Archive for the ‘querying’ Tag

In the Blogosphere: 1/10-2/11

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m making one of my resolutions to be better with these blogosphere posts.  *Well, I’m trying, but I’ve been reallllllly busy!* I’ve saved a lot of great stuff, though, and it’s all definitely worth a read.

I’ve decided just to focus on agents and querying and . . . stuff, since I need to get a jump on WB workshop stuff this weekend.

Hope you enjoy!

AGENTS & QUERYING & STUFF

I jumped back into the query pool this week with my latest YA contemporary manuscript, so this is largely for me.  :)  Oh yeah—and any of you also at this stage.  Hee.

Many of us have formulated our own lists of “dream agents,” based on stalking meeting some of the industry’s finest at conferences and workshop, reading interviews and blogs, etc.  Here, the Michelle Wolfson-repped rom-com author, Tawna Feske, talks about the downside of dream agents.

See that butterfly net? That's my dream agent. *Creepy much*? You know who you are . . . OK--you prob don't, and that's prob a good thing! :)

And, just in case that depresses you, here is another post by Feske, where she shows her agent-catching query.  For a little inspiration!

Agents dishing out query tips online in response to their query inboxes becomes a heated debate around the blogosphere at least twice a year, but I think it’s a valid discussion whenever it pops up.  Here, Heather Trese of See Heather Write asks: Is the #queries hashtag really good?

Querying can be extremely frustrating (understatement much?), and it can lead to writers getting pushed over the edge of good sense and expressing their frustrations in their Tweets or Facebook statuses. Translation: not good.  Here, Bridget Pilloud has the answer—a bitch box, or the Bitchy Comment Receptacle.  You need to bitch?  Pilloud provides a sounding board—and then deletes your comment so no one will see it.  Win-win!

Ever wonder how agents actually evaluate fulls when they request them?  Well, she doesn’t speak for all of agentkind, but Andrea Brown lit agent Mary Kole says she does it like this.

Going to a conference?  Here’s what kt literary’s Kate Schafer Testerman has to say about talking to agents IRL.

I had the distinct pain pleasure of writing my synopsis for my new MS this weekend.  I had *forgotten* about this, the fabulous Shawntelle Madison’s synopsis wizard.  But you should def check it out!

In my editing of MS #2—as well as in the reading of John Green, Maureen Johnson, E. Lockhart, and other YA all-stars, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the “mature voice” in teen fictionHere are amazegent Mary Kole’s thoughts on the subject.

So, confession: I got a Kindle for Christmas . . . and I love it!  Of course, it WILL NOT take the place of holding an actual book in my hands, but I have already found it great for traveling, working out, and it was VERY helpful last weekend, when I needed to read two harder-to-find books for an interview I was doing.  Agent Kristin Nelson agrees in this post, about the power of story—in any medium.

CONGRATS

A special WOO HOO goes out this week to my Twitter soulmate, Cambria Dillon, who signed with literary agent Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst & Associates!  SO EXCITED FOR YOU, girl!!!!!!!!  *mwah!*

What better way to celebrate than this??

5 Tips on Dealing with Rejection

Since I am in Atlanta visiting friends, a bit swamped with work, and getting ready to start querying, I thought I’d post this oldie but goodie from my “How to Write Full Time and Stay Sane” series.  Enjoy!

How to Write Full Time and Stay Sane is a series that offers advice to full-time writers about how to stay productive and in good spirits.

Staying sane is something I’ll admit I haven’t been doing very well the past week or so.  Although I’ve had some exciting successes in that time (sold my first piece to a magazine, landed another gig teaching a summer workshop), I’ve also received my first few query rejections for my manuscript.  Because of this, I have assembled some tips as well as links from industry professionals to help you deal with this agonizing process.

Now, no one is more self-deprecating than I—nor will you find more of a realist (although, some might use the term “pessimist”)—so I’ve mentally prepared for this time of literary limbo.  In fact, more than one writer and loved one has scolded me for referring to the query process as “the rejection process” before I’d even received one.  But I can’t help it: I’d much rather be pleasantly surprised than sorely disappointed.

