Archive for the ‘finding an agent’ Category

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Great inspirational story

May 4, 2010

Manuscript update: I’m at 8,937 words, 1,723 words more than my last post, which was five days ago, so I’m way below my goal of 1,025 words a day. Sigh. To be finished by the end of this month, I have to write 1,150 a days. Don’t know that that’s going to happen, but we’ll see.

I don’t want to seem like I’m harping on rejections after my post “Dealing with rejections” from last week, but in my continued agent research for my completed and edited book (not the one I’m currently writing), I came across a wonderfully inspirational story and wanted to share.

On her blog, Aprilynne Pike, author of New York Times #1 bestseller Wings, talks about her journey to signing with agent Jodi Reamer, of Writers House and the agent of Twilight author Stephenie Meyer. (Click for the full post here, but I’ll give you some highlights.

Aprilynne said she reached triple-digit rejections for her book:

“I had sent this sucker to every agent who might possibly be interested in representing fantasy,” she says.

In that time, she had received two requests for the full and both of them had been out for two months. All the rest were rejections.

Aprilynne doesn’t say if she ever felt frustrated or like giving up. Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t.

But what she does show in this post is how much she believed in herself and her book.

After receiving so many rejections, Aprilynne took out an old critique of her manuscript and spent two months polishing it until she thought it was perfect. She then sent it out again.

In her words:

“But I tried to be hopeful. I did get rejections, and this time it was hard. I really felt them, even if it was just those first five pages. But I had a couple of bites and was happy about that.”

A few months later, she got an email from Jodi, and … well, the rest is history.

There are two takeaways here:

First: Polish your manuscript until it is perfect. That will get you an agent.

Second: Never give up. If Aprilynne had given up after her first round of triple-digit rejections, she never would have become the New York Times best-selling author she is today. Aprilynne’s Wings is scheduled to be made into a movie by Disney, and the sequel novel, Spells, was released today. Wings also was in Publishers Weekly’s top-selling book list.

I love this story, and get so much inspiration from it.

What’s your favorite inspirational writing story?

Write On!

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Dealing with rejection

April 25, 2010

Manuscript update: I’m at 4,276 words and need to write 1,000 words a day to make my goal of finishing by the end of May. Onward…

I’m catching up on some blog reading — when I should be working on that 1,000 words for my book — and I found Cec Murphy‘s first two posts in a serious about rejection.

I’m  in query mode right now with my second novel — and trying, unsuccessfully, not to think about it as I move onto my next book. Although I’ve received a request for the book and am still waiting for responses, rejections are hard and can double, triple the doubts that already plague most writers’ minds.

So, I thought it was great to see Cec’s posts today, part 1 explaining that a writer will receive many rejections during his or her career, and part 2 explaining that a rejection is about one particular work and not personal.

After I received a rejection in the mail the other day, my fifth, I remembered that a friend of mine who’s a New York Time best-selling author received 25 rejections before she got her first agent. And there are so many stories about best-selling writers, including J.K. Rowling, who received numerous rejections before someone took a chance on them and, well, you know the results.

Like Cec says in his first rejection post, rejections are a writers’ badge of courage. Don’t let them get you down. Let them push you on. Wear your badges of courage with pride by digging in deep to your next novel and never giving up.

Write On!

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Agent Sara Crowe on finding the right agent

February 28, 2010

Revision update: Got three chapters done today. On chapter 26 of 30. My goal was to finish by tomorrow and I don’t think that will happen. Sigh. But I’ll finish it next week.

Harvey Klinger Agency agent Sara Crowe

Sara Crowe

This is my fifth and final post from the awesome Houston SCBWI conference. If you missed my earlier reports, Simon & Schuster editor Alexandra Cooper talks about submitting to an editor, including herself; Scholastic editor and author Lisa Ann Sandell talks about making your query letter package stand out; Balzer & Bray editor Ruta Rimas talks about what makes a great book; and National Geographic Children’s Books editor-in-chief Nancy Feresten talks about the future of publishing.

Today I’m featuring lovely agent Sara Crowe, who’s with the Harvey Klinger Agency. Sara gave  a presentation called “Hitching Your Star to the Right Agent,” and said, “I do believe that there is a right agent for you, just like there is a right editor and a right house.”

She said that although rejections are difficult to take, writing is subjective, especially fiction. “Not everyone is going to love everything,” she said. (Good thing to keep in mind when you get a “this isn’t for us” letter.)

The matchmaking begins with the query letter, and Sara advised to be courteous, professional but persistant. (More good advice.) And she said to make sure the description of the book shows everything that is original and true about it. (Great advice!)

