Getting Published

Seventh Newsletter: An Auspicious Day

I send out a monthly-ish newsletter (more like bi-monthly-ish). This is the the seventh one, sans photos that accompany it when it goes straight to your inbox (apparently copying them from the original newsletter is technologically beyond me). If you’d like to see the whole thing, pictures and all, sign up here!

An Auspicious Day
I like to think of January 28th as an auspicious day. It’s the day the kid was born, and now, holy cow, he’s five! There we are (bottom left) a couple days after he was born, because I’m too vain to show you the pictures of us in the hospital. Exactly three years later, entirely coincidentally, I Shall Be Near To You hit bookstores. There we are (bottom right) celebrating with party horns (the kid’s idea) at our local Barnes & Noble.

Both times January 28th changed my life, most notably by bringing new people into it. One of the greatest surprises about I Shall Be Near To You making its way out into the world has been all the lovely people I’ve met or re-established connections with because of it, including many of you. All those years I dreamed of the book being at Barnes & Noble, I never dared to imagine that I might make new friends, or share intensely personal conversations, or chat on Twitter, or sit down for coffee with actual readers. It’s a marvel really, how a book can create a community, and I feel incredibly grateful every day (but especially January 28th) for the way you readers have taken Rosetta into your hearts and let me be a part of your lives.

A Little Novel News
Since January 28th feels so auspicious already, and I didn’t quite hit my goal of having a draft of my new novel ready in 2015, I made it my goal to send it to my agent on January 28th. You all are among the very very first to know that Josie is now officially in Agent Dan’s hands. I wish I could say that I feel amazing about this, but in truth I feel nauseous. It happens every time I send something to Agent Dan, because what he thinks of this manuscript is hugely important– crucial, really. I keep telling myself it’s actually a good thing I feel sick every time I think about him reading it, because it means I truly care about these characters and this story. I very much want them to have a life beyond the printed pages in a three-ring binder you see above.

An Invitation to Distraction
Now that Josie is out of my hands, my best cure for nausea is keeping busy in other ways. One thing I’m doing is buckling down on researching my next next novel (some of which is that pile of books pictured above). It’s a relief to know I have something else to work on and I’m excited about making room in my head for some new voices (does that sound too creepy?). I’m also binge-reading a bunch of novels I’ve had on my To-Be-Read pile, because most of the time I seem to only be able to find time to write OR read. I’ve been posting pictures of some of those books over on Instagram and Facebook and reviews over on Goodreads, if you’re curious. (Spoiler: I really loved Vengeance Road and I think Rosetta fans will too. Also, that cover!)

I’m also gearing up for #BookClubFix, a new book club I’ve launched with two of my favorite book bloggers (wonderful friends I’ve made thanks to I Shall), Ellice and Leah. We’ve chosen our first book, The Violinist of Venice: A Story of Vivaldi, by Alyssa Palombo and I just started reading my Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of it last night (the actual cover is much prettier than the one in the photo above!). If you’re passionate about anything creative (especially music), curious about Vivaldi, or in love with 1700s Venice, this might be just the book for you. You can learn more about how #BookClubFix came to be here, some of our future plans, and how you can join us here. I really hope you’ll put February 24th on your calendar and help distract me while I wait for Dan’s verdict on Josie.

Meanwhile, I’ll be crossing my fingers a lot and wondering what 2016 has in store.

Here’s to the New Year, new books, and new ways to connect!
P.S. As always, if you’d like to reply to this email, it’ll go straight to my inbox. I’d love to hear if you plan to read The Violinist of Venice!

Join me for a TwitterChat!

#HistoricalFix TwitterChats
What started as the one-time (so I thought) #IShall TwitterChat about all things historical fiction, has now (because it was so fun and people asked for more!) morphed into the #HistoricalFix TwitterChat.

