Category Archives: Agents

Query letters and etiquette, researching agents, hints on getting representation, working with your agent, and more.

6 Takeaways from the PNWA 2015 Conference

Posted by July 21st, 2015

Seattle skyline

Seattle, home of the PNWA 2015 Conference

It was a great weekend at the PNWA 2015 Conference in Seattle, talking with agents, editors, and writers about Book Country, social media, and the publishing process. (PNWA stands for the Pacific Northwest Writers Association.) I want to share these six big takeaways from the conference with the rest of the Book Country community:

  1. Finding beta-readers is as important as ever. However you choose to work with beta-readers–whether in a real-life writing group, remotely via email, or on a workshopping site like Book Country–no one can dispute that a writer needs feedback on their manuscript prior to a successful publication.Technology that makes finding beta-readers easy has become indispensable to in-the-know writers.
  2. Feedback can be wide-ranging, but ratings are also revealing. The more feedback a writer gets on their book, the better informed revision decisions they can make. Getting reviews on your book from beta-readers is a great way to seek suggestions on how to revise. But different readers give different suggestions, sometimes contradicting one another. Your overall ratings can be a powerful way to aggregate your readers’ opinions. On Book Country, for example, your overall rating–so long as you’ve spent the time and energy to garner a large number of peer reviews–will help you gauge whether or not your book is ready to be published.
  3. Distribution is everything. Writers have gotten savvier about this since the last time I was at PNWA. Back then, I met a lot of writers who had self-published but their book was not widely available. It’s rare these days to find a writer who isn’t planning to publish their book electronically, and it’s also common for writers to make sure their book is available for many different types of eReader. On Book Country, for example, authors can publish once and simultaneously distribute to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Scribd, Kobo, iBooks, Google, and Flipkart. It’s essential for writers to stay on top of book retail trends.
  4. Social media takes time. Writers at PNWA knew how important it is for them to be growing their social media audience. It’s key to start building a following early, so that when your book does launch, it has somewhere receptive to land. Learning how to use social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and others now rather than later is a good use of an aspiring writer’s time.
  5. Social media takes time. Wait, didn’t I just say that? To be clear, it’s not just building a social media that takes time. Doing the real work of social media–writing posts, creating engaging images, reading social media feeds, and conversing with followers–takes big chunks of your day-to-day. So not only do you want to start early, you also want to get organized. Writers I met at PNWA were figuring out how to carve out time for social media tasks. One tip Andrea Dunlop shared in our “Dos and Don’ts of Social Media” session was to be realistic about how much time you will be consistently able to devote to your social media. It’s easy to sign up for a lot of accounts, but it’s better to be selectively active than to have a bunch of abandoned online profiles. (Go here for more tips from Andrea.)
  6. Professional author services are the author’s best kept secret. More and more writers–both those seeking self-publishing and traditional publishing–are hiring professional developmental editors, copyeditors, proofreaders, book publicists, marketers, designers, and more. The competition to get noticed is stiff, so figuring out what you need help with to make your book stand out is becoming a bigger part of the publishing process. Many writers are using editorial firms like Girl Friday Productions to develop and polish manuscripts. Authors who find social media either too daunting or too time-consuming are learning how to hire it out to professionals. While these services can be expensive, many writers and authors are finding them to be valuable. I predict that we’ll be discussing this aspect of the publishing industry much more here on Book Country in the next year.

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Ask a Literary Agent: Amy Cloughley Answers Your Questions

Posted by July 13th, 2015

Amy CloughleyPlease welcome literary agent Amy Cloughley of Kimberley Cameron & Associates to the blog today! Amy’s in the market to acquire the following types of books: Historical; Literary; Mainstream; Mystery and Suspense (all types but NO paranormal); Thriller (legal, grounded, psychological); Women’s Fiction; Adult Nonfiction (pop culture and humor, sports, narrative, memoir–travel). Like Book Country, Amy will be at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference at the end of this week. If you’ll also be at #PNWA15, you’ll be able to find Amy at the Agent Forum on Friday, July 17, at 10:00am, and at Power Pitch Sessions A, D, & E on Friday and Saturday.

When do you need an agent?  How do you know when you are ready as a writer to take this step? – Claire Count

There are a variety of great options for publishing your work, but if your goal is to be traditionally published, your odds of success increase quite a bit if you work with a qualified agent. Although many small/mid-sized publishers will consider unagented work, most of the larger houses will not, and the publishers who do often give priority to agented submissions.

You will know you are ready to take this step when your manuscript (or book proposal for nonfiction) is your best, most polished work. Although an agent will often provide some feedback to clients, an agent is typically looking to take on projects/clients who are as close to ready for the marketplace as possible. So be sure to do your research and due diligence. What is the typical word count for your genre? Is your POV clear and consistent? Are your main characters fully developed? Is your pacing appropriate for your genre? Did you have quality beta readers provide feedback? Did you identify a few current comparable titles to include in your query? There are numerous websites such as WritersDigest or here at BookCountry, as well as countless books and classes, that cover how to prepare your manuscript for publication. Applying this information will help your manuscript get an agent’s attention. Continue reading

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Book Country at ThrillerFest and PitchFest

Posted by July 7th, 2015

Headed to ThrillerFest X this week? So is Book Country!

