We’re back with another Pitch Wars Success Story! Please join us in congratulating Jade Webb and her mentor, Lyn Liao Butler! Jade signed with Jill Marsal at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. We’re so excited for them!
About the Team…
Jade is a lover of romance novels that feature strong heroines who know that the loves that may come into their lives are always the icing, and never the cake. She has had a lifelong affair with romance novels, beginning when she would sneak them into her Bible at her all-girls Catholic school after she was chastised for asking too many questions (a lingering side effect from a childhood spent grilling her Rabbi at Hebrew School each week) And thanks to her own marriage, Jade has learned that the challenges of life can only help to make love stronger and she is eternally grateful to her partner for embodying all the magic that love can offer. When she is not writing or dreaming up new stories, she can be found using her very expensive Masters of Social Work degree as a coaster while designing book covers and websites for romance authors at Meet Cute Creative while also wrangling sharp objects away from her toddler.
Lyn Liao Butler
Lyn’s debut, THE TIGER MOM’S TALE, will be published by Berkley/Penguin in July of 2021. Lyn was born in Taiwan and moved to the States when she was seven. In her past and present lives, she has been: a concert pianist, a professional ballet dancer, a business owner, a personal trainer and instructor, an RYT 200 yoga instructor, a purse designer, and, most recently, author of multicultural fiction. Lyn did not have a Tiger Mom. She came about her overachieving all on her own.
When she is not torturing clients or talking to imaginary characters, Lyn enjoys spending time with her FDNY husband, their son (the happiest little boy in the world), their two stubborn dachshunds and trying crazy yoga poses on a stand-up paddleboard. So far, she has not fallen into the water yet.
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Jade, what’s your favorite tip you learned from your Lyn?
My biggest takeaway from Lyn’s mentorship was to learn to trust myself. Lyn’s confidence never wavered in me. She loved my writing and my humor and encouraged me to write in my voice, even when I was worried that no one would find my irreverent humor and frank conversations about mental health and identity compelling. She also shared with me that there will always be people who dislike your writing and that it’s okay, but you need to get over it (in the sweetest way possible!).
Tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars.
So I started off with a 63,000 word manuscript that was pretty underwritten. My ending was also terrible, among many, many other things. A few days after getting picked by Lyn, we had a video call and she sent me her editorial letter. I needed to work on adding some scenes, fleshing out the characters more and changing the ending. I would send her full, revised drafts and she would follow up with her feedback. We were able to do around five passes because Lyn is an amazingly quick reader and completely spoiled me. We finished edits a few weeks before showcase and then focused on our pitch and my query letter.
Please tell us about The Call. We’d love as many juicy details as you’d like to share (e.g. how they contacted you, how you responded, celebrations, emotions, how long you had to wait, anything you’d like to share)!
Showcase was a really quick whirlwind for me. When it ended on the 15th, I spent until 9am the following day sending to the agents that requested. I got my first offer the following day, which sent everything into hyper speed as I would now need to nudge all the agents I had just queried a few days go. It’s a very odd feeling because it’s a roller coaster of emotions: first you are ecstatic to have an offer, but then you get inundated with step asides and rejections, but then more requests for calls, followed by more rejections. Luckily, I had the Pitch Wars community to lean on and Lyn to text message several times a day.
My now agent, Jill, emailed me asking for a call and I promptly went into our mentee discord to panic because Jill is like this big-time agent with a LinkedIn and she doesn’t use a lot of exclamation points, so I was anxious to speak with her on the phone. Luckily, I got a lot of emotional support from my Pitch Wars class who helped me pick out my most professional sweat pants, despite it not even being a video call. Lyn had helped me prep my list of questions so I was ready.
We talked for about 45 minutes while my daughter screamed in the background and I loved how she was passionate about my book and had some really solid ideas for how to elevate it and make it even better. She also educated me about the current market and how she could position my book to sell. And because I had stalked her for quite some time, I felt fully confident she knew what she was talking about.
At the time we spoke, I still had a few days to go before I had to formally make my decision and it was a very painful period of time because I dread disappointing people and all the agents that offered were dream agents. Ultimately, I felt Jill’s vision for my book and career felt most aligned with mine and I emailed Jill that I had accepted her offer. After notifying the other agents, I ran to Twitter to announce and made sure to tag Jill (and I forced Lyn to tag her, too) so she would be less likely to change her mind on me since we had it officially on “public record”. It seems to have worked because she still hasn’t ditched me!
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
Being so new to traditional publishing, I didn’t even know where to start. I cringe now when I think about my original query letter. Pitch Wars helped me learn the process and also grow more confident in the editing process, which initially terrified me. I also had a huge network of mentees to support my journey and commiserate with, which was huge for helping with my mental health because Pitch Wars is a very intense and short period of time and we were still deep in the pandemic, so that community was critical to me making it through this amazing experience.
Do you have advice for people thinking about entering Pitch Wars?
I would first of all say, do it! I almost didn’t because I knew my manuscript wasn’t super polished and I had never queried before, so I felt so new to the process. I think too often we self-eliminate, and I had accepted that even if I wasn’t picked, it would still be a great learning experience.
Lyn, tell us about working with your mentee.
We worked so well together! It was really the dream scenario. We just got each other and I was able to give her notes and she turned them around in her own way. I loved watching how she made her story stronger but always staying true to her writing style. She didn’t just verbatim take my opinions and worked them in – she took what she thought worked. We’re both pretty fast workers so we were able to get in several rounds. And we are both a bit quirky so we got each other. By the time the Showcase came around, we could communicate with only EEEEKKKKK and AAAAAAHHHHHH and we knew exactly what the other was saying.
