Five Things I’ve Heard Since My Book Deal

Nov 17, 2016 Main blog 5 comments

Hey all!

I’m allowing myself no more than 30 minutes a day to respond to Twitter/Facebook messages so I can focus on Book 1 edits and Book 2 plotting, which is why I’ve been a bit quieter online. I’m keeping busy! Book 1 is shaping up nicely and Book 2 has about 100 handwritten pages of research notes, outlines, ideas, and character arcs. Drafting is my favorite part of writing because it feels the most magical, and I can’t wait to get started!

Since announcing my book deal, I’ve heard the same things from many different people. I thought it might be interesting to share here since they’ll likely come up again!


(1) Are you going to quit your job?

Not yet. Writing full-time is my dream job and I hope it’ll happen one day, but I plan to keep working for now.

It’s easy to assume a writer can coast on a big advance (and maybe some can). But (1) the payments are sporadic and (2) publishing is a fickle beast. I have no idea whether FOTL will do well or whether I’ll ever get another book deal. Nothing is guaranteed, and that’s just the reality of it.

So having a steady income is comforting. It’s safe, my job isn’t stressful, and I like the people I work with. I may reduce my hours in the office so I can write more, but that’s it!


(2) Can I have a free copy of your book?

I would appreciate it if you supported me by buying my book! I am totally happy to sign your purchased copy, doodle on it, put stickers on it… but please don’t ask me to give you something free of charge that I have worked so hard on.

My publisher will give me a few copies to keep, but if I want more than that, I’ll have to pay for them, too.

If you want to see more books from me, buying my work will show my publisher there’s interest and help keep me in business. Thank you for understanding!


(3) Can I email you for one-on-one writing advice?

Since announcing my book deal, my email and private messages have exploded with pleas for assistance and questions about how to write a query, what literary agents do, or how to get a book deal.

I love to help other writers whenever I can, but I just don’t have the time to personally coach everyone along. I’ve signed a contract and book-writing is now my second full-time job, so I have to cut back on things like social media and emails (*sniffle*) to accommodate that.

Nobody gave me shortcuts or held my hand when I was first starting out. I Googled and researched and did the grunt work all by myself. That’s how I learned what I know, and I’m still learning stuff that way. There are excellent resources available, a few of which I’ve mentioned on my FAQ page, so give it a whirl and see how many of your own questions you can answer! You might be surprised!


(4) I hope I get to where you are one day. I’m still querying… you wouldn’t understand.

I’ve heard so many variations of this in the past month, even from long-time writer friends, and it blows my mind. It’s like they’ve already forgotten how hard I struggled just to get here.

The time I spent querying and hoping for an agent to even look at my manuscript comprises about 99.9% of my writing life. I’ve had an agent for a hot second, and a book deal for even less than that. So yeah, I do understand. After all, I worked non-stop for eight years to get to where I am.

I will never, NEVER forget how hard it was. I will never not sympathize with the struggle!


(5) Can you share my manuscript with your agent or editor?

I can’t – I’m sorry! I lack the expertise and familiarity with the market that a publishing professional has, so I don’t feel comfortable recommending someone’s manuscript in that capacity. Also, to the best of my knowledge, my editor only reads agented submissions.

I recommend researching the agents and editors you’re interested in. I get questions about what Tamar is looking for right now in MG and YA, and whether she’d like someone’s specific manuscript. Honestly, I’m not sure because I haven’t had to research her in a couple of years. Wish lists can change a lot, so you will need to keep tabs on the people you are considering to get the most current info. Check out MSWL if you haven’t already!



Most of the other questions/comments have had to do with a movie deal! I will stress again that a book turning into a film/TV show is rare, even if the rights get optioned, so please don’t get your hopes up too high for FOTL. It’s nice to dream, but honestly? I’m just happy it’s going to be a book! Everything else is gravy.

Okay, it’s back to work and writing for me! I hope you are all having a lovely November. I’ll do a little music post for Book 2 soon, so come back for that if you feel like it!

Five Things I Learned On Sub

Oct 24, 2016 Main blog 8 comments

First things first: THANK YOU ALL for your incredible support over the past week! I knew you guys would be surprised because I hadn’t breathed a word, but I had no idea just how excited the writing community would be for me. I’m sorry again that I was unable to respond to each comment, but I appreciated every one. It meant a lot to celebrate my happiness with my writing family! You are all the best!



The official announcement in Publishers Marketplace!


Just so you get an idea:

 2,000+ views on my announcement blog post (my website crashed several times!)

1,300 favorites and 250+ retweets on my Twitter announcement (and tweets from people I never dreamed would know I existed)

400+ people added FOTL to their Goodreads to-read lists


The best way to describe my emotions would be: overjoyed and grateful, yet slightly terrified by the attention after years of comfortable anonymity. One book blogger tweeted at me: “This sounds amazing. I sure hope it actually is.” No pressure, right? *breathes into paper bag* I have to get used to the idea that one day soon, this book will no longer be mine. It will wander out into the world and take on a life of its own, and everyone who reads it will color it with their own experiences. But that’s a blog post for another day!

Today I’m talking about submission. I know many of you are on sub (or are about to be, or are simply curious!), so I’m not surprised that this was a highly requested topic.

What is submission? It’s the stage of traditional publishing in which your literary agent takes your book out to publishers. A good agent has connections at reputable houses, both big and small, and has an idea of which editors are looking for a project like yours.

Your agent will carefully compile a list of editors and imprints (which are divisions of a publishing house; for example, Philomel Books is an imprint of Penguin Random House). They will send the manuscript out and hopefully, you will hear back “soon” from an editor who loves your book and wants to buy it!

It’s an intense process, to say the least. You’ve gone through the hard work of writing a book and landing an agent, and now you are THISCLOSE to your dream coming true.

Here are the top five things I’ve learned from being on sub (twice!):


(1) My relationship with my agent is CRITICAL.


Of all the important people in your career, your agent is #1. They are your advocate and your voice. They will open publishing doors for you, put your book on the right desks, and fight to get you the best deal and contract possible. You are a team, and what benefits you also benefits your agent.

When you get an offer of representation, do all you can to ensure this is the right agent for you. Do you trust them? Do you feel comfortable contacting them and asking questions? What’s their communication style like? Because if you’re the kind of person who needs constant reassurance, and your agent prefers to email once in a blue moon with important news, this will cause you even more stress on submission. And trust me, nobody needs more stress on submission.

Tamar and I work really well together, for which I am thankful! For me, not knowing is torture. I want to see every rejection and be aware of what’s happening and where, so I asked her to share all editor communication with me. That way, if something came up, I trusted she would tell me at her earliest convenience, and if she didn’t get in touch, I would know there was no news. It’s important to me to be respectful of Tamar’s time, because she has many other clients, so this also kept me from bugging her for updates. Though I know she wouldn’t mind even then; she’s always open to my questions!

Everyone is different. I have friends on submission right now who don’t want to know anything unless it’s good news. Just make sure to tell your agent exactly what you’re comfortable with. Like any relationship, it’s all about communication.


(2) I have to be prepared for anything.


I’m disgustingly optimistic. And I’m also realistic. My first time on submission was soul-crushing, but my second time wasn’t bad because I had learned to prepare for the worst.

knew I would get rejections, so I made a color-coded spreadsheet with all of the houses we had subbed to. I made a column for the editors’ comments and reasons for passing, and every time a rejection came in, I’d fill the table out. This gave me some semblance of control over a process I had virtually NO control over. Instead of being passive, I was being active. It was like telling myself, “Look. You’re going to get rejected. Here’s a way to process the reasons and maybe find out what to fix later.”