ThrillerFestCome visit the Book Country table on Thursday, July 9th, between 2-5:30pm on the Ballroom Level of the Grand Hyatt NYC. We’re going to be tabling during the PitchFest event, where hundreds of thriller writers will giving their 3-minute novel pitch to dozens of agents.

ThrillerFest is the annual conference of the International Thriller Writers, a writers’ organization that represents professional thriller writers from around the world. Continue reading

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Ask a Literary Agent: Nephele Tempest Answers Your Questions!

Posted by May 27th, 2015

Ask a Literary Agent: Nephele Tempest Answers Your Questions!We’re happy to have literary agent Nephele Tempest share her experience with the Book Country community! Nephele has been a member of The Knight Agency since 2005 and is based in Los Angeles. Nephele is currently seeking works in a wide variety of genres, including literary fiction, romance, and young adult.

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If you feel that a novel from a first-time author is strong (style, voice, premise, etc.) — but, could use some changes (more than simple tweaking) — are you likely to say to the author: Make these changes and then send it back to me? – Val

I have definitely done this in the past, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. If I really love a story concept and think the writing is strong, I will occasionally make a few suggestions to the author with an offer to reread if they decide to follow up. Not everyone takes my suggestions, but I have seen revised manuscripts in this way. On one occasion, I did end up signing the author. We did a few more rounds of revisions once I had signed her on before I submitted the book to editors and sold it. The first round of edits she performed before I signed her on showed me that she was capable of following directions and that she was willing to work to get the book to a salable point. These are great qualities to see in a client.

As a member of the Book Country community of writers, I have a manuscript (Historical Fiction/Personage) that lately has been receiving five nib (star) reviews. The book is virtually finished, but I am in a quandary as to whether to seek an agent or self-publish. I have worked on this story for many years, and it is the advice from other writers that has helped me bring the novel to this point. – Rob Emery

Only you can decide whether you are interested in going the traditional publishing route or if you want to self-publish. Each route has its advantages and disadvantages. The traditional route can be time-consuming, but you end up with a group of people working for you to help get your book into the world — an agent, an editor, a marketing department and sales team, etc. If you self-publish, you still need those people and will need to find them and pay them for their work. I recommend you research both ways of doing things and pick the route that seems best for you. Either way, give the process time to work. Commit to the choice you make and really put in the time and effort to make your book a success. Too often I receive queries from authors who have self-published a few months ago and aren’t happy with the results, so they now want to try again the traditional way. I can’t really do anything for them because all they’ve done is create a poor sales history for their project that will make it hard for me to sell to a publishing house. So whatever route you choose, give it your all. Continue reading

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Ask a Literary Agent: Regina Brooks Answers Your Questions!

Posted by May 20th, 2015

Ask a Literary Agent: Regina Brooks Answers Your Questions!

Regina Brooks is the founder and CEO of Serendipity Literary Agency LLC. In November 2010, Brooks co-founded and launched a new publishing imprint under Akashic Books called Open Lens. Regina shares the one thing all successful writers have in common and what writers should do to build a readership.

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What do you do if a book by one of your clients gets a cover that you find really ugly, but the publisher and the author love it? Do you hold your tongue or do you put in your 2 cents? – Lucy Silag

This has happened several times in the last several months. When evaluating covers, I use the following criteria as my first line of communicating my hesitation on a design.

  • Does the author’s name appear clear and strong? Sometimes the title or other features can overshadow the author’s name on a cover. I’m always sensitive to making sure we build the author’s brand and the name is showcased prominently.
  • Does the cover incorporate a color palette that will resonate with the audience appropriately? For example, business books often use black, red, or blue. Girl books for younger audiences typically incorporate purples, pink, or yellow. Of course, covers can certainly veer from these conventions, but many years of research and theory have gone into selecting colors that work. One of my authors Elizabeth Harper has taught me a lot about colors and how they are received.
  • Does the cover show up well in a thumbnail size? There are often wonderful fonts and illustrations that work well in the print version but get lost in the ebook format. These days many consumers will first discover a book online, so it’s important that the title and author’s name are readily visible.
  •  Does the cover speak to the core demographic? There might be confusion as to whether the book is for women,  millennials, academics, etc. The cover needs to strike a chord with the target audience.

I’ve been in the business for 20 years, so I’ve seen my share of ‘ugly’ covers. Aesthetics are very subjective, so I tend to table my commentary unless I have something clear and focused that speak to the questions I’ve mentioned  above. If it’s just a matter of taste, I will certainly tell my author, but I will often acquiesce to the author and editor if they are in sync. Continue reading

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Agents to Follow on Twitter

Posted by May 19th, 2015

Literary agents are incredibly active and forthcoming on Twitter, sharing advice about querying, breaking into the publishing industry, and building an online author platform.

