Tag Archives: queries

Dan Croutch’s Tips for Querying Agents

Posted by June 16th, 2014

tips for querying agents smallerI came up with these tips for querying agents when I started querying my book THE KINGS OF CARNIN: RISE OF ARI to agents about eight months ago.

First, I created a list of agents based on some online resources and the suggestions of published folks. Each agent was ranked based on their success with clients.

I chose to send off a batch of snail mail queries first. My first rejection was exciting; a badge of honor.  Now that I had it I felt I was truly well on my way to publishdom. The second was less exciting and the fourth was just plain discouraging. Querying agents is a really emotional process, one where every letter or email sent faces an astonishing battle of the odds.

One of my queries, the third to this agent I’ll admit, resulted in a “partial.” This is where the agent wants to see the first chunk of the manuscript. Huzzah, finally people can see my work! That’s what I had been saying all along – “if only they could read this.”  That rejection was particularly sobering and quite a setback. Thankfully, some feedback from Book Country members came in shortly thereafter and restarted the passion for my work. Now I can hardly wait for an agent to request my first “full” – the whole manuscript – and maybe even representation! Continue reading

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Before You Query a Literary Agent: Sara Megibow Shares Her Best Tips

Posted by September 18th, 2013

sara_sized_160x240Sara Megibow is a literary agent from the Nelson Literary Agency representing primarily genre including romance, science fiction/fantasy and young adult/middle grade books. Not only has she midwifed some of our favorite books—our own Michael R. Underwood’s GEEKOMANCY, Tiffany Reisz’s THE SIREN and Jason M. Hough’s DARWIN ELEVATOR—but she’s been educating the world about publishing and writing on Twitter for years! Sara runs the fantastic #5pagesin5tweets Twitter series, where she looks at the first five pages of a submitted manuscript and tweets about it. We asked her share advice on what’s needed before you query a literary agent. -NG.

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Think of your manuscript as a canvas. A painter steps in front of a canvas to craft a painting. That painter uses different brushes, different colors, different techniques, even different kinds of paint to create her/his art. This is how I think of writing. Same thing–the writer has different tools at her or his disposal to tell a story. That writer can use dialogue, back story, conflict and plot, world building, body language, action/reaction and any number of devices to tell a story. When I’m reading submissions, I’m looking for balance. No one is getting a rejection simply because paragraph two on page three has too much dialogue. Rather, the overall storytelling in the first five pages is what I’m evaluating.

Some words I’d use to describe excellent submissions I’ve read over the years: effortless, authentic, surprising, engaging, unique, balanced.

Continue reading

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Query 101 with Agent Jennie Goloboy

Posted by April 17th, 2013

[Update: Jamie Wyman’s book WILD CARD (previously TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES) is out now by Entangled.]

Agent Jennie Goloboy dissects the query letter that started her partnership with Book Country member Jamie Wyman.

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Most of my clients first gained my attention due to effective query letters. So how do you write a strong query letter, one that makes an agent curious enough to read the book? Jamie Wyman, author of Technical Difficulties (forthcoming from Entangled) has kindly permitted me to share the query that led to our author/agent team.

 

Dear Ms. Goloboy,

[Hey! She spelled my last name correctly! Always a plus.]

My name is Jamie Wyman and I’m seeking agent representation for my debut novel TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES. I see that not only are you a writer as well as an agent, but you’re a fellow zombie fan. I’ve got a few zombie tales in my folder, too. While the shamblers don’t appear in this book, the novel I have to share with you does step outside of the mundane.

[It’s clear from the start that Jamie knows the proper format for a query letter, which immediately demonstrates that she will be professional. In an opening paragraph, if it’s there, I look for one of three things. Was the author recommended to me by a mutual friend? Did we meet at a conference, where I requested a manuscript?  Do we know each other from a writing group? If none of these three things are true, I go straight to the next paragraph.]

