visit Tina's post on contest strategy. She's full of wisdom :)

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    3. Thanks Tina and Dani...I look forward to your post in May, Tina! I agree Dani, she is full of wisdom.

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  38. I'm with Trixi... I am such a fan of Dani. The Alaskan Courage series was so great to read and as an aspiring fiction writer, I learn quite a bit for my writing as well.

    Thanks for the advice on agents. I am working on getting my manuscript finished before I look in that direction, but I am going to bookmark this info.

    I have not been able to go to the larger conferences, but I do attend smaller ones that are close to me. I wish there was one place that listed all of the conferences because I tend to just stumble upon the smaller ones in my blog reading.

    Congratulations on your author success Dani. Don't enter me into the Cold Shot giveaway because I have my own copy waiting patiently for me. I wouldn't mine getting one of those Starbucks cards though. ;)

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    1. Totally agree with you, Loraine! Time for a comprehensive list of conferences. Am putting this on my To-do list for Seekerville.

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    2. Love all your adding in addition to everything you already offer. Awesome, Tina!

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    3. Thank you so much, Loraine! I love smaller conferences too. They can be so intimate and a great way to make new friends.

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  39. Hi Dani and welcome to Seekerville. It is always fun to read the stories of publication. I got all my contracts by meeting the editors at conferences. Most were national RWA conferences but I did meet a couple at smaller local conferences. So exciting and I really like the idea of meeting an editor face-to-face since you do work so hard together.
    l
    Thanks again for the great tips. Have fun today.

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    1. Thanks so much, Sandra. So glad that conferences have gone so well for you. Yay!
      I'm having a blast. What an amazingly fun group :)))

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  40. Wow, Blogger has a new look today. Is that just me or are others getting the new look also?

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    1. Sandra, the new look felt kind of weird at first but now I think I like it.
      Of course I did it wrong, had to delete and then put it here.Haha

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  41. Thanks for your inspiring post! I'm a big fan of your work and glad you persevered and chose to learn and improve from your experiences.

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    1. Awwww. Thanks so much, Heidi. Waving hi, friend!

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  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  43. Other than the going to conferences (on my To Do list soon as funds are available! ;) ) I'm so reassured to read this that, slowly but surely I'm on the right track in procuring an agent. Eventually. :)
    Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Dani!

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    1. You are super welcome, Meghan. Glad you found it helpful!

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  44. Thanks for your post, Dani. I got my agent through a contest. She served as a final round judge, requested the full and offered representation soon after she received it. Of course, said full needed A LOT of work, but my agent guided me through the process.

    I attended a number of conferences in my pre-published days, and they were highly beneficial. I got to meet fellow writers and publishing pros, which was fun and helpful.

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    1. Hey Keli,
      That is SO cool that your agent worked with you to hone your work. Sounds like an awesome agent. So fun seeing you here :)) Have a great day!

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  45. It's so fun to read your story about your first MS that you got published, Dani. I completely agree. When God has a plan, He knows how to make it work out. Learning to trust Him an listen to His nudges is one lesson I'm learning on this journey. :)

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    1. It's a great lesson to learn. It took me a few tries. Unfortunately I'm a slow learner. You'd think I'd listen the first time :p God's plan is always best.

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  46. Hi Dani
    Thanks for sharing what you learned through your process to getting published. I really appreciate it. I'm nowhere near to being ready for an agent, but your advice sure looks awesome for me to follow.

    COLD SHOT looks great. I'd love a chance to win it. I have a feeling that Seekerville has just introduced me to yet another stellar author for me to read and love. I will be checking out your website too.

    Thanks for sharing here in Seekerville!!!!! Hope your infection heals quickly with minimal frustration for you.

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    1. Thanks so much, Deb. Really appreciate it!

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  47. Tina and Dani,

    Thanks for your reply. This was kind of a last minute decision to try and enter a contest since I wasn't sure I was ready before. But after having two people read my ms recently and say they had trouble putting it down, I was thinking it might just be time to take that next step. (As a perfectionist, I tend to procrastinate.) Based on that article you mentioned, Tina, I'm wondering if I should wait and try to get involved in an ACFW critique group. I've had several people look the ms over, but no one I'd consider to be a very tough critiquer. I've combed through it myself several times and I'm sure I could smooth it over with more effort, but as I'm reading through it again after having set it aside for a time, I'm surprised at all the tension I'm feeling that propels the story forward.

    So I'm wondering, besides the cost involved, is there any reason not to enter the Maggie? Would it reduce my chance of success of publishing that manuscript later if it's not perfect now? It was hard to tell from the website if the Golden Rose provides feedback, though it sounds like the TARA does. I guess what I'm wanting to know is, if I can afford the fees, is there any reason to wait? Any recommendations on which contests are best to start with, or does it completely depend on the specifics of the ms?

