Tag s | story

The Best Time to Submit to an Agent

Thanks to Katie Powner for her question on my May 25, 2016 blog, which sparked this blog.

There have been many changes in publishing over the last few years. In fact, it seems we just get used to some element of publishing, and wham! It’s turned on its head. But there is something that hasn’t changed. Something I don’t think will ever change. At least, I pray it won’t.

Story trumps all.

Oh, I know, there are a lot of well-written manuscripts out there that aren’t finding traditional publishing homes. But I’m not talking about manuscripts that are “well written.” When I say “Story trumps all,” I’m talking about STORY. You know, the story, be it fiction or nonfiction, that’s so powerful, that so resonates with you as you read, that you can’t put it down. You HAVE to keep devouring the words on the page.

The STORY that unfolds, launching truths that strike so close to home that you find yourself weeping. Laughing. Convicted. And above all, changed.

Characters that live on in our hearts and minds. Experiences that tell us, in ways we’ve never heard it before, that we’re not alone. Plots that keep us on the edge of our seats, our hearts pounding as we agonize, wondering if what we hope will happen will really happen. Insights that shatter our preconceived ideologies. You know…


You’ve read books with STORY. You’ve been transported and transformed by them. Challenged and Changed. And all it takes is one or two words from those books to stop us in the here and now and plunge us deep into the STORY again…

“Jean Louise, stand up…”

“When you go after honey with a balloon, the great thing is to not let the bees know you’re coming.”

“It was so quiet, one of the killers would later say, you could almost hear the sound of ice rattling…”

“One ring to rule them all…”

“In the predawn darkness of August 26, 1929, in the back bedroom of a small house…”

“Oh, children, catch me if you can!”

 “Trouble with mice is you always kill ‘em.”

“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”

“Marley was dead.”

“We will all feel very much ashamed if we do not yield to Jesus…”

“The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone.”

So, what does all this have to do with the best time to submit with an agent. Well…everything. Because the best time to submit to an agent doesn’t have anything to do with the calendar. Oh, it used to, back in the day. But now, with the internet, agents can hop  onto their email and take a quick look at things anytime they want—even, heaven forbid, at Christmas. No, the best time to submit to an agent isn’t about the calendar. It’s about your manuscript. And the power of your STORY.

When should you submit?

When you’ve taken your manuscript from story to STORY.

When your STORY engages and moves and transports people.

When you read your STORY and sit back, heart pounding as you wonder…Did I really write that?

 Submit when the book is ready. Really and truly ready. Ready to move and change people. Ready to move and change the agents who will ready it.

That, my friends, is the best—and only—time to submit to an agent.

(Book quotes are from the following STORIES that impacted me: To Kill a Mockingbird; The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh; Helter Skelter; The Hobbit; Unbreakable; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Of Mice and Men; Out of Africa; The Christmas Carol; My Utmost for His Highest; The Last Unicorn)

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Start the New Year Right

I must have started this blog fifteen times. I’d write a word or a line, then delete it. All because I’m trying to think of something new and clever to say about the fact that we’re facing a new year. But you know what? There isn’t really anything new to …

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The First Novel I Ever Read

It was the summer of 1970…I was dreading a long family car trip mainly because I was 14, I had braces on my teeth and was starting high school in the fall.  I was required to be full of dread.

The big hits on pop radio that summer were “Mama Told Me Not to Come” (Three Dog Night), “Close to You” (Carpenters), “Everything is Beautiful” (Ray Stevens), “The Long and Winding Road” by the Beatles, “The Overture from Tommy” by the Assembled Multitude, “25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago and “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  On and on the list goes…great stuff.  I still have some of the 45’s. (If you don’t know what those are, tough luck)

But I had a long car trip ahead of me and I was miserable.  I couldn’t even drive yet.

To pass the time on the trip, I went to the library and saw a book that caught my eye…relatively new from Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain.   I checked it out and started to read.  I couldn’t stop reading.  I was transported to an underground virus containment facility deep in the desert and worked desperately to find a way to combat a subspace virus that threatened to destroy the earth.

It was the shortest car ride ever.  I don’t even remember Nebraska.  It was the first full-length novel I ever read.

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The Story We Bring to the Story

by Steve Laube

With all the discussion about the craft of fiction and the need to write a great story there is one thing missing in the equation. The one thing that is the secret to great fiction. And it is the one thing the writer cannot control.

That one thing is the story the reader brings with them to their reading experience. As a reader I have the life I have lived, the people I’ve met, the books I’ve read, and the places I’ve been that I bring with me into the world your novel has created. This makes the reading of every story unique. No two people can read the same story the same way. This is why one person’s favorite book is another’s thrift store giveaway.

In the new memoir The End of Your Life Book Club author Will Schwable writes about the books he read with his Mom during the last years of her life. In his introduction he wrote something profound:

We all have  a lot more to read than we can read and a lot more to do than we can do. Still, one of the things I learned from Mom is this: Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying. I will never be able to read my mother’s favorite books without thinking of her—and when I pass them on and recommend them, I’ll know that some of what made her goes with them; that some of my mother will live on in those readers, readers who may be inspired to love the way she loved and do their own version of what she did in the world.

This is the secret to the greatest novels of all time. They were written in such a way that my story, the essence of who I am, merged with that story and it became something new. Something unique. Something inexplicable. A new story. And then became a part of who I am…and a part what I bring to the next story I read.

That’s the story I want to read. Can you write it? I can’t wait to read it.

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News You Can Use – June 5, 2012

Six Tough Truths About Self-Publishing (That the Advocates Never Seem to Talk About) – Rob Hart writes an insightful and cautionary tale.

22 Rules of Story Telling According to Pixar – This is an excellent article for every novelist to read.

10 Great Science Fiction Novels for People Who Don’t Read Sci-Fi – I have to say that I agree with only four of their choices. Such is the nature of reading and recommending fiction! (Of the 10 I would choose Card, Bester, Shelley, and Herbert.)

Are Books Becoming too Long to Read? – A stimulating article that makes you think twice about the length of your books. I do see a trend in NON-fiction toward shorter books. Fiction is still a matter of taste and storytelling ability.

How Fast Do You Read? – Staples.com provides a quick little test including a comprehension quiz at the end. How fast are you?

A Summertime graphic for you to enjoy:


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