Make A Decent Proposal

imagesI know you may feel helpless at times. You’ve written an exciting adventure and edited it so many times you’ve lost count. You know you’ve produced a publisheable piece of work, so why isn’t it published. I’ve been there – done that.

Remember that your work being accepted by an agent often times has nothing to do with the novel itself. How many times have you had a rejection letter following the request for the full manuscript? That agent made the decision that they liked or disliked your idea before they even started reading your novel.

That’s the importance of the query letter and getting those first few pages of your novel right. Keep in mind that most agents receive over 10,000 queries a year. They don’t have the time to give to every submission they get.

Don’t make it easy for them to toss your work before they’ve given it consideration. That query has to be as polished as your manuscript. You don’t send out your first draft of a novel? That’s what it is – a rough draft. At least I hope you don’t. I have to confess I did.

One of the many rejection letters I received was nice enough to inform me that the novel wasn’t ready for publication, and proceeded to provide a long list of reasons why. The agent did like my premise ūüôā and made it through the query without tossing it. That’s probably why she took the time to respond.

There is a formula to get that query right. First and foremost, follow the submission guidelines of the agent or agency you are querying. Don’t give them more or less. If they want more information or to see the manuscript, they will request it.

There are workshops available and unlimited information on the internet on how to compile a successful query. Do your homework. When you finish that novel, you are not finished.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

Make A Decent Proposal

Queries – You May Be An Amateur – But Don’t Make It Obvious.

imagesI have to admit I’m guilty of a few query don’ts. Okay, maybe a lot ūüôā I didn’t know any better. Like many of you, I just thought I did. You don’t know what you don’t know. I hope you are researching and doing your homework at every stage of the process. You don’t want to send out queries with the following blunders.

  1. Queries with typos in the first sentence.
  2. Queries that start with a nugget of wisdom: the submitter trying to be cute or philosophical. “Every step we take in life moves us in a direction.” Really!
  3. Queries that use very small type or brilliant colors in the background. Maybe if you add a fancy font it will jump off the page. Remember-the agent probably suffers from eyestrain. They live on the computer. Keep it simple-follow the rules.
  4. Queries with overcomplicated directions for replying. It’s great that you are confident you will receive a response, but the agent/publisher doesn’t want your travel plans. A simple street or email address will do.
  5. Queries longer than one page. Remember –¬† concise, clear, straight to the point. If you waste words and wonder all over the place during the query, the agent/publisher will think you do the same in your novel.
  6. Queries with more than one agent in the “To” line. Each query has to be individualized to the agent you are querying.
  7. Queries that start, “I know you receive hundreds of queries a week.” or “I know how busy you are so I’ll get straight to the point.” By writing this, you have already taken up a full sentence of their valuable time. Don’t state the obvious.
  8. Queries that make grandiose claims. My writing is comparative to Nicholas Sparks, or I would expect my novel to sell 150 million copies since that’s how many women live in the United States.
  9. Queries that state, “I worked very hard on this novel.” So! That doesn’t necessarily make it good.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Queries – You May Be An Amateur – But Don’t Make It Obvious.

Query Do’s And Dont’s

imagesVJWWCJKOIf you’re a serious writer, or serious about becoming a serious writer, you probably know what a query letter is. In case you don’t, it’s simply a letter you would send to an agent or publisher requesting representation of your novel.

And while it is just a letter, it’s a very important letter that has to catch the attention of the agent it is addressed to and convince him/her that you have something to offer. It is your foot in the door that will hopefully make all your dreams come true.

When you have finished your masterpiece and are ready to pitch your work to an agent, remember, there are query do’s and don’ts.

Do

  • Check the agent’s or publisher’s website to verify contact information. You want to make sure your query get’s to the right place.
  • Play by the rules. The agency or publisher will be specific about what they want included and how they want it presented.
  • Track your submissions. You don’t want to send queries to the same agents every quarter. They notice.
  • Proof your email on different email services. As a test, you could send it to a friend or significant other to ensure there are no formating issues. I like the way one agent put it. “Your beautiful document could look like a ransom note on the other end.” I never thought about that ūüôā

Don’t

  • Be coy.
  • Teasers don’t belong in queries.
  • Send anything to more than one person at the same agency. They talk and will find out. It makes a bad impression.
  • Send queries out to companies at large. Be specific in who your query is addressed to.
  • Follow up on an unsolicited query unless you think it didn’t arrive. If the agent didn’t respond, they aren’t interested.
  • Use a mass mail service or mass mail your own query. Keep it personal and individualized to each agent you send it out to. They are not looking for a generic letter. We all hate form letters.
  • Offer contrived empathy, such as “I know that you must be overwhelmed by submissions . . .”
  • Describe more than one project at a time.
  • Attach materials to your query unless specified by the agent your are querying.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Query Do’s And Dont’s

How Do I Get An Agent’s Attention?

1426616739108I’m almost finished with revising my manuscript and plan to get a few well qualified friends to give it a final read through. Their job will be to make sure it is believable, there are¬†no plot holes, and of course, it’s an interesting-grab you by the seat of your pants-type of book.

So like many of you, I’ve been surfing the web looking for information on how to get an agent’s attention. With all of the queries they receive, what can I do to make my manuscript stand out?

Remember it’s not personal:

  • Agents know there is a lot of emotions tied to the time and effort you put into finishing your manuscript. You have to be able to separate the emotion when submitting your work and see it for what it is-a business transaction.
  • Don’t be funny or try to do something cute-like writing from your main characters POV. Remember this is business. Let your great writing blow them away.
  • A query letter is a business letter. Think of it as a cover letter when applying for a job.

Have a unique story:

There are no new stories, just different ways to tell them. What have you done to change your story and make it stand out?

  • You need a book that’s more than just well-written. You could string perfect sentences with zero grammatical errors, which is a good start, but it had better have a unique twist.
  • No¬†one wants to read a book they have read before. You may have changed the names and locations, but unless you added that unique twist and shook some things up,¬†an agent won’t be¬†interested in your work.
  • Find a unique take on a formula that works.

The hook, The book, and the cook:

Barbara Poelle uses this line to describe the ingredients of a great query letter.  The hook is one sentence that describes what your story is about. Yes, you did read that right. I said one sentence. You can check out Publishers Lunch for examples of great loglines. The book is four or five sentences that provide more detail about your story. The cook is you. Just as in any job interview, the agent wants to know about the person they are considering as a potential client.

It has to be love:

Would you want to marry someone who is kind of in love with you, or who is head over heels crazy about you? I thought this was a great analogy for literary agents and your book.

  • If a literary agent is going to represent your work to a publisher, then they have to love it.
  • Don’t be discouraged with a rejection, remember¬†agents are people too, and their likes and dislikes may be different from yours. They are doing you a favor by rejecting you. It’s hard to give 100% to something you aren’t fully sold on.
  • Query literary¬†agents who represent the authors of the books you love to read. Chances are, they will love your style of¬†writing as well.

Remember to be professional, and don’t be discouraged if you receive a rejection. Remind yourself you are waiting for someone who loves your work as much as you do.

There is so much information on query letters and finding an agent. I plan to continue this discussion in my next blog.

I would love to hear from you. If you have any suggestions, or better yet, something that has worked for you in the past, please share.

-Jan R

 

 

 

 

How Do I Get An Agent’s Attention?