    Thanks for your input!

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    1. I think I'll let Tina answer this one since she is a contest diva :)))
      For me critique groups or partners didn't work. Having a mentor did.
      I don't see any reason to wait, but if it's feedback you're looking for search out the contests that promote that they do provide feedback. Hope that helps.

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    2. Lara! Jump in on contests. Some folks like to start with contests that require only a few pages, too ease into it. But you sound like me, I dove right into the deep water. You can then strategize to make the most of your contest dollars. Our BootCamp Manual here, shares some of our very best posts on contesting.

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    3. Lara,
      You are due to send me the pages. I'll let you know what I think. Generally all of us can use either a beta reader or a critique partner. But finding the right critique group can take a while. There are also some good posts on critique groups pro and con in the archives.

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    4. Now I'm curious to know why the critique groups didn't work for you. I had been attending one near home for awhile, but they weren't Christian and I didn't feel comfortable sharing this newest ms. Also, I was afraid that their feedback would cause me to give up on the project. (That's what's happened every time before). I keep thinking if only I could find the right person, someone who believes in me but also knows enough to help me see what changes need to be made then I could get to the next level. For awhile, I thought that person might be an agent, but I stopped querying after I gave up on my very first ms. I'm not in a rush to get published, but I do feel I need to be taking the logical steps. Thanks for taking the time to respond!

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    5. Tina, The chapter I'll be sending you is for my new incomplete WIP, not the completed manuscript I was planning on entering in the contests. However, I'm still looking forward to seeing what I can learn from your expertise ;-)

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    6. Lara,
      Everyone is different. Critique groups or partners weren't for me. I tried, but didn't feel what I was getting was beneficial. Maybe it was a matter of finding the right one, but to be honest I'm not a fan of them. I think they can work great, but it's taking the time to find the right one and understanding they aren't for everyone. I was blessed enough to have a published author take me under her wing and she read everything of mine until I got published and multiple times since, but she doesn't do a line by line or chapter by chapter critique. She simply gives me her overall impression of the story. It can be as short as 'good story with strong characters' to a page long assessment. I find her feedback invaluable. So I am getting feedback and I agree with Tina, feedback is so important, but make sure it's the kind of feedback that fits/resonates with you and you and your writing are benefitting from.

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    7. Disclaimer: I do tend to approach things a little different. For example I don't plot at all. I have a vague premise and my main characters names (which sometimes change) and I sit down and start writing. I write all my first drafts longhand. Crazy extra work, but it's what fits for me. I didn't do crit groups. I do really short synopsis since I have no idea where my story is going ahead of time. I spend a lot of time daydreaming. I found I just have to embrace what works best for me. That said, you have to find what works best for you. I admire writers who take the time to discover what works best for them. I have friends who run the gamut--super plotters, serious critiquers, (yes I just made up a word--I tend to do that occasionally). The best piece of advice I can give is to pray a lot and take what resonates with you and run with it. There's no one right way and there's no wrong way.

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  48. p.s.
    was just checking your web page and discovered SUBMERGED, which is a book I've already bought because of my interest in scuba diving. I hadn't read it yet, but guess what I'll be reading tonight and tomorrow? *happy dancing*

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    1. Yay! Hope you enjoy diving in :) Okay, pun intended.

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  49. Dani,
    Thanks for the post. Your points are all so important, although sometimes it is hard to remember them, especially after another rejection letter. But, obviously the editor/agent wasn't a good fit. Patience is definitely key. I'm a children's author and a member of SCBWI but have also considered joining ACFW. I'm not sure how beneficial it would be to me, though, since while I have written middle-grade, I'm focusing more on picture books right now.

    Congratulations on your success and sharing your thoughts. I'm reading book 2 of Alaskan Courage and love the series!

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    1. Thanks so much. Thrilled you're enjoying the series. Hmm. That's a good question...I would imagine SCBWI might be a better fit if you're doing picture books, but at the same time, ACFW helps a lot with storytelling and connections within the Christian Fiction community so it could still be beneficial I would think.

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    2. Welcome to Seekerville, Jennifer Rumberger. Alway thrilled to see a new face here.

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  50. Okay, I am not imbibing. My network is slow today and causing pausing and I am losing letters. Just an FYI.

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    1. And here I thought it was a new, cool author speak language :P

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  51. Great article! Considering get my feet wet back into contest submission, but just drafting now on a new ms. Not ready to submit to anything, but soon I hope.

