How to avoid accidentally stealing a book

This is not a post about piracy.

Pirates exist. People who think it's okay to download an illegal copy of a book instead of just going to the library exist. People trying to make money off other people's hard work exist. No amount of take down notices, public rants or threatened lawsuits are going to stop pirates. For every website authors take down, five new ones pop up.

Trying to stop pirates is not worth my time or energy. People who scour the internet for free books knowing full well they are stealing were never going to pay for my book. They are not lost sales.

To be clear, these people stink. But I've come to accept that their existence is one of the downsides of this whole publishing biz.

But I do have a beef. Used to be these piracy sites were easy to identify. They looked like thrown together websites with clunky buttons and a swarmy feel.

Not anymore. Now these sites operate out in the open with flashy pages filled with high-res photos and slick interfaces. They offer free memberships granting access to thousands of free books. They look like legitimate webpages. And because of this, they suck in unsuspecting readers.

Readers who aren't trying to steal books. Readers who appreciate the value of the written word. Readers who think book pirates stink.

So because I know that all of you are the upstanding sort of folk who would never knowingly steal from an author, allow me to offer some advice as you go scouring the web looking for your next read.

1. Brand new books are almost never free. Sure there are a few exceptions, but as a general rule, a book that has been released within the past few months is not supposed to be free. A brand new free book has almost certainly been pirated.

2. When a book is free, the author will talk about it. If you find a free book you'd like to read and are uncertain if it's legit, go do a quick search for the author's twitter account or facebook page. If they haven't mentioned their book going on a free sale, you can be pretty confident you've found a pirate.

3. Membership services aren't free. There are legitimate services out there that allow you access to tons of books. But they aren't free. You pay a monthly service to get this access and the author receives a portion of that when you read their book. If there's not a fee, you've found someone stealing from authors.

4. Legitimate services are advertised. If you come across a website that looks completely above board, but you haven't heard of them, do your research first. A Google search of the service's name should generate plenty of results that are outside the site in question. They should have mentions from some of the big players in publishing such as Writer's Digest, Publisher's Lunch or another well known pub. If the only results are from the website you're researching, they are probably a pirate site.

5. Retailers claim responsibility. One of the best ways to determine if a site is a legal book resource, is to look at their legal disclaimer. Most pirate sites will make statements such as they don't claim any ownership of the material being shared or something to that nature. You will also see options for authors to request a take down. You won't find that at Amazon and B&N because those sites have a legal right to sell the material and the author/publisher has access to the book's listing. If a site claims they don't host the book on their site or have the legal right to list it, you've got a pirate.

There's a circle of hell for pirates filled with book shelves where every book has the last chapter removed. I'll let karma take care of them. But they are sneaky and I hate to see devoted readers get sucked into their sites on accident. If you ever run across a free book listing and just can't tell if it's legit, you can never go wrong reaching out to the author. A quick email or tweet to ask if a site is legal will always be appreciated and earn you super reader status.

Maybe someday we'll figure out a way to keep these thieves from making money off the hard work of others. Until then, be mindful of where you get your books and keep reading!

Agency Lessons: what makes a series stand alone

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made. 

So last week I wrote about how to query a series (FYI: the first book only). And the comments section reminded me that I might need to clarify a few things when it comes to a series. Specifically, what makes a book in a series a stand alone.

The issue came up because you should always indicate in your query for a series if the first book is a stand alone or not. But how do you know if your book is a stand alone?

I picked two really popular series to hopefully illustrate the difference and make it a little clearer for authors venturing into the query gates.

The stand alone: Harry Potter

And right off the bat, I'm guessing I lost several of you who thought the Harry Potter series was not made of stand alone books. But it is, I promise. Let's take a look at the first book, The Sorcerer's Stone.

This is the book that starts it all so it's a bit heavy in back story and description, but once we get into it, there is a clear goal for Harry: Keep Voldemort from getting the sorcerer's stone. It's a windy path to get there, but at the end of the book (SPOILER ALERT) Harry has recovered the stone and successfully kept Voldemort from using it to bring himself back from near death.