Which are you?

But even with that in mind, and even if you get the nicest, most personalized rejection (and I’ve gotten two of those so far), rejection still sucks.

You know getting rejections is normal; you know how subjective this is; you know how pertinent finding the right agent is; you know you must locate someone who falls head over heels for your work; you recognize how tedious of a task that’s going to be . . .

. . . but you also know you’ve put tens of thousands of hours into the writing and editing of this thing, and you’re doing the most vulnerable thing you’ve ever done by sending it out into the world—and then someone doesn’t want it for whatever reason.

So, yeah, rejection sucks no matter how ready you are for it.

HOW TO DEAL

Tip #1: File It & Forget It

In a recent Write-Brained Network LIVE CHAT, a friend of mine—whose manuscript has been rejected 28 times—said that every time he gets a rejection, he files it and moves on to something else.

That’s great advice.  And if you can do that, more power to ya.  I think the more seasoned you become in this business and the more irons you have on the fire, your skin can definitely thicken—but we’re not all there yet.

As well, I am lucky enough to be able to do this full time, and believe me: news of my first story getting accepted to a Virginia magazine alleviated some of my “I’m-going-to-die-hopeless-and-penniless-and-20-lbs.-over-weight” (Thank you, Stuart Smalley) attitude. However, I fully realize that many of you reading this have day jobs.  The only thing you’ve got cooking is your manuscript, and you don’t have time to distract yourself with other writing endeavors.

So, although filing and forgetting might sound good on paper (or on screen, as it were), I realize it’s easier said than done.  Which brings me to . . .

I’m good enough, I’m smart enough – and doggone it, people like me.

Tip #2: Send to a Friend

During the writing and editing process, we are discouraged from showing our work to loved ones because so many amateurs make the mistake of thinking that if their mother or spouse loves the book, it’s bound to be a New York Times bestseller.

Along that same vein, I am not suggesting you appeal to family and friends for a critique of your manuscript, but now is the time to revel in their bias toward loving it.  Print out a few copies and send them to your biggest fans.

While it’s gut-wrenching (no matter whose eyes scan your pages), if you include a close circle—those who’ve been rooting for you all along (your buddy from work, who always asks about your progress; your parents, who are eager to see what you’ve been doing all this time, etc.)—you are sure to get rave reviews.

As long as you take their glowing assessments for what they are and don’t let them cloud your realistic attitude toward the query process and the publishing industry, this praise can be just the ticket to convince you not to jump.

After all, regardless of whether or not your book will ever get any agent to want it, regardless if the book is even publishable, remember: completing a manuscript is a huge accomplishment. You deserve to have someone stroke your ego a bit.

Your manuscript is GRRRRRRREAT!

CONFUSION

When my first rejection rolled in, I scoured every resource I knew to figure out how to respond.

First of all, don’t get me wrong: I know you aren’t supposed to respond.

But the rejection was not just a personalized version of a form rejection letter.  As well, a YA author friend of mine had given me a referral to this agent because she represented said YA author friend, and the agent had mentioned our mutual acquaintance in the e-mail, so it wasn’t as though this was a cold query.

While I knew not responding at all would have been perfectly acceptable, and while I wasn’t going to lash out at the woman, I went back and forth about sending a “thank you.”

Agents are flooded with e-mail daily, and many are quite vocal on their blogs and on Twitter about not wasting their time, but in doing a little research, I found several well-known agents with conflicting information.  (Wait, agents don’t all agree on everything??)

HOW TO DEAL (AGAIN)

Tip #3: Seek Professional Help

When in doubt, turn to the rejecters themselves—agents and editors.  Many have blogs and other Web sites dedicated to everything from their personal preferences to typical response times.

Here, former Curtis Brown Ltd. agent Nathan Bransford lists acceptable etiquette for rejection follow-up.

