Attention all Writer Friends!
The best news you’ll read today is that WriteOnCon is scheduled for August 26 – 27 = just over a week away!
This is a FREE online Writing Conference that helped me out tremendously last year. Anyone who is working on Anything should check it out. Heck, even if you’re not currently writing, you should still check it out because you’ll find loads of great information and tips! There will be guest speakers (you can watch the videos later if you’re busy during the day) and best of all, you can post your query letter, the first few pages of your story, and more in the forums. After you’ve done that, read what other people have posted, leave comments, and most will return the favor. I got some fantastic feedback last year that catapulted my writing into new areas that have been wickedly fun (so fun that I have completely ignored my blog lately).
Perhaps best of all, several literary agents and editors will be participating, leaving comments, etc.
So polish up whatever you’re working on (it does not have to be a completed manuscript) and get ready to post!
The website is under construction right now, but hopefully it will be up and running anytime. Here is the link: http://writeoncon.com
I hope to read some of your work soon!
*Check out my posts about WriteOnCon from last year for a lot more info.
Writeoncon 2013 has ended, but you can still read all the articles, watch the videos, and get loads of great advice on everything from how to write a great query letter (check out my revised one here), obtaining the right voice for your story/narrater, trends in the market, editing tips, and tons more. Everything is absolutely free, so nothing is stopping you from learning and getting involved.
Check out the writeoncon.com posts and bookmark it. The site may provide future forums for authors to share their own work, critique others, and make valuable contacts in the writing community.
Speaking of which, THANK YOU to all those who critiqued my query and writing sample during the online convention. I made some new friends and received excellent feedback. Before I brave the slush pile, I will revise a bit, concentrating on my voice so that the narration sounds less adult and more in keeping with the Young Adult genre–a bit more intimate and closer to a teenager’s style. Fortunately, as those of you who know me well can attest, I’m ridiculously immature. So I think I can handle the teen voice better than what currently exists in the manuscript. Wish me luck!
For all you working on a manuscript or query letter, hurry on over to writeoncon.com and post your query and up to the first 5 pages of your novel. Over the weekend, you can read and critique other people’s work while they do the same for yours. The more time you spend reading query letters and other people’s comments about them, the more you’ll learn about writing a great query. And, of course, if you post your own query, you might get some excellent feedback.
And it’s all for free!
On Tuesday and Wednesday, August 13-14, writeoncon.com will host a free online writing conference. Literary Agents and Editors will troll through the queries looking for new writers. You can even win up to $1000 if you enter and win the contests!
Even if you have to work, you can still participate, as the events will be recorded. There is absolutely no reason NOT to check it out.
All you have to do is sign in (which takes about 1 minute) and then you can read posts, comment, post your own work, and take full advantage of everything writeoncon.com has to offer
Stop reading this and check it out!
In my last post regarding “dealing with rejection from literary agents,” I mentioned that you should keep track of why your book gets rejected (to see if there are common reasons) but to avoid rewriting your story based on one rejection.
I recently received a polite and professional rejection that was complementary (noting that my writing was good and that I was on to something), but the agent ultimately decided not to represent me. Her reason was that I did not provide enough World Building so that she didn’t feel connected to my protagonist.
Fine. That’s a solid reason to reject—I didn’t grab her. Interestingly, I had earlier versions of the book that had a lot more World Building. I cut much of it so that I got to the action more quickly. So my temptation is . . . put some of it back in. Maybe even put in more than was there in the original drafts.
I can’t help it. I find myself imagining ways to flesh out the protagonist’s life—finding ways to introduce new characters, having her in other scenes that show off what her life is really about and who she is.
So . . . do I add any of this? No. I should not. Not based on one person’s opinion! The agent, no matter how wonderful and lovely, is just one person. Also, she’s not going to look at my book again anyway. She already said “No thanks,” so tailoring the novel to her liking doesn’t make any sense. She is never going to see it again.
