The Art and Chaos of the Live Pitch

Hello Hopefuls,

As I said in my recent posts, I attended the Northern Kentucky Writer’s Conference last month and it was an eye-opening and incredibly humble experience to say the least.

Soooo, let’s start at the top.  In this post I will be talking about the live pitch, which in essence is when you attend a conference and pay an extra amount to sit with a real live agent and pitch your book.  You have roughly ten minutes to bring your manuscript to life and pique their interest without losing your nerve and babbling like an idiot.  Trust me, it is one of the toughest things I’ve done in my life up to this point.

I pre-selected my agent of choice and flirted with the idea of 2 more pitches, but when I went back to sign up their schedule was full.  I couldn’t get a sit down with them, but I did have an appointment in the afternoon with an agent from the Seymour Agency.  But this blog isn’t about that live pitch, it’s about the train wreck that I laid out early that morning.

I went to register at about 8:30 a.m. after about 4 hours of what I would loosely call sleep.  I tossed and turned, still trying to get my live pitch down in my head, but I couldn’t see through the fog – couldn’t nail down what I wanted to say in my ten minutes of fame and glory.  But hey, I can ad-lib, right?  Do it all the time for work.  I would just use the lunch hour to write down my thoughts and be primed for my 1:40 meeting.  No doubt I would knock it out of the park!  As they say, the best laid plans often go astray – and that was certainly the case.

As I said, I arrived early to register and noticed an agent that I really wanted to pitch to leisurely sipping her coffee.  She was early and I decided to cease the moment and introduce myself.  Being cool and collected, I said hello and explained that I wanted to pitch to her but her schedule was full.  All I wanted was to put my face to a name and hopefully make some type of impact so that she would ask to see my work and possibly represent me as an agent.  It ABSOLUTELY backfired.  She was incredibly gracious and kind and said, “well I guess it’s a good thing I’m early, why don’t we sit and you can tell me about your book?”  Time froze and I’m pretty sure all of the color left my face, not to mention my knees nearly buckling out from under me.  After mumbling an obscenity I decided to give it a whirl.  How bad could it bed?  Besides, it would be great practice and surely I could wing it.  WRONG!

I sat down, proceeded to massacre the pitch, allowing verbal diarrhea to spew forth like an idiot.  I was mortified. She understood that I was nervous and graciously asked me to send her the pages – even though she was likely being polite. When it was over, I tried to recant the meeting and it was all a blur.  I don’t even think I gave her the title of the manuscript!  I was ready to pack my bag, skip the 1:40 pitch I had scheduled and start drinking at 8:45 a.m.  Needless to say, the day got better and I learned a lot during the seminar (more to come on that in later posts), then I drank wine over dinner.

Moral of the story: if you go to a conference and intend to do a live pitch, make sure you’re prepared for the unexpected.  You never know when a chance encounter might land you on a couch with an agent – and you better have your shit together!

A picture is NOT worth a thousand words

Hello Hopefuls,

I’ve recently been asked, why don’t you add pictures to your blog?  The short answer is that this is a writer’s blog designed to help fledgling authors like myself.  Even though my first novel hasn’t been published yet, I HAVE gone through the trials and trepidations of trying to give birth to my novel for the last two years.  Okay, cue the ranting monologue.

In this world teens and twenty-somethings insisting that everything be visual, that reading without pictures takes way too long, I have one word  – de-evolution.  Allow me to explain.  As a species, we have evolved from our Cro-Magnon ancestors who drew on caves in the absence of a unified language.  However, in today’s world of Snapchat, Pinterest, Facebook Live, Youtube and God knows what else, we have become a society of images, not words.  When we evolved, we learned to navigate the pitfalls of language; to string together eloquent elongated words that formed a web of mental imagery.  We told stories about our heritage, wrote huge novels about magnificently epic stories that remain classics some 100 years later.  But now, in this new world of clicking, tagging and posting, all we do – or seem to have the time for – is look at images to convey messages.  De-evolution at it’s best.

I am a writer.  Whether or not I ever get a book published is irrelevant because I am still and will always be a writer – a lover of words and imagery, similes and metaphors that force pictures into the imagination.

