August 29, 2018 at 10:50 pm #251
For those of you that know me, hello again. For those that don’t, I’ve written a crime thriller called Pieces of Eight, set in Liverpool.
I’ve reached that wonderfully terrifying time of having finished my final edits on my manuscript, started polishing my synopsis and trying to write the perfect query letter.
I’ve done years worth of YouTube research, read literary agent articles, checked out Twitter, looked at literary agency websites, read numerous craft and publication books, bought the Writers and Artists Yearbook, created a spreadsheet to track my submissions, started creating a shortlist of agents to submit to, and made a list of their submission requirements. In fact the only thing I can think of that i haven’t done is actually submit. That’s where you guys come in.
My question now is – how did you, or will you do it? Any tips for a nervous guy. Examples of good synopsis and queries. Or simply share some wild success stories or epic failures. I want to know how to get this right, and what and who to avoid. Any suggestions for good agents or agencies to submit to would also be appreciated (although I know this is dependent on agent preferences).
Look forward to hearing from you.
Pinks.August 30, 2018 at 12:39 pm #262
CONGRAULATIONS on reaching this (very exciting) stage. Well, it seems you are already are ahead of the game in that you have taken the time to do your research (which sadly writers often don’t do). That has already increased your chances by, like, a million. 🙂
You will probably already know these tips, but
1) thoroughly research the agents you want to submit to and try to tailor your cover letter to them as much as you can. Any small mention of why specifically you are submitting to them will go a long way
2) follow their individual submission guidelines to the letter (obvs)
3) Suggested content / format for a cover letter:
Dear [Agent X],
I am pleased to send you the first three chapters and synopsis of [TITLE], a [word count] [genre] novel about [elevator pitch]. I though this book might appeal to you as you mentioned in [tweet / blog / profile] that you like [area of interest that your book ticks]. More generally, I think the book would appeal to readers of [comp titles / authors].
[1-2 paragraph BLURB]
[BIT ABOUT ME: general facts; anything that gives you ‘expertise’ in writing the novel (e.g. it’s set in Cumbria; I live in Cumbria); any common ground with the agent; any awards / prizes / previous pubs. Mention if you have any full MS requests from other agents]
Thank-you for your time in considering my work….
4) This is a great video for how to write a pitch blurb (okay, I’m biased, but still): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMie0mX4QfM
5) Don’t name other agents in your cover letter (e.g. don’t say “the full MS is currently with X”). I did that, and only now do I know it was a faux pas! (It all worked out okay though)
6) Be nervous, but still send it out. Make a shortlist of up to 12 agents, and send out an initial batch of 5-6. You can then tweak your sub based on any feedback before sending out again to new agents.
Phewf! There’s probably lots more I could say, but don’t want to ramble on. Happy to answer any questions / look at your cover letter or synopsis, whatever help I can be
xxAugust 30, 2018 at 12:51 pm #263
Ooh, I’ve also done the same faux pas but only for a competition.
I have already seen Hannah’s video. It was very good.
Seeing as you’ve snagged an agent already, If I have some questions am I ok to message you?August 30, 2018 at 1:01 pm #266
Yes, of course, feel free. Can you DM on here? (I haven’t worked it out yet). Bout to go into clinic at work, but will be about to answer Qs this eve. Speak soonAugust 30, 2018 at 1:41 pm #268
Everything Philippa said! Though re the faux pas, do you mean in terms of naming the agent specifically or not saying that it’s being read at all? Because I’ve always been told it’s good to let other agents know that you’re sending it to other people, that other people are reading the full etc. and this is what I did when more than one person was reading mine and no one seemed to mind. (Or maybe no one told me!)
DMs – I’m not sure if there is a quicker way but if you click on members and find the person you want to send a message to, you then click on their profile and under their name there’s an option to send them a public or private message.
Good luck, Pinks!August 30, 2018 at 2:59 pm #275
@Skylark – I meant naming specifically! All my cover letters said “the full MS is currently with Sarah Manning”. [face palm]
No agent commented on it (even during my one-to-ones at York), but they probably were a bit like… “I didn’t really want to know that”.August 30, 2018 at 3:00 pm #276
Yes, good to mention that you’re submitting to other agents, and to note any interest shown to nudge them along (generally. Just not specifically).August 30, 2018 at 3:37 pm #278
Oops! But the good thing is that making mistakes isn’t the end of the world – which you have proved! And I’ve had plenty of mistakes along the way too…August 30, 2018 at 6:44 pm #285
Agreed.August 30, 2018 at 6:59 pm #287
**** Agreed that making mistakes isn’t the end of the world! Not agreeing that YOU had made mistakes!!!****
Arg.August 30, 2018 at 7:10 pm #289
Hahahaha! I got that, don’t worry 😀August 31, 2018 at 7:13 am #303SquidgeParticipant
My agent experience is somewhat limited, but I’d add that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get one.
Although I worked with an agent for two/three years, when she decided not to work with me any further (bearing in mind that nothing was signed between us in all that time) it gave me the freedom to strike out on my own. Course, I appreciate that’s not ideal for everyone, and having an agent and a publishing deal is still a Really Good Thing for those who want to proceed that way. It just didn’t work out for me, personally.
Are you trying any indie pubs or small presses direct, PB?August 31, 2018 at 8:12 am #306Mad IguanaParticipant
My agent experience is sh!te, so I can’t help much except to say that, so long as you don’t utterly muck up the cover letter, it shouldn’t matter hugely. I honestly believe that any agent who likes your work will like it regardless of the cover letter, and any agent who dislikes you because of your cover letter regardless of the quality of the work isn’t an agent you’ll like working with.
The synopsis, on the other hand… I hate those things. I’m not sure if I’m more Indiana Jones with snakes or Indiana Jones with Nazis about them, but I’m certainly one or the other.