We’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.
She took her book and elevated it into this magical story with the best voice I’ve read in a while. She exceeded my expectations of a mentee by a thousand percent and I’m so proud of her hard work.
How can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars?
Be open and be ready to work hard. Pitch Wars is all about taking a great idea for a book and making it even better, so if someone is not willing or ready to make changes in their manuscript, they shouldn’t enter Pitch Wars. It’s also not a guarantee that you will sign with an agent and get a publishing deal. Yes, that would be a great ultimate goal, but first and foremost, it’s an opportunity for someone to put their eyes and attention on your entire manuscript and help you grow as a writer. If someone is prepared to do that, they will get the most out of the Pitch Wars experience.
How about some fun questions for Lyn and Jade.
You only have two hours to finish some edits. Where do you go for quiet time?
Jade: Normally, I would go to the local coffeeshop down the street but with COVID, I’ll settle for the upstairs bathroom that locks.
Lyn: Before COVID, I would go to a coffeeshop or an outdoor cafe. During COVID when it was nice out, I would go down to the lake (we live on a lake so it’s right in our backyard) to get away from the child so I could write in peace. I’ve also hidden in my car to write for an hour when it was too cold out.
What author would you like to spend the day with? What would you do with them?
Jade: I mean, I have full intention of stalking Lyn at some point in the near future and have a robust itinerary planned. But I would also love to hang out with Sarah Hogle. I devoured her debut You Deserve Each Other and loved her humor and recommend her book to everyone I know.
Lyn: Liane Moriarty. She is my absolute favorite author, the one who inspired me to write a book. I would love to just hang out with her and talk writing, life and whatever she wants to talk about.
What fictional character would you most like to meet? Why?
Jade: I would love to meet Lizzie McGuire and check in to see how she’s doing. Is she still in touch with Gordo and Miranda? Did she ever move back to Italy to form a pop group with Isabella? I have so many unanswered questions.
Lyn: Hm…I have no idea! LOL
What inspired you to start writing?
Jade: I’ve always enjoyed writing and self-published a few romances. But after getting pregnant with my daughter three-ish years ago, I got really sick and stopped. I didn’t pick it back up for nearly a year after her birth as I battled PPD and complete exhaustion because babies are a ton of work. I ended up writing this manuscript in about three weeks and it just flowed out of me. The character, Lucy, is inspired by my daughter and was a way I processed the new struggles with my identity I was experiencing. I had always been a walking identity crisis – which I think a lot of intercultural or interfaith kids are – but I was also now struggling with what it meant to be a mom. Writing Tweet Heart helped me work through some of that.
Lyn: I lived in Manhattan for years, and when I moved to the suburbs (only an hour away), my friends wanted to know what I was doing in the “country.” So I started a blog to update them on my life, and those blog posts turned into an idea for my first book.
Share with us your writing process (e.g., routines, tools you use, time of day you write, go to inspiration, etc.).
Jade: My writing actually starts around 4am when I wake up. I like to write before the day starts because with a kid and a job, you never really know when you will have the free time, so if I prioritize it for myself in the morning, I can relax knowing I’ve hit my goals. I like to have coffee- but only iced coffee, and only from Dunkin because I’m a Masshole. If I need inspiration, I tend to take a shower because that’s my thinking time. My hair is very thick and my conditioner needs to sit for at least ten minutes, so that is when I tend to plot or work things out in my head. I also have a CP who is a fantastic resource to bounce ideas off of and my family is also great at brainstorming and helping me problem solve through the variety of plot holes I create for myself.
Lyn: I don’t write everyday. I only write when I have something fleshed out in my mind and then I usually have these furious writing bursts, where I get a lot of words down in a very short amount of time. For example, I tried to write during the pandemic, but with homeschooling a 7 year old and being stuck at home with him 24/7, I couldn’t get any words down and finally gave up. But then this year, I finished the book I was trying to write last year, and then got an idea for a YA book, and literally wrote 40,000 words in two and a half week.
“The Tiger Mom’s Tale is a heartfelt, delightful read. Lyn Liao Butler’s story of Taiwanese and American identity had me turning pages and laughing (and drooling over the delicious descriptions of food).”—Charles Yu, author of Interior Chinatown, winner of the 2020 National Book Award
When an American woman inherits the wealth of her Taiwanese family, she travels to confront them about their betrayals of the past in this stunning debut by Lyn Liao Butler.
Lexa Thomas has never quite fit in. Having grown up in a family of blondes while more closely resembling Constance Wu, she’s neither white enough nor Asian enough. Visiting her father in Taiwan as a child, Lexa thought she’d finally found a place where she belonged. But that was years ago, and even there, some never truly considered her to be a part of the family.
When her estranged father dies unexpectedly, leaving the fate of his Taiwanese family in Lexa’s hands, she is faced with the choice to return to Taiwan and claim her place in her heritage . . . or leave her Taiwanese family to lose their home for good. Armed with the advice of two half-sisters (one American and the other Taiwanese, who can’t stand each other), a mother who has reevaluated her sexuality, a man whose kisses make her walk into walls, and her self-deprecating humor, Lexa finds the courage to leave the comfort of New York City to finally confront the person who drove her away all those decades ago.
With fond memories of eating through food markets in Taiwan and forming a bond with a sister she never knew she had, Lexa unravels the truth of that last fateful summer and realizes she must stand up for herself and open her heart to forgiveness, or allow the repercussions of her family’s choices to forever dictate the path of her life
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