For a different perspective, see this post by former agent, Penguin Group’s Colleen Lindsay on what not to do after a rejection.

Over on her blog, FinePrint Literary’s Janet ReidMadame Query Shark herself!—describes how to cut down on your anguish over unanswered queries by making sure you haven’t sent something that isn’t a query.

Tip #4: Gain Some Perspective

Once you’ve gotten a few rejections and you’re feeling like a hack, it’s important to put it in perspective and remind yourself that it’s normal.

Rabbit or duck?

On her blog at QueryTracker, YA author Mary Lindsey discusses how to handle rejection at arm’s length.  Her article is good on its own, but Lindsey references Hal Spacejock series author Simon Haynes’s post, “Rejection of the Literary Kind,” which is also worth a read.

As well, on his Web site, sci-fi writer, photographer and Web designer Jeremiah Tolbert offers an editor’s perspective on rejection.

To round out this area, over at Streetdirectory.com, award-winning romance and nonfiction author Dana Girard categorizes rejection into seven levels and suggests ways you can decode what each kind of rejection means in terms of your manuscript.

Tip #5: Commiserate

For those days when you feel like you’re the only person who sucks this bad, check out the following sites for a little misery-loves-company.

Want some company?

At Absolute Write Water Cooler, you can find several conversation threads where people share their rejections stories, but here’s a link to one where some poor schlubs compete for who got rejected the fastest. Can you beat 30 seconds?

If you’re looking for a gold mine in terms of rejection, bitterness and hilarity, check out Literary Rejections on Display.  The person running the blog—Writer, Rejected—actually says in the About Me profile, “I am a published, award-winning author of fiction and creative nonfiction—but whatever. In the eyes of many, I am still a literary reject.” Writer, Rejected posts his/her own rejection letters (as well as rejection letters sent in by others) and analyzes them—in a sane and fair way (usually).  There are several good posts, so definitely make time to poke around in the blog, but here is an example of a rejection analysis.

And here’s a cranky little rant by freelancer Chris Rodell titled “Reject Me, Please” over at his Media Bistro blog.  If you’re especially pissed off and cynical, this is the post for you.

PEP TALK

This last post (from Nathan Bransford’s blog by guest blogger Jon Gibbs) isn’t directly about getting rejection letters, but it discusses how we reject ourselves at times—how we make excuses for why we can’t do this and that.

Use this when you’re in need of a little pep talk, and it’s sure to snap you back to a state of sanity.

If you’re seeing the old lady, you definitely need a pep talk.

In the Blogosphere: 12/6-1/7

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m making one of my resolutions to be better with these blogosphere posts.  I’ve saved lots of great stuff, and it’s all definitely worth a read.

QUERY STUFF

The onset of January seems to signal the big “okay” in terms of opening the query floodgates after the usual holiday standstill.  With that in mind, here are some links to help you with your queries:

  • I recently found this Yahoo! Group dedicated to giving and receiving feedback exclusively on queries.
  • Here, former agent extraordinaire Nathan Bransford tells you how to write a query.

I ain't afraid 'a no procrastination!

PROCRASTINATION BUSTERS

The new year is also a time to buckle down, set some goals, and get back at it.

Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die can help you do just that.

As well, Christine Macdonald offers six tips to help you combat procrastination.

You know that whole multitasking thing you’re doing?  Here, Writing for Digital discusses how he’s thought multitasking has helped him—but he also mentions some studies that suggest it can work against creativity and productivity.  V. interesting!

One good way to be productive is to set a routine.  However, Dale Challener Roe over at Write Anything suggests you re-evaluate your regimen, to make sure you don’t get in a rut.

PICKY STUFF

As my writing group and crit partners know, I’m quick to point out unnecessary dialogue tags.  *Ahem—most of them are unnecessary.  When you *must* tag, however, it’s better to do so through an action sentence.

Not Enough Words and Simon C. Larter agree.  Thanks, guys!