Beyond that, you’ve done all the things I’d have done, but hopefully your approaches will work better.
Good luck!!August 31, 2018 at 1:53 pm #316
Ooh Squidge, I’m not sure I’m brave enough for that. After hearing horror stories i’m a little gun-shy. But now i’ll have more time to research them, I know i’ll stumble upon some darlings.
Thanks to all for your comments thus far. Very helpful stuff.August 31, 2018 at 6:19 pm #342
What horror stories have you heard? (Then we can think how to avoid them!)August 31, 2018 at 7:59 pm #347
Daeds issues with trying to regain the rights to his book after leaving his publisher was the one that’s closest to home. He said he might post an article on it on here as it has some useful advice in it.August 31, 2018 at 8:44 pm #349
Thanks PB – I realised when I blogged about this on the Cloud it was almost a couple of years ago and there had been some significant developments by then. I’ll put something in the Lifeboat in the next couple of daysSeptember 3, 2018 at 1:11 pm #400
Following a really positive book doctor report on my MS that said in a fair world my book would get published, I started submitting back in May. I’ve had nothing but form rejections.
So my advice PB is, when the rejections start coming in, you have to hold on very tight to the fact that it’s not your writing that’s bad, it’s just very difficult to get an agent. Right person, right time.
Good luck with the submissions. This has given me a kick start to go and send out some more.September 3, 2018 at 3:55 pm #401
Sorry to,hear about those rejections 🙁
I’d love to know about your book. Sounds like it’s original, if nothing else! Publishing trends are changing all the time too, so I think you’re right about right person, right time.September 3, 2018 at 4:32 pm #402
Thanks Philippa. It’s magical realism, so never going to be an easy sell, but I’m not giving up quite yet. At least I have that bit of paper from a professional saying it’s good that I can get out and stroke occasionally to console myself! Thinking about retiring my adventurous soul and writing some chick lit instead. :/September 3, 2018 at 4:36 pm #403
I know of another writer who does similar stuff (and is absolutely brilliant) but has had a tough time getting agents interested enough to take them on. I wonder if it would be possible to track genres and styles that are more or less likely to attract attention quicker – not so people can tailor their writing so much as know what to expect when subbingSeptember 3, 2018 at 4:37 pm #404September 3, 2018 at 5:22 pm #406RichardBParticipant
I’ve had positive MS assessments on two MSs (in the case of the second one I was told it was ‘an incredibly powerful and engaging story that really draws you in,’ which is pretty encouraging), but got absolute apathy from agents with both of them. Although I have the confidence that yes, I can write, I’m left with the feeling ‘What the hell do I have to do to get somewhere?’
Maybe I should try another round of subs, but I find the whole process so soul-destroying.September 3, 2018 at 7:02 pm #407
I know just how you feel Richard. It really sucks. But I tell myself if I don’t sub, I don’t have any chance, so keep on scratching at those doors.
Thanks for that tweet link Daedalus.September 3, 2018 at 7:19 pm #408
My biggest fear is always the same – is it ready. Just when you think it’s good to go somebody makes a suggestion that could improve it further. I was gearing up for submission and the wonderful philippa said why did you do that, why not do this. Which has led to a slight re-write and massive improvement. But I’m definitely almost ready. Maybe.September 3, 2018 at 8:49 pm #410
Well FWIW I know a few writers who have really good publishing deals, a few more who have agents and are subbing to publishers, some more who are subbing to agents, and some who haven’t got to that stage yet. The honest truth is that the vast majority of writers I know well are bloody good. The ones who have the great deals are bloody good, but so are the others. It’s just that the ones who are farther along are farther along. I know many superb writers. The ones who aren’t published aren’t objectively less good than the ones who are.
The one thing I have noticed about the people who have managed to succeed at each step of the way are determined. They’ve had setbacks and have picked themselves up and gone on. They’ve tried with one book, failed, written another, tried again, failed. Tried again. Mostly they’ve just been at it longer.
I honestly believe that for the most part, talent + persistence = success. There doesn’t seem to be any pattern to the time it might take, but nothing I’ve seen in this business causes me to doubt that a fundamentally talented writer won’t succeed sooner or later.September 3, 2018 at 10:04 pm #411ElleParticipant
@Kate – Really sorry to hear you haven’t had any successes with your submission yet. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. I love your writing so I know there are no issues there.
I admit that’s why I tend to submit short stories and flash. You tend to get an answer quicker, and editors often take the time to give some feedback or encouragements to submit again.September 3, 2018 at 10:46 pm #412RichardBParticipant
The trouble with ‘sooner or later’ for me is that I’m already (let’s face it) knocking on seventy. For me, ‘later’ probably means not at all.September 4, 2018 at 4:59 am #413SandraParticipant
That’s no excuse, Richard – Mary Wesley didn’t publish her first novel until she was seventy, and went on to write ~10 more.September 4, 2018 at 6:54 am #414
I totally agree, Daeds, about the persistence thing. My personality is to be like a dog with a bone, and I think that accounts for a lot!
I do believe that the other thing is about continually learning CRAFT. I have been listening to a series of podcasts (https://storygrid.simplecast.fm) over the last 6 months or so and boy, have I learnt a lot.
My view is that the persistence is not only about ‘keeping on subbing’, but keeping on LEARNING. It’s the learning that continually takes our writing to the next level, and that one inch closer to success (however we define that)
FWIW, if you don’t know yet about obligatory scenes and conventions of genre, and the five commandments of story telling, I think you’re missing a trick. That’s how I was able to help Pinks out, and I believe it’s the reason that agent Sarah didn’t require any structural edits on the rewrite-from-scratch I sent her. You can learn about all that stuff via the above podcasts.
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