She also passed on some great advice she had picked up in her favorite writing book, Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird: Before you write a query letter, focus on being a great writer. (I’ve read this book and can attest to how wonderful it is.)

On the subject of searching for the right agent, Sara said research them online and find out as much as you can about them. You should want to work with them before you query, she said. And when you’re researching, consider these things:

  • What books the agent has sold;
  • What kind of agency it is and whether you want to be with a big agency or small agency; and
  • The agent’s experience and reputation with other writers.

After you’ve been offered representation:

  • make sure the agent is passionate about your book; and
  • have an open conversation about expectations, communication style, etc.

“There are so few instant successes that you need someone who really loves your book so they stick with you,” Sara said.

As for whether agents should edit, Sara said she loves going back and forth with writers to make the book perfect before it’s sent out and said she won’t send out anything that isn’t polished. She said that especially today, editors can’t take on a book that’s not completely polished because of the amount of work they have to do. That said, she explained that she generally looks at big picture changes, like plot and character, and leaves smaller changes to the editor.

“Revision’s a constant in this business, so embrace it. It never goes away,” she said.

An agent will also be the author’s negotiator for the best deal and general advocate for the whole process. Because of that, you must make sure your agent is someone you can trust.

For her own list, Sara said she represents mainly young adult but she likes middle grade too. She does fewer picture books, but she likes high-concept picture books.

Great advice. And it mirrored what agents Nathan Bransford and Andrea Cascardi said at the Austin SCBWI conference.

What do you think of what Sara said? Got any other tips?

Write On!

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Nathan Bransford on finding the agent who’s right for you

February 4, 2010

Day four in my reports from the Austin SCBWI conference, and today I’m featuring Curtis Brown literary agent Nathan Bransford. But first a recap of days one through three in case you missed them: agent Mark McVeigh on publishing, agent Andrea Cascardi on getting and working with an agent, editor Cheryl Klein on writing a great book.

And now onto Nathan Bransford. You’ve probably already heard of Nathan, one of the best known literary agents around because of his much read blog. If you haven’t read it, go there — after you’ve read this, of course — and bookmark it, add it to your Google Reader or whatever.

Now, before you read Nathan’s blog and whip off an email to him with all the details of your book, note that he said he likes the title he gave his presentation — Finding the agent who’s right for you — because it suggests there should be an element of deliberation and patience in an agent search.

He said that while writers are writing their book, they should take some time for what he called “productive procrastination,” during which they find out everything they can about different agents.

When looking for agents, he offered up some red flags that should make writers run in the other direction:

  • an agent who charges for representing you.
  • an agent who offers you representation just off a query without looking at your full work or talking to you.

He also said not to dismiss young agents, because they’re motivated and might take on projects that need polishing when busier agents might not.

To find agents, he suggested the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) website and AgentQuery.com.

For the query, Nathan said he knows they’re hard to write. He wrote one when he was looking for an agent for his own book (yep, he wrote a middle-grade space adventure and it has sold to Dial Books for Young Readers). Even though he’s an agent, Nathan wanted someone else to handle his own work, and he ended up signing with an agent he didn’t know before, so the query letter helped.

His query tips were:

  • The most important thing is conveying the story arc.
  • Personalize the query. It’s not about sucking up, he said; it’s about showing the agent you’ve chosen them. And he said he thinks that someone who takes the time to personalize the query is someone who’ll work on their own book.
  • The query should be one page, around 250 words.
  • Use proper formating, which you can find on his blog and many other places online.

Signing with the right agent “is the most important decision you’re going to make as a writer,” he said, advising writers to take the time to get to know agents before they sign with one.

After an agent offers representation, talk to them about their agenting style, what expenses they’ll charge (no fee, just incidentals such as copying, etc., and only after they’ve made money for you), how often they get in touch with their clients, how they see your career going, how long their response time is, and anything else you’d like to know.

Once you’ve signed with an agent, trust them because your interests are aligned, he said. But, don’t feel as though you always have to agree.

On the issue of agents editing work before it’s sent out to editors, Nathan pointed out that it’s so hard to get a book through the editorial process nowadays that it has to be really ready before it goes out. Nathan said he was an editorial agent (one who edits their clients’ work before it goes out to editors) before he started to write his own books. But, he said, he never tries to impose his own vision on a project; it’s all about making the author’s work the best that it can be.

As for whether writers should bypass agents altogether and send their work directly to editors, he cautioned against it because of the state of the industry. Most editors won’t accept work from unagented writers. He said, however, that very specialized books or book proposals can go straight to editors. When in doubt, he said, start with agents.

