Agents & Editors are people too… Some you like, some you don’t.

September 27, 2010

One of the things we all love is to read the comments of agents and editors. Come on. We’ve all done it. Laughed and groaned at the list of their worst received queries? Chuckled when another author makes such a heinous mistake or is sooooooo sure of their own talent that they say something that lands them an immediate rejection? Of course we come away from these stories a little bit smarter for having done our research and followed the A/E to see if we would be a good fit. We’re essentially – getting to know them.

The Agents and Editors are well aware of their reading public. Their stories are crafted to make us laugh, shake our heads, or want to cry. They know we secretly thank these authors who refuse to do their homework and clear a bigger path for us. They also know we cringe to know that these same authors make it that much harder for us to get in because the A/E are continually frustrated by these people who refuse to follow the rules.

I mean, let’s face it. Writing is hard work. You continue to learn, perfect, revise. You attend conferences and workshops and network until your eyes hurt to get your name out there. And there are those who refuse to even try. Makes us kinda crazy right?

I bet it does the A/E’s as well.

BUT – and yep, this is a big BUT.

No matter how badly we want this, and no matter how hard it is to get published, we all have to remember that Agents and Editors are people too. People just like we run into every day of our lives. The guy on the bus that stinks every morning? The opinionated PTA member who makes everyone crazy by being too demanding? The neighbor that refuses to move his six broken down cars away from the beautifully landscaped border of your property?

Yeah, we’ve all met them, and even if they offered to help us gain something incredible, we just have to agree to share it, would we take the offer?

Now think about this. You don’t enter a contract with anyone without doing your homework. Checking their background, their contacts, their actual qualifications, right? And if that all passes muster, do you just jump right in?

I think sometimes writers forget they are entering into a very personal, intimate contract with an agent. Do some REAL research on them. Follow their blog, Twitter, Facebook, anywhere they might post opinions or comments. And no I’m not giving you the green light to become a stalker. Eeeeek. (I’ve heard of A/E’s complaining of this too.) You can usually read the archives on an Agent or Editor to learn a huge amount about what they are like and what kind of personality they have. Just researching the basics to make sure they are qualified isn’t enough.

Case in point, I follow numerous agents and editors, on any of the media networking venues. I do so because in researching them as a potential A/E, I found that I liked their style. I also found any number of A/E’s that I took off my query list for one reason or another. That’s not to say they weren’t nice people, or even professional, they just didn’t fit me. And I assumed, if they don’t fit me, I won’t fit them either. At least – not the way I want.

I recently updated my To Be Queried list for a new YA novel I’ve completed. Near the top of my research list was an agent I had heard good things about, but not a ton. I did some digging. At first, I thought maybe I’d caught her on a bad day, so I read further into her archives. It quickly became clear that she got a good laugh out of making fun of – what I thought sounded like simple mistakes anyone could make. She continued to pick apart EVERYTHING, in detail, an author could do that would earn them a form rejection. Right down to the Mrs, Ms, or Dear.

Too picky? Yeah, me thinks so too!

Really? As aspiring or published writers, aren’t we up against enough without having to know that one A/E liked to be addressed Dear, while another wants to be addresses Ms???? I certainly wouldn’t boot an agent from my list on one little pet-peeve, but this agent was unhappy with everything.

Just as an A/E can decide not to work with someone because of their personality, so too can we. Agents and Editors are people too. Don’t forget to get to know them a little before you hop into a relationship that you could have easily determined was doomed!

The saying goes: ‘No agent is better than a bad agent.’

So – You tell me. Any horror stories?

Followed an A/E and were shocked by something they posted/tweeted?

Share so all can be aware.

(Of course, names should be and will be redacted. We’re not here to put anyone down. Just to learn what to watch for.)


Pitching: What they want to hear

July 21, 2010

Song of the day: I Melt With You by Modern English

This is what you’ve been waiting for. The nugget of information that will make pitching to an editor or agent a piece of cake. The magical words of wisdom that will surely chase away the butterflies and all but guarantee you a four book deal.