But Sarah, many of you say, what about all the open threads and unanswered questions. Yep, they are there. That's what makes this series different from one like Sue Grafton's alphabet series. That is written more like a sitcom with the same characters in each book, but not really tied together in plot. You could read those out of order and be okay. The same could not be said for Harry Potter.

The unresolved conflicts are what create the series arc in HP. This is important so I'm going to bold it. You don't have to answer every question in order for a book to be a stand-alone. Got it? Good. Now, let's look at the other side of series.

The non stand alone: Game of Thrones

So the first book in this series is about...all the different people, and...lots of stuff is going on, and...winter is coming. But at the end of the book, winter is not here and we have people dying left and right and no one came out the hero. Without the next book in the series we are left with almost zero answers and a stone castle full of questions.

And that's okay. There's nothing wrong with that kind of book, but George RR could never claim that the first book in that series stands alone. There isn't a single goal, conflict, resolution line to be found.

And that's what you need for a book to stand alone. One solid Goal: Conflict: Resolution plot line that ties the rest of the book together. Even if you leave several other threads open, your book can stand on it's own spine if you can identify those things.

I hope that clarifies series a bit and makes everyone feel a little more warm and fuzzy about sending out your next batch of queries. Well, probably not warm and fuzzy, but maybe less nauseous. That's a good goal.

Marketing with passion

A quick heads up before we jump into the post. I did an interview withe Eve over at Functioning Insanity this week and she asked some killer questions. If you want to find out how I'd fare against the Machine and enter to win a signed paperback, you should stop by.

So...on Wednesday I talked about marketing your book, even when you don't feel like. Especially when you don't feel like it. And I know what you're saying. Sure, Sarah, easy for you to say. You're the one weirdo author out there who actually likes marketing.

And that's true, both that I enjoy marketing and that I'm a weirdo. But even if you don't go gaga fro spreadsheets like I do, you don't have to despise marketing your book. The trick is in finding your passion and and creating a marketing mash-up. Because marketing your book is easier when you don't want to scoop your eyeballs out with a dull spoon.

The first step is identifying your passions outside of writing. Of course, writing is number one. But I'm jumping out on a limb here and guessing you enjoy other activities as well. So make a list. Really, do it right now. It should only take a minute. Jot down all the activities, organizations and what not that you enjoy when you aren't slinging words like a rock star.

Got it? Great. Now you need to find ways that you can incorporate those passions into marketing opportunities for your work. Let's grab a few examples.
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Do you love teaching? Perfect. Propose a course about your genre to a national organization. Write a teacher's guide for your book. Offer to lead a workshop at your local library. Create a course on Udemy. So many options for teaching and each of them creates built in exposure for you and your book.

Are you a workout junkie? Use your audio book to create chapter distance challenges to encourage runners to listen to your book as they run. Create individualized workout plans based on your characters' personality types. Submit an article on ways that authors can stay fit while spending so much time behind a desk.

These are just two examples, but I hope it helps you to get an idea of what I'm talking about here. There is no one right way to market your book. So why not do it in the way that feels the most fun to you. Not only will marketing this way feel like less of a chore, you'll also see better results since readers will be able to tell you aren't just phoning it in.

What are your passions? What makes you tick. Share your crossover marketing ideas in the comments. If you aren't sure how to apply your passion to your marketing, comment with your areas of interest and we can all brainstorm to help you generate some ideas. Because 100 minds is usually better than one.

Marketing: especially when you don't want to

I realize that I'm in the minority of people who enjoy the marketing aspect of being a writer. But even for me, there are times when I'm not in the mood to market. Like right now. But the truth is, we should work to spread the word about our books especially when we don't want to.

This advice is for everyone, but I especially need a swift kick in the pants. Right now, I'm at the point where my book is selling. Nothing chart topping, but enough sales that it's making money and the word of mouth and Amazon visibility is pretty much taking care of things. And that's a really dangerous place to be.

Because it would be easy for me to decide I'm done marketing this book. I'm hard at work on book two and before I know it, it'll be time to put together that marketing plan.

