The Insufferable Writer’s Podcast came about one afternoon, as I heard myself saying, “I don’t mean to be an insufferable writer here, but…”
I am a writer. I can honestly be completely insufferable when it comes to writing, or better yet workshopping a book. If you are unsure if you are an insufferable writer, just ask any non-writer you happen to be around. Need I say more?
Well, actually YES!!! I have a lot to say on this topic and I thought it would be fun to make a podcast that looks at the quirky, insufferable, and wonderful movements about being a writer. In my experience so many writing communities, clubs, and even podcasts are stuffy, and pretentious when it comes to writing. They take themselves so seriously, almost to the point that it is comical to me. Now, I want to make a few things very clear at the start. First, I am in no way making fun of, or approaching this podcast in a snide, or mean-spirited way. This is supposed to be a tongue and cheek look at writer’s life. Second, writing is serious business and boy does it take grit! I don’t think there is a successful author out there who nonchalantly wrote a book, and it became a bestseller, and only wrote from the beginning when they felt like it. Life is about learning, and laughing at what didn’t go right, and celebrating what did.
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Transcript of Episode 1: Querying and Building a Platform
Please note: this transcript was generated using A.I. so it may not be completely accurate.
Podcast Episode 1 3/22/22
[00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the very first episode of the insufferable writers podcast, a podcast for people like me and insufferable writer. So what is this podcast? Because there are a million podcasts and a lot of them are really, really great, very serious. And. Just good about writing. And so what makes this one a little different?
Well, I found myself this afternoon walking with my husband and I’m in the middle of writing a book. I write romance for those of you who are not familiar with. And I’m in the middle of writing a book and I’m stuck. I’ve got a plot point that I can’t quite figure out. And I found myself saying to my husband, who’s also a writer.
And so we’re very kind of tongue in cheek towards each other, as far as writing goes said, Hey, I don’t mean to be an insufferable writer here, but do you think you could help me figure this out? And [00:01:00] I had like this moment. Where I thought, oh my God, he’s an insufferable writer. I’m an insufferable writer.
I, know a lot of insufferable writers, people who would say yep. I’m pretty insufferable and who would classify themselves as insufferable writers. And so what I mean by the word insufferable is People that take writing very seriously sometimes to the point where we all need a reminder to step back, have fun with it.
It’s supposed to be an art form. So that’s what the podcast is. It’s a fun tongue in cheek. Look at our writer’s life. I want to make really clear though what this podcast is not. The insufferable writers podcast, number one. We do not make fun of writers. Everybody has their own journey.
Some people are very serious about their writing journey. And don’t like to make jokes about it and don’t like to look at it the way I do. And I completely respect that. I, on the other hand for me, you know, I think it’s humor that gets you kind of through the hard times. And there are a lot of [00:02:00] hard times being a writer .
Coming back. We don’t make fun of writers. We don’t make fun of other people’s processes. That’s a no go for it. But, and the goal of the podcast in general is just to have fun. So who am I, why would you want to listen to me? Talk about writing? Well, a little bit about myself.
If you don’t know who I am you probably don’t know who I am. You know, we’re friends on social media or, you know, me from real life. I am a, just about middle-aged woman. I fell into writing and I say fell into because it really truly is like I fell into it. I was not one of those people that was gifted with the desire to be a writer my whole life.
It just kind of happened. And I will explain briefly what I mean by that. The first book I ever wrote was actually a dream. I know, see, this is why this is called the insufferable writers podcast. I dreamt it and I couldn’t get the idea out of my head [00:03:00] and my husband, who is a writer who was blessed with the goal and direction, his whole life that he wanted to be a fiction writer said, , sit down and write.
Write it out. And so I did, I put down 60,000 words in under five days with a cold, which was insane. That book came screaming out of me. And from then on, I’ve been writing, I write my genre of choices, romance, I write dramatic contemporary romance. So things that are set in present day tend to be my writing tends to be a little dark.
I don’t think that. Love is straightforward and easy and all hearts and flowers. And so when I look for a book as a romance reader, I want something that kind of reflects a little closer to life and, and that’s why I write it. And I’ll be honest, it’s a lot of fun to [00:04:00] write. So. I’ve been writing romance for about five years now.