What is the #HistoricalFix TwitterChat?
It’s a one-hour (more or less) discussion of historical fiction: topics, trends, time periods, research, characters and of course BOOKS. Co-hosted by some of my favorite bloggers and featuring a new line-up of guest authors each time, the chat gives historical fiction lovers (readers, bloggers, librarians, editors, agents, authors) a chance to respond to questions, participate in giveaways, recommend books, and just generally enjoy talking about the genre we all love.

When’s the next #HistoricalFix TwitterChat happening?
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
5:30-6:30 PM PST/8:30-9:30 PM EST

Cassie of The Casserole Blog
Ellice of Paper Riot

With a Cameo Appearance by:
Kelly of Belle of the Literati

Guest Authors and Giveaways:
Stacy Carlson author of Among the Wonderful (3 copies up for grabs!)

Tracy Guzeman author of The Gravity of Birds (5 copies up for grabs!)

Kelli Stanley author of City of Ghosts; City of Secrets; City of Dragons; Nox Dormienda; The Curse Maker (2 copies of a Miranda Corbie book AND 3 audio versions of Nox Dormienda up for grabs!)

What’s the best way to participate?
Add your tweets to the deluge! As long as you have a Twitter handle and remember to add our hashtag (#HistoricalFix), you’re in! It’s a bit easier to track the conversation if you use a website like Tweetchat—just log in using your Twitter account and search for #HistoricalFix. The entire conversation should load, and it will automatically include #HistoricalFix in all your tweets (because truly, remembering the hashtag is the hardest part. Well, and keeping up with all the tweets)

More questions?
The best thing to do is tweet me with any questions that aren’t answered here: @ErinLindsMcCabe (and feel free to use the hashtag so others can see your question too)

#IShall TwitterChat

What was the #IShall TwitterChat?
Inspired by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s #BSWT TwitterChat, I teamed up with four fabulously supportive and dedicated bloggers to celebrate the paperback release of I Shall Be Near To You and have a great time. Five historical fiction authors joined us and I think I can safely say that what transpired exceeded any of our wildest imaginings. I laugh now to think how nervous I was that no one would “show up.”

You can read pretty much everything about the #IShall TwitterChat experience in Hannah’s recap which includes a link to the list of the over 114 recommended books that came up in the course of the discussion.

#IShall Co-hosts:
Cassie of The Casserole Blog
Ellice of Paper Riot
Hannah of So Obsessed With
Kelly of Belle of the Literati

#IShall Featured Authors:
Ariel Lawhon author of The Wife The Maid The Mistress

Alex Myers author of Revolutionary

Ariel MacArran author of Another Man’s Bride

Mary Volmer author of Crown of Dust

Lois Leveen author of Juliet’s Nurse; The Secrets of Mary Bowser

Query Letters

Quite a few people ask me how to go about getting published. My first piece of advice is to finish your manuscript. Then, while you’re letting it sit before your next round of revisions, you can work on your query letter.

Before I wrote my query letter, I spent quite a bit of time tooling around on The Query Shark blog. It’s a FABULOUS resource! Reading it is an education.

Then I wrote at least 6 drafts of my query letter. It was hard. The first versions were terrible, just terrible! So I revised and revised and had MFA friends and family read drafts and revised some more.

Here’s the query letter I ended up with, and that landed me my agent, the amazing Dan Lazar, who has also written this (which I read before querying him) and this about what he looks for in a query.

Dear Mr. Lazar:

Throughout the summer of 1861, Jeremiah Wakefield courts farm-girl Rosetta Edwards, his childhood friend. But when he comes to church one morning with a Union Army recruiting handbill, Rosetta is mad enough to kick shins. Instead, she demands he make her his widow if he plans to go off and die. After their honeymoon, Rosetta lights on an idea to stay together and earn more money to buy their dream farm. Ignoring Jeremiah’s objections and her own fears, Rosetta does a fool-headed thing, something no woman she knows would dare: she becomes Ross Stone. Marching alongside Jeremiah in the 97th New York State Volunteers, Rosetta struggles with being wife and soldier, liar and straight-shooter, daughter and disappointment. Then the battle of Antietam forces grief-stricken Rosetta to decide whether there is more freedom in remaining secret or becoming known, whether going home would sacrifice everything she’s dreamed or be the only way to hold onto it.