However, I also prepared for the best (there’s that disgusting optimism!). Last year, an editor requested a synopsis to help him pitch ELEGY to his team. I was, of course, in Ireland at the time, without my laptop or flash drive (Murphy’s law, right?), so I had to write one from memory.

This time around, for FOTL, I had a synopsis that I saved everywhere: on my laptop, desktop computer, various flash drives (one of which was always in my purse), and email so I could access it via phone. I also wrote a proposal for Book 2, in case someone was interested in the duology, and a proposal for my new middle-grade project, in case they asked what else I was working on. And a good thing, too, because we ended up needing to send both proposals out!

Being prepared for anything helped me manage my anxiety levels. Again, everyone’s different, so figure out what works best for you to help you cope with submissions. (Drink responsibly.)


(3) I have to be in the middle of another project when I go out on sub.


When we took ELEGY out on sub, I wasn’t writing anything else and I was having a hard time starting something new, which added to my stress. I was emotionally and mentally tied to ELEGY, and it wasn’t a good place to be for me. I’m a resilient person and I bounce back fast from disappointment, but it took me longer than usual that time.

So when it was FOTL’s turn, I made sure to be neck-deep in another project: my middle-grade Adventure Book. It was so fun and enjoyable to write, I didn’t have time to obsess over how FOTL was doing. I was immersed in a new world with new characters, and not only that, it was a completely different age category, voice, and genre. It was distracting, and distraction is what I need on submission.


(4) I have to manage my own expectations.


It sucks to say this, but even if your book makes it to an acquisitions meeting, it still might not sell. The editor could love your project. Their editor colleagues could love your project. But if everyone else doesn’t agree for whatever reason (like maybe sales thinks your book can’t compete well in the market or something), you’ll end up getting turned down.

I know this pain firsthand. I was ecstatic when ELEGY went far at one house… and then absolutely devastated when they ended up passing.

My second time out, I decided not to celebrate anything except an actual offer. The editor loved FOTL? Great, but not an offer. FOTL went to second reads? Great, but not an offer. FOTL went to acquisitions? Great, but not an offer. Nothing is guaranteed until there’s a solid offer on the table, and once I was clear with myself on that, I felt totally calm. (Ironically, after all that mental prep, I was spared this time because things happened SO fast. Offer #1 rolled in before I even knew an editor wanted the book, let alone brought it to acquisitions!)

There’s a difference between being pessimistic and managing your expectations to protect yourself. Guarded optimism is a safe bet!


(5) Being grateful helps.


On my worst days while subbing ELEGY, I had to give myself a mental shakedown. I reminded myself I had a great agent I liked and trusted, my book had made it farther than most writers can ever dream, and I had the ability, privilege, and willpower to try again. How many people go their entire lives looking for what they love to do? I have always known, and what’s more, I had been given an opportunity to do something about it. All I needed was a different book, luck, and timing… and I could easily control the first.

So I threw myself into writing FOTL. I limited my griping to my small, trusted circle of friends (I NEVER complained or discussed subs on social media while in the midst of it all. Private Facebook groups are still public forums). I took the rejections with as much grace and professionalism as I could muster, even if I was feeling cranky and upset inside, and you know what? I got through it okay.

This is a thing that is true about me: when people tell me “no” or assume I can’t do something, it makes me even more determined to prove I can. So I let that drive me, I stayed grateful for everything I had, and I focused on writing the best book I could. I left everything else up to the universe.



If you’re on submission right now or are about to be, I’m wishing you all the best of luck! Keep your friends close and your chin high. And I hope this post helps you a little bit. It’s hard to give publishing advice because the experience is so different for everyone, so please take this as only one angle of insight and a few techniques that personally helped me. Only you know what is best for you. But I genuinely believe that if I can get a book deal through sheer will, hard work, and persistence, then you certainly can, too. Don’t lose hope, okay?

In a few weeks, I’ll be blogging about the top five things people have said to me since I announced my deal. I hope you’ll come back for that! You can also subscribe to get email updates as soon as I post if you go HERE. Thanks for reading, guys!


Oct 13, 2016 Main blog Comments Off on I HAVE A THREE-BOOK DEAL!!!!!!!!!!!!

Um, so… I’ve been keeping a little secret from you guys since June…




I am going to be a published author.




After eight years and five manuscripts, my ultimate dream is coming true in the biggest, most glorious way!

FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS, the first book in my YA epic fantasy duology, will be published in Fall 2017 by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House! And, if all goes according to plan, Book 2 will follow in 2018 and a third YA fantasy will hit shelves in 2019. (I feel like I’m talking about someone else’s books. THIS IS SO SURREAL.)

I’ve spent the last decade of my life trying to get my writing out there. Just last year, I signed with my brilliant agent. And in all that time, reading about pre-empts and massive six-figure debuts, I NEVER dreamed it could happen to me. All I dared ask was to see my book on a shelf at Barnes and Noble. So my heart is overflowing with joy and gratitude!

You guys know it hasn’t been easy. If anyone tries to tell you I’m an overnight success, there are eight years’ worth of blog posts on this website to prove otherwise. I don’t plan on taking those posts down because I want people to see the reality of this business… and to take heart from it, too.

Note: If any friends or family are reading this post and don’t understand the publishing terms, check out this glossary. And here is a helpful Publishing Crawl post about the acquisitions process.





As I’m sure you guys have guessed, ELEGY did not sell. It will always be one of the books of my heart and the manuscript that won me my beloved agent. And I haven’t lost hope that it may still find a publishing home someday!

When Tamar and I took it out on submission last year, the paranormal element turned almost everyone off. We had three interested editors who brought it to second reads; one of them took it all the way to editorial board, but they eventually passed in favor of a similar book they were considering. Months later, when I saw the deal announcement for that other book, I burst into tears. It sounded exactly like mine, minus the ghosts.

Over the summer, rejection after rejection came, and some editors didn’t even bother getting back to us.

I dealt with a lot of sadness and despair afterward. I had loved ELEGY so much and had worked so desperately hard on it, but it still wasn’t enough. Even with the talent the editors claimed I had, and even with an amazing agent in my corner, I still wasn’t getting published. It’s tough not to feel depressed when you’ve tried your utmost at something, only to fail anyway.

But here is what I told myself, when I glued together my broken heart for what felt like the hundredth time:


1) A lot of first books don’t sell.

2) My very first book on submission got strong editor interest, which means I was CLOSE.

3) All of the rejections were complimentary about my writing.


I had done everything right. Tamar had done everything right. We just needed the right story.





I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly brave person. But something about knowing that my book had made the rounds in New York City, about knowing big editors had read it (even if they didn’t want it) gave me courage like I’d never had before. Truth be told, I went a little nuts and did something very scary.

In July 2015, I left the city I’d called home for five years, said goodbye to my friends, and moved back home to write full-time for a short while. I’d been working non-stop since graduation and had never been able to prioritize my writing, so I wanted to completely focus on an idea that had eaten away at me since I was 13 (you can read about that here). Something told me NOW was the time to write that story.

I’d already been outlining and researching for months, so in August, when I returned from my writers’ retreat in Ireland, I put down a 95,000-word draft in five weeks. Never has a story poured out of me that fast! I promised Tamar I’d send her a clean version before the New Year and revised feverishly (even stealing time away from my family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) to meet that self-imposed deadline.