I’ve done probably seven or eight full length romance novels. And by like full length, for those of you who are not familiar, we’re talking like between 70 to 90,000 words, which doesn’t seem like a lot until you like sit down and try and put actual words on paper. It’s a lot of words. So but I love it.
I absolutely love it. And I work a full-time job and I’m a mom. And I even wrote when I worked a full-time job was a mom and went through grad school. Like, it’s just, it’s one of those things that they say the writing bug bit and it bit hard again, I know totally insufferable, but it’s true. So my goal as a writer, I would love, love, love, love to be a traditionally published author.
And have a bookshelf full of books at [00:05:00] Barnes noble, or, you know, any other bookstore and, be able to do it for a living. Oh my God. That would be incredible. I’m obviously not there yet. I’m actively writing. I write every day. Just about, I’ll be honest. And if I’m not writing, I’m usually reading.
If I’m not reading I’m querying. So. Yeah, so that’s kind of me and that’s, where I got my start in. That’s where I want to go. So I apologize. That’s a long intro for today, but as it’s the very first episode, I think it’s important to know who’s talking to you. And. You know, I would want to know.
So today I want to talk about the two things that we’re going to talk about is I call it the hell that is querying. And then we’ll talk about building a platform and why those two things go hand in hand. So with that being said, What is querying well, querying is a process. If you’d like to be traditionally published where you write a [00:06:00] letter in hopes of snagging, a literary agent, that literary agent, then.
Helps you continue to help you get your book ready? There might, it’s probably an editing process. I’m a little fuzzy on the details. The basics, I haven’t got to that point yet. And I’ll talk a little more about that in a couple of minutes, but. Yeah. So it’s it’s this process that it I’ve written a lot about it on the, on my blog and it feels a lot like, kind of like a witch’s colder.
And I think I, I might even said like, it’s making the perfect cocktail where you’ve got the book written it’s edited and then it’s edited again, and then it’s edited again, grammatically it’s absolutely perfect. Or as perfect as you can get it. And it’s basically, if somebody came with you. With a check today and said, I want to buy your book.
You could hand it over and hopefully it would get published. So you got to get your manuscript ready for. Which writing. Like I remember when I started, I was like, oh, [00:07:00] writing is the hard part. Writing is the easy part. Then you have to go back and edit. And then, then for me, at least again, insufferable warning, the hard part is stepping away.
I think Stephen King says something like you step away for six months after you finished a draft, which is actually fantastic advice. Not that I would expect bad writing advice from Stephen King, but. So you’ve got to walk away from the manuscript for a little bit, come back with fresh eyes and reread it.
Like you’re reading it for the first time. Like you don’t know your characters and look for things that are not going to make sense and plot holes and that kind of thing. And I, I think of it a lot, like, ripping the book apart and then kind of putting it back together. So once your manuscript is ready to go You got to write the query letter?
. Oh my God. I have blogged and blogged and blogged about query letters. They are like, Vudu like to get the right query letter. And if you [00:08:00] Google, how to write a literary query letter, you could even Google how to do it by genre. You will find a million examples of what a query letter is supposed to look like.
And I will tell you, I have been querying now for about three years. And I’ve taken a couple of different books through the query process. My first query letter was an absolute train wreck. I thought naively enough, I had done a little bit of research, nowhere near enough. That what my agent was looking for or a potential agent would be looking for is something where They were looking for a partner.
They were looking for somebody who was a hard worker and I’m all of those things. And so, but really that wasn’t what the fuck where the focus should be. The focus should be about the book.
The query letter is not about you. It is about the book. Why, why would they want to keep reading it? Why would they want to represent it? So it’s taken me a long, long [00:09:00] time to get the query letter to a spot where I think it looks pretty good. That being said. I had one full manuscript request and that is an incredible day in the life of a writer.
So again, insufferable writer here, what is a full manuscript request? Usually when you query you have to follow the directions of the agent very carefully that you’re querying to, and I’ll come back to that
. A full manuscript request is when an agent likes the information that you’ve sent the query letter looks good. You followed the directions in the query process for that agent. They have a small piece in the manuscript. It could be five pages, 10 pages. I even had an agent once that wanted 90 pages.