Okay, maybe not that last part. You’re stomach will still flip-flop and you’ll probably not get signed before your ten minutes is up. But you’ll be armed with knowledge to get you that much closer to fulfilling your publishing dreams.

What are those agents and editors looking for in a pitch anyway?

Here is part three and the final section on pitching to the pros as suggested by Scott Eagan of the Greyhaus Literary Agency.

Is your story in the genre the agent/editor is interested in or represents? Don’t waste their time, and yours, by avoiding this simple step. If you pitch your vampire cowboy zombie slayer to someone who clearly is not interested in paranormals, you will come off as looking unprofessional, disrespectful or just plain lazy for not knowing beforehand. You won’t change their minds no matter how much your story rocks.

Ask yourself if your story fits in their line. This goes back to doing your homework. Find at least three ways it fits in with what the agent/editor. An example might be the steam level. How hot is the relationship between the characters? What type of heroine stars in the story?  Is she the über sexy take-no-prisoners kind of woman or the girl next door? Are their historical novels primarily Regency or steeped in lots of historical details? You should go beyond ‘Oh, they take fiction. I write fiction.’

A note here. Scott gave great advice on figuring out your target.  If you don’t know what publisher best fits you and your writing, go take a look at your bookshelf. See what author(s) you like to read in the same genre you write. Check out who published these books. Chances are many of these favorites will be printed by the same publishers. That’s your target market.

Now for the nitty gritty, your book. This is what they want to hear.

High concept. Whoa Nelly. Settle down. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to know what book or movie you should compare to your story. Keep in mind that you may not get the reaction you hope for if you walk in and blurt out how your novel is a perfect creative blend between Zombieland, Brokeback Mountain and Twilight. What they really want is to know what makes your story UNIQUE. Why is it a great story?

Incidentally, what would you think if I told you that I am working on a pirate tale with Smokey and the Bandit and Appaloosa as my working high concept? Things that make you go hmmm…

Tell them about your unique characters. What makes them different from everyone else’s John, Dick and Harry? Is your heroine not rich, not skinny, or not beautiful? Is your hero not a duke, CIA agent, or werewolf? Even if they are, maybe it’s their relationship that makes them unique. Hey – you got your peanut butter in my chocolate. No. You got your chocolate in my peanut butter! Bottom line, why do these characters stand out?

Unique plot. Again, what makes your story different from the rest?

Tell the agent/editor about the internal or external conflict. The conflict cannot be something that is easily resolved or a simple misunderstanding. The agent/editor reserves the right to smack you upside the head for such a heinous crime.

You know what? They also want some of that awesome storytelling. It’s all in the voice. No throat exercises, please.

It doesn’t end there, folks. During a pitch, the agents/editors are also uncovering bits of info about you.

It’s important for you to know where you are at in your career and where you are headed. Do you know enough about the industry? Do you treat your writing with professional regard and not like some passing bucket list fancy? Are you a team player or stubborn, not willing to take advice.  As an author, are you ready to make the move into revisions, deadlines, new material? The agent/editor does not have a crystal ball but they may be able to spot an author’s potential.

Here is another gem from Scott. There is always a do-over. If the agent/editor declines to see more from you, don’t turn in your badge and gun yet.  A no doesn’t mean a no for life. Just on the particular story you pitched.

Now you are armed and ready. Go forth, my writing friends, go forth and pitch. Best of luck to you all.

See you in Orlando!


Pitching – The Job Interview

July 14, 2010

Song of the Day: Break Your Heart by Taio Cruz

If you popped in last week, you’ll know the do’s and don’ts of submitting masterpieces to coveted agents and editors. If you didn’t, scroll down. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

To give you a quick recap, Scott Eagan of the Greyhaus Literary Agency came to my “home” Romance Writers of America chapter, Northwest Houston RWA, gave us an eye-opening quirky presentation on submitting and pitching.

This week, I’ll share with you the scoop on pitching pointers à la Scott.