By February I was working full-time again (having insurance is a really, really good thing!) and revising once more with Tamar’s edits. When we hung out in April, she told me she felt very confident. And then in late May, a little after the anniversary of when ELEGY had gone out, she informed me we were going back on submission.

I hunkered down and prepared for the whiplash of the Publishing Rollercoaster, but I was determined not to stress out. Whatever was going to happen, was going to happen, and I didn’t see any point in being upset or anxious about it. I had put too much of myself into ELEGY and it had nearly wrecked me emotionally. This time, I focused my energy into the one thing I could control: writing a new book. So I felt calm and collected, probably through osmosis from Tamar (who is the calmest, most collected person EVER).




The editors began sending passes within a week or two, but they were so nice and glowing and complimentary, I almost didn’t mind that they were rejections. Tamar told me they were some of the nicest passes she’s seen!

One called my book a “lush, sweeping epic” and Xifeng “an empowered female character.” Another said I was “a star on the rise” (!!!). One editor was pleased to see an Asian fantasy written by “someone with nuanced understanding of the world” (something I’d been worrying about, being Western-born and insecure about being qualified to write this).

This went on until Week 5, which was one of the best weeks of my entire life.

That’s when my offers came in!

Offer #1 came on a Wednesday in late June. Tamar sent me an email with the subject line “Great News!” I opened it, thinking someone was taking my manuscript to second reads, and found out an editor had actually offered to buy FOTL in a two-book deal! I called Tamar and cried as she described the details. I cried even harder when she mentioned how much she liked this publisher’s beautiful covers. It didn’t seem real that I would have a beautiful cover, too. And when I talked to Editor #1 on the phone, it felt like chatting with a new friend!

On Friday, another editor asked to chat with me on the phone. I felt nervous all through the whole call, seeing as they hadn’t put in a bid yet and whether they would or not depended on talking to me. But they were nice and had great insight on my book. After the call, the editor got approval from their boss and put in Offer #2.

I called Tamar again and cried (are you sensing a pattern?) as she helped me hash out the details of both offers. She also gave me an update: three additional editors were interested, and one of them (we’ll call him Editor #3) was taking FOTL to editorial board.

The following week, Tamar set up a call for Editor #3 and me, and I (what else?) cried during it because he said the most wonderful things about my book. He was incredibly passionate about the story and made sure I knew it. He mentioned in detail scenes, characters, and even specific lines from the book that he enjoyed. I got the sense he loved my story almost as much as I did (I say “almost” because FOTL is my baby, but Editor #3 was kinda like its cool uncle). His edits and vision for the book fit beautifully with mine, and we really connected on a personal level. Although he hadn’t made any kind of offer, and although I knew it was too early to set my heart on anyone, I had a gut feeling he was the one I wanted to champion FOTL.

The next day, Wednesday, I was stuck in a training session at work when Tamar sent me a blank email with the subject line: CALL ME ASAP!!! As I said, she is one of the calmest people I’ve ever met, so I knew something huge was going down to make my super chill agent use multiple exclamation points. I endured a torturous wait before I could call her, and when I finally escaped, she picked up before the first ring was even finished. “Are you ready?” she asked.

Apparently Editor #3 shared the gut feeling I’d had after our call. He told Tamar he’d gotten full permission from his boss to buy the duology and a third book, making this Offer #3, and – AND!!! – they wanted FOTL to be their house’s lead title (!!!!!) and were throwing down a pre-empt to stop the auction from even taking place.

You guys think I was crying a lot before this? YOU HAVE NO IDEA. I broke down into full-on ugly-crying and all I could say was “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.” After so many long years of toil, often without the slightest hope or encouragement, my dream was coming true all at once and in the biggest way. Tamar had to remind me to breathe at one point because she could hear me hyperventilating. It did not seem real, nor did it feel like I deserved any of it. I felt sure I was about to wake up in a few seconds and find that it was all a dream.

But that is the story of how FOTL sold to my editor, Brian Geffen, and publisher, Michael Green, at Philomel Books! Philomel published Brian Jacques’ Redwall series, which I read and loved as a kid, and more recently they published SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys, among other fantastic titles. It feels like everything has come full circle and I am the luckiest, happiest, most grateful writer!





It was REALLY HARD to keep my good news to myself! I told only a few of my closest friends and family. I liked the idea of surprising everyone else with the announcement, so I kept quiet and focused on getting FOTL into the best shape possible. I had done that with each previous round of revision, but this time it felt like the stakes had been raised to emergency levels, what with the tight deadline. After all, I was now revising a book that would be published!

Brian sent me my seven-page editorial letter and marked-up manuscript in early July, and I got cracking. We hashed out plot issues on the phone and over email, and his ideas, patience, and love for the book confirmed I’d made the right choice in picking him for my editor! Once we figured everything out, I began my intense sticky note outline (you can read about my basic revision process here) and dove in.

The book ballooned to over 110,000 words with all of the new scenes I added. That’s almost 400 pages in Microsoft Word! Yep, that is a monster book! I apologized to the trees and printed them all out:



A beast of a book



I will plant many trees to make up for this


I edited non-stop for four weeks and brought that word count down to a much more palatable 100K. Basically, any second I wasn’t working, eating, or sleeping, I shut myself up in my office with the manuscript. I allowed myself a week off (during which I had to fight hard not to open the Word doc! Geez, Jules, learn to relax!), but still managed to send Brian my revised version ahead of schedule.

Then it was on to another smaller round of edits with an even tighter deadline. That version is now done and back with Brian as of early October, and we’ll be doing line edits and then copyedits next. So by the time you guys read this, the manuscript is already well on its way to being done and turning into a real book!

In early September, Tamar called me with great news: Jon Cassir and Sarah Luciano, film agents with the Creative Artists Agency (CAA), wanted to represent FOTL in Hollywood and the foreign film market! Jon represents another client of Tamar’s (Sarah J. Maas) and she knows him well, so I was 1,000% on board to entrust my series to him and Sarah.

I also liked their enthusiasm and confidence when we all spoke via conference call, and the fact that they respected my wish that any project would have significant Asian talent attached all the way through (actors/actresses, directors, producers, screenwriters, composers, etc.). This is no promise that a movie or TV deal will be coming, but it’s still cool that this top talent agency (which reps clients like George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, and J.J. Abrams!!!) believed in my book enough to take it on!

At the end of September, I took a couple of days off to go to the Boston Teen Author Festival (BTAF). I am sorry to say I blatantly lied to people’s faces the entire weekend. Someone would say, “So what’s going on with your writing, Jules? You’ve been awfully quiet” or “Are you on submission?” And I would only smile and shrug and say, “Yep, submission, fingers crossed, hope it sells, can’t talk about it, sorry.” All the while sitting on a GINORMOUS three-book deal. I am so, so, SO sorry, guys, but it had to be top secret!

And y’know, since I was lying so much already, I also lied about the REAL secret purpose of my trip, which came afterward: hopping on a train to NYC to have lunch with Brian and Tamar and meet some of the Philomel folks (or is it “pholks”?!) at the Penguin USA offices!



Secret lunch with my agent and editor in NYC!!!



My delicious Mocha Burger burger



Outside the beautiful Penguin offices



The Penguin Random House sign!



Brian in front of the case where MY book will be next year!!!!!



We are such a great team, we even color-coordinate without planning to!



Cool swag from Brian!



This is a box of cookies he brought me from Japan. SO GOOD.


Meeting Brian in person was the BEST! He is one of the nicest, coolest people and got along so well with Tamar and me. The best part of finding an agent is knowing you’re not alone anymore and you’re in a partnership. And the best part of finding an editor is knowing you’re part of a whole team!

