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Our Service Philosophy

CONTENT

To help the author develop and create the best book possible. Material that has both commercial appeal and long-term value.

CAREER

To help the author determine the next best step in their writing career. Giving counsel regarding the subtleties of the marketplace as well as the realities of the publishing community.

CONTRACT

To help the author secure the best possible contract. One that partners with the best strategic publisher and one that is mutually beneficial for all parties involved.

Recent Posts

The Unhelpful Rejection Letter

rejection-letter

Have you ever received an unhelpful rejection letter that says, “Sorry, but this just isn’t a fit for us.”? I have. And I’ve also written more of these rejections than I’d like to admit. In fact, after I write this post, I may just have to send out twenty more.

Some authors write back to say, “Can’t you tell me what I can do better? What suggestions do you have?” I’m sure I frustrate writers when I tell them I can’t comment further. As a published author in my own right, I understand why writers want feedback. So now let me tell you why I don’t feel it’s in your best interest for me to offer feedback when the answer is a firm no.

Lead Me On

When you were in high school, you kept from encouraging people you didn’t want to date, right? Sometimes those people were nice and would make a great match for someone else. Just not you. You hated the fact you couldn’t, in your heart of hearts, be passionate enough about spending time with them to accept invitations for dinner. But how to tell them without gaining an enemy forever? Ouch!

I don’t want make writers, especially my lovely friends, think I’m going to introduce their work to editors if I have no intention of doing so. If I tell you, “Well, I’d like this better if the heroine’s eyes were blue and her name was Sally,” and you changed both factors and sent it back to me, you’d expect me to pursue your work. Now, in truth, I might think your book would be better with blue-eyed Sally instead of green-eyed Sarah, but another agent might disagree. Unless I’m serious about pursuit, it’s better for me to keep my opinion to myself.

Tick Tock Tick Tock

Another factor in a lack of meaningful comment is time. I would love to mentor more writers, but time doesn’t allow. I’m simply not able to give each writer with a shred of promise a line-by-line edit. Until you are published and receiving meaty critiques from professional editors at publishing houses, look for critique partners to do heavy edits. And expect to return the favor many times over. Even better, learn self-editing so your critiques are light both in critique group and from the editor at your publishing house.

And realize that even a morsel of advice can take considerable time to compose so that it is genuinely helpful.

You Owe Me!

When you follow up with an editor or agent after a conference, you may be disappointed if you receive an unhelpful rejection letter. But for the reasons I’ve stated, you’ll have to swallow disappointment even when you’ve made a great personal connection. Some editors and agents may go the extra mile with a few comments based on the great time you had over lunch at conference, but they don’t owe you. Remember, agents and editors are more swamped than ever after big conferences so they may be treading water with the tsunami of resulting submissions.

Ungrateful

Believe it or not when we do provide a bit of critique or advice a few writers take it as an affront and fire vitriol in return. Steve Laube shared this final salvo from a person he tried to help by saying the manuscript was too long for the current market:

You have rejected the proposal, so why do you insist on insulting me? Why does it matter to you? My manuscript is what it is and everything included is vital information … Please do not email me again.

A Forever No?

In my view, a rejection letter is not a forever no, even if you feel the letter is unhelpful. You can always try again with a new submission, especially if you have worked hard to improve the material. Persistence is just as helpful in writing as it is any other profession.

The Helpful Rejection Letter

Did you score a helpful rejection letter? One that provides specific advice or critique? Rejoice! It’s the next best thing to an acceptance. The helpful rejection almost always means the agent is engaged in your work and is taking the time to groom you for possible representation. Listen, heed, and resubmit.

Your Turn

What was the most helpful rejection letter you ever received?

What was the worst rejection letter you’ve received?

Did you follow up on advice given in a rejection letter? What happened?

Leave a Comment

News You Can Use – Mar. 6, 2012

Your Average Facebook Post Only Reaches 12% of Your Friends – Exposing yet another challenge to the world of marketing, either through traditional means or through social media.

New French Law Seizes Digital Rights – “Any book published in France–which would include translated foreign-language books–that went out of print in France–not necessarily elsewhere–before 2001, can be scanned into a database.” And then be made available without compensation.

It Has Come to This in Hollywood – GCB. Fire up the TiVo for that one… Good grief.

From Idea to Store Shelf – I love these kind of stories. Shows the incredible “curation” it takes for a good idea to become great and then what it takes to bring it to market. There are many parallels to the writing and publishing industry here.

Give it Five Minutes, Then React to an Idea – A good reason why appointments at a conference are 15 minutes long.

Free Mac Tools That Make Writing Easier – Agree or disagree? What tools do you use? And if you are on a PC, what do you use?

Anatomy of a Successful Press Release – Try writing one for your own book. Discover that is ain’t easy.

Eight Basic Don’ts for the Beginning Novelist – Steve Moore provides some great stuff. Good reminders for those who think they know this already.

This is a very clever ad for the British newspaper, “The Guardian.”
Click to view “The Three Little Pigs.”

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What if You Get a Book Deal on Your Own and Then Want an Agent?

One of our readers asked this via the green “Ask us a question” button.

What happens if you get a book contract before you have an agent? What if, by some miracle, an editor sees your work and wants to publish it? (1) would having a publisher interested in my work make an agent much more likely to represent me, and (2) would it be appropriate to try to find an agent at that point (when a publisher says it wants to publish you)? My fear is that querying an agent and receiving a response could take several months, but I’d need to accept a potential contract with a book publisher right away (I would think). Is it appropriate to ask the editor to speak with an agent on your behalf to speed the process?

This is a great topic but there are a few questions within the question. Let me try to break it down.

Many times have had authors approach us with contracts in hand and seeking representation (happened just last week). Of course this will get an agent’s attention immediately. But there are caveats:

a)      Who is the publisher? There is a big difference between a major company and your local independent publisher. Not all publishers are created equal (see the Preditors & Editors warnings).

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Editorial Feedback – Not Just Static

As Steve Laube pointed out the other day in his post “The Stages of Editorial Grief” receiving a tough edit can make a writer feel off-kilter, angry, unworthy, and summon other negative emotions. Of course it’s okay to experience negative emotions. You can’t control how you feel, though you can control how you manage your feelings. As he wisely points out, the key is to overcome emotions and get to work.

Detachment

I’ve edited and been edited, but I can’t say I have ever gotten such a tough edit that I wanted to throw a Waterford vase across the room. One advantage may have been majoring in Journalism in college which groomed me never to become attached to my words. News articles are no place for waxing eloquent, opining, or philosophizing. And with loads of information available today from so many sources, readers rarely indulge fluff from any but their most beloved authors. This is why it’s best not to become attached to your words. Any of them. Don’t become too fond of your title, which will most likely be changed in the Titling meeting. Don’t treat finding new names for your characters as though the courts are petitioning you to change your child’s name. And speaking of characters, don’t develop your own love affair with any secondary characters. They may get the boot in editing. Be willing to let go of your fondest habits and pet phrases. They may seem distinctive to you, but if they annoy an editor, it’s best to listen.

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