Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Cold Queries and Contests DO Pay Off {with Special Guest Jill Kemerer}

It's Laurie! While I'm busy welcoming a new baby, I've invited some lovelies to keep you company. Please give warm Alley hugs to my beautiful friend, agent-mate, and brand new DEBUT AUTHOR Jill Kemerer as she shares her journey to publication and gives us a peek at her new book!

Sometimes it seems as if the publishing industry is all about who you know. But what if you’re on a tight budget and can’t make it to a big conference this year? Or you went to the conference, and instead of editors and agents begging for your work, you didn’t get any interest at all?

I’ve been there. There have been many years I’ve tearfully offered cyber waves to my friends attending conferences I couldn’t afford. And when I finally did get to a few conferences, I had so-so pitch sessions that left me in tears.

So what’s a writer to do?

We need an agent to get our books in editors’ hands. And we need editors to buy our work. Hang around any group of writers for a while, and you’ll hear how hard it is to get that coveted agent.

I submitted my early books directly to editors since the publishing house I was targeting didn’t require an agent. I feel really bad for the poor editors who had to read those books! By the time I was ready to query agents, my writing had improved to a point I was humbly confident I’d produced a good book.

Research is vital when you’re querying agents. I scoured websites and agent profiles to verify if they represented the books I wrote. I also followed blogs and talked to friends with agents to get a feel for what I wanted in the relationship. I narrowed my list down to my top five agents, and one stuck out in my mind. I just had a gut feeling we’d be a good fit.

After weeks of praying and researching, I sent queries to three agents. I had never met any of them. I didn’t have a recommendation. But I had faith, prayer, and experience.

My top agent? Requested the full. About a month later, I got the call!

I’m still with Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Agency, and I couldn’t be happier. She’s worked hard for me for years, and she’s encouraged me through rough times. I’m blessed!

One misconception about getting an agent is that they’ll automatically sell your book. Yes, some writers will sell right away, but like the rest of my writing journey, it wasn’t that easy for me. It took over three years after signing with Rachel to sell one of my books. During that time, I continued to write, submit books, and enter contests.

In May 2013, I noticed a pitch contest through Harlequin Love Inspired called Happily Editor After. I thought Shana Asaro would be a good fit for my voice, so with my agent’s approval, I signed up. In May 2014, I got the call! I had SOLD my first book. Small-Town Bachelor officially releases tomorrow, and it’s on store shelves now.

If you’re an aspiring writer, don’t be afraid to cold query agents. And keep your eyes open for ways to get your work in front of editors. Inspirational writers, enter ACFW’s Genesis contest and My Book Therapy’s Frasier contest. Romance writers, enter RWA’s Golden Heart contest. If you see pitch contests for publishers you’re interested in, sign up! You never know, maybe you’ll get the call too!


About Jill

Jill Kemerer writes inspirational romance novels with love, humor, and faith. A full time writer and homemaker, she relies on coffee and chocolate to keep up with her kids’ busy schedules.

Besides spoiling her mini-dachshund, Jill adores magazines, M&Ms, fluffy animals, and long nature walks. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children.  Jill loves connecting with readers, so please visit her website www.jillkemerer.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter.


Small-Town Bachelor

A Place to Call Home
When Reed Hamilton arrives in Lake Endwell for a family wedding, he expects to do his part as best man then head back to the big city. But when a tornado postpones the wedding, the town is in shambles and Reed is injured. Thankfully maid of honor Claire Sheffield offers him one of her cottages to recuperate in.

Dedicated to her family and her dream job at the zoo, Claire is all about roots. She's this city slicker's opposite, yet as they help the town rebuild, Reed is captivated by her stunning looks and caring ways. He can't ask Claire to leave the life she loves for him, but he also can't imagine ever leaving her behind…

To find out where Small-Town Bachelor is available for purchase, click here.


Jill Kemerer said...

I'm SO excited to be an Alley Cat today! Thank you so much, ladies for your generosity!
And a huge congratulations (with confetti) to Laurie on your new baby!! Hooray!!

Pepper Basham said...

Jill, your book covers are so inviting! LOVE your story!!!
I'm with you on the 'waiting' process. I've been agented for over 6 years, but it wasn't until Julie took me on (last June)that things started to really happen.
It's all about God's timing our our perseverance, isn't it?

CONGRATS to you!!!!

Pepper Basham said...

so I said 'book covers'
Slip of the keys or walking by faith?
I'll take the latter! Right?


Jeanne Takenaka said...

Jill, I love reading your story. The waiting is definitely a part of my journey. Those so-so appointments with tears that followed. Live that one too. As you know. :)

I couldn't be happier for you and your book releasing. It's wonderful, by the way!!! :) Loved it.

I'm finding contests have benefited me greatly in terms of 1) getting solid feedback on my entries and 2) getting my name out there. Not that this was my goal. I highly recommend contests. :) And finaling or winning one can get you noticed.

Great post my friend!

Jill Kemerer said...

Pepper, definitely the latter!! I got a sneak peek at my September cover, and it is awesome!! Still pinching myself!! Thank you. :)

Jill Kemerer said...

Jeanne, I do know! And it's important for writers to hear that not everyone has the "dream" journey. We don't all knock editors and agents socks off at conferences. It would be nice if we did!! :)

Thank you so much for your kind words about my book!

Cynthia Herron said...

Sooo proud for you, Jill!

I found myself crying in the book aisle at WM last weekend. A lady asked me if I was okay, and I told her, "Yes. That's my friend's book!" :)

Big (((HUGS))) and congratulations!

Keli Gwyn said...

I'm so happy for you, Jill! You should have seen the happy dance I did when I saw your debut novel on the shelves at my local Walmart. I'm lucky I didn't throw my back out or something. LOL

I've long been a fan of contests as a way to get our work in front of agents. That's how Rachelle Gardner saw the opening chapters of the story I went on to rewrite, after she offered representation, and she then sold.

Pepper Basham said...

Oh Cynthia!
That is TOO sweet!!!

Jill Kemerer said...

Cynthia, now you're making ME cry!! You've been such a wonderful friend to me all these years. What can I say? Thank you!!

Jill Kemerer said...

Keli, all those Curves sessions saved your back!! Haha!! You're too funny! Thank you SO much, and I didn't know that Rachelle offered representation after seeing your work in a contest!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Jill,
I just picked up your book yesterday at WalMart here in Ontario. It was my Easter treat for myself!

Great story! So excited to hear you have another book coming out with LI!

Best wishes,

Jill Kemerer said...

Thank you so much, Susan!! And look at you--what a year! I love all your covers!!

Anonymous said...

Although I've posted with my name in the past, I'll stay anonymous for this one. I've recently returned from a conference and I was your quintessential freshman; bouncing from foot to foot just knowing that someone would find my submission to their taste. Not only was no one interested, I received a downright callous remark from an agent on the first night. Tail tucked between my legs, I fled to the Lord. While bolstered after that first night and assured that I was headed in the right direction, Jill's post is yet another affirmation that often God's timing is not our own. It is an eye opener to see the tight circle that traditional publishing offers. Coupled with Jill's tale of taking 3 years for Rachel to find a publisher and the same mantra from multi-published authors at the conference, I hope that other budding authors find as much encouragement as I did from this post. Keep faithful to the stories the Lord has put in your heart.