We talked business (like me flying back to NYC soon to meet with my marketing/publicity teams, and also my ideas for COVERS!!!), but mostly we just chatted and all got to know each other as people. I’m incredibly grateful to have Tamar and Brian by my side as I start this new chapter, because I think of them not only as my agent and editor, but also as my friends and cheerleaders.




That brings me to today. I am beyond thrilled to finally share this news with you guys!

Thank you to all of you who have supported me over the years, whether you’re a close friend or simply stopped by my blog once in a while to say hi. And a very heartfelt thanks to those of you who recognized me at BTAF and took the time to tell me how my blog has helped you keep going. There are so many uncertainties in this field and I have no idea what will happen. What I DO know is I probably would not be here fulfilling my biggest dream if it weren’t for all of you.

I’ll be taking up a lot of space in the book for my acknowledgments, but here are some of the most important thanks I owe!


Mom, Jon, and Justin. My mom generously let me move home to focus on writing this book. She is my rock and my rolemodel and I love her more than anything in this world. My two amazing brothers told me, “Go get famous!” every time I went off to write. It means so much to me to share my happiness with the people I care about most!

My superstar agent, Tamar Rydzinski. I’m SO THANKFUL you were on Twitter the day you found me via #PitMad! You are the best cheerleader and advocate I could have ever hoped for. Thank you for believing in me, working so hard on my behalf, and making my lifelong dream come true at last. It’s such a comfort to know you’ll be with me every step of the way. Hugs and thanks as well to everyone at LDLA!

My incredible editor, Brian Geffen. Thank you a million times for giving me this chance. I am the luckiest writer alive to begin my career with you and I hope I continue to benefit from your wisdom and insight for a long, long time to come! I’m gonna make you proud! Thank you also to Michael Green, Jill Santopolo, and my new phenomenal “Philomel phamily”!

My all-star writer squad. There are too many wonderful people to name, so I will save them for the actual book acknowledgments. But I especially want to give a shout-out to my very dear friends Marisa Hopkins, Erin Fletcher, Melody Marshall, Dianne Salerni, and Lola Sharp. You were there when I had no one else to turn to for support, and you were the first in the world to read FOTL. Your astute, detailed critiques helped make this book stronger and I am beyond thankful for you guys!

Thanks also go to Stephanie Garber and N.K. Traver, who are always among the first people I go to for advice. Steph, thank you for calling to check in on me often; Nat, thank you for our loooonnng emails. Big hugs to both of you for inspiring me, encouraging me, and guiding me at every stage of this crazy process. I’d be lost without you two.

My agented authors group, the Lucky 13s. Mara Fitzgerald, Kati Gardner, Jess Rubinkowski, Kevin van Whye, Austin Gilkeson, Jordan Villegas, Heather Kaczynski, and Rebecca Caprara (who I loved meeting at BTAF!): I am SO fortunate to be a part of your group! Thanks for keeping me sane with our epic email chains.

The Kidlit Authors of Color group. You work tirelessly to promote diversity and educate others, and you have each other’s backs (and mine!) no matter what. You inspire and teach me to be brave every single day. It was so fun having Korean BBQ with some of you in NYC! And a very special thanks to Emily X.R. Pan, Wendy Xu, and Eileen Lee for vetting my Chinese name pronunciation list for FOTL!

My Ireland writers’ retreat group. Big thanks for your friendship and encouragement, and a special shout-out to our fearless and inspiring tour leaders: Fiona Claire, Heather Webb, and in particular, Susan Spann, who gave me the idea for the final scene of Book 1 (one of my absolute favorite scenes to write in any book, EVER).

My Wattpad readers. I was going through a tough spot when I posted PUMPKIN PATCH PRINCESS, an early manuscript, on Wattpad. I am grateful to have found so many amazing, kind-hearted teen readers to bolster my spirits and encourage me to keep going. I hope I get to meet and thank some of you in person one day, and I hope you like FOTL, even if it’s vastly different from PPP!





I’m still processing all of this. I joked with Tamar that the book deal probably won’t sink in until I see FOTL on a shelf. My life has completely changed in the BEST way possible.

I started writing at age 8, stopped at 16, and started again at 22. I got my agent at 29 and my book deal at 30. A few weeks ago, I turned 31. For over 20 years, I’ve made the same wish while blowing out the candles on my birthday cake. Now that the wish has come true, I’m not sure what else I have the right to ask for. All I know is this whole experience has been so deeply humbling and rewarding.

I hurt, and then I healed after talking about my struggle to write. I hope young Asian writers who don’t have the support they need will take heart from my story. There are many rewarding paths out there for the creative, and yes, they CAN make you money and (most importantly) make you happy. If you know deep down that you love something and you were born to do it… THEN DO IT. Don’t let small minds frighten you. Don’t let limited imaginations limit yours. Dream as big as you can, because one day YOU could be encouraging someone who needs it.

I am over the moon with joy and I cannot wait to share FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS with you guys next fall!!!!

Why Subjective Passes Stink… And Also Make Sense

Aug 31, 2016 Main blog 4 comments

One of the toughest rejections a writer can get, in my opinion, is: “I didn’t connect to the story.”

I don’t know a single person who has queried and hasn’t heard this at least once. Just for fun, I searched for “didn’t connect” in the Gmail folder where I keep my old query responses (yes, I still hang on to them, and no, you don’t want to know how many there are!). The phrase showed up in roughly 30% of the emails.

Here’s another fun one: “I didn’t fall in love.” That popped up in twice as many emails as “didn’t connect” did.

Numerous responses included the agent telling me how much they enjoyed X, Y, and Z, and how I did A, B, and C well. A compliment sandwich, if you will, but two slices of kindness on either side of “no” is still a “no.”

And man, did it hurt. I came up with all kinds of explanations for what “didn’t connect” and “didn’t fall in love” REALLY meant. There didn’t seem to be a good reason for why someone would say that. Surely they hated my characters, or thought the plot was weak, or couldn’t take on my manuscript because they already had a client writing about such-and-such. Those would be solid reasons, and at least I’d know what was wrong. I could even work on the first two.

But what could I do about “connecting” and “falling in love”?


And then I got the opportunity to jump on the “other side,” so to speak, when I volunteered to mentor in the Pitch Wars contest this year and last.

As the queries and chapters began rolling in, I finally understood what it meant to not connect… to not fall in love. I began to see how someone with hundreds (maybe thousands) of queries and very little time could possibly pass on a good story.

I read entire manuscripts where the writers clearly had raw talent and an excellent premise, but something just didn’t click for me. There were good stories, but I didn’t feel the need to read them over and over again. I saw solid characters, but I didn’t stay up all night thinking about them. I noticed writing that had a lot of potential, but I had no idea how to help the writer improve it, with my particular skills and experience.

And then a certain manuscript appeared – one I wanted to read again, with a main character I thought about even while waiting for my car inspection, and whose weaknesses I felt sure I could help because I’d struggled with the same things in the past. So I chose it.

Look, there are a lot of things a writer can control. You can write the best book you can. You can revise it as best you can. You can send it to people you think might be a good fit.

But, similar to real life, you can’t make someone fall in love. You can’t make someone connect to your story. Think about the books you’ve read this year. You may have enjoyed some of them, but did you love every single one the way you love your favorite books? Of course not. Look up a popular book on Goodreads; look up your favorite book of all time. I guarantee they have one-star ratings. Not everyone in the world is going to love any one book.