Tomorrow, writing and revising with author/former editor Lisa Graff.

Write On!

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Andrea Cascardi on getting an agent

February 2, 2010
Andrea Cascardi

Andrea Cascardi

Day two of my reports from the Austin SCBWI conference, and here’s what literary agent Andrea Cascardi from the Transatlantic Literary Agency had to say about getting and working with an agent.

Like fellow speaker Mark McVeigh, Andrea was an editor before she became an agent. She worked in editorial at Houghton Mifflin, Scholastic, Crown/Random House, Hyperion and Knopf. Some of the authors she is now the agent for are Shana Burg and Christine Ford,

As an agent, Andrea said that each author/agent relationship is unique. Agents and authors each have different personalities, tastes, etc., and because of that, authors and agents need to find the person who will be a good match, so they can work together productively for the long term.

Before authors submit to an agent, they should decide what kind of agency they want to be with. Andrea said writers should consider whether they want to be with a big agency or a small boutique, whether they want an agent who likes to communicate by phone or texting, the agent’s experience, whether the agent likes to edit, and what kind of sales the agent has had.

Once writers have decided what kind of agent they want, they can research the agents online, look at blogs and/or Twitter feeds, interviews and deals on Publishers Marketplace.

Andrea also warned that both the agent and author should be passionate about what they’re doing, because in the publishing industry, lows can be extremely low and highs stratospheric. The agent helps the author through both.

She explained that agents are the advocate of their client always, whereas an editor must straddle the needs of the author and the publishing house.

Because of that, authors should trust their agents, because agents have the big picture knowledge of the industry.

With their agent, Andrea said, writers should:

  • Form a plan for submission of the manuscript.
  • Be well informed about contracts.
  • Give agents a heads up before sending in a finished manuscript so the agents can plan.

Honesty is the best policy when working with agents, Andrea said, and if a writer isn’t happy with his or her agent, he or she should talk to the agent about the problems.

Stay positive but realistic, she said.

Great advice.

I talked to Andrea at the conference, and she graciously said she would do an interview or guest post for Day By Day Writer. So, stay tuned for that.

Come back tomorrow to see what Arthur Levine Books editor Cheryl Klein had to say at the conference.

Write On!

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Critique like you mean it

January 22, 2010

Manuscript update: Three fellow writers have very graciously agreed to read my latest revision, which I finished yesterday. Thank you, to them. Once they’re done, I’ll do one more read-through, going through their notes and fixing anything else I see, then I think it will be ready to send out. So next week’s goal will be to get a good query letter written.

I’ve written before about the benefits of being part of a critique group. There’s the camaraderie, the support in an otherwise lonely activity, the comfort in being with others in the same boat as you, and, of course, there’s the critique itself.

That last one is the most important benefit of a critique group, but only if the members are really critiquing.

Good critiquing is priceless, but good critiquing isn’t always pretty. By that, I don’t mean writers should be nasty about their criticism. We all want to strive for constructive criticism. But what I mean is that identifying flaws is a part of good critiquing.

Andrea Brown Literary agent Mary Kole has a great post on her Kidlit.com blog today about the need to grow a thicker skin. She points out that some critique groups meet only to hear how wonderful each others’ writing is. I like to hear good news as much as the next guy, but as Kole says, no one learns if they’re not told what they have to work on.

Now, sure, some critique group members are going to have less experience than others and might not be able to pick up on problems as easily as more experienced members. But that’s why it’s good to be in a critique group with members with all different levels of experience.

But even less experienced writers are readers — or should be if they’re writing books — and as readers, they should be able to contribute criticism as much as any book fan.

The important thing is that critiquers critique. If you’re part of a critique group, you’re making a pact to help others make their writing better, and to do that, you have to point out where they’re going wrong. If you don’t, you’re wasting their time and yours.

On the part of the critiquee, it’s important to just listen and write notes when getting your critique. Don’t let emotion, pride, stop you from listening. And don’t let emotion let you take the critiques for anything other than what they are: someone else’s opinion. Some of the notes you get are going to help you make your work better, some won’t. As the creator of the work, you can make the decision of which is which when you go over your notes later.

It’s always tough to hear people criticize your work, but without that criticism — constructive criticism — your work will never get better. No writer can see every flaw in their own work by themselves — that’s why there are editors. And if an unpublished writer can’t listen to the opinions of others, digest them and figure out which will make their work better, they’re going to have a hard time being published, because published writers work side by side with editors — who give their own educated, knowledgeable, experienced criticisms.