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES is a 77,500 word urban fantasy blending magic, myth and the modern world. In the Las Vegas of Catherine Sharp, gods gamble with souls of unassuming humans. Eight years ago, Catherine’s soul fell into the possession of Eris, the Greek goddess of Discord. Since then she has been working a dead end technical support job while performing random tasks for the goddess. When Coyote, the Native American trickster himself, claims to have won her soul in Mayhem’s weekly poker game, Catherine must get in on the action if she wants to be free. This won’t be easy with five trickster gods upping the ante. Along for the ride is Marius, an insatiable satyr with his own debt to Eris. If they play their cards right, Cat and Marius may get their lives back. Assuming they don’t kill each other first.

[Urban fantasy/paranormal romance is a very overpopulated genre, so a pitch has to be really good to attract my attention. I was intrigued by the unique setting of Jamie’s manuscript—a Las Vegas in which all the gods are real.  Jamie was also successful in suggesting her heroine’s world-weary but tough persona, even in this short paragraph. I liked the fact that Cat had a real job in tech support, which suggested that this would be a book grounded in reality, despite the presence of the fantastic. The romance is critical, and I liked that Marius wasn’t your typical vampire/werewolf/wizard, but his description as “insatiable” was one of the things we revised when pitching this to editors. We called him a “sarcastic, self-centered satyr,” which gave a clearer impression of the source of romantic conflict. (Every word counts!)]

Catherine offers genre fans a strong, smart yet flawed heroine. She can’t blast through problems like Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, nor can she rely on an infusion of supernatural blood to get out of her predicaments. My approach to this story draws inspiration from Christopher Moore’s COYOTE BLUE and Neil Gaiman’s ANANSI BOYS. While this story stands on its own it is meant to spark Catherine’s greater journey. With trickster gods running the show, though, her adventures take on a Rube Goldberg-esque dynamic that leaves mystery until the very end of the series. Sequels and companion short stories are in varying stages of production.

[Jamie was very astute in choosing the authors with comparable titles, because she gives the accurate impression that her book would appeal to readers who don’t generally read urban fantasy or paranormal romance.Technical Difficulties occasionally pauses to recount a trickster myth in a witty style that totally won me over. (Besides, Christopher Moore is one of my favorite authors.) Jamie also made it clear that this is a novel that could either stand alone or be part of a series.]

While this would mark my publishing debut, I was fortunate enough to be included in eBookNewser’s “Best Online Fiction Authors” list in May of this year for my flash fiction piece “Eat. Prey. Love.”

[It’s true: you don’t need a huge track record to find an agent. It helped that Jamie already had a popular blog and was well-known on Twitter.]

If you’d like to know more about Catherine and her world, the full manuscript is available on a non-exclusive basis.
Thank you very much for your time, Jennie. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best Regards,

Jamie Wyman

[I requested the first three chapters, read them within the hour, and requested the full the same day. That doesn’t happen often, but Jamie presented a story where I HAD to know what happened to Cat and Marius! After Jamie made some revisions to the ending, I offered her representation.]

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Getting Started with Query Letters

Posted by April 11th, 2013

Write better query letters.

query

You’ve just finished your full-length novel; the last thing you feel like doing is boiling it down to a letter crafted to entice agents.

But it’s oh-so-important to get it right. A query letter is the one minute you get to pitch your book to an agent. Start with this tutorial on AgentQuery.com.

To learn more about the art of query letter writing, we suggest you do two things:

1. Look at individual agents’ websites and read what they would like to see in a query letter. Start with respected literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s wonderful post How to Write a Query Letter.

2. Now read a ton of real-life examples of query letters that worked. Compare and contrast different approaches, and make sure you have the main components down, even if you choose a different format for your query. Always check each agent’s submissions guidelines for specific instructions and requirements.

Here are a few original queries by now-published authors:

Gail Carriger’s query for her steampunk/paranormal novel SOULLESS

David J. Williams’ query for his science fiction novel THE MIRRORED HEAVENS

Kelly Gay’s query for her urban fantasy novel THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS
(As you’ll see, this one is from the time our own Colleen was a literary agent.)

Joshua Palmatier’s query for his contemporary fantasy FEVER (this post is part of Palmatier’s Query Project, so scroll down for more examples of queries that worked!)

