The one writing podcast you need

I’ve been a podcast addict for a few years now. If you’re sceptical, don’t worry, you’re not alone. I don’t particularly like listening to the radio because I just want to hear my favourite songs, I don’t need all the inane chatter – so when it came to podcasts, I assumed that’s all it would be. That, or dry topics like politics. Nothing that would interest a creative type like me. *flicks hair*

Reader, I was so wrong.

A brief history of my love for podcasts

The first podcast I ever listened to, and still my number one, is My Favorite Murder. If you’re into true crime, with a side of humour and heartwarming honesty, you should definitely give it a listen. It was recommended to me by a friend and after just a few episodes I was hooked. The hosts are incredibly open and honest about their past struggles with addiction, mental health problems, and their advocacy for therapy as self care. They’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for causes like End the Backlog and helped raise awareness of some really important issues, with their signature mix of humour and heart. I’ve been to see Karen and Georgia live twice now and am the proud owner of a “Here’s the thing” mug and t shirt. (SSDGM to any fellow Murderinos out there.)

The next podcast I came across was the aptly named My Dad Wrote a Porno. I think it was Samantha Shannon on Twitter that first introduced me to this one, and when I saw several other well-known authors tweeting about it I knew I had to check it out. Essentially, Jamie’s dad writes erotic adult novels under the pseudonym Rocky Flintstone (they’re real, you can buy the ebooks), and his son reads them aloud on air, a chapter at a time, while his two friends and co-hosts poke fun at the cringe-worthy writing. It’s hilarious and a great lesson in how not to write, but as the presenter is the author’s son, it’s all in the name of good fun.

Since then, I’ve discovered lots of other favourite podcasts from recommendations by friends and people I follow online, including:

  • Crime Junkie – straight up true crime covering cold cases and under-reported crimes, plus its spin-offs Red Ball and Full Body Chills
  • The Murder Squad – crowd sourced investigations, helping give John & Jane Doe’s their names back and solving cold cases through web sleuthing
  • Happy Place – mental wellbeing and self care chats with Fearne Cotton and other famous folk
  • Ctrl Alt Delete – conversations about careers, business and growing up online with the “internet generation”
  • Is this Working? – a look at the modern day world of work and how it has changed, and how we can make it work for us

But the real reason why I’m shouting in your face about podcasts today is this…

pink divider

88 Cups of Tea

Never heard of the 88 Cups of Tea podcast? If you’re a storyteller of any kind, you need to rectify that immediately.

88 Cups of Tea is hosted by Yin Chang, an actress and writer from the US, who interviews authors, screenwriters, agents and other figures from the publishing and entertainment industries. If you have a favourite author, particularly within the YA category, then they almost definitely have an episode of 88CupsOfTea.

All the greats have been on it, including Victoria Schwab (her episode is an absolute must-listen, whether you’ve read her books or not), Holly Black, Sarah J. Maas, Holly Bourne, Elizabeth Gilbert, Cassie Clare, Renee Ahdieh, Marissa Meyer, Maggie Stiefvater, Sarah Dessen, Susan Dennard, E. Lockhart, Angie Thomas, Beth Revis, Marie Lu, Sabaa Tahir, Samantha Shannon, Maureen Johnson, Tamora Pierce. NEED I GO ON???

With over 130 episodes, a fair few of which are with literary agents and industry insiders, there’s definitely something for everyone, even if you can’t commit to listening to every single one. (I still haven’t listened to even half yet!)

The beauty of 88Cups is that it doesn’t matter what genre you read, or write, or whether you’ve even heard of some of the authors interviewed, they all have something to say that you will benefit from hearing. I can’t emphasise this enough, you will learn something and take away some little – or large – nugget of information, inspiration or motivation from each and every episode.

Yin has a way of making you feel like you’re listening to two old friends chatting, and she isn’t afraid to ask the big questions. You’ll hear about the guest’s childhood and upbringing, how they fell in love with books and started writing, what challenges they faced in making time for their writing around work or kids, or the years they spent in the query and submission trenches, and how they got their “big break”.

Ultimately, you’ll realise with every episode that you are not alone. Choosing to live a creative life and making a living from our art isn’t ever the easy option, but the passion we have for what we create makes it worthwhile. If you need a hit of inspiration, or a little reassurance that your art is valuable, or even a kick up the backside to pursue your passion, then just listen to an episode of 88Cups and you’ll soon be back at your keyboard, with a cup of tea in your hand and a fire in your belly.



In the query trenches

Hello lovely folks! As you’ve probably come to expect, I’m going to focus my post today on the stage of the writing/publishing process that I am currently at, which this time around is querying.

