Courtney Allison Moulton | Author

Courtney's Writing & Publishing Tips

How did you get published?
First, I wrote a book start to finish called ANGELFIRE. After I'd revised it as best I could, I queried agents and accepted an offer of representation. My agent talked to editors at publishing houses on my behalf and we accepted a publishing contract with Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. From the time I started writing ANGELFIRE to the time it was published, the process of getting published took a little over two years and that was a very fast track. Most writers spend years and years writing and querying and having their book submitting to editors. A book typically takes two years from acquisition to release day, but many books release sooner or later.

Where did you find your agent?
I searched through the database of hundreds of literary agents on Agent Query and narrowed the search down to only agents who represent my genre. Be sure to follow each agent's individual submission guidelines! Every agent is different.

Can you read my story and tell me what you think?
For legal reasons, I can't and I'm terribly sorry.

Can you introduce me or refer me to your agent?
My agent is immensely busy with a long client list, one so diverse that I would have no idea how to anticipate what she is looking for in new clients. I am sorry, but I have to say no.

Do I need to know someone in order to get published?
For some reason, a lot of people think that you do. I didn't know anyone in publishing when I signed with an agent and she used her connections in the publishing industry to find the editor who bought my book and eventually published it. I worked hard to create a proper query for ANGELFIRE with a great hook and sent it to agents just like everybody else. 99% of published books are slush pile successes. Don't let the odds and numbers intimidate and defeat you. It's up to YOU to get your query and manuscript to stand out.

How do I write that great query to get my book noticed?
Queries are hard. Before you write that query that gets you manuscript requests, you will likely have written dozens and dozens of drafts of that same query. You will probably put as much or more work in perfecting that query than you will your full manuscript. Agents get tens of thousands of queries every year and they might offer representation to a handful. Your query is the tool that gets an agent to read your whole book, but you've got to have the goods to back up what you promised. The book has to be as good or better than the query. It is definitely a lot of pressure, but if it was easy then everyone would traditionally publish. Here are some resources to help you build than one-in-a-million query:

  • AgentQuery.com: How to write a query
  • Examples of successful queries

    Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
    Plenty!

  • There's nothing more helpful than a fresh pair of eyes. Join a critique or writing group to find friends to share your work with. The more time you spend revising your book, then better and stronger it will be.
  • Read, read, READ! Read everything in your genre. All of the answers to your questions about writing/technique are in well-written and professionally edited books. Learn to read critically.
  • Write a lot - at least a teeny bit every day - to figure out what kind of process works best for you. Don't force yourself to write with or without outlines, or at certain times of the day, or scenes in a certain order. Everyone works differently and it takes actually doing the work to figure out your own process.
  • Maintain your momentum! For me, if I go for a period of time without writing, it becomes so much harder for me to return to that "groove." If I work every day, even if it's just reviewing a passage I've already written, then I don't lose my momentum. Losing your groove can lead to writer's block or worse, giving up. If you're stuck on a project, then set it aside and work on something else, sort of like cleansing your pallet. Setting something aside to work on it later is very different from giving up.

    Are there rules to writing? Am I supposed to outline or make character sheets? What is the right way to write?
    There is no WRONG way to write. Some writers love to use writing software like Scrivener and some don't. Some writers outline and some don't. There are no rules to chapter count or length. Everyone's creative process is different and you have to experiment with different methods in order to find the one that's right for you.

    I'm only a teenager. Will that make it harder for me to get published?
    Some of my friends were published when they were teens, like Kody Keplinger and Hannah Moskowitz! Your age will not make getting published easier or harder - understanding the process, skill, talent, and luck will. Work hard, work smart, and keep writing, and your chances of being published will improve.

    How do you fight writer's block and finish a story?
    The secret to fighting writer's block during the drafting process is to outline. This tool allows you to completely map out your plot and character arcs. If you know what happens next, you will never get stuck. My outlines tend to be very detailed and are often more than 10,000 words long. I outline each chapter with all plot points bulleted. It's also important to outline your character arcs, because you need to know where your characters' develepments begin and end. Not everyone can outline, though, but I recommend at least trying to see if it works for you.