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  52. And I just want to add one more comment....Cold Shot...more like COLD SHOWER...goodness that cover photo is HOT! :)

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    1. LOL! Yep. I'm a BIG fan of the cover. I can't share the next one yet, but it's smoking ;P

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  53. Hi Dani! I really enjoy your books and appreciate this post so much. I'll be attending my first ACFW conference this year and I'm super excited and TERRIFIED all at the same time. I have signed up for appointments with agents at the conference. I've looked over their websites and seen who they currently represent. Is there any other advice you can offer for that first meeting?

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    1. Absolutely. You've already taken a great step by seeing who else they represent. That should give you a good feel for what they like. It's important to be prepared and professional (fortunately my editor is not on here or he'd be laughing hysterical, but that's a long story). Dress for the appointment. Have a one sheet if they ask for it. Have a business card with a way to contact you. Have your elevator pitch ready (encapsulate your story into 2 minutes). Be prepared to answer questions--such as what are you writing next? How many manuscripts have you written? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What genre do you right (it's best to be specific with ONE). And have a few questions to ask them. What do they look for in a client? Who do they enjoy reading in all their spare time? Be personable.
      Prayer and deep breaths ahead of time go a long way.
      Does that help?
      So excited for you! You'll love ACFW.

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  54. Hello, Dani! A great post today! My debut, a LIS, came out in February, and I don't have an agent. I've had an offer, but it just wasn't right at that time. I love your advice, and we'll see what happens at ACFW in August. :-)

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    1. Congrats on your debut release. How exciting!!!! Hope you have a great time at ACFW.

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    2. What a fun conference this will be Meghan. Are you bringing the family?

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  55. On my TBR wanted list! Not a writer but I do love to read & review :)

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Deanna :)

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  56. Dani, WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE, girlfriend -- SO great to see you here!!

    I absolutely concur with all three of your points with a big AMEN! I can't tell you how many horror stories I've heard of signing with the wrong agent, several right here among the Seekers, so point well taken.

    And your three points as to how to do this without an agent are also excellent. I found my agent indirectly through a contest, so I think contests are some of the best ways to not only snag the eye of an editor or agent, but to "get involved with the writing community" as well, like the Seekers did, in forming Seekerville. And they sure don't hurt in building your name and your confidence in said community, so as far as I am concerned, they are a must for an aspiring author.

    Your final point about attending conferences is HUGE as well because I can honestly say that despite the emotional trauma I experienced at my first conference (which I wrote about in a Seeker blog entitled CONFERENCE CPR ),
    attending that first ACFW conference introduced me to a whole new world in so many ways -- as far as friendships, networking, support, encouragement, skills, you name it. Conferences are a MUST for an writer who wants to learn all she or he can about their industry.

    You definitely hit a home run with this blog today, my friend, so THANK YOU!

    And how many people have told you that the cover model on Cold Shot looks like Matt Damon???

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Hey Julie,
      Thanks SO much for having me. Thrilled you enjoyed the post. Going to read your blog post now. That sounds traumatic. Yikes! Thrilled you enjoyed ACFW. Looking forward to seeing you at the conference this year and the reader event beforehand.

      No one has told me that, but it's seriously been bugging me because I knew he looked familiar. I just couldn't place from where. Thank you.

      Hugs,
      Dani

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    2. Okay, I disagree. He looks like Tatum Channing and Chris Pine's love child.

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    3. LOL, Tina, I'll give you Tatum Channing, but no way on Chris Pine!! :)

      Dani, glad I could place him for you! I love your books anyway, but that guy's pic on Cold Shot realllllly makes me itchy to read this one ASAP!!

      Hugs,
      Julie

      Hugs,
      Julie

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  57. What great, solid advice, Dani!
    The book sounds GREAT.

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  58. Thanks for the great advice, Dani. I am going to a conference in Omaha next weekend and looking forward to it. I haven't entered any contests yet but hope to soon.

    Please enter me in the drawing. I love inspirational suspense.

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    1. Hope you have a fabulous time at the conference, Sandy :)

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    2. Omaha. Take pictures Sandy and send them to Seekerville's email address. See if you can catch Mary Connealy misbehaving. :)

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  59. Dani,

    Thank you for your encouragement and suggestions!

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  60. Dani,

    Thank you for your encouragement and suggestions!

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  61. Dani, Thank you for this post. For me aspiring to be published, the hardest thing is reaching out to other authors and asking for help. I love going to conferences because I love to talk about writing for a short period of time before I want to go back in my writing cave. Thanks for the suggestions, and I hope I can give back 1/10th of what my local writing organization has given to me.

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    1. So awesome to hear you found such a great local writing group. That's fabulous!