To cliff hang (at the ends of chapters) or not to cliff hang? Ray Rhamey shares his thoughts over at Writer Unboxed.

Agent of awesome Mary Kole of Andrea Brown Literary Agency answers a reader’s question about scene and chapter length as well as where to break.

CHILD’S PLAY

Middle-grade novels are hot right now, and “boy books” are even more sought after by agents and editors.  Here, Kole discusses character and voice in MG boy books as well as touches on what author Hannah Moskowitz calls “The Boy Problem.”

Moving into more adult subjects in kids’ lit FinePrint Literary agent Suzie Townsend touches on violence while Kole talks about mature voices.

UNCLE NATHAN’S DEMYSTIFICATION

Um, how creepy was that section title?

I’ve got a lot of Nathan Bransford links saved.  Here are some faves:

  • Here, NB discusses publishers’ service packages are changing
  • Here, he explains the meaning of that mysterious term we hear all the time “high concept
  • Here, he tells us how to write a novel! (And he would know—he’s an author!)

DOs & DON’Ts

On her blog, author Jody Hedlund talks about self promo—without the eye-rolls.

Over at Pub Rants, Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary provides one more question authors should ask agents before signing the big representation contract.

At Everything 2, Antonio M. D’souza (aka digitalboy) lists the 10 commandments of bad writers.

AWESOME

This week, it was announced that a “politically correct” version of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is to be released.  A former student of mine, Dan Wilbur, runs the blog Better Book Titles, and here is his answer to that.

Have a great weekend, peeps!

In the Blogosphere: 10/19-10/22

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m admittedly behind with my Blogosphere posts—I have over 100 links saved, dating all the way back to the summer (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

At yingle yangle, in one of Paulo Campos’s awesome 20 questions installments, he offers 20 great main-character-shaping questions for you to ask your hero.

On her blog, author Janet Fitch gives 10 writing tips that can help writers of any genre.

Looking for markets to sell your writing?  Susan Johnston over at the Urban Muse suggests 8 alternatives to magazines.

If you’re looking to start a writers’ group, here are 7 questions Colorado writer Molly Anderson-Childers says you should ask yourself in her guest post over at the Guide to Literary Agents blog.

Here, made of awesome up-and-coming YA author Michelle Hodkin gives the 4-1-1 on 3 of what she calls the best industry blogs you may not be reading.

ASK AN AGENT

Here on her blog, author and D4EO agent Mandy Hubbard lays out the process of getting a book published from “the end” to book in hand.

Over at Kidlit.com, Andrea Brown lit agent Mary Kole talks boy protagonists in young adult lit.

On Rants & Ramblings, agent Rachelle Gardner dishes on what the author is responsible for paying . . . for.  (Yeah, there was no great way to write that.  Or, there *was*, but my still-stuffy brain couldn’t find it.)

A subject that seems to be on everyone’s minds lately: Querying a series.  Here, Linn Prentis of Linn Prentis Literary weighs in.

TIME MANAGEMENT

Think you’re busy?  Author Jody Hedlund offers suggestions on how a busy mom can make time to write.

Here’s an interview Andrea Zimmerman over at Babble did with hella-awesome author mom Jennifer Weiner.  It’s more about parenting than it is about writing, but it’s a fun read and good for all the author moms out there.

WILL YOU MARRY . . . I MEAN, QUERY ME?

Here, another GLA guest poster, author Christine Fonseca, gives her take on writing nonfiction book proposals.

Over at Aspiring Mama, Pauline M. Campos likens the query process to finding love.

WHAT YOU NEED TO SUCCEED

Here at Write for Your Life, writer Iain Broome answers the question many folks have asked: Do you need a degree in writing to be a good writer?

On his blog, the Bacharach Blog, Samuel B. Bacharach talks about the three must-haves for proactive leadership for any successful artist.

CONTEST!!

And . . . don’t forget to enter my “Scare Me in 1,000 Words or Less” contest—ends Sunday, Oct. 24, at 11:59 PM EST.  Click here for the details.

