Category Archives: agent search

Secret to the Perfect Query

…don’t you wish there was one?

Here’s what you need to know: there’s no such thing as a perfect anything, especially when it comes to art and writing. The beauty of art is that it’s personal expression, and the downfall of art is that it’s personal expression. As much as you like it, there will always be people who think it can be improved. You put your love, sweat, tears, midnight-coffee-runs, tendonitis-flare-ups, and more into your books to make them as “perfect” as they can be.

Once your books has gone through proper revisions, drafts, and critique groups, you are ready to start the publishing process. This is much harder than it seems. Your lovely, full-length novel must now be compressed into 300 words or less! It sucks, it’s hard, and it’s doable. Remember: as great as your book is, the next task is to get someone to buy it. If you decide to go the agent route, that means a query letter.

A perfect query is the writer’s dream, but what you really need is a query that does its job well. You need an agent to: get hooked into your idea, understand the story, knows the important characters, and know a little about you, the author. Now, while there may not be a “perfect” query, there is a formula YOU MUST FOLLOW. I don’t care how awesome and creative you are, an agent’s job is to sell your book, not be entertained with a new version of a query. Make an agent’s life easier and get the attention your book deserves!

Basic query structure (Whole query is 300 words or less):

  1. Dear (AGENT): Personalized reason why this person will love your book. Keep it brief, always use the agent’s name unless querying an entire agency (which does happen) 1-2 sentences will show them you did your research about the agent/agency and also gets to the good stuff faster!
  2. Paragraphs 1-2: Hook the agent and give a brief summary of the events in your book. Don’t give away major plot points, but don’t be so vague no one knows what your story is about. Think of the back of a book cover you read at the library to figure out if the book interests you or not. Keep this under 200 words.
  3. The genre and word count of your book. Round the word count. Don’t be “that person.” If your book is 58, 432 words, you can say 58,500.
  4. Your Bio: Only put down things RELEVANT TO WRITING. Put down: other publications (magazines, short story contests, book talks, and other novel publications all count.) If you haven’t published, it’s okay to say that versus using unnecessary filler information. If you are write paranormal romance but you’re also an aspiring gardener who loves cross-breeding tomato plants, guess which factoid is worth mentioning? Unless your profession/serious hobby is relevant to your book do not fill space. If you haven’t published, that means your writing bio is: “This is my first novel.” Boom. Done.

(The examples and resources at the end of this blog do a much more in depth version of this)

I have been through countless drafts of my query for a couple years and it’s always changing. I’m lucky to be part of several groups that help with queries and other aspects of writing and critiquing. If you write anything from PB-YA, join the Society for Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators (www.scbwi.org) It’s an invaluable resource.

Seeking help, reading examples, and being open to throwing out what you have and starting over is crazy-making, but all part of the process. Writing a query is one of the hardest things you will have to write, but a good letter with the right balance of hook, summary, intrigue, and characters can get you on the path to publication.

Great sources for guidelines and examples:

Agent Query

Writer’s Digest

Fun Examples

Writer’s Market Books

Agencies: Many literary agencies have examples and guidelines on their websites. Great resource, especially if you want that agency to represent you.

Have you used other resources for writing query letters? Please comment and share!

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Filed under agent search, Editing, query, Rejection, struggling, Uncategorized, word count, writing

Too Many Ideas

I have a stupid problem: I have too many ideas for books.

Before you cuss me out or throw things, think about it this way: I have ideas, but that doesn’t mean I have a book. Sometimes I start writing all excited, then I get to page 11 and I’m like “well, that was fun, what happens next??? Oh right, I don’t know.”

I’m having a hard time focusing on one project. I have my trilogy, but I’m also inspired to work on another MS. However, I also really want to get published so I should edit that first book in the trilogy. Oh, but what about this cool idea. I should write that first. (And so on.) It’s strangely frustrating. It’s nice having options since I can’t write without being inspired, however I want to work on editing my trilogy versus starting another book.

Again, it’s a stupid problem.

Part of the issue I think is that I’ve spent so much time editing the first book in the trilogy I’m getting sick of it. I’ve queried but I’m taking a break to get some feedback on the opening and work on the synopsis. I think it’s improved, but i don’t want to burn out all of the agents I want to query before it’s where it should be. I have the query, it’s solid, but I don’t want to keep sending it out if the material still needs a little extra something.

I want to be motivated to edit this trilogy since I have a history of abandoning projects. I’m so far down the road I know I won’t abandon it, however it’s been a while since I’ve looked at it. Every time I try to edit I keep skimming and getting nothing done. I’m waiting to hear from one more person on the book, hopefully then I’ll have enough feedback to put in the final touches and start sending it out again.

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Filed under agent search, Editing, ideas, Uncategorized, writing

Contract Offer…Yay?

Today I received my very first contract from a publisher! Woo Hoo!!!

Stop. Read. Think. Re-read. Research.

I am new to contracts, so even though I may not be clear on every detail of the contract, I know to take a step back, understand what I can, and research the rest. The contract came from Black Rose Writing (BRW), and unfortunately their reputation does not make me optimistic. Most of the articles I found online are at least 5-8 years old, so the publisher has changed since then. However, it’s unsettling to read the unsavory reviews of a publisher who sent a contract.