And yet . . . This is hard to resist. In fact, I broke my rule. I added a little bit more World Building, fleshing out more of her backstory in chapter 2. I didn’t add much—just a few sentences here and there–certainly not enough for the agent to say, “Oh, now that’s plenty of World Building!” but I did add some.
And I’m making a list of more extreme ways to add more World Building should I receive the same reason for rejection in the future. If I hear this again, I will be further tempted to rewrite, but (hopefully) I will be strong and resist. If I hear this reason for rejection from a total of THREE people, then yeah. It will be time to start hacking away again.
There’s a lot to say regarding “rejection” from Literary Agents.
If you are not getting any requests for your novel, the fault may lie with your query letter. Are you sure it satisfies all the necessary requirements? Be honest with yourself and have others critique it. See my previous posts regarding how to write a query letter and read other people’s opinions on this as well.
For now, just go into your Query Quest with the knowledge that most published authors got rejected 50 – 100 times before they found their agent. I’m not sure where I read that, but it stuck with me. I’ve only sent my query to about 8 agents, so I have at least 42 to go before I should start getting frustrated.
I will say this about rejection: it is never fun, but it can be useful.
But in order for the rejection to be useful, you have to handle the rejection correctly. For revision purposes, keep track of why your novel gets rejected. If several agents provide the same reason for rejection—then you should probably revise the novel (maybe just a little, maybe a lot).
However, don’t revise after each rejection! That would destroy your novel’s pace, structure, voice—everything! Besides, so much of this is about personal taste. So if one agent says the pace was too fast, the next agent might claim the opposite. And maybe the best reason why not to re-write after each rejection is this: you’re not going to send it to that agent again anyway. You had your shot and it hit the target (because she requested it), but it wasn’t a bull’s-eye, so now you move on.
I mentioned in my last post about Query Strategy and Feedback that I was recently rejected by a nice and respected literary agent. I also mentioned that I was fine with that.
Being “fine” doesn’t mean that I wasn’t disappointed. I would have been thrilled if she had offered representation. But being rejected isn’t a bad thing and it really is bound to happen . . . a lot.
The thing to keep in mind is that this is a cycle. You send out queries and wait for agents to say, “Send more!” and then you do, and then you wait even longer, and then the agent will probably decide to pass on your amazing story. But that isn’t the end. That’s when the cycle starts over again.
Take in point: Yesterday! Last week, I received a rejection. This week, I’ve had two people request my novel (one was a request for the first three chapters, the other requested the entire manuscript). So rejection isn’t the end of the story. It is simply a part of your story. If you keep at it and keep working on your writing, you will eventually get published in some fashion. Yes, you can expect disappointment and frustration but you can also expect happiness and fulfillment.
When you get rejected, take it in stride. Give yourself some time to reflect, do some more research on agents, and pick a few more agents to query.
Keep on ‘truckin.’
As in any campaign, there are many things to consider when sending your query letter to literary agents.
It is also important to note that you should not query two or more agents at the same agency at the same time. Send it to one agent at that company. If that agent rejects it, you are free to send it to another agent at that same agency.
You should send your query to multiple agents/agencies simultaneously. Giving an agent an “exclusive” while you wait to hear back from her merely indicates that you don’t know how the publishing world works. You don’t need to mention that you’ve sent the query to other agents. They will assume that you have.
I recommend making a spreadsheet that includes the following: Agent Name, Agency, Date Sent, Date Responded, and Response (including any notes the agent may give regarding why it was rejected). Often the note you’ll make is simply “no request made for my book.” When an agent explains why she didn’t offer representation, I copy the email and paste it into this spreadsheet. I do not paraphrase because I don’t want to lie to myself. I worry that a month later, I might claim that the rejection was for some other reason that I like better. You want honesty. Brutal honesty might be the best kind.
You will get a lot of rejection. In fact, I just got rejected last week! But it is okay! No worries. Thankfully, The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 had just come out on DVD and it cheered me up immensely. COMPLETELY UNRELATED SIDE-NOTE: the above is an animated version of the celebrated Batman Graphic Novel by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson. If you like Batman, you should read it.