Have a great weekend, everybody! :)

In the Blogosphere: 9/12-9/17

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m admittedly behind with my Blogosphere posts—I have about 50 links saved, dating all the way back to June (oh noes!)—but they are all still worth a look.  I’ll catch up eventually, right?

GET WRITING!

My weekend plans fell through, so now I will be sitting at home [probably with all the lights on all weekend because this will be the first time I'm staying home alone at my house---how lame am I?] with my computer and my beagle.  Which, as much as I love them both, can also both be time sucks!  But I’m buzzing on my WIP right now and would LOVE to get to 30,000 words by Sunday.  It will be a bit of a challenge, but I’m up for it.

Adorable little baby time suck. And a bunch of crap she'd dragged out everywhere and was chewing up. (And my husband's foot.)

All-grown-up time suck. :)

That said, here are some resources—some of which I’ve used and some of which I haven’t yet but might have to employ this weekend, in order to get words written.

  • Write or Die—You can set your word count and your time goals, and this interface will get IN YOUR FACE [well, if you set it that way] until you reach your targets.
  • WriteRoom—This is for Mac users.  It’s a full-screen writing environment that rids you of the “clutter” of word processing programs.  [Referred to by The New York Times as the "ultimate spartan writing utopia."]

  • WordWatchers—This has been working for me this month—and this isn’t just shameless self-promotion, as a number of writers have been getting tremendous amounts of work done using this writing program.  It’s through The Write-Brained Network and, like its sister weight-loss program, is something each individual designs to fit his or her lifestyle.  All us Write-Brainiacs participating have set challenging goals, and while we haven’t all been hitting them each week [guilty!] we have been getting tons of work done. And, some people have finished entire projects or gotten over slumps, due to the prodding encouragement of others.

QUERYING & SUCH

Here, literary agent Jennifer Laughran busts publishing industry myths that most writers believe or have heard.

Yeah, but this is real, though.

Two takes on the 5 stages of querying:

  • The first, a guest post by writer Anne Gallagher on the Guide to Literary Agents blog
  • The second, by the inimitable Tahareh

When when those rejections come, Holen Mathews at GotYA offers some constructive questions you need to ask yourself.

SOCIAL MEDIA TIPPAGE

Social media got you down? [If you're Greyhaus Literary's Scott Eagan, then yes.] Author Jody Hedlund offers some advice on how to use it effectively without allowing it to take over your life—and writing time.

And here, Daily Writing Tips lists 40 Twitter hashtags for writers.

CRAFT

I was going through my saved posts for “In the Blogospheres” today and came across this little jobby, by Heather Trese at See Heather Write, on the importance of having a pitch . . .

. . . which goes hand in hand with the post I wrote this week on plot vs. situation.

It was really hard to narrow down which picture I found to be the chachiest. So I went with this one.

Here is a lovely post by Christina Mandelski over at Will Write for Cake wherein she discusses the importance of setting in a story.

And here, Writing for Digital talks about the value of a good editor.  One edit quite possibly changed the entire course of American history!

FANGIRL LOVE

I heart you, John Green.

I heart you, Meg Cabot. [the Allie Finkle #6, Blast from the Past, review she links to at the end of this post is MINE!]

PLUG!

Inky Fresh Press interviewed little ol’ me!

Grounding is important.

Happy weekend, everyone! Come harass me on the WB or Twitter and make sure I’m getting my words written!

Pointers from the Pros: Author Stephanie Feagan on Querying

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.

I spoke at the 30th annual Romance Writers of America conference in Orlando, Fla.  Although I couldn’t go to all the faboo sessions being offered, I took a ton of notes at the classes I was lucky enough to attend—and I’m sharing some of those tips with my lovely blog readers. (<—Thanks for being so fabulous, BTW!)

The first afternoon of the conference, I attended the PRO Retreat, which was stockpiled with talks by awesome agents, editors, and authors.  *ahem—Donald Maass much?*

Here is author Stephanie Feagan’s advice when it comes to querying and revising.