So, in closing, IF this were a gardening blog, or a carpentry blog, pictures would certainly be appropriate – but it’s not.   This is a writer’s blog so it is and always will be full of words.

Gone Fishin’

Hello Hopefuls,

I have been away from this blog for a year, trying to finish my manuscript and it has been challenging.  I’ve decided to dedicate this particular entry to the emotional side of what we do – or try to do – because it can be crazy making!  I do promise to write more frequently and not ghost any possible followers (not that I have an abundance of followers at the moment, but hey – quality vs. quantity, right!)

Little bit about me, I am in my 40’s (ouch!) and run a local catering company in the Midwest, so I’m well versed on running a large company, talking to clients and even public speaking.  Which brings me to the most interesting part of this whole process.  People at work, acquaintances and even my close friends know that I like to write, hell, some even knew that I was writing a book, but when it came to me explaining what my book was about I froze up and damn near wet myself.  I couldn’t wrap my brain around it.  I can stand up in front of a couple hundred people and talk about the wacky world of catering, or how to plan an event, but talking about my book made me feel like that awkward teenager that I left behind in eighth grade.

Interestingly enough, I attended the Northern Kentucky Writer’s Conference ( recently and found myself amidst a group of people that were in the same boat.  A surgeon writing a medical thriller, someone who works in D.C. writing a romance novel and a Midwest mother of 4 writing a Sci-Fi/Fantasy series – all of them had the same feelings of inadequacy.  It made me feel close to normal again, made my anxiety dissipate and allowed me to give my in-person pitch without tossing my lunch (more on my in-person pitch in my future posts).

Moral of the story: as a new author you have to become comfortable with your material – no matter how personal it might feel.  I didn’t want people who knew me in a professional capacity to find out that I was a paranormal freak; that I LOVED ghost stories and supernatural thrillers about “what happens next”.  They might think I’m nuts, or at the very least – strange.  But if I’m gonna put my heart (and about a year and a half of my free time) into a manuscript, then I better be ready to put it out there to the universe and be PROUD!

I am a horrible blogger!!

Hello Hopefuls!

I can’t thank you enough for your amazing comments and kind words. Writing is not for the faint of heart, and blogging isn’t easy either, but I started this blog to gain a platform.  Everything I had researched with regard to getting published was about having a social media platform or a blog so I did it – come to find out that having a platform is far more important when you’re trying to get a non-fiction manuscript on the market.  At any rate, I haven’t written on this blog for about a year so I probably have no followers at this point.  Who follows a blog with a ghosted writer, right?  Your comments inspired me to continue writing and I will be sure to write a blog at least once a week.  I’m not so concerned about a platform anymore, but knowing that my trials over the last year may be able to help other fledgling writers makes it all worth while!

Little bit of housekeeping now.  Many of you asked about my blog platform and I have to be honest, I don’t know crap about web sites, graphics or programming.  However, I am VERY fortunate to have a great local company that agreed to design my site and make it “idiot proof” (my words, not theirs), so I can’t take much credit.  It is a word press platform but they have made it SO user friendly that even I can’t screw it up!  Thank you Mikey and Andy!

Secondly, there were questions about my research being accurate and I want to state that EVERYTHING I write in this blog is based off of my own research, and based solely on my own experience.  IF I have used information from a source, it is put into my own words and in my unique writing style, so it’s all original content.  Everything I write in this blog is intended for new authors trying to navigate the pitfalls of getting published, and if someone can triumph from my tribulations I am THRILLED!

Lastly, I just attended my first writers conference in Northern Kentucky and I have A LOT of information to share!  LOL.

Stay tuned my Hopefuls!

Query and the Spreadsheet

I’ve been talking a lot about the Query process and I wanted to add some of my over-the-top, anal, OCD to the mix.  Let me be clear that I’m no professional, hell, I haven’t even gotten my own agent yet (see what I did there – positivity folks), but I have been running the gamut so take my advice…or don’t…it’s up to you.  I was recently told by me De-Mentor (that’s the name she prefers I call her) that until I get 100 rejections it’s not time to give up the ghost.  After all, she didn’t get an agent until her fourth book, so patience is a definite virtue in this arduous process.  She’s my hero and source of inspiration when I think about giving up, in addition to reading my post about famous authors that were rejected before success (see post The Writing Struggle Is Real or visit: ).