Follow agents on Twitter to learn what genres agents are searching for and what agents look for in a great manuscript. Some agents even share critiques of manuscripts on Twitter, giving you a first-hand look of how they determine which manuscripts to accept or reject.

Agents to Follow on Twitter

Agents to Follow on Twitter

Agents to Follow on Twitter Continue reading

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Ask a Literary Agent: Mary C. Moore Answers Your Questions!

Posted by May 13th, 2015

Ask a Literary Agent: Mary C. Moore Answers Your Questions!Please welcome literary agent Mary C. Moore to our latest round of Ask a Literary Agent! Mary is a Bay Area-based agent at Kimberley Cameron & Associates who loves representing authors who write unusual fantasy, grounded science fiction, and strong female characters.

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When reading a query letter for a work of fiction (esp. fantasy/sci-fi), I know that having both strong characters and a strong plot are important. But which will make you more likely to keep reading and why? – Vanessa Silva

For me personally, the opening scene has to have forward-moving action. If an author spends a lot of time giving back story, they lose my interest. I want to feel like I jumped in the car with you and we took off for an adventure. This doesn’t mean the action has to be “high-stakes exciting” per se, it just has to have momentum. Continue reading

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Ask a Literary Agent: Carly Watters Answers Your Questions!

Posted by May 6th, 2015

Ask a Literary Agent: Carly Watters Answers Your Questions!We are so happy to have Carly Watters on the Book Country blog! Carly is a VP and senior literary agent with the P.S. Literary Agency. Her bestselling and debut authors include Rebecca Phillips, Danny Appleby, and Book Country member Andrea Dunlop. Carly frequently shares informative insights about the publishing industry on her blog and on Twitter. Below, Carly offers advice on how to get your name and book out there, what to do if you’ve already self-published a book and are seeking representation, and the state of erotica in today’s market.

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Do you participate in social media pitch campaigns like #PitMad on Twitter? If so, what can you share from your experience for those of us who might be thinking about participating in the future? – Kelley

I used to do more than I do now. I love working with debuts, and I’m always open to queries. However, I had one experience that made me step back from #PitMad and other online contests. Here’s the example: I favorited a tweet of a pitch I liked, and the author and I started to chat. When I offered representation on the phone a week later, the author said they’ve been interested in another agent for awhile now and used my offer as leverage to let her top agent know. I’m all for savvy business-minded people, but that made me reevaluate why I would spend my time searching out authors–and taking many days out of my year with these contests–when I have so many amazing queries in my inbox.

Also, I’ve written a guide to Twitter pitching if you want more tips!  Continue reading

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Submit Questions for Book Country’s Ask an Agent Blog Series!

Posted by April 1st, 2015

Submit Questions for Book Country's Ask an Agent Blog Series!

Ask an Agent is back!  All throughout April, post your question for a literary agent on the discussion board. Four agents will answer questions on the Book Country blog in May.

Literary agents help writers in every step of the publishing process, including contract negotiations, marketing, and cover design. The writer-agent relationship is incredibly important when going the traditional publishing route. We hope our Ask an Agent blog series helps shed light on what you should look for in an agent and what to expect come publishing time!

Check out last year’s Ask an Agent blog posts:

Ask an Agent: Lucy Carson Answers Your Questions!
Ask an Agent: Melissa Sarver White Answers Your Questions!
Ask an Agent: Ryan D. Harbage Answers Your Questions!
Ask an Agent: David Fugate Answers Your Questions!

Submit your question for a literary agent on the discussion board: Book Country Ask an Agent Blog Series 2015.






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Slice Literary Writers Conference: What’s All This Talk About “Platform,” and Do I Really Need One?

Posted by September 5th, 2014

Are you headed to the Slice Literary Writers’ Conference tomorrow?

I will be there, speaking on a panel called “What’s All This Talk About “Platform,” and Do I Really Need One?” from 2:45-4:00pm in Room 3203.

Here’s what the panel is all about:

It seems that writing a great manuscript is not enough to attract a publisher. Many say you aren’t publishing material unless you have a “platform.” But what exactly counts as a platform, and is it really that important? Agents and editors talk about how platform influences publishers, how best to spend your energy building one (or not), and how the definition and importance of platform changes depending on what you’re writing.

Panelists: Emily Griffin, Editor, Grand Central Publishing; Kirby Kim, Agent, Janklow & Nesbit; Lucy Silag, Community and Engagement Manager, Book Country; Terra Chalberg, Agent, Chalberg & Sussman; Maya Ziv, Editor, HarperCollins

Moderator: Joshua Bodwell, Author and Executive Director of the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance

Slice Magazine

The Slice Literary Writers’ Conference is hosted by Slice Magazine, a fantastic publication that “aims to bridge the gap between emerging and established authors.”

If you’ll be there, I hope you’ll join us for what promises to be a spirited and informative conversation about the writer’s platform and what that means.

I’ll also be tweeting as much as I can from the conference, and I’m sure there’ll be lots of interesting tips and tweets coming from other participants as well. Follow the official conference hashtag #SMC14 as well as #SliceConference to stay in the loop!

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