THE QUERY ITSELF

  • Get feedback on it from writer friends.
  • It doesn’t matter if you win awards. It’s nice, but if the agent doesn’t think she can sell your book, then it having won an award isn’t going to change that.
  • She says to keep track of queries—who you’ve sent them to, what they’ve requested, responses, etc.
    • It’s normal to not hear back from just a query, but it NOT normal not to hear back with partials and fulls.

Nice, but not always necessary.

WHERE TO START WHEN QUERYING

  • Absolute Write Water Cooler
    • This is the first place she went [the forums].
    • It has agents listed, and people write down their experiences with them.
    • You can get a feel for how agents work.
  • AgentQuery
    • Agents have their own accounts and can sign in and update it [in terms of submission guidelines and genre preferences].
  • Agency Web sites
    • Usually, the most up-to-date info for submissions is listed there.
  • Verla Kay’s Blue Boards
    • This is like Absolute Write Water Cooler
  • Literary Rambles
    • [Casey McCormick spotlights agents by compiling interviews/profiles done with them from all over the Web.]
  • Publisher’s Marketplace
    • [Weekly listings of what agents have sold.]
    • [You must pay to use this site.]
  • QueryTracker
    • [A site where you can actually submit your query to an agent and track your experiences with requests/rejections.]
    • [Or, you can just go in there and read the comments of others who've done this, to get a feel for agents response times, likes/dislikes, etc.]
  • WeBook
    • [Works like QT:] Put in query letter, and it sends it to the agent you want it to.
    • They charge for it now.
  • AAR [Association of Authors' Representatives]
    • It lists reputable agents and info about them.
    • [*However, it should be noted that just because an agent is NOT a member of AAR does NOT mean he or she is NOT reputable.]
    • It has a good list of questions to ask agents when you do get “the call,” [as well as many other helpful writer resources.]

DON’Ts

  • Don’t try the “throw-and-see-if-it-sticks approach” when querying.
    • [Where you query agents without researching them and make little changes to your MS, based on whatever feedback you can get your hands on.]
    • This  is desperate.
  • Don’t query multiple projects.
  • Don’t keep tweaking your manuscript.
    • If it’s ready to be out there, you should not keep revising.
    • Also, she says it’s much better just to scrap it rewrite the whole thing—that’s what she did.
      • This way, you don’t have to keep trying to shift around details to make it all “fit”—you’ve got a fresh palette.

Get a fresh start.

Want more? Here’s a post I did on How and Where to Find Literary Agents.

You Have a Question? I Have an Answer: What Do I Do When I’m Stuck in Query Hell?

“You Have a Question?  I Have an Answer” is a feature that answers real questions from real writers.

Q:  Hi Ricki,

I have written a book that has received the highest praise from readers all over the world. It even came first in the UKAuthors contest in the Historical category.

In the last 10 years, I have had two agents, both of whom were extremely impressed with my work but could not find a publisher for it. Now even agents shy away from it. I am not giving up hope nor will I stop plugging it. I am writing to ask if you can figure out why a work that garners so much praise should face constant rejection.

—E.J.

A: Thank you for your e-mail!

The (somewhat frustrating) answer is that it could simply be the subjective nature of this business.

We have heard it time and time again: not everything we write is publishable.  Particularly if it’s a first book.  As unsettling as that is to think or hear about one’s “baby,” it’s true.

However, you have a lot going in your favor on this one.  While I am not familiar with most of the reviewers you listed in your e-mail, you certainly do have a lot of them.  And they don’t seem to be your mom/your brother/your best friend since high school praising your book.  It seems you have a wide array of people who see the merit in it.

Another thing you have going for you is that you have had two agents.  Of course, I don’t know the circumstances of why you no longer have them or how long ago that was, but that in itself says you are a good writer—and certainly capable of getting an agent.  In an industry where it’s a painful process to even get one, you’ve had two.  So, you’re that much farther ahead of the game.

