Pitching

Your Submissions Questions Answered

Submitting your work to an agent can be scary. What if I get the secret handshake wrong? What if my attempt at humor falls flat? What if this agent really is the ogre he’s rumored to be?

And those questions are only the beginning. There are so many. So, in an effort to ease your mind a little and help you along, I’ve decided to list a few submissions-related questions I’ve been asked as an agent, followed by more-or-less helpful answers, some of which are even accurate. Mostly.

Q: What are you looking for?

A: Don’t ask. Not in an email, at least, when the answer is right here on the agency website.

Q: I know you don’t represent my genre, but can I submit it to you anyway?  

A: Why would you? It’s a far better use of your time and effort to submit your work to agents who not only represent works in your genre, but who love doing so and do it well.

Q: What if a submitted proposal has minor typos?

A: There are no minor typos. Not in “BobWorld,” at least.

Q: I sent you the wrong version of my proposal! Have I just ruined everything?   

A: It happens. Just send the right one, with a short, sincere apology; and all will be well. Unless your second proposal is also the wrong one.

Q: I’d really like to talk to you on the phone before I send my proposal. Okay?  

A: No, sorry. Let your proposal do the talking. If it’s not up to the job, keep working on it until it is. If it requires some verbal explanation before you send it, keep working on it until it doesn’t.

Q: Everyone says I need a platform, but mine is pretty small. Am I out of luck?

A: On the one hand, an irresistible hook and brilliant writing can overcome a modest platform. But agents and editors want to work with writers who “get it,” who can show they understand that authors and publishers are partners in the huge task of getting a book noticed, marketed, and sold.

Q: Do I need to tell you which publishers I’d like to submit to?

A: No, not unless you have personal connections with them; that’s always good to know. But agents are supposed to know this sort of stuff.

Q: If I send you my proposal and you say, “no thanks,” does that ruin my chances with everyone in your agency?

A: No, each of us speaks only for himself or herself. Except when Steve, the Big Kahuna, speaks for everyone. Usually when ordering carryout.

Q: If you reject my proposal, would you recommend another agent?  

A: No, sorry. Finding the right agent for you isn’t like choosing a watermelon (except for the whole thumping bit). Much depends on a personal connection. Can you see yourself working with this person for years? Is he or she enthusiastic about what you write? How you write? Are you the right match for him or her? And more. This is why I routinely recommend going to writers conferences and meeting (even interviewing) prospective agents.

 

So now’s your chance. What are some of your other submission questions?

Leave a Comment

The Biggest Waste of Your Time

Recently, my assistant has been besieged with submissions that wasted everyone’s time. We’re not sure what triggered this barrage; but if these words save anyone a few moments, they’re worth posting. Don’t submit works that agents aren’t seeking. Please. I realize that perhaps you think it’s worth taking a chance. …

Read More

Would You Buy Your Own Book?

When I ask a room of writers if they would buy their own book if they saw it on the shelf at a major bookstore I am met with a variety of reactions. Laughter. Pensiveness. Surprise. And even a few scowls. How would you answer that question?

But the question is meant to ask if your book idea is unique. Whether it will stand out among the noise of the competition.

It is not a question of whether your book is important or valuable or even well written. It is ultimately a question of commercial viability.

Read More

What Makes You Click?

Below is a visual representation of some astounding statistics regarding Internet usage. A little more than twelve years ago I wrote a chapter for a writing book on how to use the Internet for research. I re-read that article recently…umm, Google didn’t even exist back then (founded in September 1998), much less Wikipedia (where the jury is still out if is a reliable source for verifiable facts).

210 billion emails sent per day? I think I get half of those. <!>
20 hours of YouTube videos uploaded every minute?

We swim in a sea of data. So how do you discern what to read or view? In other words, what makes you buy or click?

Take that same mindset and apply it to your next book idea or article. What would make the consumer buy or click it, especially when faced with a plethora of competing options? If your idea, your novel, your insight, can withstand competitive scrutiny then you have a chance to impact this world. Obscurity equals no audience. That is why publishers are pushing agents and authors to make their “platform” bigger.


Via: OnlineSchools.org

Read More

That Conference Appointment

You snagged one of those valuable 15 minute appointments with an agent or an editor at the writers conference. Now what? What do you say? How do you say it? And what does that scowling person on the other side of the table want? What if you blow it?

Many excellent posts have been written on this topic (see Rachelle Gardner and Kate Schafer Testerman for example) but thought I would add my perspective as well.

What advice would you give to a beginning writer about attending a writers conference and meeting with an editor or an agent?

Go in with realistic expectations.

Read More

Write for Narcissists

Every reader is a narcissist. Hold on, there. Don’t get all mad and sassy yet. Let me explain I often tell developing writers, “No one reads about other people; we read only about ourselves.” Go ahead and quote me, just be sure to give me credit and send me the …

Read More

Etiquette When Submitting a Manuscript

L.D. asked some etiquette questions that may be of help to everyone: – How long do you wait before following up with an editor/agent once you’ve sent your requested manuscript to the editor/agent? – If you’ve already sent the proposal to the editor and they’re preparing to present it to …

Read More

Resist the Urge to Explain Your Title

For fiction writers, there is an important self-editing technique called RUE (Resist the Urge to Explain). The problem occurs when an author overwrites a scene and explains every thought, movement, etc., or fails to allow the reader to fill in the details, thereby ruining the reading experience. The concept is …

Read More