But that would be dumb.

Back when a book's success was decided by its first two weeks on a bookstore's shelf, there really wasn't any point in marketing a book several months after the release unless it was already selling well enough to keep its shelf space. But today, with eBooks such a prominent part of the equation, regardless of how you are published, there is always an opportunity to find your next readers.

And even more than that, it would be dumb, because I know I'm leaving marketing opportunities on the table. Even with everything I've done to promote my books, there are other efforts that I haven't explored yet. And I bet I'm not alone.

In fact, I cringe when I hear authors say "I've done everything I can to promote my book and haven't found my audience yet." Because I've yet to sit down with an author and not be able to identify at least a handful of marketing ideas they haven't tried yet.

The reality for most of us is that we haven't tried everything. We've tried all the things that were easily within our reach, or that didn't push us too far out of our comfort zone, or didn't make us sacrifice too much. And then we let our book sink or swim on its own.

I don't know about you, but I work really hard on my books. I can't imagine being okay with walking away from something I've put so much effort into because I was "done" marketing. But the struggle is real. There are so many other productive ways we could be spending our time. Marketing sometimes feels like I'm hurling my body against a three foot thick concrete wall in the hopes that someone on the other side heard a thump.

But if it's not us hurling our bodies at concrete, then who? So even when it's uncomfortable or or difficult or just plan draining, we still need to find time for marketing. Because as painful as it can sometimes be, it doesn't hurt as much as seeing a book I've carefully crafted fall into literary oblivion.

And because I realize just how hard this is, come back on Friday and I'll share some tips for finding passion for your marketing plan.

Agency Lessons: Querying a series

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made. 

When it comes to writing a series, it seems like the extra questions that pop up seem to multiply with each book you add. Do you write the whole series and then query? Write the first book and then query with a full series synopsis? Write the first book and nothing else so you can walk away if it doesn't sell?

So many questions. And conflicting advice everywhere. So let's add a few more opinions into the mix, shall we.

I love a good series. There is something really gratifying about coming back to the same characters and following them as they grow. As an author, I appreciate just how hard that can be.

Let's start with when to write what. Some will say that you should only write the first book and that way you haven't wasted time writing a second book if the first doesn't sell. Others suggest you should write the whole enchilada before you sell so you have all the kinks worked out. Here's what I think.

Write what makes you happy. I wrote a manuscript and expected it to be the first in a trilogy. While I was mistakenly querying that plot-less wonder, I wrote the second book. I'm fairly certain neither one of them will ever see the light of day. But I'm not sorry I spent the time writing the second one.

For starters, I was so in love with the story that I knocked out the first draft in 10 days. Also, I know it helped me grow in my craft because practice is what makes me a better writer. And that was the story in my head right then. If I had tried to ignore it, I would have fumbled through writing something else until I came back to it. That's how my brain works. Maybe your brain works differently. The point is whether you write the series or just one book is up to you. Write what makes you happy.

Now when it comes to querying, I have a less touchy-feely answer. Do not query an entire series. I get queries all the time that try to explain an entire trilogy in a single query. As you can imagine, this is a disaster. Don't do this. Start with book one. Craft your query as if this book stood all on it's own. Then tell me that it's part of a series, completed or planned.

Also, let me know if your book can stand on it's own. If you are a debut author I cannot recommend strongly enough that the first book in your series should be able to stand on its own two feet. If it can't, don't tell me it can. I will know that it can't when I read your synopsis and then I will be in a bad mood because you lied. Don't lie. If your book needs the others in the series to tell a full story, tell me.

There is no wrong or right way to write a series. But no matter how you write it only the first book belongs in your query and synopsis.

Anyone want to share your best tips for writing a series? 

The definitive guide* on paying for reviews

On Wednesday I shared my tips for finding book reviewers. For most of you, I'm hoping that information was helpful. For some of you, it was overwhelming.

Maybe you're just barely eeking out an hour a day to write and the idea of spending all that time finding, researching and contacting reviewers makes you want to cry onto your blank pages. I don't personally relate since I'm one of those weird people that finds marketing fun. But I can understand.