This is why it’s magical when you find someone who does connect and fall in love with your story. Don’t give up just because you haven’t found them yet. And don’t stop writing until you do!

A Little Write Music #35: Muse and “Rise”

Aug 24, 2016 Main blog 2 comments

I know I say it every year, but this summer has seriously FLOWN by! I thought it would be different this time around, what with all of the exciting stuff I’m looking forward to in the fall (like the Boston Teen Author Festival and hanging out with my diverse kidlit group in NYC, among other things!). And you know how time crawls when you’re looking forward to something. But here we are, almost September, and I swear the last time I blinked it was June.

Part of it must have to do with how busy I’ve been. In addition to working, I’ve been writing non-stop and reading Pitch Wars submissions! I’m happy I chose to mentor middle-grade again, because what with the shorter word counts, I was able to read several brilliant full manuscripts! I have picked my mentee and I will be introducing them to you on Twitter when the announcements go live tomorrow. I can’t wait to share their story with the world and hopefully help them get an agent — if not during the contest, then sometime soon!

It’s been a while since I’ve shared any writing music, so I thought I’d do that today 🙂

I have been adding to the FOTL playlist on my iPod constantly. I don’t listen to it when I’m writing, because a lot of the songs have lyrics and I find those too distracting. But I listen to it at the gym or in the car, and I’ve found a lot of inspiration for my main character, Xifeng (pronounced SHE-fung). She is my absolute favorite out of all of the characters I have ever written in any book. She’s what many would consider a villain; her character arc spirals downward and her morals are questionable at best. It has been fascinating (and FUN) exploring the psyche of someone who will stop at nothing to get where she feels she ought to be.

I had a feeling while drafting that I’d really miss her when the book was done. True enough, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her, and these songs are evidence of that!

Here’s an oldie but a goodie (I think) from Muse called “Space Dementia”:



The lyrics remind me of Xifeng and how others feel about her:

You make me sick because I adore you so
I love all the dirty tricks and twisted games you play on me

I’d cut your name in my heart, I will destroy this world for you
I know you want me to feel your pain


And okay… I know some of you out there are going to roll your eyes at the fact that I am posting a Katy Perry song. But I love, love, LOVE her new single “Rise.” I heard it during the Olympics and I could not believe how perfect it was for Xifeng:



I think it’s so epic and inspirational, especially when set to those clips of struggles and triumphs.


I won’t just survive, oh you will see me thrive

Oh ye of so little faith, don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it
Victory is in my veins

And I will not negotiate, I’ll fight it, I’ll fight it
I will transform

When the fire’s at my feet again and the vultures all start circling
They’re whispering, “You’re out of time”
But still, I rise


Throughout the book, Xifeng is represented by the phoenix (an important symbol), so how perfect are these lyrics? Still, I rise. It gives me chills!

Anyway, I hope you’re all enjoying the rest of your summer! Make sure you subscribe here (or just follow me on Twitter) if you don’t want to miss any upcoming posts!

First Blog Post On the New Site!!!

Aug 05, 2016 Main blog 2 comments

Guys! This is my first blog post EVER on my brand-new website!

I am thrilled to finally show you how gorgeous it looks! Tessa Elwood of did a phenomenal job on the design, didn’t she? I’m in love with everything: the glowing apple blossoms, the elegant lantern, the backdrop of the forest and the moon and the mountains. I told Tessa my basic idea for an aesthetic and she went WAY above and beyond with it. It is exactly what I asked for and more.

If you’re in the market for a web designer, I highly, highly recommend her. Her prices are unbeatable for the quality of her work – and believe me, I shopped around for quite a while, looking at jaw-dropping prices of $3,000 and up. I taught myself how to switch from Blogger to WordPress and do the initial set-up (via Google and the tech support people at WordPress and Bluehost), but if you’re not into that, I believe Tessa can do that bit for you too.

I also taught myself basic coding over the years (thank you, LiveJournal!), so I’m having a lot of fun tinkering and customizing while trying not to break anything she laid out for me. The conversion to WordPress rendered a lot of the formatting wonky. I am slowly but surely checking through all of my pages and my (dozens… maybe hundreds?) of blog posts to make everything neat and readable. Feel free to let me know if you come across anything that looks weird!

And if you would like to subscribe to my blog and get email notifications whenever I post, you can do that HERE. Otherwise, just follow me on Twitter and I will tweet out a link every time I update 🙂

What else has been going on with me?

Well, if you do follow me on Twitter, you know I’m mentoring in the Pitch Wars contest once again. The submission window opened this week and I’ve been having fun reading the MG entries! However, this will be my second and final year as a mentor. It’s tough juggling the contest with a job (I wasn’t working when I did it in 2015). And, from here on out, I will need to focus as much of my time on my own writing as possible.

But you know I love this contest because it gave me confidence and introduced me to some of my closest writing friends. I will find ways to help however I can, even if I’m not guiding a mentee to the Agent Round next November!

I’ve been writing quite a lot, as you can see from my sticker calendars on Instagram. I’ve talked about the technique before, which I learned from V.E. Schwab. It may seem silly for a grown woman of 30 to rely on stickers to keep her productive, but I am telling you IT WORKS. And who I am to question something that helped me write an entire manuscript in under five weeks?

I’m excited for next month because I get to meet so many awesome writerly peeps! I’m going to Boston Teen Author Fest to hang out with some lovely Twitter friends. Then, I’ll take a train to NYC for a couple days. My diverse kidlit writers group has set up a Korean BBQ event and I cannot wait to meet them all. So keep an eye out for that post, and I’ll make sure to take lots of pictures! I also have a new music post planned since it has been FOREVER since I shared anything I’ve been listening to.

I hope you guys are all doing well and enjoying your summer!


My 2016 Pitch Wars Wish List

Jul 19, 2016 Latest, Main blog 6 comments
Letter T 2
SCAVENGER HUNT: Here’s a “T” for “Be on my TEAM!”


I am VERY excited to be a returning mentor in this year’s Pitch Wars!

I will be accepting middle-grade submissions only. I love to read and write MG and I consider these books to be every bit as important and compelling as those for older kids. So I am hopeful you will send your manuscripts to me!

I’ve been in many contests myself and I know how scary and intense it can be. But I promise that if you’re willing to work hard, you’ll emerge on the other side an even stronger writer.

I’m here to help you do that. Yes, YOU!


So, Who The Heck Am I, Anyway?




I’m Julie, but friends call me Jules and so can you!

I am an MG/YA author represented by Tamar Rydzinski of the Laura Dail Literary Agency. The book Tamar signed me with was mentored by N.K. Traver, author of DUPLICITY, and Stephanie Garber, author of CARAVAL, in the 2013 Pitch Wars. So I’ve been right where you are!

I’m a New England girl and a proud Vietnamese-American on the lookout for diverse writers and diverse books. I love running, cooking, eating, and wearing pajamas around the house at all hours of the day. I enjoy anything written by J.K. Rowling, Laini Taylor, Maggie Stiefvater, and Philip Pullman. Name any BBC period drama and I have most likely seen it!

I am a rabid fan of The Lord of the Rings (Bilbo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee are my high fantasy counterparts) and I can quote any line from the movies on command. In high school, my best friends bought me a life-size cardboard Legolas for my birthday and I will forever regret recycling him before college.

I adore Harry Potter (proud Ravenpuff here!) and make it a point to reread the series every other year.



What Manuscripts Am I Looking For?


Here’s a look at what I want to mentor this year!