Like that was very quick. And a full manuscript request means they like what they’ve read and they want the full manuscript to read that is like winning the lottery. It was an incredible experience. I have I’ve so [00:10:00] far, I’ve had one full manuscript requests. The agent did unfortunately decline the book, which, oh.
Talking about a heartbreaking experience, but it’s okay. Onward. We go. So. Yeah. So, so that’s the goal, right? The full manuscript requests, and then hopefully the agent likes the book and then they want to represent you and then you’re on your road on your way. So all of that sounds like it can’t be that difficult.
Jackie, you wrote a whole book, you just have to write a letter. Well, it’s more than that. You really have to follow the directions when you’re querying. And you have to do a lot of research, like I remember when I first started querying for those of you who are not romance fans, Christine V Han is a huge name and the romance industry, and she writes really dramatic, really steamy romances.
And I remember like looking up, like, who is her agent? No joke. I sent my first query letter to her agent. [00:11:00] Oh my God. Rookie mistake there was so not ready. So not ready to query to query at all and to query a powerhouse agent like that, just not ready. Again, learning experience was totally insufferable thinking.
I had written the best thing ever, and I think. I wasn’t ready yet, but Hey, life’s a learning experience and that’s what this podcast is about. It’s about learning and it’s about being able to laugh at myself about writing and querying. Anyway, I want to come back to following directions on the query letter.
You really do have to pay attention. Each agent will want something a little different most, pretty much want the same thing, a synopsis of the book, your query letter, a sample of your writing a short biography about yourself. Maybe a tagline comparable books I could go on and on and on, but that’s really [00:12:00] boring.
And if you’ve been querying, you know what you’re doing. So but you know, I was thinking to myself today as I was putting the script together for this podcast, that following the directions of, of an agents query request, it reminds me of. And in second grade, I. I remember our teacher handed us an assignment, the whole class, and we, and it was like a list of like, I don’t know, it, maybe it was like a hundred things to do, like numbered, , and it was a project.
And she explained like, you’ve got to follow the directions really, really closely to be successful in this. And I remember that the very last and the, emphasis was like, read all the directions before. Great life lesson to that teacher in second grade huge life lesson. And I still remember it to this day and here I’m using it as an example.
But the very [00:13:00] last direction on the list of directions was don’t do the project. It was a trick. The whole thing was a trick. It meant it was meant to teach you to read the directions really carefully. And if you did, and you read them all before you started, you really. It w it was bogus. He didn’t have to do the work.
So that goes without saying with querying, you really, really, really have to read the directions and follow what the agent is looking for. Pardon me feels like it’s a tested competency as a, as a, as a writer, but just as a human being, like, are you able to follow, directions?
So. I think that that’s, , one of the things that really early on, you know, again, I didn’t read all the directions and there were times where I didn’t send the right thing to the right person and, you know, honestly I still mess up. I do, I still mess up. And, [00:14:00] I only hope that, you know, agents understand that, , we’re all human and we mess up sometimes.
There are three ways you can kind of query an agent the first in my most favorite way, which unfortunately is no longer a thing. I hope it comes back. Are the pitching competitions on Twitter? My. My favorite kiss pitch, it’s hashtag kiss pitch.
That’s a pitching competition for romance writers, and you put your tagline out there for your book. And if an agent shows up to the online event and likes your tweet, then you have an in, with an agent which is incredible. Yeah. So I’ve had moderate success with that. But unfortunately I don’t think they’re doing it anymore.
And there are a lot, or a lot of pitching competitions on Twitter. And, really what it is, what the goal of it is, is to peak the interest of, of an agent, [00:15:00] because I can only imagine how many queries an agent gets on any single day. So. You know, to, be able to say, oh, you liked my pitch at kiss pitch, or, you know, one of the other competitions, you kind of have an Inn, which is very cool.
The second way you can query and without the, and most I should, I should clarify for the pitching competitions, most of the time, you will still have to formally submit a query to an agent. So how that works is you have two ways. You have query manager, which is a form basically from the gods, the literary gods.
See, I told you, I promised you I was going to be insufferable. And what’s great about this is it’s an online form that you fill out with. Exactly. Exactly with what the agent is asking you for. And honestly it’s pretty hard to mess it up. I’m not going to say that I [00:16:00] haven’t but it’s, you know, again, I’m human, it happens.