If that all feels like too much, it's okay. You can hire a reputable and respectable blog tour company to organize your tour for you. Be aware that you will probably end up with fewer reviewers or pay heavily for them. I'm personally not a fan of this route, but it is absolutely an option and one that I support if this is what you need.

But I want to be clear that there is a big difference between paying someone to organize your blog tour and buying reviews. One of these is perfectly acceptable and above the bar and the other is a quick way to become a schwarmy author.

Buying reviews is, in my book, a seriously bad decision. It goes against everything I love about being an author and a reader. It taints the process of finding new books and makes the author look like a huckster instead of an artist.

Just in case there is any confusion when it comes to what exactly is a paid review. I've made this definitive guide* to steer you on the path of the straight and narrow.
*Or maybe not so much definitive as just the list of things I could think of. So...yeah.

DO give your book to reviewers in exchange for an honest review.
Some might feel that this is paying for a review. Trust me when I say that if reviewers were going to get paid, their time would be worth way more than the cost of my $2.99 eBook. Giving your book to someone who wants to review it is not paying them. On the reverse, I've seen folks ask for reviews and then provide a purchase link.This is not asking for reviews. This is begging for people to buy your book. Reviewers dedicate many (MANY) hours to reviewing books simply because they love them and want to share their passion with others. Understand that asking them to pay for your book is going to net you zero reviews.

DO NOT give someone the money to buy your book so their review shows up as a "verified purchase".
I've seen this listed as a viable method on various group sites and handed out as advice from people who brand themselves as book marketing professionals. Here's why this is a no-no. First, it is intentionally deceitful. The verified purchase identifier on Amazon is there so that a review is given more credence, since theoretically, the reviewer bought the book in question on their own and chose to review it. By giving someone the money so they get the verified purchase identifier, you are gaming the system. Bad. Also, I cannot recall a single time when I bothered to see if a review was from a verified purchase. I don't care and I'm guessing the average reader doesn't either. So your deception is pretty pointless.

DO understand that not everyone will finish/review your book.
Even when you've given your book to a reviewer for free, they may not finish it. And if they do, they might not review it. Understand that sometimes a reviewer chooses not to leave a review. Maybe because they honestly didn't like your book and don't want to give you a one star. So no review is actually a good thing. Regardless of the reason, a reviewer doesn't owe you anything. Remember when I said they are worth more than $2.99. That book was not a payment for service. It was a gift in the hopes of a review.

DO NOT pay someone in exchange for a review.
This is pretty clear cut, but you should never, ever give someone money as payment for their review. First, this goes against the terms of service for Amazon and is grounds for getting you and your books kicked off the website. Second, it is just so dirty. Seriously, it's wrong and gives me the heebie jeebies. Third, the people who write reviews for a living punch those things out by the dozen. They probably didn't read your book and you'll end up with a generic review that will most likely be worthless. Just saying.

DO expect that you will get negative reviews.
When someone agrees to read and review your book, they are not making a promise that they will like your book and give it a good review. Reviews are so powerful because readers put faith in their honestly. There will be people who don't like your book (shocker, I know) and they will leave negative reviews. The good news here is that you actually want a few of these on your book page. All 5-star reviews for a book makes them look fake or as if all your reviews came from your relatives. A few negative reviews gives more credit to the positive ones.

DO NOT pay a service to find reviewers for you
This one sounds tricky, but it's not. This is different than a service organizing your blog tour. A tour coordinator is in constant communication with you and the bloggers to ensure everyone has the information they need, your tour dates are covered and the tour is promoted. It's a lot of work and should be a paid gig. A service that is simply finding reviews for you is not doing any of that. They are hiring people who will give your book a glowing review for a fiver. There are probably a few sites out there that are simply coordinating reviewers with authors and keeps it all on the up and up. But for everyone company that is staying true to the nature of reviews, there are dozens who are churning reviews out like a puppy farm. I realize it's tempting, but just don't.