OwnVoices MG. I want to see a manuscript that includes POCs in important, dynamic, vibrant roles. I want to see these characters’ experiences written in a beautiful, dignified, nuanced way. The book does not have to focus on their diversity. Funny, realistic stories about regular kids growing up – like the show Fresh Off the Boat – are 100% awesome, too! Diverse writers, send me your stories!

MG Horror/Gothic/Suspense/Mystery. Give me your ghosts, your ghouls, your huddled goblins yearning to freak me out! I love anything atmospheric, where the setting could be a character itself. I like locked rooms, old mansions and boarding schools, and windswept moors. I like whodunnits, noir-ish thrillers, and supernatural-tinged action/adventure. Right now, I am reading THE NIGHT GARDENER by Jonathan Auxier, which is a perfect example of what I’d love to mentor. Basically: CREEP ME OUT, PLEASE.

MG ContemporaryI’m craving some good ol’ middle-school stories. I want to see characters forming friendships, learning about themselves, and dealing with conflict on field trips, the playground, awkward school dances in the gym, classrooms, the library, the cafeteria, etc. Bring me back to those days!

MG Magical Realism. I would love to see a gorgeous magical realism that tugs at the heartstrings, like HOUR OF THE BEES by Lindsay Eager. Something with the whimsical, timeless flavor of Big Fish, The Night Circus, or Amelie, but for the younger crowd. Does it exist? Have you written it? SEND TO ME!


Other things I like in my MG:

– Stubborn, determined kids with big dreams and goals. Characters who are passionate about something!

– Books that make me FEEL THE FEELS, whether it’s laughing or crying.

– Strong relationships that shape a character’s life. These could be with a friend, grandparent, teacher, pet, etc. (but please, human protagonists only).


If you write fantasy/science fiction and your manuscript doesn’t fit any of the above criteria, please check out the other mentors first. I bet you’ll find someone who is specifically looking for these! I will prioritize the manuscripts I asked for above, but if you feel strongly that I’m the mentor for you, go ahead and submit your fantasy/science-fiction to me and I’ll consider.

I am not interested in mentoring the following: dystopian/apocalyptic, religious/spiritual, or non-ghostly paranormal (like vampires, werewolves, angels, demons).

Please note that I will not be giving feedback for every single submission, as I did last year. I am so sorry! I have too much going on this summer and I only have time to give feedback on the partials/fulls that I request. Just thought I would mention that in case it helps/affects your decision 🙂



Why Should You Pick Me? No, Really!


Here’s where I get to shamelessly brag about myself!

You should pick me to be your mentor because:


– Lorien Hallama, my first-ever mentee from Pitch Wars 2015, signed with an agent last month! She is so talented and it was an honor to be a part of her journey!

– I write a MEAN pitch and query. I signed with Tamar after #PitMad, and I also had an 80% full request rate at one point when I was querying.

– I have a big social media presence. Being a writer requires knowing how to present yourself online, and I will help you with this and promote you during Pitch Wars!

– I want to help you get an agent… if not now, then in the future. Remember: it doesn’t matter how many contest requests you get. All of my Pitch Wars teammates got more requests than I did, but I still got an AWESOME agent. It just didn’t happen until a year later.

– I have critiqued DOZENS of manuscripts over the years. Friends often tell me my critique matches point-for-point with what their agent or editor told them.

– I am a positive person. I will push you to work hard, but I will also encourage you when you need it. Writing is a brutal journey. My Pitch Wars mentors still send me advice/support, so that’s what I want to do for you.



What I Want In a Mentee


I am looking for:

A hard worker. This is an industry full of dark days and rejections. I want someone who is realistic and resilient, works extremely hard, and doesn’t give up easily.

Someone who is positive. I’m here to help and encourage, but you yourself should be kind, upbeat, and enthusiastic. No amount of cheerleading is gonna help if you’re gloomy and pessimistic!

Someone who is SERIOUS about getting published. You must be willing to do the research and grunt work yourself. This is an uphill climb and there are no shortcuts!

Someone who genuinely wants to get better at writing. My ideal mentee takes feedback in a graceful, mature way. If you can’t handle constructive criticism or think your manuscript is perfect, we won’t be a good fit.

Someone who is independent and works well alone. I’m here to be your advisor, but we are adults and I can’t baby you through every step of the process. You won’t learn anything that way! Also, please understand I am volunteering my time and am busy with my own writing.

Someone who reads this post carefully and sends me what I ask for.


If you feel you match this description, I would be honored to have you on #TeamHobbit! 🙂 Looking forward to seeing your submission!

Check out the complete list of the 2016 MG Mentors at Brenda Drake’s blog!



Jul 05, 2016 Latest, Main blog Comments Off on UNDER CONSTRUCTION AS OF JULY 2016

My blog is currently under construction! Please excuse its appearance!

I am fully aware that the website is missing a “Follow” button, many links are broken, and paragraph breaks are wonky. It all goes with the territory of switching my posts from Blogger to WordPress!

Hopefully these problems will be fixed in time, when the new design goes up! The website should be complete sometime in August and I can’t wait to show it to you guys.

Thanks for bearing with me 🙂

– Julie

Writing Updates!

Jun 25, 2016 Latest, Main blog 8 comments

I hope everyone’s enjoying the summer so far!

I’ve mostly been writing and working, as usual, but am looking forward to my long Fourth of July weekend with friends! It’ll be a nice break before I throw myself into Camp NaNoWriMo, which (if you don’t know what it is) is a version of NaNoWriMo that takes place in July.

I will be working on my middle-grade Adventure Book (still don’t have a real title for it yet) and I’m going to try my best to finish it or at least get close. I’ve got about 15K written so far and I’d like to add another 20-30K. It’s definitely tougher to find time now that I’m working full-time again, but it can and will be done! I’ve really missed writing in the MG voice and it’s been a blast hanging out with my characters.

And I confess I’m actually… pants-ing this novel! I always know where the story is going and how it will end, but this time I don’t have a set chapter outline when writing. I might make a loose outline this week so I can at least hit my goal for Camp NaNo. I always feel more comfortable when I have one and it helps my productivity, but I’m liking this spontaneous drafting I’ve been doing. It’s very freeing.

After that, well… I’m not sure what I’ll be working on next. I have an idea for a brand-new YA (creepy, Gothic, suspenseful… can you tell I’ve been missing ELEGY?), but I may be revising, so I think I’ll just wait and see how I feel later on in the summer.

Sometime later this year, you guys will be seeing a whole new look for my little space on the web! I’m finally going to get a new website and – eeeeek! – moving to WordPress. I’ve been on Blogger for eight years, so you can probably guess how scary that feels to me. But it’s time for a new, professional look, and I’ve got some exciting ideas swimming around in this head of mine. I’m in talks with a few different designers to see who is willing and able to do what I need, and who gets what I want. When I do the switch, I will give plenty of advance notice so if you’re subscribed to my blog, you won’t be missing out on anything.

I’d love to be graphically inclined myself (it would definitely save a lot of money), but honestly? At this point in time, I need to spend all of my energy writing, so I’ll leave it to the pros!

Are any of you going to the Boston Teen Author Festival in September? I’m planning on going for the first time and meeting up with some awesome Twitter friends! I think it’s just a one-day thing, but I’ll be there the whole weekend and hoping to meet up with lots of other writerly peeps. Two of my Lucky 13s (the agented writers group I’m part of) will be there, so that’s going to be exciting to chat with them in person!