This post is about being organized so you don’t look like an ass in front of the entire publishing community while you’re Querying.  I can’t stress the importance of keeping some type of log of your Querying adventure – consider it your depressing diary on the road to becoming an author.  Without this you will be lost and will  likely send multiple Queries to the same agent/agency – rookie move!

I use an Excel spreadsheet that has my tier 1 agents, tier 2 agents and the tier 3 agents that I’m really don’t interest me.  It is also important that you fully research those agents/agencies you want to Query.  I know it takes quite a bit of time (trust me) but throwing darts at an agency board to decide who you send your Query letter to is not only ineffective, it’s down right idiotic.  Here are the important things to research on an agent/agency’s website or social media before you decide to send them a Query:

  • what type of genre are they interested in?  If your book is Sci-Fi and they only represent Romance authors, don’t waste your time or theirs.
  • are they currently taking unsolicited Queries?  If not, don’t bother.
  • what type of authors do they currently represent, are they like you, do they work in your genre?
  • what is their success rate with authors, are any of their clients best sellers/successes?
  • do they also work with multi-media platforms, like movies, TV, video games, etc.  This is important if you think (or want) your book could get picked up as a movie/TV series.
  • see if they have a blog or twitter (or any social media for that matter) and check it out before you Query them.  You might find out some useful information that could connect you to them.
  • lastly, I never recommend Querying an agency without having a specific agent in mind.  Many authors do this, but I don’t think it’s as effective as directing your Query to a particular agent.  Research all of the agents on the agency’s site and pick one that you think will be a good fit for your project, or at least someone connected to your genre.  If you can’t find any agent with that agency that you can connect with then you probably shouldn’t be Querying that agency.

Okay, now that you’ve researched your agencies/agents, you need to start your spreadsheet.  I suggest you keep the following in your spreadsheet/log or whatever you want to use:

  • date that you submitted/sent the Query
  • agency name
  • agency web site
  • agent name that you directed the Query to
  • agent email address
  • what their guideline was, IE: just Query letter, or Query letter and first three chapters, synopsis only, etc.
  • a space for your rejection date (sorry, it’s going to happen) or “no response” as all agencies have a time allotted for hearing back, IE: if you don’t hear from us within eight weeks, assume we have passed on your project.  And if that time runs out and you haven’t heard back, you can gently remind them of your Query  with a follow up email or simply mark them as a no.  I actually haven’t sent a reminder email as I assume that if I haven’t heard, they aren’t interested – but who knows?
  • lastly, and possibly most importantly, a section for notes.  Either notes on the agent you queried, or things you wanted to bring up about them in your Query (the last one I Queried mentioned that she loved Assassin’s Creed video games and since I too like Assassin’s Creed I mentioned it in my email hoping to make a connection.  You may also want to have a separate section for notes on the rejection itself.  Did they give you any criticism that could be useful?  Maybe you need to take their comments and change your approach/Query letter.

If you’re organized in your approach you will be viewed as a professional by the agents you Query.  The last thing you want to do is look like a novice that doesn’t care enough to spend your time or energy on the success of your own project.  From what I’ve read in agent blogs, they do talk to each other about authors so don’t assume that whatever you say or do in your Query will not be spread around in the industry.  New York City is a big place…until it comes to the publishing industry.

For more information about finding multiple agents that you can Query, check out the latest edition of The Writer’s Market, or visit

My Query Letter… Or Lack There Of

Hello all, sorry it’s been so long since I posted but my day job has taken a huge chunk of my brain and time as of late.  I started Querying agents in January of this year and to date have had nothing but rejections.  All sprinkled with variations of although the work has merit  to despite it’s strong points, it just didn’t spark my interest enough to represent you.  All of these end with some form of keep up the good work…or…fight the good fight…which all culminate in good luck in your search for an agent.