So there you have it. Reviews are super valuable to you and a major part of promoting your book. Getting them doesn't have to be torture. But if that sounds like less fun than having all your fingernails pulled off, don't turn to the easy answer of paying for reviews. It might help you in the short term, but eventually those fake reviews will come back to bite you and you'll wish you hadn't.

Finding book reviewers in 5 simple steps

I may have mentioned one or two thousand times here on the blog how important getting reviews are to a book's success. So it's not any wonder that I often get emails asking how I was able to find so many reviewers, especially from indie authors.

The good news is that there are thousands of book reviewers out there. The bad news is that you'll need to find a way to sort through thousands of book reviewers to find the ones that will be most interested in your work. To help with the process, here are five simple ways to find the right reviewers for your book.

1. Identify your comp book
You want to find one or two books that you believe would have a similar audience to your own book. Your comp book can focus on a similar topic, be in the same genre or have a similar writing style to your own. Your not looking for a replica of your work, just something that will appeal to the same readers. When deciding the type of book to use, you'll want to focus on books that have a high number of reviews. Even if a book is the perfect comp for yours, if they don't  have at least 50 reviews, it'll make the next steps harder to complete.

2. Stalk their tour
Most books have a blog tour these days and that is going to help us out a bunch. Check the author website for your comp book and search for a list of all the bloggers that participated in that book's tour. If you can't find it on their website, a quick Google search should bring up the info either on the host blogger's site or with the tour company. Add all the participating bloggers to your list.

3. Sources from the source
No matter how you feel about Amazon, they are the ultimate source when it comes to reviews. On the Amazon page for your comp book, you'll want to review all the 4 and 5 star reviews. Click on the name of the reviewer and check out their profile. Not everyone will list an email or website, but some will. For all of them that provide a contact method, add them to your blogger list.

4. Don't over think it
Pull up our friend Google and do the most basic search you can. Start with "Readers who loved COMP BOOK". I plugged Rite of Rejection into that scenario and came back with millions of search results. Obviously, not all of those are reviews, but the first several pages were filled with them. Another great Google search is to set your comp book aside and search for reviewers for your genre. For example: "YA dystopian reviewers". That particular search brought back 897K results. I'm thinking that should provide plenty of reviewers. Go through as many of those results as you can stomach and add the reviewers to your list.

5. Evaluation
If you've got a good comp book, you should have a significant list of potential reviewers for your book. Resist the urge to send a form request to all of them. This will almost certainly gain you next to no takers. Before contacting anyone, you'll need to go through your list and find out who is open to new reviews, taking your genre, still active, etc. This step will most likely significantly reduce the number of bloggers on your list. This is why you'll want to collect as many potential reviewers as you can.

My positive response rate to review requests was 35%, but that is pretty high. 25% is probably a realistic expectation. If you reach step five and don't have four times as many bloggers on your list as your target number of reviews, go back and repeat the process with another comp book.

Getting enough reviews for your book isn't an issue of not enough reviewers out there. The roadblock is in finding the ones who are most likely to enjoy your book. Using a targeted search can make the process easier on you and help you find your next biggest fans.

For more information on how to find and contact reviewers, be sure to sign up for my mailing list to get a free copy of my DIY Blog Tour eBook

A little Friday fun!

Confession time!

My brain is currently tapped out. It is submission city for my client roster right now. Between writing pitches, researching just the right editor and trying to get new words for my next book down on paper, I've got nothing.

My game plan is to chug through today and then give my brain a little break over the weekend so I can recharge. The good news is I'll be back on Monday and I'm sure I'll have something good for Agency Lessons. The bad news is I came up empty for a marketing post for today.

But, one goes home empty handed on my blog!

Since I am failing you in the witty/helpful marketing sector, please accept this Rite of Rejection crossword puzzle as a consolation prize. Because crosswords are fun and Fridays are fun. Therefore, Fridays are made for crosswords. This is sound logic, people!

So feel free to print this sucker out or copy/paste it to make it huge on your computer screen. You can download an excel copy from Google Drive. Whatever works for you. I'll post the answers at the end of Monday's Agency Lessons post so you can check your work. Now go have a fantastic weekend!