Oh, and by the way, when I say that critiquers are doing their job when they point out the flaws, I don’t mean critiquers shouldn’t point out the good parts too. We all need encouragement as much as we need to know how to improve. The best critiquers are those who can find both good and bad things to say about another’s work, and saying the good first is always a great way to help someone grow.

Got any other critiquing tips? Tell us in the comments.

Also, I’ve had some great questions about ghostwriting submitted for my interview with writer Laura Cross. If you haven’t entered one yet, check out my ghostwriting post for the details and enter your question for a chance to win a PDF copy of Laura’s book, Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent: Everything You Need to Know to Become Successfully Published.

Write On!

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Submitting to an agent and/or editor

November 1, 2009

First, good luck to all you NaNoWriMo participants starting your 50K novels today. I’m revising, so I’ll be participating in spirit, with some revision work done every day. But my best wishes go out to those of your who signed up. Good luck!

Now on to the regularly scheduled blog post:

Number three in my blog posts about the North Texas SCBWI conference I attended on Oct. 24. Today, I’ve got notes from Dutton Children’s Books editor Lisa Yoskowitz and Foundry Literary + Media agent Lisa Grubka, both of whom were really great.

Few pointers from Lisa Y on submitting to an editor:

  • Submit in accordance with publishing house’s guidelines
  • Address to Acquisitions Editor or Query Editor. But, IF (and only if) you’ve researched a particular editor’s body of work and you feel your book is right for them, it’s ok to address to them, and in your query, explain why
  • Economy of words – just like in your book, make sure every word counts in your query.

That last one was echoed by Lisa G, who stressed, “You only have one page [for the query]. Make it count.”

She also told attendees to submit in accordance to agents’ guidelines, and to personalize the query; research the agent and explain why you’re sending to that agent. She said that good writing will come across in a good query, and she encouraged writers to, like they do with their manuscripts, put their query letters away from a while after they’ve written them so they can revise and make them the best they can possibly be.

Even the best query can take time to get through the system, of course, and Lisa G said the busiest times of the year for agents are January through May and September through December. The summer, although still busy, is considered the slow time. So, consider this when sending your query. Don’t wait to send out your query if you’re ready and it’s in a busy time, just be patient and know that if you don’t hear back immediately, it’s just the workload.

Lisa Y said for editors, they’re busy year-round — especially in today’s economy, with fewer people doing more — but they generally have four slower weeks in each quarter, but they vary.

As for what these two lovely ladies look for in submissions, both lean toward more literary, character-driven YA, but Lisa Y said that, if the writing’s amazing, she’ll be attracted to anything. There it is writers: Be amazing!

Write On!

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Perserverance

August 31, 2009

Current word count: 31,883

New words written: 1,622

Words til goal: 8,117 / 270 words a day til the end of September

For today’s whopping words written count, I’d like to thank our local Ford dealer service department. Our car needed a check-up, so I had to get up early to get to the dealership early enough to be first in line — or close to that — and wasn’t able to write before I went. However, I planned ahead, took my laptop, and despite the NFL commentators talking like they were powered by the Energizer bunny, I managed to write nearly a whole chapter in the three hours I waited before my computer battery ran out. So, thank you, Ford dealership. I’ve got three and a bit chapters left, and I love that my words a day goal is now less than 300. I’m still hoping I can whip this out in two weeks.

Yesterday, I spent time researching agents I had already identified as possibilities for my writing style, as per my goals for this week, which I posted yesterday, and started preparing the query letters I’m going to be sending off.

I’ve read over and over that perserverance is key to publishing success. And I believe that perserverance is really key to any success. There’s always a journey, and for some it’s longer than others. But no matter how long it takes, if we don’t perservere, we won’t make it.

This weekend as I browsed some blogs, I found a great example of that in a How I Found My Agent post on the Guide to Literary Agents blog. Billy Coffey, a non-fiction writer, relates how he submitted to his preferred agent, then after he got a rejection, he submitted to others. After he got more rejections and was advised that he needed a platform and following before he could be considered, he started writing a blog. Months later, a blog reader recommended he submit his book to her agent — his original preferred agent. Perserverance.

There are lots of stories like this one, and they have one single message: Don’t give up.

How’s your writing going?

Write On!

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Why we read agent/editor blogs

August 30, 2009

Current word count: 30,261

New words written: 1,205

Words til goal: 9,739 / 314 words a day til the end of September

Wow! I’ve passed 30K Yay! I’m in the home stretch and wrote another chapter this weekend. I thought I had only four chapters left, but it has turned into five (for now) because I found a better place than I had planned for a nice cliff-hanger chapter change and a great place to switch POV in my two-POV novel. I’m on track to finish by the end of September, but secretly — well, I’m sharing this secret with you — I’m hoping to be typing THE END in about two weeks. We’ll see.

