Going Old School

As an author, I love creating characters that are one of a kind, which reminds me that I am also one of a kind.
It's easy to be tricked into thinking there could be one way of doing things that's so perfectly fantastically amazing, it must suit every person in the whole wide world.
But that cannot be.
Your way isn't always my way.
It's called freedom and it means we have choices.

So I am choosing to chase the dream of traditional publishing. *gasp*
I have loved the process of self publishing because I'm always a huge fan of avoiding the gate-keepers (take that you bureaucrats!) and doing things for yourself, your own way.
But self publishing is a full time job, make no mistake about it. And that's on top of the writing.
And I'm just not in a two-full-time-jobs sort of place.

You may or may not have noticed that I took my last novel, Agent Apple, offline.
I'm looking for an agent y'all.
I'm going old school.
At least for this novel.
My situation calls for a partner to help me with printing, distribution and so forth so I can concentrate on writing and building my author brand.
So let's find that partner!

If you know anything about traditional publishing, you know that the process of querying is the absolute worst. But it can't be avoided, and so I'm querying my little heart out.
I decided to include my query letter here so you can see what a query letter is like, and maybe that will inspire your own publishing journey.
Just prepare yourself for the long haul.
I read somewhere that most authors have to send out at least 70 query letters before getting any kind of a response.

I have some work to do.

So here is my query...

Ginger Lee Malacko

*Such and such* Literary Agency
Att: *So and so* Agent

A spy isn’t supposed to be afraid of people, but Agent Apple was never supposed to be a spy. Middle school is hard enough for a timid thirteen year old girl without assassins staking out the cafeteria. Agent Apple, the Shy Spy, is a middle grade adventure comprising approximately 127,700 words, and it is also a story of fumbling, awkwardness and ultimate triumph for those of us who have more insecurities than spy skills. It’s a little bit about saving the world, and mostly about saving yourself at the same time.

The only thing Truly Daniels has ever been really good at is being invisible. No one seems to notice and no one seems to care, and that’s just the way Truly likes it. At least it’s safer than having to deal with people. But everything changes when she accidentally overhears a murderous plot and has no choice but to go to the authorities. And just like that, a girl who’d rather not be seen by anyone is very much in the sights of CIA agents John Dover and Hazel Hunt, who need her help to not only identify a nasty villain, but to catch him too! Dragging along her best friend, Ty Moala, Truly is off on an epic international misadventure, crossing oceans, mountains, and seriously bad dudes, from the halls of her middle school to the halls of the United Nations. But the greater adventure just might be happening a little closer to home as Truly unravels the mystery of what happened to the father who walked out on her – the first person to ever make her feel invisible. This is a tale of danger, glamour, and a little tween soul-searching as Truly discovers that every person is valuable, and that sometimes the only way to save the world is to come out of hiding.

Agent Apple, the Shy Spy was self-published in 2017 on Amazon Createspace and has been primarily sold locally by myself. I’ve taken it offline now that I’m searching for an agent and publisher. I’ve had the privilege of teaching writing workshops in elementary schools as a visiting author and I’m handy with a website and social media. This is my third middle grade novel and I’m currently working on a fourth. I’ve also written for local and national political and lifestyle magazines and done some commercial copy writing. I am submitting to other agencies.

I’m grateful for your consideration and hope that I’ve piqued your interest enough to request the complete manuscript for Agent Apple. The first * pages follow as requested. I look forward to hearing from you.

 Sincerely...etc. etc. 

I feel a rant coming on.

Designing a book cover is frustrating.
Because who the heck am I designing it for anyway?

Here's the problem arising for cover artists everywhere...

Do you make a book cover for the ten year old reader...or the ten year old's mother, who has the money?

You've all seen this scenario (perhaps even lived it):
Mom takes kid to bookshop. Kid gravitates immediately to the cartoonish/anime/graphic novel looking cover art. But mom favors the trendy kinda retro/magazine worthy/ graphic designy cover art. Mom says, "This one sounds good, honey," as she studies the beautiful font and adorable character design, having barely skimmed the description on the back. Kid holds up book with comic inspired cover. "I like this one," he says. "But you have lots of books just like that at home," mom replies. "Let's get this one! It looks interesting." Kid shakes his head and moves on but Mom doesn't put the book back on the shelf. Oh no. She carries it around with her as if it's a done deal. This conversation is repeated several times. Finally the kid has to make a decision: fight mom and leave the store empty handed, or just let her buy him the damned book she picked out.

Or perhaps you recall the library version:
Mom follows behind kids as they peruse the library shelves and surreptitiously sorts through their picks, putting back the ones with old-school or comic covers, and slipping in ones with trendily designed covers she likes best. I admit, I'm guilty of this one.

Here's the thing...it's a gnarly temptation for parents to control their kid's style. You don't want your kids to be all about popularity, but you've all had visions of raising truly "cool" kids. So you want them to like the cool music, the cool clothes, the cool bike, the cool hobbies, and the cool books.

Cool according to whom?
Yeah, you know the answer.
And you remember kids in your grade who were cool by "parent standards".

I have this argument with my brother who hates some of the movies his young daughters watch and tries to steer them toward the stuff he prefers. But here's the truth - in what universe does a grown man and a six year old girl have the same taste?

How can any reasonable adult expect a nine year old to have the same design preferences as a thirty five year old?

They'll like some of the stuff you like - but not all of it. Never all of it.

When I was redesigning the cover for my first book, Spark, I sketched out a few ideas and showed them to my test group which consists of nieces, nephews, and cousins of varying ages. The ones that are over twelve like the trendier graphic design. The younger kids honestly prefer the stuff that's more narrative. They want to see the story - not a clever, artsy representation of it.

So as an author who designs her own covers, what am I to do?
Market to my actual reader?
Or to the grownup who's paying for, and most likely ultimately choosing, the book?
The mainstream publishers are going all in on the graphic design lately and moms everywhere are just eating it up. But as an independent, I don't want to just sell books. I want to reach kids in the world where they live. I don't yet have the ability to create the covers I envision, but I get closer the more I practise and the more I interact with middle graders.

Yeah, I think I'll keep doing what I feel is right for me and for my readers,
and work toward having the artistic skill to match...

...and hope that there are some parents out there who actually let their kid pick the book.