Why you should follow other writers

So, I got a huge social media hug this week when an author lumped me together with Joel Friedlander as being part of the future success of her novel (Go, Catherine, Go). Basically, the extra kudos was because I blogged about the publication process of RITE OF REJECTION, including the marketing.
Monkey hugs...almost as good as social media hugs.
It reminded me how much I've learned from following and paying attention to other authors. There is never a ceiling to learning about publishing. I will never sit back one day and think, "That's it, I've learned it all. Read 'em and weep, neophytes."

Besides being rude to our newbies, I could never say this because there is no limit to the knowledge out there. So much to learn and so much that's changing every day. The truth is, we can't learn it alone and there's no reason to. We don't need to reinvent the wheel every time we dip our toes into the publishing waters.

If you aren't following a ton of writers on social media, you need to get on that. Here are my tips for maximizing your learning through social media.

1. Release day master course
Every week dozens of new books hit the market. That means there's a never ending supply of new releases to keep an eye on. I love seeing what other authors do to launch their baby into the world. Not only do I pick up some wonderful tips and tricks, it's really easy to see what not to do. Most tradition books release on Tuesdays, so that's a great day to set aside and study book releases.

2. Newsletter fundamentals
I may be a newsletter junkie. I subscribe to tons of them. Partly because I want to know all about my favorite authors. Partly because I want to borrow, steal and hack what they put in their own newsletter for my own. As a read all these great newsletters, it's easy to see the trend in ones I want to read and the ones that feel like an obligation. It should go without saying that you should duplicate the fun read efforts.

3. Mass attack
Most authors have tons of social media accounts and, for the most part, it's sufficient to follow just one of those accounts. But I suggest picking one author who has a similar audience to your own and following all their social media accounts. Check out what kind of posts they put everywhere and how they are specializing the messages for different platforms. Study what gets the most interaction and then put those same practices in place for your own accounts.

4.  Not everyone's a big fish
Sure, I follow the big names in my genre and target audience. But I also follow the midlisters and the ones just getting their feet wet. My personal favorite is to follow the authors who are just ahead of where I am right now. The ones whose success I can reach out and almost touch. Look, listen and learn from what they do. Pay special attention when they admit to mistakes and when they celebrate success.

5. Understand the rules of duplication
While borrowing (and outright stealing) the marketing tactics of other authors of just smart, you have to do so with a grain of salt. Understand that even if you are able to 100% duplicate another authors efforts, you will never be able to duplicate their success. There are just too many variables, many of them completely outside your control. Maybe you'll try and won't do as well. Maybe you'll try and blow everyone out of the water. Either way, keep in mind that every author has to walk their own path.

Who are your favorite authors to follow online? What are some of your favorite tricks gleaned from the interwebs? What do you wish authors posted about more? Share your thoughts in the comments.
* Pick one author and make sure you follow them on all their social media (see how they spread it out, what they post to different networks, etc.)
* Don't just follow big names. Spread out with newbies and those who are just ahead of where you are

Agency Lessons: compassion doesn't equal compliance

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

I usually try to keep things pretty light and positive with a dash of reality here on the blog. That said, I recently received an email that has me so fired up that I'll ask for a little grace while I vent it out. In doing so, I hope to spread a bit of perspective and maybe help the next wayward writer.

I include my personal email address on the blog. I realize that opens me up to spam and inappropriate contact, but it's important to me to be available to my readers and to all of you. Truly, I love hearing from you, and helping other authors on their path is fulfilling. However, I do receive emails from time to time that should never be sent. And sometimes, like last week, I get emails that send me into a tirade that my husband has to sit quietly through.

The email I received started out poorly. The subject line read "Query for Sarah - to the wrong email, I know, but please read". I should have deleted it right then and there. I state clearly on my site that queries sent to my personal email will be deleted. But I didn't. Woe unto me.

The body of the email was basically a butter up opening paragraph, followed by an acknowledgement of the rule breaking and then five pages (which I did not read). I did respond that the individual needed to follow the guidelines and then deleted the email without remorse.