Treat a pitching appointment like it is a job interview because in all honesty, there is little difference. You walk into the appointment to sell yourself. Now for all you degenerates out there, and you know who you are, I don’t mean bribery or prostitution. This interview is about you and your resume. Resume = manuscript. Just as in an interview for employment, you are not there to chit chat and yuck it up. You have limited time. Use it wisely. Ask questions, take notes. Keep in mind I’m not referring to items like word counts, genres, and the like. You would know that from your research, right? And I don’t mean advances and royalties, either. That’s putting the cart before the horse and the horse just walked away. Questions that might arise may be more like how your book might fit into the current market.

By now you know that writing is a business. The cool thing about that is you can work at home in front of your computer wearing your PJs, not having showered in days, and entertain the cat with unkempt hair that rivals Edward Scissorhands. No so for a pitching session (or for anytime leaving the house). Dress accordingly. Business casual will be perfect. Sound professional. Act professional. Be intelligent. This falls in line with knowing the business and having confidence about yourself and your work. Let the agent or editor know you are ready to move to the big league.

When going on a job interview, you should know a little something about the company. The same applies to pitching. Do your research. Know what the agent / editor wants and what they like or dislike. Does the agent accept romantic suspense but not women’s fiction? Do they love historical tales but despise time travel? Are they partial to comedy? Do they represent all genres of romance but are only accepting young adult at the moment? Maybe they are really into vampire cowboys. Tailor your pitch to them. Scott put it best; one size does not fit all.

Be prepared. There are several points to this. Don’t pitch if your story is not complete, polished and ready to send immediately. Understand that there is a really good chance the agent / editor will ask questions. Know the answers. Be able to produce your manuscript. Consider keeping your book on a flash drive or stored in a secure web account. That way when you are at a conference and an agent / editor requests to see your manuscript, you can hustle back to your room, do your happy dance and fire off your magnum opus from your laptop. If you don’t have your materials with you, don’t fret. Just be sure to get them what they asked for as soon as possible.

Lastly, let’s talk about pitching no-no’s. Do not dress in costume. Please don’t dress up as a character in your book. That’s frightening. Don’t slide money across the table expecting favors. Avoid auditioning for a stand-up comic gig. Don’t shove a business card under their nose before your pitch session begins. Don’t apologize. And, if you know what’s good for you, don’t argue!

Next week: The Pitch! How to give them exactly what they want!


GET BACK ON THAT HORSE!

December 28, 2009

Agent Shop is over for December and I’m happy to say there were TWO requests this time around from Ms. Lyon.

For the authors who received requests – WHOO HOO! And make sure you let us know how you made out. There is an open invite to anyone who pitches to come back for an interview if our little corner of the cyberworld in some way helped you find your agent!

For those of you who didn’t get a request – GET BACK ON THAT HORSE!

This tidbit of advice is near and dear to me right now. Many of you might know that I was entered in Dorchester’s Next Best Celler contest. ‘Was’ being the operative word here.

As of Dec. 11th, the final five contestants were chosen and I’m happy to announce that I wasn’t one of them…

“Happy?” you say.

Certainly. When faced with such talented writers, months of grueling promo, a huge new network of authors and readers, and some great new friends along the way, how couldn’t I be happy?

Sure, I would have loved to continue on, that was the purpose of entering after all, but rejection comes in every form in this industry. We either roll with it, learn from it and move past it, or we stop writing. Since quitting isn’t an option for me, I’m chalking it up to more experience under my belt, a great time, and some serious exposure!

There are so many ways we can receive rejection.

As aspiring and published authors alike, we learn to shield ourselves and our feelings from:

Harsh critiques
Form rejections
Agent rejection
Editor rejection
Contest scores
Bad reviews

Ugh, there are any number of ways we could potentially lose faith in our ability to write, not to mention our want to write.

But not giving up is what takes us back to that old saying,
“You’ve got to get back on the horse.”

It’ll throw us over and over. Just like life, just like work, the same as any other venue of our life, but we keep plugging along. As it should be.