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  62. Thank you, Dani, for such a great post! After I finished my first book I was truly disheartened by how few agents will even look at Christian fiction submissions. And without an agent, seeking publication seems overwhelming at times. But after reading your post I know I'm doing some things right. I've entered a contest, I've recently joined ACFW, I've been hanging around Seekerville since last November (where I've learned soooo much), and I'm studying up on conferences. I also pray, a lot. Thanks again.

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  63. Dani, I know it's getting late on the East Coast. Thank you so much for spending the day with us. Feel free to stop by in the am and see if there were any midnight Louie commenters. We wish you continued success!!

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  64. Thank you, Tina! I really appreciate you all hosting me for the day. I had a blast. Will be sure to drop by in the morning:)

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  65. I love your books, Dani, especially the Alaskan Courage series. Thank you so much for this post. I attended my first ACFW conference last year, and wasn't even planning to attend this year because of the expense. But I feel encouraged after reading your comments to at least make an effort to make it happen. Thank you so much.

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    1. So glad you found the post inspiring, Leola! thanks so much for dropping by.

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  66. Dani! YOU ROCK, I love your novels. I would love to win COLD SHOT, but since I'm back in Canada next week I guess I may not qualify! Great post, too. Thanks!

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  67. I entered a writing contest, won runner up, and that included being published on my birthday! Jesus definitely had a hand in that!

    Denise

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  68. Tina, I will see if I can catch any "good" pictures of Mary in Omaha!

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  69. Interesting points on agents. Something to think about.

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    1. Glad you found it interesting, Janet. Thanks for stopping by!

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  70. I'm going to try the contest route and see where that path takes me. Thanks for sharing these wonderful suggestions :)

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    1. Welcome to Seekerville,Carrie. The new contest update will be up in Seekerville on May 3. Until then, the April one is available here. April Contest Update

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    2. You are super welcome, Carrie. Glad you found them helpful!

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  71. This was very interesting. Do you recommend taking "certain things" with you to conferences...national vs. regional meetings?

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    1. Hi Rebecca,
      I'd just read what the agents and editors of the conference you are attending are requesting. Some want One Sheet summaries printed out, others want an elevator pitch. But always have business cards with you and your pitch ready no matter what conference you are attending. You want editors, agents, and new friends to be able to contact you :) Hope that helps and I'm sure Seekerville has some great posts on it.

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  72. Rebecca, we do have a few posts in the archives about conference preparation. Check them out. And we have an upcoming post in Seekerville in early July on conference prep.

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  73. Sorry to comment so late but just saw your post which is excellent. I have just completed the 1st draft of my first manuscript so I am now in the hunt for an Agent and/or publisher. I did attend the ACFW conference two years ago and received a proposal request from an excellent Agent. I followed through sending my book proposal a couple months later but never heard back. Additionally I entered a contest and received some great feedback and encouragement however did not progress to the finals. I decided then to press on with my story so likely timing was off.

    My story is a duel plot which I am told is best classified 'Speculative Supernatural' involving interactions with angels and demons. The message is based on the Apostle John's letter to the church in Ephesus, from the Book of Revelation. I have been told my genera is extremely narrow for the Christian market which is dominated (80%) by romance.

    Do you have any recommendations for me? Am I spinning my wheels trying to find a Christian Publisher or should I direct my attention towards secular Agents and Publishers?

    Likely will attend the ACFW Conference in August and make another run at a contest or two. Thanks again for your post !

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    1. Hi Mark,
      Sounds like a fun genre. I do think there's a place and a market for Speculative Supernatural, but you're right it is a smaller percentage. I'd definitely go where God is leading you. If you feel that it's important to be with a Christian publisher then work towards that. If you'd be content either way then try submitting to both. But I'd recommend connection face to face with agents and editors at ACFW first. Since it's your first draft and your first manuscript I'd probably also recommend a paid critique (Gayle Roper is phenomenal). Might be good to have someone look over your opening to make sure it's tight before you send it off. Hope that helps and I'm sure the Seekerville ladies will have some great advice for you too.

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  74. HI Dani,

    Thanks for the feedback it is much appreciated. Would Gayle Roper be a good fit considering my genre and how would I contact her/him?

    My preference is for a Christian Publisher as I want to work with people of faith who understand Scripture. Your advice is good will be seeking the Lord's direction.

    Thanks again !

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    1. Mark, you might want to partner up with a critiquer who writes what you write. ACFW has a critique pairing don't they? Gayle Roper has a web site and a contact tab. http://www.gayleroper.com/

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  75. Thanks for the giveaway! I love your books! :)

    Frequentreader19 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  76. Dani, thanks for your wonderful post, I loved reading about your writing journey!!

    I'm not a writer or author, however, some of your tips can be applied to life in general - including listening to God's "whisper". Something I feel we must do in all things.

    Please enter my name in the giveaway - thank you so much for the opportunity!!

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