Congratulations! You have sent off your masterfully written query letter and eagerly await a request (or two! Or three! Or a dozen!) from literary agents.
And then you wait for a long time. So what do you do?
ANSWER: Leave the agent alone! Do not hound the agent! If you annoy her, she will decide—before even reading your query—that you’re a pain and she doesn’t want to work with you. The agency website probably gives an estimate for how long query responses take. Some agencies only write you back if they want to see the book, so in those cases, you might not hear anything. Ever. STORY: I just experienced this and was tempted to write again. I did receive an automated “we have received your query” email when I initially sent the query, so I know the agent “got it,” but apparently she just wasn’t interested. So I moved on. Again: Do not hound the agent!
Give the agent whatever time the website recommends or whatever time the agent says she needs. If after the allotted time you have not heard anything, write a polite email reminding the agent about it and include the query again in that email. Be polite. Agents are busy and won’t like it if you bother them. They are working all the time.
While you’re waiting, keep researching other agents! Make lists, keep files, etc. I’ll write more about how to “strategize” in a later post.
Closing your Query Letter is the easiest part of your initial correspondence with a literary agent.
After you’ve written your greeting/introduction and hooked the literary agent with the premise and plot of your novel, you might want to end your Query Letter with a brief note about yourself.
Did you notice the word “might?” You do not have to write anything about yourself. Only include biographical information if your experience is relevant to your book. Are you published already? Has your writing won any awards? Do you have a degree in creative writing? Are you a police officer who has written a crime drama? If there’s really nothing—don’t worry about it. Your story should speak for itself—it is the hook—not you (unless you are famous, I suppose). You don’t have to include any “bio” information because it probably won’t matter at this point. I’m not trying to be insulting here—remember that the goal of the query is to get the agent to request your story. If having biographical info will help with that, put it in. If the bio doesn’t pertain to the story, skip it.
Lastly, sign off by thanking the agent for her time and say that you can send the completed manuscript at her request. Make sure your contact info is on the letter/in the email somewhere.
Before you send your Query Letter, you need to find the right Literary Agents.
Once your book is absolutely the best it can be, you need to find literary agents who specialize in your genre. There are several websites and books that it can help with this (Publishers Marketplace, Writer’s Market, the Guide to Literary Agents, Jeff Herman’s Guide, plus many more—check your local library!).
Do not send your query to an agent who does not specialize in your genre—even if you’ve heard great things about that agent. Why not? Because the agent will stop reading your letter the moment he/she (note: I will use “she” from now on) determines that it isn’t in her specialty area (genres). More importantly, the agents will ignore you because they can’t help you. Agents know their genres inside and out, but they don’t know every genre. They, like you, probably don’t like every genre. Agents are people with particular tastes. In addition, agents develop relationships with certain editors. Editors, like the agents themselves, have niches. Agents will often represent several genres, but no agent represents all genres. An agent who specializes in mystery may not be able to sell romance because the agent may not know anything about romance or have any connections with romance editors—so don’t waste your time or theirs by writing to them. The only possible case when you might send your query to an agent who does not rep. your genre is if you have a personal connection with that agent. In that case, maybe the agent will do you a favor and recommend your book to another agent who can help you.
You will need to do a lot of research. Start with the above books and websites, but search the internet. Once you’ve found an agent who might be interested in your novel, go online and find out as much about that agent as you can. Google her. If she is on Twitter, follow her. You can learn A LOT about people on Twitter including what they really want, their pet peeves, likes VS dislikes, etc. Also search for interviews with the agent, see if the agent has a blog or website, etc. Once you know your audience, you’re ready to write the rest of your query (the paragraphs about your novel will probably stay the same—see my post about “Query Writing Tips Part 1 – Your Novel”).
Check the agent’s website/agency website to find exactly how she wants to receive queries. Do not deviate. At this stage, they are looking for any excuse not to read your book (even though they want to find a great book). If you can’t follow directions, you won’t get read.