In the query trenches Author Toolbox Blog Hop Lyndsey's Book Blog

My querying journey began back in October, after a little over a year of plotting, drafting, editing and polishing (read: procrastinating) my first novel. After entering Pitch Wars and not getting chosen, I didn’t have any more excuses to put off querying, so I decided to bite the bullet and jump into the trenches.

Crafting your query

As part of the Pitch Wars submission requirements, I had to have a query letter prepared, so I already had mine ready to go. If you’re just starting to think about writing your query letter, one of the best explanations I found for how to write a killer query came from bestselling author of Truthwitch, Susan Dennard’s blog:

Fortunately, as part of the PW community, I had the opportunity to share my query with hundreds of fellow writers and get a few opinions and suggestions (also known as critiques). It’s just as crucial to have a polished query as it is to have your manuscript at its absolute best, so once you’ve drafted your letter ask a few writer friends to give it a once over, or post in one of the many amazing Facebook groups for writers and see if anyone would be willing to take a look. A few of the writing groups I’m in that have been invaluable for support and advice are:

  • Your Write Dream (Kristen Kieffer)
  • Edit & Repeat (Zoe Ashwood)
  • #PITCHWARRIORS (Morgan Hazelwood)
  • PW Query Team! (Morgan Hazelwood)

Writing a synopsis

Most agents request a synopsis along with your query letter and sample chapters, and the usual format is one page, single spaced. The key difference between a synopsis and a query letter is whilst the query doesn’t give away the ending of your story, the synopsis does. Again, the best explanation for how to write an amazing synopsis that I found was from Susan Dennard, this time on the Publishing Crawl website:

Researching agents

Now your submission materials are ready to go, the next step is to make a list of the agents you want to query, their submission guidelines and contact information. As I’m in the UK, I use Lit Rejections list of UK literary agents to find out who accepts my genre (Young Adult), and where I can find them online. Websites and Twitter accounts are really handy resources for learning more about an agent, their tastes and what they’re looking for. Don’t just rely on the list sites as you never know how up to date a particular site may be, always check the agency website in case an agent has moved, or their preferences or submission guidelines aren’t correct.

Other places you can research agents include the #MSWL hashtag on Twitter or the Manuscript Wishlist website, Query Tracker and Publisher’s Marketplace.

I keep a spreadsheet of all the agents I want to query, with columns for the agency name, the agent’s name, email address or submission website,  submission guidelines, when I sent the query and whether/when they responded. I highlight the agents green when I send a query, and red when I receive a rejection, as well as putting the dates in, so I can see at a glance how many queries are still out.

Sending your query

A few tips to make sure you’re not rejected immediately, before the agent even reads your sample chapters:

  • Don’t paste the email address into the recipient box until you’re ready to send, that way you can never accidentally send a half-typed email.
  • Use the agent’s name and make sure you spell it correctly! (Simple, but effective.)
  • Triple check you’ve met the submission guidelines before clicking send – you can’t take it back once it’s winging its way through cyberspace.
  • Make sure you’ve formatted your pages and synopsis correctly – single-spaced, one-page synopsis, double spaced pages with indentations at every new paragraph, except the first of a chapter/scene.
  • Give everything one last read through before sending, I’ve seen agents say a misspelling or two in a query won’t put them off but it’s better to not give them any excuse, especially when the slush pile is huge. You want them to want to keep reading!

Expect rejection

We’ve all read stories of authors who bagged an agent within a week of starting to send queries, but the truth is that most agented authors sent over a hundred queries before they finally found their match. Rejection is a necessary part of the publishing journey, unfortunately, so get comfortable with the word no and don’t take it personally when your carefully crafted query receives a less than enthusiastic response.

One of my very first queries received an almost immediate rejection at 11pm because the agent didn’t accept YA. I’d been reading the bios of a couple of agents from the same agency and gotten muddled – well it was late and I’d probably been researching for hours. So that was a pretty embarrassing faux pas, but we all make mistakes and you’re unlikely to come out of this query trench without a few teensy snaffoos of your own!

This week, I received my first real rejections (I don’t count my little error as a real query) after starting to send queries back in October, and I couldn’t be happier! As my Dad said when I told him, despite some mild confusion as to why I was so excited to receive a rejection email, “You’ve got to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince”. The first was a form rejection, but the second was personal and stated that my submission had stood out amongst the many they received. Unfortunately, they just weren’t enthusiastic enough to represent my novel, but they wished me luck with it. It doesn’t get much more positive than that as a rejection!

And that’s where I am on my query journey, one step closer to finding the right agent who will fall in love with my book and want to represent me and it on the long road towards getting published. Fingers crossed 2018 is my year!

Where are you on the query journey, just starting out or deep in the trenches like me? Let me know how it’s going and what your most positive rejection email has been so far. Here’s hoping we all find our agents this year – next step, publishing deals!



In the query trenches Lyndsey's Book Blog Author Toolbox Blog Hop