As you can imagine it is extremely frustrating.  When I first started Querying (I capitalize that because it’s a BFD) I couldn’t wait for my first rejection letter.  I thought it would make me feel like a real author – and it did…at first, but 26 rejections (or deafening silence) and it’s no longer fun.  I will say that the agents that responded were thoughtful and pleasant, unlike the horror stories of an agent ripping a query to shreds (see previous blog about authors who were initially rejected).  Still, it sucks!  It can cause a real slump in the creative process, making any writer worth his salt feel like they are horrible writers who lack imagination – or worse, make you throw your laptop off the highest building.  But I digress.  I thought it would be helpful to all of you in the void of the Query world to learn something from my research…and mistakes.


A Synopsis is typically 1 to 2 pages and is an overview of your manuscript.  It provides plot details, character info and sometimes even reveals any/all twists in the story.  Not many agents want, or have time for, the synopsis.  They want the Query letter.

A Query letter is a teaser of your story.  Apparently many authors actually end up using some form of the original Query letter that helped them land an agent for their book jacket.  You know, the paragraph you read online or at the bookstore to entice you to buy said book.  It is super tough, and often harder than writing the actual book.  A Query letter is about 2 paragraphs and typically starts with what type of book (genre), how many words, and why you chose that particular agency to Query.  Then no more than 2 paragraphs that summarize your ENTIRE novel without giving away anything, but still getting an agent to say, “gee, this sounds interesting and might be a good fit for my client list.”

I am going to put my first Query letter in this blog, even though it was not so good, so you can see how important it is to take your time.


Somewhere between the realm of life and death lies the burden of the Traghettatore.

Darion Azabe’s tedious teenage life overturns when his father’s car accident sends him hurdling toward a mysterious family legacy. Traveling to the sleepy town of Lafayette, Indiana, Darion and his sidekick Renee Stark unearth a powerful destiny buried deep beneath his deceased mother’s family tree.  Soon he comes to understand the magical world of the Traghettatore, a group of select people fated to ferry lost souls to their rightful resting place.

Darion’s life grows increasingly complex after meeting Darby Therse, his troubled counterpart within the family bloodline. He quickly learns that Darby will play a vital role in shaping the future – and his own fate.  After honing their respective elemental gifts, the fledgling Traghettatores will be deemed light or dark, forcing them to journey to the enlightened plane or the underworld.  But when shocking family secrets are revealed, rage and betrayal pit the Traghettatores in an epic supernatural battle that will forever alter the balance between life and death within the realms.

The Welling: Creations is a completed 79,000 word YA supernatural novel with high potential for a trilogy. The novel has an underlying LGBT storyline with interweaving threads of forbidden romance and humor, echoing the Beautiful Creatures series with regard to the supernatural world, but also has a heavy accent in the afterlife.

I have published several articles including theatre reviews in local papers and my college paper, community pieces in Design Magazine, and copywriting experience with web site and brochure creation for and; however, this is my first novel.  I have researched your company and am highly impressed with your accolades in the YA and Thriller genre; moreover, your enthusiasm to work side by side with authors is refreshing.  All of these things lead me to believe that The Welling: Creations would be a great fit for the Trident Media Group.  Even though I am querying a handful of agents simultaneously, I would be honored by your representation.  If you are looking for a diamond in the “slush”, I am the author for you!  Thank you for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon!


Diamond in the slush…shoot me!  At the time I thought it was clever, now It’s just embarrassing.  This is much more of a Synopsis than a Query letter, far too much detail and way too long.  I have revamped, rewritten and rerouted three other Query letters since then, and although I’m still getting rejections, I’m not embarrassed by my letter.  Here is the latest draft I wrote and sent out.  It’s still too wordy, but its a work in progress.


Between death and the rebirth lies the burden of the Traghettatore.

Eighteen year old Darion Azabe unearths a supernatural secret buried deep within the roots of his family tree that will shift his destiny in unimaginable ways. He is the next in line to become a Traghettatore; an ancestral ferryman fated to carry lost souls through the shadow veil.  Guided by a cryptic ghost and a gypsy fortune teller, Darion edges closer to his first soul crossing and learns that his fate is inexplicably tied to another.

Darion is only one side of a cosmic coin – the yin to someone’s darker yang – and his counterpart Darby Therse hides secrets of his own. When Darby reveals a devastating family cover up, fate is rewritten and an epic paranormal battle ensues, culminating in the birth of a biblical prophecy that will rip the delicate balance of the spirit planes apart – unless it can be stopped.

