Tag s | Proposals

Three Questions About Agents

In meeting with writers on the cusp of their careers or flush with new success, we find that three big questions come to the forefront. Today, Tamela shares her answers:

How do I find a literary agent?

(1)      First and foremost, visit the agency websites to see which ones are actively seeking the type of work you write.

(2)      Talk to your agented friends to learn about their agents. Referrals are a big part of our business.

(3)      If time and finances allow, attend a conference or meeting where your preferred agent will be appearing and meet the agent.

(4)      Make sure to abide by the agency guidelines when submitting your proposal. Attention to details can distinguish your submission from less-professional offerings.

(5)      If you don’t hear from the agent after a couple months, follow up with a respectful email.

 

When do I need an agent?

(1)      You have completed a manuscript and it is, without a doubt, ready to be submitted to agents.

(2)      In nonfiction, you have established an outstanding platform of significance. For example, an ongoing speaking ministry, a strong internet following, and a demonstrable fan base will help convince an agent (and later, a publisher) your book will sell.

(3)      In fiction, your book is written to the current market. Contest awards of national significance demonstrate that industry professionals recognize your talent.

(4)      Through conferences and/or contests, editors have asked to see more of your work; this is a plus, though not essential.

(5)      You have been offered a book contract. (Just don’t accept the offer until you talk to an agent.)

 

Once I start working with an agent, how do I enhance the relationship?

(1)      Don’t be afraid of your agent. If you are, you will never have the ideal working relationship. When you need your agent, make contact. No exceptions. (We really don’t bite. At least not very often.)

(2)      Know yourself. If you want to trust an agent with secrets and be a personal friend, choose someone with the accompanying personality. If you are an “all business” type, choose accordingly.

(3)      If you feel your agent is ignoring you, let that feeling be known. When you do, the relationship will become stronger. As in any relationship, communication is key.

(4)      Publishing is a small industry. Never burn a bridge. The associate copy editor you scream at today will be the vice president of acquisitions tomorrow.

(5)      Always abide by the Lord’s guidelines known as The Golden Rule (Luke 6:31).

 

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Saving the World, One Romance at a Time

Often I will receive submissions of novels tying in an element of mystery and suspense with romance. Writers targeting the romantic suspense market will find difficulty in placing this type of story. Why? Because romantic suspense readers have certain expectations that won’t be met with a mere element of mystery and intrigue.

In my experience trying to sell and market romantic suspense, I have found that the readers of this genre want all-out adventure and crime solving along with compelling romance. The suspense is foremost, with the romance being tied in so deeply that the story won’t survive without it.

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The Editorial Process

It is important to understand the process through which a book takes under the umbrella called “The Edit.” I meet many first timers who think it is just a one-time pass over their words and that is all that will ever happen. And many who self-publish think that hiring a high school English teacher to check for grammar is enough of an edit.

There are four major stages to the Editorial Process. Unfortunately they are called by various names depending on which publisher you are working with, which can create confusion. I will try to list the various terms but keep them under the four categories.

Rewrites / Revisions/Substantive Edit

These can happen multiple times. You could get input from your agent or an editor who suggests you rewrite or revise those sample chapters of the full manuscript. Last year I suggest that one of my non-fiction clients cut the book in half and change its focus. We sold this first time author. But the writer had to do a lot of work to get it ready for the proposal stage.

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How Long Does It Take to Get Published?

How much time does it take to get published?

I came to the publishing business from the retail side of the equation. The biggest adjustment was understanding how long the process takes. In retail there is instantaneous gratification. But book publishing is a process business.

There is no question the timeline varies from person to person and project to project. In the world of major publishers the diversity can be quite extreme.

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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.

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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.

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The Ultimate Sound Bite

Can you boil the essence of your novel or non-fiction book idea into twenty-five words or less?

This is one of the keys to creating a marketing hook that makes your idea sellable in today’s crowded market.

You have less than a minute to make that hook work.

It is also called creating the “elevator pitch” or the “Hollywood pitch.” The goal is get the marketing department to exclaim, “We can sell that without any problem!” And ultimately to get a consumer to say, “I want that” or “I need that” or “I know someone who should have that.”

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The Wild Pitch

In honor of the upcoming baseball season I thought it would be fun to explore the art of pitching.

A couple years ago I was watching a Major League baseball game and the pitcher unleashed a horrific throw that sailed about eight feet behind the batter. It floated to the backstop without a bounce and everyone in the stadium wonder what had just happened. It looked like the pitcher lost his grip and could not stop his delivery. In baseball terms this is classified as a wild pitch.

Unfortunately many writers unleash a pitch on an agent or an editor before it is ready to deliver. Let me list a few actual letters I have received.

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Six Questions for a Literary Agent

1. What should a client expect from you as an agent? That I will work hard. That I will keep on top of the ever changing marketplace. That I will maintain my integrity as a businessman of honor and honesty. That I will protect your interests. That I will tell you the truth, about the industry, about your writing, about your ideas.
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