To ask for feedback for your queries-in-progress on Book Country, post them in the Workshop Your Query area of the discussion forums.

Good luck and happy query writing!

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Meet Agent Deidre Knight

Posted by April 3rd, 2013

5 Questions with Kerry Schafer’s Agent

deidre_knight_photo_sm4“Out of excitement, writers pull the trigger too soon, and send a work out before it’s as sharp as it possibly can be.”

Deidre Knight is an accomplished literary agent and the founder of The Knight Agency. The agency boasts more than 2,000 titles sold to major and independent publishers, many of which have become bestsellers and received numerous awards. Deidre’s main focus as an agent is on romance and women’s fiction. 

Deidre represents Book Country member Kerry Schafer, whose sequel to BetweenWakeworld, comes out next year on February 14th. Last week, I chatted with Deidre to delve into her publishing expertise and get caught up on the most recent news about Kerry.

Nevena: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us, Deidre. Tell us, why did you become an agent? And how has agenting changed during your tenure?

Deidre: Books were always a huge part of my life growing up, as is typically the case for almost anyone in the publishing and writing professions. I began writing at age ten, when an essay of mine was published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. After studying Art History and English in college, I wound up working in the film and television business, but those crazy hours began to take their toll. So I eventually put my love of both sales/marketing and books to use by opening The Knight Agency.

I often tell people that agents are that quirky blend of both introvert and extrovert.  We have to love digging in to read and edit, but it’s also imperative that we connect with people on many levels—both with editors when selling a project or author, and in that intimate one-on-one client/agent relationship. That’s one reason why sometimes I have a very hard time finding time to actually *read*: I can get caught up in the more extroverted part of my job, like social media, or time on the phone with editors, or working closely with clients.

Needless to say our profession has changed a lot in the past seventeen years. In many ways, it was a more static profession when I first started, with a pretty set “track” to run on as an agent, at least in terms of working to be successful as possible. Now, I think the best agents must be as agile as possible, constantly making adjustments as the industry and the world around us change rapidly. To me, that just makes it a very exciting and dynamic time to do my job.  In the past, if I couldn’t sell a project to a major NYC publisher, or even to a more midsize or niche publisher, that project was something of a heartbreak for me. I’d been the work’s champion, but nobody would experience the magic that I had on the page. Now, of course, if I can’t sell a book to a major publisher, then there are all sorts of possibilities from small digital press to self-publishing to serializing the work…it’s all about being as creative as possible in strategizing what’s best for the author.

Nevena: So what kind of books are you looking for at the moment? What’s the one you wish would magically land on your doorstep?

Deidre: I am eagerly hunting for new clients right now, actually, largely in the romance and erotica area. Probably my first “shopping” choice would be a high concept single title romance—contemporary with a strong community. I won’t say “backdrop” of community because I personally want that world to be another character on the page, driving the action and the people we meet. I also love big historical romance with a big concept that links the series (family members, spinster friends, you name it!), especially series set in Victorian and Regency eras. I have a great love of women’s fiction with romantic elements, something with a ton of heart, emotion, and humor.

Nevena: I hope the Book Country members are taking notes! Deidre, you represent Kerry Schafer, whose book Between was discovered on the site. Kerry made her debut at #22 in the Bookscan Fantasy bestseller list, which is amazing! What drew you to the project? What’s next for Kerry?

Deidre: Kerry has a rare gift, especially when it comes to me as a reader. I started reading in the middle of a work morning, expecting to put the work down and move on down my “to do” list that day. Instead, I didn’t stop reading until I was about a third of the way into the book. She’s got a terrific gift for weaving a total world, one that sweeps you away in its freshness and magic. She was a truly wonderful find for me as a reader, not just as an agent. At the moment, she’s working on the next book in that series, Wakeworld. I can’t wait to see how things progress for these characters!

Nevena: Me too! Kerry crafted such a captivating world. You mentioned before that you found another writer on Book Country. How do you use the site to find new talent?