The Welling: Creations is a completed 79,000 word Paranormal YA manuscript with high potential for a trilogy. This supernatural novel has a balanced mix of straight and gay characters with threads of forbidden romance and a thriller instinct.

With a degree in Journalism, I have published several articles in local newspapers, wrote community pieces for Design Magazine, and have copywriting experience with web site and brochure creation for companies like and, but this is my first novel.  Thank you in advance for your time.


The lesson here is take your time and really put some thought into your Query letter before you send it out to the world.  I know you’re excited, I’m finally done with this book and I can’t wait to send it out and get it published, but trust me…wait until it’s perfect!

For more info on writing a good Query letter, visit:


Okay peeps, I finished my first book, The Welling: Creations, in January and have sent it out to several agencies, receiving nothing but rejections – or worse – SILENCE! Fortunately for me, I developed a very thick skin courtesy of eight years at the Maisonette Restaurant, so I’m not taking it too hard. Still, the waiting is killing me!

All advice points to starting a second book while waiting for the first to get discovered.  Trust me, that’s easier said than done.  Everything I’ve read says NOT to start the second book in my series, but let’s face it – I’ve never done what I’ve been told.  I feel like I have to keep the faith that my book series is good enough to go all the way, and that even though I have 4 other novels that are completely unrelated to my series screaming inside my head, I want to stay the course.  So, with that said, I have decided to start the second book in my series, The Welling: Transitions, today.

I will continue to send my book to agencies, in fact, I have a spreadsheet of 1st tier and 2nd tier agencies that I think are a great fit for my work.  I highly suggest that any new author (or established for that matter) keep a good spreadsheet of what agency you contacted, all their contact info, the date you sent the query letter and who you specifically sent it to.  Otherwise you’re going to have a big mess on your hands when you try to figure out who to query next and if you’ve already queried that agency/agent.  It is important to retain professionalism and not appear as a schleprock.

My next target, after querying agencies/agents is to target small publishing houses.  People have had quite a bit of success with small independent publishing houses as compared to one of the big 5 houses – especially for first time authors.  Once I’ve exhausted the agency list and the independent publishing houses, if I haven’t hung myself from the rafters in my attic, I will look at self-publishing, or as the industry calls it – vanity publishing (ouch).

If you are on the same journey as me, there are a few crucial web sites and books that are a must-have for any arsenal.

~ The current edition of Writer’s Market.

~ (Preditors vs Editors is a great resource to find out who has a good reputation in the industry and who is not to be trusted.)

~ (if you want to read great archives and advice on writing effective Query letters, this is the place for you.  I wouldn’t bother trying to post your own letter for her to review as she only takes a few.  Still, it’s a great resource.)

~ (another great tool to see who is legit out there.  You HAVE to manage your own career at this point and choose an agent/publisher that is trustworthy and is willing to put in the work to get you published.  Don’t just take the first ride that drives by – do your homework.  After all, you’ve worked hard on this dream and it deserves all of your protection/nurturing.)

Well, that’s all for now.  I will trudge on through the muck that is getting published without any real experience.  I have learned one thing above all, there is a certain amount of luck and karma involved in this process.  If you don’t believe me, refer to my last post about some amazing authors who started out with rejections and ended up with a career!

The Writing Struggle Is Real

People, the struggle is real out there for first time authors!

I have now submitted my query letter to 16 different agencies simultaneously, which granted isn’t a whole bunch, and have received 5 officials “no’s”. Depression sets in quickly. Several people have offered platitudes like, well, you should be proud of yourself for writing the book, that’s a huge success in itself or the other, at least you finally did it!
UGH! I relate it to my own platitude – which has become my standard response – it’s kinda like spending a year and a half on knitting a blanket only to throw it in the fireplace when you’re done.  That usually shuts them up quick!

I needed inspiration desperately before I hung my pen name out to dry. So I went hunting for comfort food in the way of rags to riches author stories. Here is what I found, maybe it will help you too!