They are not asking for money upfront, insisting I buy X number of books (as they once did), but I’m still hesitant. I’ve reached out to an author published through them to get an author’s experience of the publisher today. I’ve also reached out to SCBWI, my friend who writes and reviews contracts, and other authors in my critique groups for advice. It’s tempting to say “I did it” and sign away, although if BRW is a vanity publisher it’s about as exciting as getting a participation trophy at a sports event.

ABOVE WRITTEN FEB 14

Today I have heard back from several trusted people about BRW. Most people I have talked to are also skeptical and want to know more. This uneasy response has confirmed that I will not be choosing BRW as my  publisher.

The joy of getting a contract has worn off and disappointment has settled in, but I am glad for it. It’s important to do the research and tap into resources. I talked to a librarian today and she knew of another indie publisher in IL that is small but produces quality work. I will check them out. As a new author, using a small publishing house is a great way to get published and start the process of getting known. BRW, however, boarders the line of vanity press and requires the author to do most of the marketing. At least that is the vibe I get from the contract and website.

For those of you new to publishing who are afraid of getting targeted by vanity publishers, here are some things to look out for:

  1. A reputable publisher WILL NOT ask you to pay money upfront. If someone offers you a contract and requires you to pay a fee, buy a certain number of books, or pay for marketing services: run.
  2. Weird typos. Publishers like words and order and professionalism. Having a stupid typo in a contract is a scary sign. BRW had two: 31 of February, and Witnesseth.
  3. If you contact the press and they can’t say anything specific about why they chose you, it probably means they didn’t read the MS. You want someone who loves your work, not your wallet.
  4. Vanity and Subsidy press is the same thing. Both will prey on authors and try to get money from them. A publisher is supposed to support YOU, not the other way around.
  5. More info about staying safe and informed below.

RESOURCES

  1. http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/vanity/
  2. http://theworldsgreatestbook.com/self-publishing-vanity-publishing/

If you have experience with author contracts, what to look for, and how to stay informed, please comment below. I too have a lot to learn, and sharing helpful information unites us as a writing community.

 

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Filed under agent search, contract, query, questions, Set Backs, subsidy press, vanity press, writing

Death to Synopses

Ok, everyone knows writing query letters take time, energy, tears, editing, and more tears. However, a synopsis is perhaps the worst thing I’ve ever had to write.

The query has its own cute little synopsis built right in to get your attention and catch your interest. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a long synopsis that lists every major event, main characters, and all the plot twists. As an agent, I’d love to have that to know what’s coming without reading 10 books a day. As a writer I want to strangle my computer.

The problem with synopsis is not giving away all the juicy secrets, it’s the total lack of formula. Finding an example query is not too hard. Most agency websites have them, most Google searches can help you out, but a synopsis can be anywhere from 1 page to 50 pages depending on what the agent wants. It’s even more infuriating when the agent doesn’t say how long the synopsis should be! Rant rant rant rant rant etc.

Thank you for listening to my frustrated brain. I’ve tried looking around for help from my SCBWI stranger/friends, but I’ve come up dry. They’ve been instrumental in helping craft my query and MS, but they too seem to have different ideas of what a synopsis is. Some people thought I meant query letter with the baby synopsis. Nope. Some people thought the synopsis was an old practice. *sigh* Nope. One person read my synopsis and gave me their opinion on what they think I should be focusing on. Umm….nope, but thanks for the second guessing?

It’s very frustrating and concerning. My query has gotten a couple agents interested and I want my synopsis to do the same. There are people I want to send my MS to who also want a synopsis, but I’m afraid of sending the “wrong” synopsis and then have them brush me off as someone who didn’t read the directions. I like directions. I will follow them to the end of time. I promise, agent-who-may-read-this-some-day, I don’t want to flood your inbox with spam!

Anyway, my current synopsis is 500 words (ish) with all the juicy secrets, about 4 characters worth mentioning, and maybe some kind of flow (but not likely.) I’d like to find a way to improve my brain fart of a book summary. Please, does anyone have a great source of where to find good example fiction queries?

I appreciate you taking the time to read this. I like to be helpful when I can in my blog, but right now I’m at a complete loss.

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No.

My list of 75 agents is growing smaller and smaller. I didn’t realize how many agencies have a policy where “A no from one of us is a no from all of us.” I have to trust they actually shared my query with their co-workers, otherwise I may have missed a chance. Two agencies have said no, and I was hoping to query about 8 people I now can’t because of this policy.

My heart is racing. I turned on some fun music to pump myself up today, and I finished 4 queries. My query letter is good and my MS has been edited about 4 times so I hope it’s ok. I don’t want to exhaust my options. Again. I know it’s all part of the process, but it’s still disheartening.

Two weeks ago when I had a MS request was the most excited I’ve been in a long time. The no from that was hard, but not as hard as it could have been since I prepared for it. Yet, with each query sent I feel rejection is inevitable. It’s hard to get out of this funk. Self-publishing is not an option for this book so I have to hope an agent likes it.