  • Use what you learn from every rejection to strengthen your ability as a writer.
  • Don’t take everything to heart. Opinions vary, so look out for repetitive issues that are pointed out and see if that is truly a weakness.
  • Read what’s current and in the genre you write. That doesn’t mean you have to follow a trend, but it keeps you informed on what’s hot, what’s not and where your writing would fit in the grand scheme.
  • Sign up for classes and workshops – ‘Nuff said.
  • Join writer’s groups & critique groups – So many people are willing to share their knowledge. Utilize it!
  • Beta readers can be wonderful! They read for pleasure and are usually very willing to let you know what didn’t work for them.
  • Network, network, network! This is a wonderful way to keep current on industry news and events as well as support.
  • Do your research. Not just for your story, but for your agent/editor. There’s enough rejection out there without submitting to the wrong agent/editor, which will just bring you the rejection you hope to avoid.
  • READ, READ, READ and read some more.

 

Don’t let the set backs get you down. Keep on keepin’ on.

Even the most popular authors had to go through the same rejection. But they didn’t let it stop them. They got back on the horse and I guarantee, they’re happy they did.

Happy writing for the coming year!

Candi Wall


Is it my writing, or just bad timing???

January 16, 2009

Bitch Track: Why in the world would a perfect stranger lean over my shoulder and start a thirty minute conversation about what I’m writing??? At the public library???
Okay, I’m NOT anti-social, but I was ready to tear my hair out!

Bliss Track: My eight year old is doing a physical fitness project at school. He has to walk to Tahiti! Okay, not really, but he has to log in enough walking/active/physical time to equal the trip there and back. It’s amazing how much talking you can get done while walking around the indoor track at the local YMCA. Gotta love bonding!

Is it my writing, or just bad timing???

Little by little we work to improve and strengthen our writing. We’ve all done/seen the lists of potential ways to become a good writer.

There’s having natural talent
Taking courses / classes
Joining writing / crit groups
Finding a good WP(s)
Hooking
Keeping the flow
Not head hopping
Smooth transitions
Good grammar
Correct spelling
MS structure
Sentence variation
Dumping repeated words
Losing overused phrases
Utilizing senses
Dialog tag use
There’s highlight editing
Deep editing
Reading out loud
Continuing to write…

As you probably all know – we could keep adding to this list – for a loooooooong time.

So, we’ve learned all these things, and tackled the feared synopsis and query letter. The e-mail /letter you’ve dreamt about comes. An agent/editor wants a partial or full. Yes!!! Celebrate. There’s been rejections to tear up over and the doubts have already set in on numerous occasions, but finally – A CHANCE!

The wait to hear back varies from one industry specialist to the next and when it comes we all cross our fingers and pray. It’s a road well traveled by most of us. Some have moved on to publication while others still wander the trenches.

I’ve been in the query trench for four months and just received a very kind refusal from my dream agent on a ms that I am very proud of, and has received great reviews from both my online crit group and my great writing partners John, Marie-Claude, and Jenn. The rejection came in the mail and I read and reread it several times. I was disappointed – sure.

But the thought that stuck in my mind was:

Was it my writing or the personal preference/needs of the A/E that landed me this rejection? I did my research on her, edited the ms to within an inch of its life, followed all submission rules, and sought the advice and constructive criticism of others in my profession. Hmmm, what went wrong? I know, I know – there’s no real answer to that.

BUT – Anyone follow agent/editor (A/E) blogs? Mercy, it’s like a huge database of confused wisdom. And I say this in the nicest possible way. One agent’s wants and needs are different from another. However if we do our research and read their lists we can cut back some of the rejection we bring upon ourselves.

Having said that, the thing that I notice – is that they are human. They get into moods, likes, dislikes. They have family crisis, and toothaches and dogs that die. They get to work late or miss the morning bus, or have children who are sick with the flu. They read umpteen hundred query’s hoping that one of them will stand out enough to pique their interest. One agent said she even swore to herself that the next historical romance that came in – she would request. I don’t think she meant it, she was just frustrated with the abundance of other sub genres she’d received in that day. I guess I have to remember that they are human.

But without feedback from the Agent/Editor, how do you decide to edit more, or stick with what you’ve got? Share your thoughts…