My other goal for this coming week is three-part:

  • Send out my entry to agent Colleen Lindsay‘s scholarship contest for the Backspace Agent-Author Seminar (deadline Sept. 4; have you entered?);
  • Send the picture book I worked on a couple weeks ago two an editor I met at the SCBWI Houston conference this year and another editor I met at a SCBWI writer’s retreat a couple years ago who read an early draft and said she’d be interested in seeing it again (conferences are invaluable — I highly recommend going, and expecially going to SCBWI conferences and joing the organization if you’re writing for children);
  • And send out query packages for my newly revised first novel.

For the first novel, I’m also going to try a new story description in my query letter. This is my send go around with this book, but this new version is a lot better than the first, so I’m hoping it will get more notice. My original query letter, which was sent to seven agents, got only one response for more, so I also hope for a better response rate with this new query letter. The story description is much better, I think. I’ll let you know how I do.

It annoys me that I didn’t see the problems with the novel earlier. I fell into the same trap I’ve warned against on this blog many times: sending out a book before it’s ready. But the problem is, I had done a LOT of work on the novel, lots of revisions, and I did believe it was ready. It was only until I was researching agents and read some of their comments that I saw the problems in my novel. I was reading things they said not to do and realizing I had done some of those things, hence, another revision.

This is a great reason why it’s good to read agent and editor blogs. You can get invaluable information WHILE you’re writing instead of when you’re researching to submit. Check out my blogs list to see the ones I read, and let me know if there are others you want to recommend and I’ll add them to the list. Keeping up with other writers’ blogs is great too, but to help your book’s chances during the submission process, read up what works and what doesn’t in agents’ eyes.

Write On!

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More on putting rejections in perspective

July 18, 2009

Current word count: 14,322

Words written today: 1,183

Words to goal: 25,678 / 347 words a day til end of September

After two days off, I got in a good couple hours on my new book this morning, and it feels so good. The story is there, but the writing’s not great. But that’s what revisions are for.

On Monday, I wrote about things to consider when we get rejections from agents. Rejections can sting, and can make us feel insecure about our writing. Of course, we would love it if every person in the world thought every sentence we write is the best thing since slice bread, but we have to be realistic. Art — and writing is art — is subjective, after all.

So it’s really important to keep rejections in perspective. Mystery and thriller writers’ blog The Kill Zone has a great post from agent Anne Hawkins, of John Hawkins & Associates, in which she talks about why good agents turn down good books. Anne reinforces what I said on Monday about personal taste and an agent’s need to really love a book to take it on. She also adds a few more: saleability of a book, because, of course, publishing is a business; length; author; timing; and conflicts of interest with current clients’ work. It’s a great look into the considerations an agent must give every project they’re offered.

For the writer getting the rejection, we often won’t know what the reason is. Most of the time we’ll get the standard “it’s not for me” form letter. Sure this can be frustrating, but as agent Janet Reid pointed out this week in a post called A Reminder That No Means No, it’s not an agent’s job to tell writers why their work isn’t right for them. And when they’re reading hundreds of query letters a week, plus requested manuscripts, clients’ manuscripts and contracts as well as selling and negotiating for their current clients, it’s understandable that they don’t have the time to give personal feedback to every query they receive. Think of how you would feel if your agent delayed getting your book out because she was writing personalized emails to every query she received.

So what’s a writer to do when we get rejections: First, don’t let it get us down. Keep things in perspective.

Have you sent out 10 queries and gotten no requests for the material? If so, rework your query letter. Are agents asking for fulls or partials but not offering representation? If so, consider your work. Is your opening the best it can be? Is your book the best it can be? Does it need another revision? If you can look at your work and say you’re truly happy with it, then you’ve just not yet found the right agent. Continue to research agents and send out your work. If you persevere, you’ll find the right match eventually.

But most important of all, don’t let a rejection stop you from writing. The best thing you can do to combat a rejection is to write something else. Agent Rachelle Gardner suggests this in her recent post entitled Write Another Book!

If you don’t attract an agent with your first project, you will with your second, or third. Nowadays, agents don’t have the time they once did to take on books that need a lot of work. So your manuscript has to be at a higher standard. The more you write, the better your work will get. And once your writing has secured that agent, there’s nothing to say those earlier works might look better now.

So, keep rejections in perspective, and remember author J.A. Konrath’s quote: There’s a word for a writer who never gives up — published.