My favorite is the J.K. Rowling’s story of Harry Potter getting published. Her literary agency received 12 rejection letters from publishers, and then the tenacious 8 year old daughter of an editor insisted on reading the rest of the manuscript. Then the editor agrees to publish but tells her she probably won’t make much money at it since it’s a children’s book. If it weren’t for that annoying 8 year old hounding her mother to read the book, it may have never been published, and Harry Potter would have remained hidden at Hogwarts forever.


For more stories of inspiration for us fledgling writers, you can visit:

I guess the point of this blog is to say we have to keep trying, and even though the struggle is real, we must forge on to become the next J.K. Rowling in our specific genres!!

Writing is the Easy Part

My name is Drew Hester and I am a first time novelist.  WOW, sounds like an AA speech is pending.  I am currently navigating the roadmap to this crazy ride of getting a first novel published.  And trust me when I say – at least for me – Writing is the easy part!

I am old enough to be seasoned as a person, and young enough to have immense creativity within my active mind.  My drug of choice is the realm of the supernatural.  Therefor, that is the genre I am drawn to as a writer.  Ghost stories, witchcraft mysteries, heaven vs. hell, demons and angels – you name it…I crave it!  I finished the last edit (at least the last and most polished edit I intend to do until someone shows interest in my book) in December of 2015 after a year and a half of writing, editing and more editing.  I was thrilled, and assuming I’m like most other new novelists, screamed to the world – “okay world, it’s finally finished.  Come and get it!”

Oddly enough – no one called, emailed, texted or knocked on my front door. (insert sad face emoji here)

Now, let me give some background information on my behalf.  I graduated from NKU in 2002 (Outstanding Senior in Journalism I might add – sorry, have to brag here) so I am confident that I possess a pretty good grasp of sentence structure, spelling, grammar, etc.  That combined with my strange imagination in all things supernatural made me a great fit to write the first book in my trilogy.  The Welling: Creations (YA supernatural thriller).  It took time, several edits and incredible guidance from my straight-shooting, AMAZING mentor Wendy Vogel (, but I did it.

And now the REAL work has begun – and trust me, it is tough!

I have started the process of querying agents at this point and apparently being a decent- or even good – writer is no where near enough to make it to the publishing stage.  Now, with the amazing (and some say tedious) world of social media, having a good book completely written is only step 1 if nobody knows your name.  No, you have to have a noticeable presence online with preferably the following:  active twitter account, a current blog (hence this beginning), a web site and a proven following to ensure a good fan base.  Well hell, that’s a full time job!!

I decided to start with small steps, specifically this blog to new writers from the somewhat biased viewpoint of a new writer.  I’ve had a Facebook page forever, and registered my twitter account when it came out (assuming that someday I might find the urge to join the revolution – flash forward 4 years and I still haven’t tweeted), and I don’t know what in the world I would put on an entire website about nothing but me.  Even I’m not that narcissistic; now maybe if I had some books published that would be a different story.

So……this is my first blog (have to say, I don’t hate it, although I’m not sure who out there would really give a crap about what I have to say??) and I intend to document my “process” at least weekly, if not twice a week.

As I said, I knew how to write, and pretty much what to write – but I made 2 major pitfalls that cost me a lot of extra time in editing.  Don’t make the same mistakes!


I started writing the book in first person view (which is really difficult turns out) and then about half way through decided the story was better told in third person view.  I switched mid stream and decided to chug along and I would go back and fix the first half in editing.  HUGE mistake!  You see, it is not as simple as changing “I” to “He”, you have to change complete sentence structure and storyline in many cases.  Took me about 3 months just to fix the mess I had made, and trust me, it was a mess.


Thanks again to my amazing Mentor (or sometimes referred to as my tore-mentor – love you Wendy!) it was pointed out that I had made yet another critical error.  Point of View (POV).  It is very easy when writing third person to have every character talk to the reader personally, meaning that instead of having only the main character share his/her inner thoughts with the reader, the writer switches the POV constantly and the reader gets confused.  The main character’s thoughts/feelings are the only ones to be written directly to the reader – every other character and the story line needs to be understood through dialogue.  That took another 2 months of editing.

Learn from my mistakes and start out fresh, trust me, there are plenty of other pitfalls you will endure throughout the process that will set you back!

That’s it for now…my next blog will be about querying agents/publishers.

Be well and be wise!