But what I love about using Query manager when I’m sending a query is that , it generates a link. Once you submit your query to an agent and you can go back and check the link and see if there’s a response from the agent or rejection womp womp or, or the fantastic, wonderful manuscript request.
So it’s. It’s pretty cool. I mean, and I’ll be honest, like querying in general, holy cow, I thought I was a thick skin person before and I had some real grit start querying a novel, and then we’ll talk about grit and thick skin. Like I have had the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to feedback from agents.
But, you know, Rather than get real sore about it and go, [00:17:00] oh, I shouldn’t be doing this. Or I’m no good at this. Honestly, it means, you know what, Jackie, you got more work to do. And you’re only going to get it done by getting in there and writing. And so. You know, like for example, I got a rejection just today.
And the rejection was one of the nicest rejections, and I know you’ve gotta be like, Jackie, it’s a rejection. How is that? Nice. No, it was really nice because you agents, because they’re very busy, tend to give the same form letter. It’s something along the lines of the publishing industry is very subjective and the project wasn’t quite the right fit for me.
Keep writing. Yada, yada, yada, which is fine. It’s fine. I would rather get a form letter that says, no, thank you. Then not here at all, but I got the best rejection letter today and, and the off the agent said, you know, the book was great. There was a lot, I liked about it subject matter. Wasn’t quite [00:18:00] for me.
The writing was strong. But unfortunately I’m going to have to pass. So, okay. Again, completely insufferable. All I saw in that was the writing is strong success. Like that was awesome. That was awesome feedback. And if the agent who, which I’m not going to name names, but if the agent ever hears this, thank you so much for the incredible feedback that like authors, querying authors live for that kind of feedback.
Now, granted that was good feedback. And I live for the ugly feedback too, but I like the positive feedback much better. So that’s kind of query how query manager works. And you can go check the status of your query with that agent using that generated link that it gives you once you submit anytime day or night, if you were up at 3:00 AM and you’re wondering, okay.
Is this agent going to pass on my query or pick it up? You can go look at 3:00 AM if you want to. I’m not going to [00:19:00] say that I’ve done that. But no, I’ve totally done that. So the last way you could submit a query to an agent is, and I’ll just be really honest, right? Because that’s the point of this is submitting via email.
There are a couple of really dynamite agents in the romance. Genre that prefer to be queried this way. This is where my second grade teacher is in the back of my head going Jackie, read all of the directions before you start. So, you know my tip for that again, read all the directions before you start to do a query like that.
A lot of agents that prefer query via submission by email, they will want you to. Format, even the subject line, like name, title, word, count genre. And I’ve seen it done all different ways, attention to, you know, a certain agent that is, [00:20:00] you know, maybe part of a bigger agency. We mean I’ve seen it.
And yes. Then once you’ve got your subject line formatted, then you’ve got a format, the body of the email, which again, sounds pretty easy. Right. But you really, , have to pay very close attention to how the eight gen once. The information from you and what information they want from you. Because in my experience so far, and I, I feel very comfortable saying like, in my experience, I have sent out my fair share of query letters and I am still going strong over here.
But again, there’s always room to learn. Yeah, you really got to pay attention with those because you know, when they go via email submission sometimes an agent. Something a little different or maybe they don’t want to, so Nabsys, or maybe they only want the query letter. I ran into that one, like I think two weeks ago, and I thought, wow, letter, you got a lot of heavy lifting to do.
I hope. [00:21:00] Gosh, I hope so. Yeah. So those are the three ways in which you query. And I’ll say I’ve taken three books through the querying process. So far I took the first book. Ceiling in Silicon valley, which is a love story about a woman who is in between college and grad school. And she flies out to see your brother for the summer and falls for her brother’s boss.
Yeah. Steamy. But not everything. Would it seems with the perfect David with so much fun to write. And then I did my second book was the lake Michigan affair that I’ve queried. I haven’t, I don’t think I’ve really written a whole lot about the lake Michigan affair on the website. Essentially again, steamy it’s about married Catholic parishioner.
Who’s in a devout marriage. And she falls in love with the new Catholic Bishop of Chicago. And yeah, and he falls for her. So yup. Queried that one, queried the heck out of that one, I’ll be honest. Haven’t [00:22:00] really had any takers. And I just started recently querying a new book. Called a bandaid kind of love.