If I go through all my agents, then what? This question has been plaguing me since the first rejection. I’ve been through this before, but my skin is not as tough as I thought it was. Do I start a new project? Do I push harder for this one? Do I, I dunno, troll Facebook for answers? I want to be optimistic but having a back up plan would help me a lot. Anyone have some good advice? Anyone been through this funk before? Wisdom welcome!!!

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Querying Literary Agents

It’s time. I feel confident in my MS “The King’s School” and I think it’s time to start working on querying. Today I made a list of 56 agents and agencies to consider. I found the agents at the website http://www.agentquery.com which is a legit and important website. I also found agents in the 2016 Writer’s Market book which is a good resource for writers to find agents and get tips on publishing, blogging, and more.

This is the third book I’m querying and I hope this one has the charm! Searching for agents is easy, but making sure you query the right agent is important. I like agentquery.com since you can narrow down the list of agents based on the target audience and genre. For example, when I search I click “Middle Grade” and “Fantasy” to get a narrowed list of agents. However, it’s important to read what the agent is looking for in case agentquery.com missed something. It’s also important to check in at least 2 places that the agent is: still working for the same company, is a real agent, is not trying to scam you, and is still accepting submissions. Sometimes an agent wants what you wrote, but they don’t accept unsolicited MSs (i.e. they need someone in the business to tell them it’s worth reading.) Places to double check agents is: agentquery.com, the agency website, and Writer’s Market. If an agent asks for money to read your MS it’s a scam. NEVER give someone money to consider your work.

Even though I’ve done this before it’s daunting how many people there are to consider. My list is narrowed down from HUNDREDS of agents, and narrowing down is important. You can’t query an agent who isn’t looking for your genre because they won’t even read it. Make sure you know each person you query, follow the guidelines for submitting, and add a couple sentences at the start of your query specific to the person you query. Agents like people who do their homework, it shows you care about the business and have a case to show they need to read your MS.

Take time searching for agents. It’s not something you want to rush, and be persistent. The business of writing comes with many rejections. If an agent takes the time to write you back, read their comments seriously. It’s amazing what you can learn from a rejection letter. You may find it’s not the writing, but the agent thinks it will be hard to sell your book since the topic is not “in” currently. You may find the query letter gave you a bad impression, or something else. Not every agent responds to queries, so when they do listen. They want to find the next great book, they aren’t here to hurt your feelings.

Need help getting started? Make a chart! Have the categories: AGENCY, AGENT, COMMENTS, DATE QUERIED, DATE REJECTED, DATE ACCEPTED to keep track of who you queried.

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The Agent Search

Today I spent a couple of hours on agentquery.com searching for potential agents for the next book, Charley’s Dragons. The hardest thing for me with this book is deciding the genre. It falls under New Adult fiction–that awkward balance between adults and teens–and has elements of fantasy although it is not a fantasy genre story. Finding the genre is obviously important in order to match with an agent. I eventually decided that CD is commercial fiction with fantasy elements and some women’s fiction issues. While I hate the term Commercial Fiction, it does fit what my story is the best. CD is written with heavy topics but in accessible language. I do not like to hide meaning with complex words and syntax. I want the reader to be able to engage with the story without worrying about what is going on.

So after clicking around, I read the profiles of about 115 agents to see if any of them would be the right fit. I like agentquery since agents are able to put down specifics of what they want and what their agency wants. Many of the agents had specific genres they wanted and sometimes they did not fit with my work. I also had to read carefully to double check that they were accepting queries and that they were not suddenly excluding certain genres.

Out of the agents I researched I chose 72. Out of those there are 2 or 3 I think would really like CD. Some of the agents I chose did not have any specifics of what they want/don’t want so I will need to look into them more. Others I took a risk with. Some of them do not want to represent fantasy, but everything else they wrote about fit with CD. I think I will end up querying them in hopes that they see that the fantasy in CD is based on a child’s hallucinations and not on a “real” fantasy world.

Every agent on my list I will need to re-visit on their agent pages and agency pages. I need to be sure that they are still accepting queries and to double check that they are still at the same agency! Sometimes people leave for whatever reason. I need to be sure I’m querying someone who will be available to read my MS. It is also necessary to see what each agent likes. I want to personalize my queries so that the agent knows I did my research. If they respect me taking the time to research them, then they should take the time to read my query.

My query letter is coming along. I’m not sure I’m going to send it out just yet. I want to be sure I am saying what I need to say but still keeping it to a page. Describing a whole book in 300 words is tricky. I will continue to adjust the query letter and maybe trim down the agent list. I am expecting to query at least 50 of these people. I’m preparing myself for a lot of rejection, but I know that’s part of the agent game. I am sure I will find an agent eventually. I am looking for constructive criticism from agents to improve what I have. I know CD is a good story, I just need to find the right representative.

Has anyone had any luck or difficulties with agents? I would love to hear about it! I know I self-published since I was frustrated the first time with The Healing Pool. Any comments/advice/etc. welcome here.

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