Deidre: I did sign on another author who I found on Book Country! I am shopping her work now, and will hopefully have good news to report soon. I use the site by reading what’s on there and if something really draws me in, then I ask to see more if it’s available. I’ve always marveled at the high-quality level of talent I find on the Book Country site and am itching to pay another visit soon.

Nevena: Thank you, Deidre. In your experience, what’s one common mistake that newbie writers make in submissions that our members should be mindful of? What parting words of advice do you have for our members?

Deidre: The biggest problem I see in submissions from newer authors is lack of editing and revision. Out of excitement, they pull the trigger too soon, and send a work out before it’s as sharp as it possibly can be. And as a writer myself, I certainly get that. The process of literary creation is so solitary, and in our ultra-connected world of social media and digitized everything, the act of isolated creation is more alien than ever. That said, to truly create the very best book possible really does require a certain amount of time, alone with the hands to the keyboard.

Now, the great thing about Book Country is that it conquers some of that isolation by allowing for feedback and interaction as part of the creative process. But writers should be sure that they are truly receptive to feedback and editing, not simply eager to hear how marvelous they are. Being an author is all about process, and always looking for ways to improve and grow; the day that ends, a writer’s work begins to grow stale.

Nevena: Thank you so much for your words of wisdom! I’m so glad you could join us.

Keep up with Deidre Knight on Twitter at @DeidreKnight. Learn more about her and The Knight Agency at the agency’s website. We recommend the agency’s newsletter to all budding writers! Deidre is also a New York Times bestselling author of paranormal romance novels. Visit her author website.

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The Elusive Author-Agent Relationship

Posted by January 19th, 2012

Author Laura Griffin and agent Kevan Lyon discuss how to build and maintain a strong author-agent relationship.

 twitter_newbird_boxed_blueonwhiteAlmost all writers who have publication aspirations have, at some point, queried an agent (or are planning to!). And sadly, a large number of those queries don’t get offers of representation. So when an interest agent reaches out, it’s not surprising that writers get excited and anxious to move forward. But it’s important to remember that just because you have an offer at represensentation, doesn’t mean he or she is the right agent for you. You have to be compatible with your agent on several levels and be willing to work through the bumpy patches.

What exactly are these “levels,” you ask? Just check out our January 12th, 2012 Twitter chat with author and agent team Laura Griffin(@Laura_Griff) and Kevan Lyon(@KevanLyon) to find out! They’ve been working together for five years and twelve books and have one of the strongest author-agent relationships I’ve seen. They also have some great tips regarding the best questions to ask a potential agent.

But first, a little backstory on our special guests…

Laura Griffin is a New York Times bestselling romantic suspense author. Since her first book published in 2007, Laura has been busy writing and developing her popular Tracers series, the fifth novel of which, TWISTED, comes out on April 17th. (Mark your calendars!)

Kevan Lyon is a founding partner of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. With a main focus on women’s fiction, romance, and young adult, she reps a number of clients and spends muchtime nurturing her relationship with each one of them. her background in book sales and distribution doesn’t hurt either!

Here’s a little preview of what our participants had to say on the topic:

@Laura_Griff: It is a bit like a marriage! Because it’s a partnership and you both have to be striving toward the same goal.

@KevanLyon: You want to try to get a feel for how they communicate, how often, how quickly. Their submission process, should you expect to hear from them during that process, how much information they share, etc.

@ColleenLindsay: Some writers are self-confident; some need a lot of handholding. An agent has to decide how comfortable they are with that.

@KevanLyon: When you recv an offer of representation make sure you are ready wi questions — make sure it feels right to you.

@Laura_Griff: Twitter and FB are great resources for [writers looking for the right agent]. Talk to other writers and hear what they think of diff agencies & publishers.

@allison_pang: Agent needs to be able to you give you the hard news as well as easy.

@KevanLyon: [The biggest mistake an author-agent can make is] not communicating honestly. I always want to hear from an author 1st if something is bothering them.

@Laura_Griff: Ask the agent what they like about your work. See if they seem sincerely excited. That’s important.

We’ve also posted the entire transcript as a PDF document here. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles. Please note that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the bottom and work your way up. Thanks to all who participated in this helpful chat!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look!

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