I don’t think I’ve written a whole lot about that one on the blog yet either. Essentially again, another story set in Chicago. I love to write about books in Chicago. That’s I’m a Chicago in and Hey, write what you know. Right. So the book is set in Chicago and it’s the story of a woman who is trying to recover from a really horrific dark family secret.
And she meets. A really incredible man who just after they start dating, goes through an unimaginable tragedy that just destroys his life completely. And together they find healing in each other was a really interesting book to write. And maybe I’ll, I’ll talk more about these books and future podcasts.
I don’t know. But. Yeah, , I’ve done a lot of querying for these, three books so far. And they say that you have a really queried until you’ve done about a hundred queries per book. And I will say [00:23:00] I’m definitely on my way there. Yeah. So that’s, that’s querying in a nutshell. But this is, you know, if you want to be traditionally published, this is the traditional route in which you go.
. You, can self publish. I did self publish, a collection of short stories quarantine stories there, 25 short love stories set during the beginning of the global pandemic. I wrote 25 stories in 25 days. At the really kind of in the midst of, the pandemic of the early days of the pandemic.
So like March 20, 20. It was interesting to take a look as a romance author. Like how does, how does love grow in that situation? How do you meet people? Like what is, you know, long distance relationships look like? And you know, now two years later, we’re, we’re at a different point in the pandemic.
And we’ve heard of incredible love stories, but that’s kind of a tangent about that. But my point is, is that I did self publish [00:24:00] the book. I wrote it because. I thought it was an interesting thing to write. And I’m part of the writing community on Twitter, which is a group of, of fellow writers and I’ve made some incredible writing friends through that community.
But a fairly well-known author sent me a DM on Twitter and said, Because I was publishing them everyday on the blog. Just something to entertain myself, something to hopefully entertain others. And she said, Jackie, you have got to publish these. And I thought like once I stopped jumping up and down and was like, oh my gosh, this published author is like up in my DMS.
Holy cow. Like I calmed down, he took a couple breaths and I was. Okay. I, guess I could do this. So I published in fall of 20, October of 2020, I think I would have loved to be like, yeah, they were huge. So it was, oh my God. [00:25:00] It was not a big seller, but you know, it’s okay. And that kind of leads me into my, last topic for today about building a platform.
And that’s one of those things that, you know, there are a million writers out. There are probably more like, I don’t know, lots and lots of writers. And you know, how, how does your book stand out? From another book from any book. And I think that was part of the problem with quarantine stories is that, you know, There weren’t first of all, you know, short story anthologies, I guess, are not great sellers.
I’m not partial to them, myself. I prefer full length novel, but anyway, my point is, is that, you know, although I had a good following or a healthy number of followers, On Twitter. And, the writing community on Twitter is great at supporting each other and, lots and lots and lots of wonderful, [00:26:00] lovely indie publishers.
You know, part of that are part of that community and, and it’s, it’s great, but, this is the last thing I’ll say about quarantine stories for today. Although the book didn’t sell in the way that I had hoped it would sell. It was a great learning experience all the way through you know, from editing to laying out the book to cover design.
Like, again, I know I’m being totally insufferable again, this is the point of the podcast, but it was a great experience. And, I encourage those of you that, you know, are kind of on the fence about it. I did it, and I think I sold 20 copies. Last time I checked. Do I regret doing it? Heck no. It was an incredible experience and it was great to, to learn like how to do it.
And I, you know, in my day job I’m a marketer and a PR person. And if I can’t like, if I can’t get this thing off the ground, holy cow. But it is what it is. So coming back around building a platform. Okay. So here’s the key takeaways. [00:27:00] You need to build a platform as an author to market your book too. And writing groups are great and you should totally, if you get the chance to be part of one, you should definitely check it out.
Not every writing group is for everybody and that’s cool. But you know, so it’s, it’s about building, I remember a couple of years ago when I started the whole query process, one of the things that was really, really big, and I even remember seeing it on query manager forms, like how many Twitter followers do you have?