Let’s see… what else… PPP is doing awesome, by the way! It hit a quarter of a million views a few weeks ago, which is mind-blowing. I truly love the readers on Wattpad. They are just the nicest, most generous kids and I’m praying for the chance to meet them in person one day, so I can thank them for getting me through a tough spot! Everyone knows writing has its ups and downs, and I feel like my downs have very often outweighed my ups. So I am grateful for every person and every moment that reminds me why I’m doing this.

Good things are coming our way! Just you wait, just you wait! (Couldn’t resist a Hamilton reference.)

Anyway, just thought I would check in quickly. I hope you all have a great weekend. I’m already in a full cabin for Camp NaNoWriMo, so I can’t join another or invite you to ours (I’m sorry!!) but if you’re doing it too, definitely find me and friend me if you feel like it! @juliecdao

Random Tuesday Thoughts

Jun 14, 2016 Latest, Main blog 9 comments

You know, it hit me recently that I’ve been writing this blog for EIGHT YEARS.

I think back to the early days and realize how much more free I felt to talk about everything. Nobody knew about me then, and at times I was literally writing for an audience of one (looking at you, Jessica Nelson!). I talked openly about my projects, my setbacks, and even *gasp!* querying without a care in the world.

My blog has always been a welcome outlet. Even when most of my blog buddies gave up on writing and disappeared. Even when awkward things happened, like IRL people Googling me but pretending they hadn’t. (“I found you on page 25 of a Google search about writing.” Who scrolls through 25 pages of search results?!) And even now, when the 50 comments I used to get per post have dwindled to 2. If I’m lucky.

People are definitely still reading, but the major difference is I no longer know who they are. It’s not the comfortable little community of tight-knit writer friends it used to be. I’m not an anonymous voice anymore. I’ve gained a lot more visibility since I started this blog at age 22. Now, I’m a former mentee and current mentor for the hugely popular Pitch Wars. Now, I’ve got teen writers looking up to me on Wattpad. Now, I have a well-known agent. That means even more exposure.

Don’t get me wrong: I love that more people are finding me and my work. I love that they feel inspired and can see themselves in my experiences when they come here.

But the problem with exposure? I can’t say everything I want to say anymore. I can’t write down the first thing that comes to mind. I mean, I could, but there are consequences now that I don’t want to risk. I hope one day I’ll get to a point in my writing career where I can share more, because I really do think it helps others to know the ups and the downs and the details. But the area between becoming agented and getting published is murky for a good reason. (Some friends and I discussed agented life on the Pitch Wars mentors’ blog, in case you missed it!)

All that said, I do think honesty is an important ingredient in a good blog. And I hope you will still find it here! My little space on the web is not going anywhere! ♥

Some random thoughts for you very early on a Tuesday morning 🙂

Tips On Perseverance! OR: How To Be An Ox

Jun 08, 2016 Latest, Main blog 7 comments

My Chinese zodiac sign is the ox. Most information you read about the ox tends to frame it in a flattering light. Well-liked, industrious, determined, full of integrity. And because my element happens to be wood, I’m also supposedly eager to fight for the weak and defenseless. Basically, the zodiac says I am a superhero!

But when I share this with my mom?

“If you’re an ox, you are stubborn and you’ll have a life full of hard work,” she says. “You will always have to try harder than others to get the same things.”

…Well, that’s great. I can see why they don’t put that on the paper placemats at Chinese restaurants.

But it kind of makes a strange sense. I never take “no” for an answer when it comes to my goals. I welcome hard work. And I have this obsession with seeing things through to the end, no matter how hopeless. (It’s why I stuck to running cross-country in high school, even though I was horrible and came in DEAD LAST in every race. And it’s why I always finish reading a book I’ve begun, even if I’m not enjoying it.)

As you can imagine, this bullheadedness (I mean, persistence – gotta use a nice word) has come in quite handy as an aspiring published author. I’ve been traveling the ups and downs of this road for a while now, and most years I’ve had nothing but my own furious, compulsive obstinacy to push me.

So how do I keep going? What helps me get through those dark days and low points? Here are a few things I do to live up to my ox nature:


  1. I reward myself. A lot! My golden retriever and I had this in common: we will do anything, anything if there’s food waiting at the end. Got a tough chapter to slog through? There’s popcorn and my TV husband, Poldark, when I’m done. Revisions giving me a hard time? Nothing a S’more can’t fix. I do try to keep the rewards in line with the accomplishments. Like, I don’t buy myself a sushi dinner or get a massage if I write 500 words; I save that for when I finish drafting the book. That way, I keep my expectations in check.

  3. And, to go along with #1: I celebrate EVERYTHING. I celebrate every step of the way. I text my CPs excitedly when I figure out a character. I tweet whenever my Wattpad book hits a milestone. I email my Pitch Wars family when happy things happen, even if it’s “just” my idol Maggie Stiefvater following me back on Twitter. Trying to get published is a long, hard road, and it’s easier to keep going when you learn to appreciate each and every step of the way!

  5. I make myself a little compliments board. When I was querying, I printed out every personalized rejection. I highlighted only the good stuff and blacked out the rest with a Sharpie, then tacked them on the bulletin board above my desk. Whenever I sat down to write, I would see proof that people in the industry thought I was talented and took time out of their busy days to let me know. “All it takes,” I told myself, “is for someone to think that way AND fall in love with my story.” And what do you know? It happened!

  7. I only write the stories I enjoy. This seems obvious, I know. But I must be hopelessly in love with an idea before I commit to spending a year of my life writing it. I think this ties in to my being a plotter. I can’t just say: “Oh, hmmm, this idea seems okay. Let’s see where it goes.” I have to be starry-eyed and obsessed, because there’s always a point around the 30K mark for me where doubt and anxiety kick in, hardcore. It’s much easier to convince myself to keep going if I remember how much I adore the story concept.

  9. I reread my old stories. I have a flash drive where I keep old manuscripts, and when motivation’s lacking, I whip it out and read them. It reminds me that I pushed through tough chapters in the past and still managed to finish the book, and I can certainly do that again.

  11. I limit talking about writing to non-writers. Look, I love my family and friends, but it’s frustrating and discouraging to constantly have to explain why publishing is so slow and why I’m working my tail off for free. Some of my loved ones are very anxious and my rejections used to stress them out, which in turn, made me stress out way more than I would have. So now, I share no details with any non-writer friends or family and simply say, cheerfully, “Not yet!” when they ask me, “Are you finally published yet?”

  13. I surround myself with supportive writers. Positivity attracts positivity (at least, when it comes to writer buddies), and I am very lucky in my friendships! There is nothing quite like having people who just GET you and what you’re trying to do. And coming home to a thoughtful care package, a sweet card, a check-in phone call, or a long, supportive email is the absolute best. I’m reminded that I’m not just doing this crazy writing thing for myself, but for the people who care about me and believe in me.


So if you, too, sometimes feel like you’re performing in an empty auditorium, like you’re flinging your blood, sweat, and tears out in manuscript-form and there’s nobody who cares… remember that stubbornness gets things done. Persistence makes dreams come true!

At least, that’s what I tell myself: that there’s a light at the end of this tunnel (and more often than not… FOOD).

Do you have any tips or tricks to keep yourself going? And what do you think about your Chinese zodiac sign?

What to Know About Wattpad

May 11, 2016 Main blog 4 comments

I talk a lot about Wattpad. It is, after all, where I have chosen to share one of my earliest book babies with the world. But what is it, exactly? What does it do for unpublished writers, and how might it benefit you? How can you protect your work if you share it? Hopefully this post will answer those questions for you and many more!


Wattpad Empire

First, here’s a little background on why I chose to post a story on Wattpad.