As I’m sure you know, getting an agent interested in your book and then getting a publishing house interested in it can be an arduous task because these people need to fall in love with your work—and love it as much as you do.  It could be that you just haven’t found that “right person” yet who “gets” your writing yet.

All that said, there are a couple of things you can do; however, unfortunately, none of them will offer immediate results (but as a writer, I’m sure you know that already).

YOUR OPTIONS

1.  Self-publish it. This isn’t the best option for everyone; however, depending on what you want to do with your career or how well you think you’d be able to sell your book on your own (for instance, if you do a lot of speaking engagements, you could peddle it at those, etc.), you might want to go that route.  If you sell a lot of books and build up your platform a bit, you might even have publishing companies approaching you to re-pub at one of their houses.  This is rare, but it does happen.

Just keep swimming . . .

2.  Keep doing what you’re doing: query, query, query. Look at where in the query process your book seems to be falling short.  Is it the query itself?  Is it after you send in a partial or a full?  Research the heck out of agents, and keep looking for that special (agent) someone who will connect with your manuscript.

3.  Appeal to others. Send the manuscript through a round of critiques with your critique group or a few of your trusted writer friends.  Have each person give you an overall critique, and perhaps give them a few things to be on the lookout for specifically (i.e., characterization, setting, etc.).  Take the feedback you’ve gotten in agent rejections as well as the criticism your crit partners offer and consider having another go at the editing before you query again.  Perhaps the manuscript wasn’t as “ready” as you thought.

4.  Put this manuscript away and write something else. This one makes a lot of sense, but it’s also one that no one wants to hear.  You’ve obviously proven you can write, so write something else and hook an agent with that manuscript instead.  Once you’ve shown you can deliver a marketable product, agents and editors are much more likely to be interested in something they might have shied away from at first.  I’m not saying to sell out or write to trends, but get your juices a-flowing with something else.  Getting your mind off the first one is most likely going to be a welcome distraction when you’re stuck in the depths of query hell.

Thank you very much for the question, and I wish you luck—however you decide to move forward.

Dante forgot to add writers to his ninth circle of hell in his INFERNO.

How and Where to Find Literary Agents

I’m not sure if there’s just something in the air besides all the pollen, but in the last week, several folks have asked me about how and where to find literary agents.  While I’ve only been querying a short time and while I’m not represented yet, I’ve had some encouraging results from querying some folks I’ve found using the following resources—and I’m happy to share!

RESOURCE 1: GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS

The first place I go to find an agent is Guide to Literary Agents (F+W Media) or the Guide to Literary Agents’ blog.  The printed publication is a goldmine in terms of all things agent and query-related, as it offers several helpful articles at the beginning and lists just about every agent and agency under the sun, categorizing them in a number of ways.

The blog features “Agent Advice” interviews, which are especially useful in deciding whom to weed out of my query pool and whom to query (and—bonus—some of the interviews are by moi!).  After I indulge in a bit of narcissism, I focus on some of the blog’s other features that offer great insight as far as agents’ preferences of genre and submission guidelines: “How I Got My Agent,” “Successful Queries,” and “New Agency Alerts.”

RESOURCE 2: AGENTQUERY

I also use AgentQuery—it’s a huge database, where you can do basic or advanced searches (by genre, agency, agent, etc.).  The profiles matching your search criteria often list what areas the agents seek, personal preferences, clients of theirs, links to Web sites and interviews featuring the agents, and sometimes even recent sales.

RESOURCES 3 & 4: QUERYTRACKER & ABSOLUTE WRITE WATER COOLER

QueryTracker is another database that does a lot of the same things as AgentQuery; however, it offers something AQ does not: queriers’ comments.

While it’s not perfect information, it gives one a sense of the agent’s response times, which sometimes differ greatly from what their agency Web sites denote.  Of course, when reading these messages, I take them for what they’re worth.  For the most part, though, the comments are informational—it’s not folks griping about being rejected.