Inspired by true accounts of the more than 400 women who disguised as men and fought in the Civil War, There Will I Be Buried is 138,239 words of voice-driven historical fiction that is both tender love story and hard examination of war. While Rosetta would keep company with the likes of Mattie from Charles Portis’ True Grit, Ellen from Kaye Gibbons’ Ellen Foster, and Lydia from Molly Gloss’ The Jump-off Creek, she must answer for herself whether freedom can be gained through disguise and bloodshed, and if the resulting stain can ever be washed clean.

I completed an MFA at Saint Mary’s College of California in May 2010. In March 2010, I read an excerpt of There Will I Be Buried for the monthly San Francisco reading series Quiet Lightning. My short story “Interview with a Union Soldier, Recently Dead” was published in the September 2009 online issue of Hobart. There Will I Be Buried is my first novel. I have pasted the first five pages below. Upon your request I will happily send the complete manuscript.

I am querying you because I think my novel straddles several genres you are interested in: historical, literary, commercial, and women’s fiction. Also, I too, loved the book Middlesex. Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Erin Lindsay McCabe

Finding an Agent

Here’s what worked for me:

Start with agents who have represented books you love that have something in common with your own. Usually authors will thank their agents in their acknowledgments, and if they don’t, well, you probably don’t want to work with that agent anyway. (If you don’t have a copy of the book in question, you can almost always get access to the acknowledgements page via Google Books.)

Research about every agent on your list. You can try a simple google search (which often turns up interviews or blog posts that feature the agent–very helpful). Or go straight to websites like Publishers Marketplace, Poets and Writers, AgentQuery, and Writer’s Digest where you can get contact info., submission guidelines, and lists of interests or genres the agent represents. What you’re looking for is not just how to get in touch with the agent, but also what this person likes and whether those are things you also like or qualities that your book possesses. You are searching for someone who will be a good fit for you and your book. Kind of like dating.

Add more agents. Once I had my list of “dream agents” who had represented books I loved and who were accepting queries, I started researching other agents by genre (I looked for agents who represented historical fiction, women’s fiction, literary fiction, and commercial fiction, or who wanted “upmarket” fiction). I started with a list of about 20 agents.

I only added agents to my list who seemed like they might really like my book. You want an agent who falls PASSIONATELY IN LOVE with your book. Plenty of agents rejected my book even as they said nice things about it. They just hadn’t fallen in love. It was hard to hear at the time, but in retrospect, I’m really glad that they turned it down. It makes a HUGE difference having an agent who has been smitten.

Tailor each query you send to the agent you are querying. Tell the agent why you chose him/her. Be specific!

Make sure your manuscript is ready. Have the first 3 chapters in a separate document in case someone wants a partial manuscript. Have the full manuscript ready to go. Have a synopsis too (it seems like few agents want one anymore, but if someone asks, it’s really awful to have to scramble to pull one together–trust me, I know!).

Send out small batches of queries. This is important. If your query is good and you’re sending it to the right kinds of agents, you should get immediate interest (requests for partial or full manuscripts or for a synopsis). If you get nothing but rejections, then something is wrong with your query letter. So send the query out to just a few agents at a time and gauge the response you get. If you send it to everyone all at once and your query isn’t good enough, you’ll get nothing but rejections and then you’ll be back to square one. While you’re anxiously waiting to hear back from those first few agents, you can be researching new agents to query.

Repeat. But use the feedback you get to guide you. For instance, once I had queried those 20 agents, getting requests for partials and fulls, it seemed like people were getting to the same place and passing. Had I not gotten the email from my now-agent Dan telling me he wanted to talk, I had decided to quit querying and revise again (those pesky flashbacks!).