If that's all it had been, I would not be writing this blog post. I get that in a long list of emails, you might get one mixed up and send it to my personal address instead of the agency. And that's why I usually do open those up and direct folks to the website. I understand the neurosis of wondering for months if your email went through.

Instead of that being all, I received a reply back. Apparently, the querier wasn't looking for representation, but rather my opinion of their work. They decided that my reading five pages would be sufficient to decide if they should put their career on hold to pursue writing. Let's digest that for a minute. First off, as good as I may be, I can not tell you to quit your job and pursue writing based on five pages. Not that I would ever advise anyone in the first draft stage to quit their job.  Second, why in the world would you allow the opinion of one stranger who has only read five pages determine your career path? I'm an agent, not the Dalai Lama. No one, NO ONE's opinion should be that important.

Misguided as that may be, that realization made me more sad than angry. But that quickly changed, when the emailer asked me for a quick five minutes and compassion.

Because apparently, my refusal to disrupt my schedule to comply with an inappropriate request would mean I don't have any compassion. And that right there is when the heat rage crept into my face and my husband knew something bad had just happened.

As an agent and a writer, I donate my time constantly to judging contests, attending conferences, teaching workshops and running this blog. All things I do because of my love for books and writers. This is time that is separate from time spent doing my job, writing and taking care of my family. Don't take that as I'm way busier than everyone else so have pity on me. I mention it to show that I am already giving quite a bit of my time to the writing community. And I enjoy doing so. On my own terms.

For a complete stranger to email me, basically demand my help, and insinuate that failure to do so makes me a cold-hearted witch... Well, that's why we have this blog post.

Look, I get it. We are all looking for validation, help, a listening ear. This is even more important for new writers who are just getting their feet wet in the big literary world. But there are right ways and wrong ways to get those things. The wrong way is demanding them from strangers.

The right way? Here's a few ideas.

* Join a local writer's group or find some online critique partners. Not only can these individuals help you hone your craft, they can be a wonderful source of information and a listening ear when you need some extra moral support.

* Attend a conference. This can be a huge help if you are new. A well-organized conference can be like a crash course in writing. You'll have a chance to attend classes, meet other writers, and possibly get some face time with agents and other publishing pros.

* Ask someone to be your mentor. This is a little harder to get, but can be a wonderful opportunity. If there's an author that you admire who writes in your genre, you might want to reach out and ask if they would be willing to be your mentor. If you do this, you need to be prepared. Know exactly what you are asking of them, and be clear in your request. Are you looking for someone who can help you refine your manuscripts? Do you want someone who you can chat with once a month to ask about the industry? Also, be prepared for a no. Many authors have full time jobs outside of their writing lives and squeezing in another commitment isn't possible. Don't take this personally and understand that their lack of compliance to your request does not indicate a lack of compassion on their end.

I wish I could help every writer who contacted me about reading their work. I wish I had unlimited hours and a biological capability to survive on two hours of sleep a night. I wish I had a goose that laid golden eggs. If I did, I'd be more than happy to give personal advice and feedback to everyone. But I don't, and I can't. And that doesn't make me any less compassionate.

It's never wrong to reach out to someone you respect and admire, and I don't want this post to make anyone hesitant to email me. But know that words have power and, as much as I want to, I can't be all things to everyone.

Now, in the interest of helping the author who contacted me and other new writers, do me a favor if you will (though I understand if you can't). Spam my comments section with links to your favorite conferences, online writing groups, and places to find critique partners. This is an amazing community and I know we can help each other grow!

#YASH: Jennifer McGowan

The spring Scavenger Hunt has ended for the year. Winners for the book bundle grand prizes will be posted by April 10th on the YA Scavenger Hunt home page.

While you're there, don't forget to subscribe to the #YASH newsletter so you get all the information for the next hunt in the fall. 

If you'd like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

Winners have been drawn for the eBook copies of Rite of Rejection. There were so many entries I was able to pick THREE winners. If you didn't win, check your email for a special offer to get a discounted copy of Rite of Rejection for a limited time.

a Rafflecopter giveaway