Last January, I was tired. Tired of getting into every contest I entered, yet not having agent interest pan out. Tired of getting a full request from almost every query, but still no offer. Tired of worrying that publication would only ever be a pipe dream and I lacked the talent/luck to pull it off.

But you guys know I’m not one to sit around and wallow. I like to take action, and I like to be in control of the things I can be in control of. So I decided that if the right agent never came along, I would take my work directly to the people for whom I actually write: potential readers. Potential TEEN readers.

I didn’t know enough about self-publishing to jump in and do it well, since I had been focusing on traditional only. So where could I go to post my work that would be quick and easy? Where could I get immediate feedback from the people whose opinions mattered most to me?

“Aha, Wattpad!” I said. (I actually did say it out loud, because I am that crazy lady who talks to herself.) “I will build my empire on Wattpad and show those agents what they’re missing!”

I had built a huge readership on a different site when I was 20, with a super melodramatic romance, so I knew I could do it again. I believed my work had merit because every time I put it out there, people seemed to enjoy it. So I went out full force with all the confidence in the world and prepared to hit “Publish.”

“I hope you’re ready for this, agents!” I yelled.

And then I got an agent.


What Is Wattpad?

Wattpad is a social media site. Think of it as YouTube for writers. All you need to do is open a free account and BAM! You can post your work for the millions of predominantly teen/pre-teen readers scouring the feed for addicting stories.

Also scouring the feed? Big Five editors. There are some massive success stories that have come out of Wattpad in recent years, like Anna Todd, whose One Direction fanfic snagged her an enormous (I believe six- or seven-figure) deal from Simon and Schuster. Or Taran Matharu, whose fantasy swept up millions of views, an agent, and a multi-book deal with Feiwel and Friends.

The site has an editorial team that makes executive decisions on whether a book gets Featured (meaning it appears on the front page) or whether it wins a Watty, the Wattpad version of an Oscar.


Getting Lots of Reads!

Here’s the blog post I wrote when I introduced PUMPKIN PATCH PRINCESS to the world for the first time.

When I first posted PPP, it scored a decent number of views right away, thanks to amazing friends who opened Wattpad accounts just to read it. But what really helped skyrocket its popularity was the fact that I became a Featured Author after the Wattpad editorial team got in touch with me. (I believe you can also apply for consideration; check the website FAQ.)

To have your story be Featured, it needs to be well-written and almost or completely done. These qualities are determined by the editorial team. I will say that having an agent probably didn’t hurt me here, either. As soon as they selected PPP, my cover landed on the front page next to Wattpad superstars and New York Times bestselling authors promoting their published works with novellas (a trend my agent started!). Immediately, my view count exploded into the thousands, then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands as word of mouth spread.

I was also lucky that my book hit that website at the right time. I’d say 85% of stories on Wattpad are very sexualized. I got SO many comments from younger readers saying they loved PPP because there is no swearing, sex, or drinking/drugs. Of course not, it’s an MG, right?! But most stories there are written with racy New Adult themes (just count the number of Featured books with the words “Bad Boy” in the title), and MG may be a much-needed niche. Most pre-teens don’t have the money for books and don’t tend to read e-books, so they’re relying on Wattpad for good stories they feel comfortable reading.

Other options for getting reads include: posting a link to your story in the Wattpad forums, or commenting on other writers’ work and hoping they return the favor. You can also enter your story into the Wattys, and if you win, you’ll likely get higher readership along with that shiny badge on your cover!

When you post your work, you have the option to add tags. These will help readers find your work more easily. So, say you’ve written a urban fantasy involving vampires. You would add the tags #vampire, #urbanfantasy, #urban, etc. and anyone typing those into the search engine will have a better shot at finding your book.

You also need to have an eye-catching cover. Think about the book covers you’ve seen online. Whatever people say, they DO judge a book by its cover and if it’s pixelated or blurry with cheesy, tacky font, they will be less likely to read it. If you’re graphic design-challenged, have a friend help you or find a designer on the forums.


How to Protect Yourself?

I’ve had so many issues over the years with people stealing my ideas and work.

I had a “blog buddy” copy the look of my blog and my profile description word-for-word with her name inserted into it. If you look at her blog today, her “My Writing” page is still identical to my “My Writing” page.

I had someone enter Pitch Wars with basically a copy of ELEGY the year after I entered, subbing to my mentors (who told me about it), and borrowing lines directly from my query.

I’ve had people stealing my blog posts and rewording them slightly to pretend they’d written them themselves.

This is why I no longer talk freely about the projects I’m working on and why I have made all of my important Pinterest storyboards private.

So when concerned readers messaged me a few weeks after PPP got popular, telling me there was another story entitled “PUMPKIN PATCH PRINCESS” with MY characters’ names, MY kingdoms, and MY plot (except with extremely poor grammar and spelling), I was not surprised.

I got in touch with my kick-ass lawyer friend, Susan Spann, who runs the #PubLaw tweets on Twitter. She was one of my mentors in Ireland and I knew she’d have the answer. She advised me to file a copyright registration on PPP through the U.S. Copyright Office (, which costs about $55. Although this would not stop plagiarism, I would be able to take the person to court and win in the most extreme case, like if someone were to make and sell e-books or physical books of PPP on Amazon or something.

So I did that (and got my official certificate just yesterday!), and I also got in touch with the Wattpad team. They are good about cracking down on stuff like that. They contacted the person and she took her version of PPP down immediately.

Just be aware that when you post work publicly, there will always be thieves. So weigh the risks against the benefits.


Other Considerations

The biggest pro I can think of is I’m building up a huge readership for any future books I may publish. Readers who enjoy PPP will likely go out and buy a physical copy of another story I write, or tell their friends and classmates. Wattpad is an immensely powerful marketing tool for that purpose because you’re hitting your target demographic directly. On my other social media sites, my following is mostly writers in their 30s and up, so posting PPP benefited me hugely because it gave me access to my audience that I wouldn’t otherwise have.

This direct contact with pre-teen and teen readers has also given me a ton of insight into the way they read. What do they want? What attracts them most? How do they behave when they like or don’t like something? I’ve learned that they LOVE to compare… they’ll say, “Oh! This is just like that Barbie 12 Dancing Princesses movie” or “This is like Brave/Frozen/Tangled!” or “Kit reminds me of this guy from Teen Wolf…” So comp titles can be a huge benefit, because I’ve reeled in readers by including ELLA ENCHANTED and THE PRINCESS DIARIES in my story description.

If you want to be successful on Wattpad, plan on devoting time to answering comments. Be kind, be patient, be funny. It makes readers SO happy and they are likely to keep coming back and to tell all their friends about you and your story. I try to answer every single one because I figure if they can take the time to read my book and tell me they loved it, I can take a few seconds to say “Thank you.” (This is a good rule of thumb on all social media. How much does it suck when you congratulate or compliment someone and they ignore it completely? That’s an automatic unfollow on Twitter for me, by the way.)

Also, if you post a story on Wattpad, be aware that some publishers consider this to be “previously published.” So don’t post anything you’re hoping will be traditionally published one day. Huge success stories like the ones I mentioned above are extremely rare, so don’t go in expecting you’ll be the exception. The great thing is, if you build up an enormous readership, you can definitely tell agents this when you are querying another book or maybe even have your agent mention it to editors when you’re out on submission. This is, of course, assuming you have MILLIONS of reads; anything less should not be mentioned because it likely won’t help you.


I hope this gave you guys a good basic introduction to Wattpad! Let me know in the comments if you have other questions or if there’s anything I missed.

Julie C. Dao