Like, that was a really big thing. And I remember like reading somewhere like 10,000 was the magic number and I got pretty close. I think. I mean, I only joined Twitter. I don’t know, five or six years ago. So I think I made great progress. I didn’t make it to 10,000 spoiler alert. I’m in the high thousands, but I’m not there, but I’ve noticed that is also come off of the submission forms, inquiry manager, [00:28:00] which I’m grateful for.
Anyway, so, but it’s about building that community. And I do think that it’s still worth your time. If, you know, if you are seeking the traditionally published route or an indie pub, I mean, if you’re going to sell your work, you’ve got to build that platform. So really kind of plugging into the writing community on Twitter.
And there are lots and lots of different like sub genre communities and definitely plug in there. And I know every genre is. It is different and kind of operates in their own way. This great romance writing community on Twitter as well. So it’s about building that following. I think that it’s important.
Additionally, you know, in building a platform get yourself a website. I think that it does two things. Number one, it’s a great place to showcase your writing. For me, it’s been a good place to kind of document. Document my writing. And I know so insufferable, but it’s been, about documenting, not just the [00:29:00] actual writing of a manuscript.
It’s been about querying and it’s been about researching and it’s been about, oh my gosh, I have writer’s block. And you know, or I think I even did a blog post, like 10 best things to eat when you’re in the middle of writing your book. Like, I know that. Insane, but you get so like in the zone that you don’t want to walk away.
And so you need something like finger food that you can eat. It’s a thing it’s totally a thing if you are lucky enough to have a very serious writer in your, life. I know so insufferable, right. But they’ll know what I’m talking about. And so it’s been a great tool, but I also think that.
Sets your writing, at least in my, this is my opinion, is that it shows that you’re serious. It shows that you’re serious about making something of your writing. And if, you know, if that’s your thing and that’s the goal that you have, that’s my goal. And I understand that goal is not for [00:30:00] everybody and not everybody who writes, wants to publish at all, which is really cool too.
I noticed that in querying agents do ask, for your web address and I love that I I’ve got all kinds of things out there and I’ve seen some really great author websites
not everybody can build a website. I totally totally get it. But if you are serious about becoming a published author, A traditionally published author. I will say a website is a must have, and I have read that time and time and time again. And if you want to know what one of those looks like, you’re more than welcome to hop over to mine.
Or, Joined the writing community on Twitter. I promise you probably what 60% of those folks have writers, websites or authors websites, and go take a look. You can see what’s kind of on there. I keep a blog on mine where I blog about writing. I blog about what I’ve read completely insufferable writer, things about like process and [00:31:00] craft and all of that good stuff.
But it’s also, really fun every once in a while. I really enjoy going back through my blog too, see like, oh yeah. Remember when you had writer’s block there and you thought, oh my God, I’m never going to write myself out of this corner. Look you did, but so you can put anything you want on your, author’s blog, but just remember if you do decide to make one it’s really about your writing, not so much about you That’s my hot take on it, but you do you and then yeah, continuing to build a platform.
So I’ve had the website for a couple of years now. And now I’m trying something different. I’m trying, I’m trying the podcast. I was just thinking. Ironically to myself last night or the night before everybody in their brothers seems to have a podcast and why the hell would anyone want to listen to me?
And what do I have to say? You know, I mean, yeah, I don’t know. But then, you know, this afternoon, it just kind of all clicked in that moment. And my husband turned to me and said, [00:32:00] well, you’ve got. You’ve got to do it. So here’s hoping that I continue to build a platform going forward and I’ll finish up here because you’re probably sick of hearing me hopefully not, but going forward, I’d like to.
This podcast to kind of look at those quirky things in a writer’s life that some people find insufferable. If you’re not a writer and Hey, I’m a writer. And I find a lot of it insufferable, but I mean that Anna kind kind of tongue in cheek kind of way, like, oh, I’d make myself roll my own eyes at myself.
Like, yeah. But I want to, I want to definitely continue to talk about , the quirkiness of writing, you know, a writer’s life. I think I’ve got a lot to say on the subject. I know I, I’m really lucky to be surrounded by a lot of great writers in my life. I’d love to have them on maybe at some point and, you know, just talk about.
Writing and, and [00:33:00] gosh, that insufferable process. So with all that being said, thank you so much for listening in and giving this first podcast a shot. I promise it will get better. Yeah. Thanks. Have a good one.
Cindy Thomas says