For instance, someone will note the date they queried.  Then, they’ll come back and note the date of their rejection, sometimes whether or not it was a form rejection, the date of their requests, etc.

Absolute Write Water Cooler is good for this as well, but not all agents are in there because it’s a forum, not a database.  I don’t use AWWC as much as the AQ and QT, but if someone requests material from me, I like to dig a little deeper.

Ooh - is that my dream agent I see?

RESOURCE 5: AGENCY WEB SITES AND/OR AGENT BLOGS

While AQ and QT offer lots of great information about agents, the trouble with these sites is that the information isn’t always 100% accurate.  I just don’t think every agent updates his profile often enough.  It doesn’t happen frequently, but on occasion when I’ve used an AQ or QT profile for writing agent interview questions, the agent will come back with: “I don’t rep (insert an area of fiction or nonfiction here).”

That’s why, for the most up-to-date information, I rely on an agent’s bio on his agency Web site or posts he’s written on the subject on an industry blog.  It’s true—not all agencies have sites and not all agents blog—but a good number of them do, and it would behoove you to find out before you send that query.

RESOURCE 6: GOOGLE

Sorry, Bing—I’m just not on board yet.  But, be sure to do whatever kind of Internet search floats your boat.

You can find interviews, profiles—all kinds of info to help you craft a query that will connect with a specific agent—through simple name searches.  (It sometimes helps to add “literary agent” after the name.)

 

Research is not that hard, people.

DO I EVER GET TO QUERY?

After I’ve done all that, if I feel like the agent might be interested in what I write, then—yes—I write the query and send it on its merry way.

You Have a Question? I Have an Answer: To Query or Not to Query

“You Have a Question?  I Have an Answer” is a feature that answers real questions from real writers.

Q: Does my novel need to be complete when submitting a query to an agent? If not, how close does it need to be to completion?

–E.L.

A: Thanks for the question!

Yes. Yes! YES!

No, I’m not reenacting the deli scene from When Harry Met Sally; I’m saying what every literary agent in the world is thinking with regard to completion of a manuscript and querying.

You absolutely need to complete your novel before querying agents; not doing so could lead to big trouble.

HERE’S WHY

If you’re not currently finished writing your manuscript, that means you’ve got a ways to go in terms of rewriting.

While there’s no hard and fast rule as far as how many times one must rewrite her manuscript, if you haven’t taken an ax to it at least twice since first writing the words “the end”—twice at the very least—then your manuscript isn’t ready.

Agents want your work to be as close to perfect as possible.  If they are going to invest the time to read your manuscript, they want to know you’ve invested the time to edit it.  If you haven’t, they’ll be able to tell—and you’re just asking to be rejected.

Rule of thumb (according to pretty much everyone): If you aren’t sick to death of your novel, you aren’t ready to query.

Get it out, baby.

Now, if you are rewriting and you know exactly where you’re going with the editing (and, perhaps, you’re just getting antsy because you’re sick to death of your novel), you still aren’t ready to query.

The reason being, what if you do so and an agent asks for a partial? Or—gasp!—a full?  Stranger things have happened.

If you have to write back with, “Just kidding!  It’s not finished!  Glad you’re interested, though.  I’ll send it when I’m done,” they’ll more than likely respond with, “Just kidding!  I’m not interested! Don’t bother querying again!”

That is, if they respond at all.

BOTTOM LINE

Agents have very little time, and if you’ve hooked them with your query, you have a microscopic window of opportunity to sell them on your work.  They want to know you can finish a novel, because that shows you are professional and capable.  If an agent is interested in your work and then discovers you queried before you completed it, she might feel betrayed—or, at the very least, annoyed.

SO…

Demonstrate you’ve got what it takes to follow through by writing and rewriting (and rewriting and rewriting)—then query.  That way, you’ll be sending out the best possible representation of your work, and you won’t burn any bridges.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 32 other followers

%d bloggers like this: