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Writing Your Query

16 Apr

This is often the last step before your manuscript goes out the door.

Let’s be honest, by the last step of anything you’re typically ready to be done with it. Because of this, when you hear people talk about query (and synopsis) writing, the conversation typically sounds more barrier focused than marketing focus.

And that’s exactly what your query is: The first step in your book marketing.

With the whole re-boot of the 10 Minute Mentor, one of the suggestions was to discuss query letters.

Last year I did a blog on the similarities between reading cover letters/resumes and query letters/partials. If you ever follow my twitter #getthejob hashtag, you know I’ve got this down to a science. I trust that agents have their sourcing down to a science too. The secret is to getting past the first two glances (which studies on the resume end show are typically done in under 6 seconds. I assume it’s pretty darn close for agents as well) and into the third look.

Here are my suggestions:

ONE: Content

Just like the book, info dumps are bad. When people ask me to look at their query before they send it, that’s typically the first thing I notice. It’s also typically the first thing I do when writing my own.

That’s 1000005.7% okay for the first draft. You need to get it all out. But, it’s not going to fly for the final query.

After writing the info dump, I put each piece of information on an index card. Then I play the hierarchy game. Cards get weeded out as “secondary” or “important, but not a selling point” or “detail” — that’s my own personal demon. The Detail. And I see it in a lot of queries too.

If the detail isn’t going to sell the book, set it aside.

This might be something you do in reverse. Don’t know how to start the query? Grab those index cards (or if you’re a plotter, your summary/outline) and start highlighting!

TWO: Process

After working your content, set the query aside just like you would a manuscript. You need fresh eyes for this just as much as you need it for any other writing.

When you come back, you’re definitely going to tweak it. If you don’t, question that.

Then ask people who have read/discussed this project to read it. Incorporate any feedback.

This last step is one I think too many people skip: Have at least 2 people who have not read or discussed the project read the query. Remember, agents won’t have sat around sipping coffee and discussing your work with you. They come in blind.

Good questions to ask those blind readers:

    • What do you think the hook is?
    • What do you think the book is about?
    • Is there anything that was confusing or unclear?
    • Do you think I should play something up more?
    • Did it flow?

These are your most valuable readers. Listen to them

THREE: Set up (not the blind date kind)

LEVEL ONE, the open: Make sure you have your salutation correct. The name is correct. It’s spelled correctly. If you’re doing Mr./Ms. you have the right gender.

LEVEL ONE-A, the secondary open: In the opening paragraph, I’ve heard a lot of agents say “personalize it so I know why you’re querying me.” A note about this: Unless you really have a reason to personalize it, I’d jump right to the good stuff. Also, be careful how you personalize it. This can bite you in the bottom. If you never met the person, don’t claim you did.

Whatever you do, do not invoke one of their writer’s names (see #AgentRec). Trust me, if the writer gave you a recommendation, the agent knows before your query hits their in-box.

LEVEL TWO, The previously mentioned “good stuff”:  Dive directly into your query. Don’t ask a question, or soft step into it. Line one: Your Hook.

Agent’s know why they’re receiving your query. You don’t need to tell them. It’s like pulling up to the Wendy’s drive-thru speaker and saying, “I’m here because I know you make and sell cheeseburgers. I’d like to purchase a cheeseburger. Here is the cheeseburger I’d like to purchase” before telling them your order.

LEVEL THREE, the bio: Yes. Have a bio. Include any pertinent information, writing group memberships, previous writing experience (You’re querying a YA but you used to write for a newspaper? Still valid.) This should be one paragraph unless you a previously published author.

If you are previously published also include links to your listed books’ sales sites. Save them the google.

LEVEL FOUR, the sign off: Thank them for their time. Don’t make any assumptions you’ll hear from them. Make yourself easy to contact:

Sincerely,
Real Name
Writing as: Pen Name (if applicable)
Website
Phone Number

They have your email (they’re looking at it) and they’re most likely not going to snail mail you anything. Leave the sign off looking clean.

FOUR: Mailing it

Follow the directions. Follow the directions. Follow the directions.

If you set it up ahead of time and it’s been awhile, recheck the directions.

Then follow the directions.

Don’t attach anything unless your query is in response to a pitch request and they ask you too (or, if that’s what’s in the directions.)

Also, follow the directions.

Personally, I BCCd myself on all my queries and put them in a special folder. This allowed me to check things quickly if I was somewhere I couldn’t get to my tracking spreadsheet but needed to respond to a follow-up question. It helped twice.

FIVE: Forget about it

Work on the next thing. This will keep you from being Crazy Refresh Woman. It will also be awesome when an agent calls you and one of  the questions she asks is, “What else do you have” and you can honestly answer that you’re currently working on ABC.

Remember, querying is just the first step. You’re going to get a lot of No Thank Yous. I hear about people giving up all the time after a small number (like 7 or 8). Start preparing yourself to not care. Yup. Do Not Care. A no is someone saying you aren’t a good match. That means, she’s not a good match for you either.

Wanting one of those agents to sign you is like wanting to marry that guy you’re really, really glad broke up with you…but you only realized it a year later.

So, good luck and don’t panic.

kk,
~Bria

Recommending a Writer to Your Agent

10 Apr

I’m not going to do the double work, but it was so popular on twitter that I thought I’d put a little post here too.

Today I tweeted about what it takes to have me recommend your work to The Laird. I’ll be honest, it almost never happens, but if you want to know what writers think about before taking that step, check out #AgentRec on twitter.

What started as 9 “quick tweets” turned into a little bit of a Q&A. I’ll take follow-up questions on twitter if anyone has them tonight.

 

Big News – Again ;)

8 Dec

So, I have these papers. They came in the mail today. They want me to sign them. “Sign me, Bria! Sign me!”

“Okay,” I shout as loud as I can so everyone knows I’m signing them. I mean, why the heck wouldn’t I?

I take out my special pen, the one I did the last round of edits with on the latest book. It’s almost out of ink, but this is a great way to die the pen tells me.

I, who shall sign the papers, salute it.

So the pen signs the paper and dies. We have a moment.

Then I look at the paper again, my heart skitter stepping in my chest. Oh special papers! Oh how I love thee!

I do all the special paper sending preparations and then wait, waiting for the papers to jump up and shout and point and laugh. “HA HA HA Bria! We tricked you! We aren’t for you. You don’t get no stinking special papers.”

But they don’t and I smile. I smile at the papers and my happily self-sacrificing dead pen.

Then I DM Lauren MacLeod (code name: @bostonbookgirl) and shout in capitals, “I GOT THE SPECIAL PAPERS!!!”

And all was well in the world.

What I Learned Outside the Workshops

3 Aug

I’ve always thought you can learn something from everyone…it’s just not typically what they’re trying to teach you. Conferences are no different.

The 2010 RWA Nationals was, for me, an observation conference. A time to learn more than just what you’ll hear on the tape at home. Here’s some of what I learned.

ONE: Someone is always listening.

I don’t care if you’re in a locked room five miles from the conference. If you say something thoughtless, cruel, mean, gossipy, inaccurate, inconsiderate or just plain nasty, someone will hear it. Then everyone will hear it. So, if you can’t keep your mouth shut because it’s the kind thing to do, do it for self-preservation.

TWO: Chitter Chatter

Chitter Chatter is different – Chitter Chatter is the gossip circuit. This is never going to stop, and frankly, I’m glad. Chitter Chatter once stopped me from making a bad business decision. It gave me insight into a bad gut feeling I had and a direction to look in order to verify if the chitter chatter was correct or not.

Agent’s use it. Editors use it. Authors use it.

What I’m surprised no one seems to realize (or they forget) unpublished writers use it too. If you’re a completely horrible person to one of us and degrade an honest and professional attempt to sell a book, that’s going to get around. Mocking seems to be all the rage, but mocking and snark, well they aren’t going to help you make friends – but they will influence people.

THREE: Promo

This could probably be an entire blog post, but I’ll break it down here.

THREE-A: PROMO ITEMS

There were a bunch of really great promo items. Lots of great, creative ideas that represented their book. But, here’s what a few of us (I had a couple conversations with different groups) figured out: Go for the keepable-usable promo item. Something where they see your name over and over and over again. Several people told us about great promo ideas but then couldn’t tell us who had done it because it was a one-and-done item.

THREE-B: PROMO PEOPLE

Lot’s of people did little branding things on their person…how they dressed, colors, a go-to item. This is a hard one (which, honestly who doesn’t remember the hub-bub about the ladies who dressed like their characters a few years ago). It seems like this one is totally hit or miss. I know there’s a woman I’ve known for several years who does this and it’s never worked for me. But then I saw somethings at RWA10 that seemed to really be catchy in a good way. Walk Carefully.

FOUR: KIND OF PROMO….or not

There are three types of people at nationals:

  1. Those who know how to have a give and take conversation
  2. Those who just keep asking questions or nodding and never hold up their end
  3. Those who Dear-Lord-Why-Do-They-Think-I-Want-To-Spend-Two-Hours-Listening-To-Them-Talk

Guess which subgroup is my least favorite? Seriously people, conference isn’t about telling everyone every little thing about your book. When someone says, “What do you write?” They’re looking for a “YA paranormal with humor” answer…not the entire plot, plus your motivation, plus your subplot, plus why it’s going to sell, plus plus plus plus

Not only that, but if you put yourself in that third group, you’ll get ONE chance to talk to a person. They’ll avoid you after that (I’m sure I fell into that group just from sheer nerves occasionally. We all do – but don’t live there)

FIVE: KNOW WHEN TO LEAVE

This is so hard. I’m sure I blew this one every time. You’re enjoying meeting new people (especially when they’re people you always wanted to meet) and you just stay. Like Gypsy said, always leaving wanting more…. As Bria said, or at least not thinking your in group 3 above.

SIX: IT’S BUSINESS, BABY

This is not a vacation. It’s not a party (although there are parties). It’s not a time to wear clothes that make you look….fill in the blank. This is a business trip. A time to network, learn more about the industry and grow your career. I’d point to all the blogs I’ve done on have a “writing career” but that would just take too much time. Use your common sense…or borrow some.

So, tell me. What interesting Writing Life Lesson did you learn just being at a conference … or any writerly hot spot?

10 Minute Mentor: Organizing Your Agent Hunt

7 Jun

I’m refresthing this from the agent series because so many people asked for agent search info for the 10 Minute Mentor Series :) 

I’m very visual – I need a logical way to look at information or it might as well be street graffiti. At first everyone laughed at me, but now they’ve started asking for the Bria Agent Search Spreadsheets for themselves (maybe I should start charging!)

I won’t lie. It is time consuming in the front-end. But later, when the querying begins, it will keep you on track and organized. Another plus à it will stop your focus from drifting to time wasting (and embarrassing) querying of agents who don’t rep what you write.

So, breaking this down in very easy steps, here we go:

Step 1 – Decide what you write.

My main passion and focus is YA Fantasy, but I also have ideas for a RomCom and a historical (which may be YA, Women’s Lit, or Romance – depending on who you ask) so my focus groups are: Fantasy, YA, Romance, and ChickLit. You’ll have your own, but we’ll stick with mine for these examples.

Step 2 – Create an Excel Spreadsheet

This is very easy if you’ve never done it before. Open it up and then save it as “Agent Search.”

Across the top create a column for each of the following: Agent Name, Agency, Solicit?, Email, YA, Fantasy, Rom, ChLit, RWA, P&E, Exp, TOTAL, Authors, Notes

Step 3 – Link to: http://www.agentquery.com/search_advanced.aspx

In place of my genres, put all your writing genres

Step 4 – List Creation: This is the longest part. Cut and paste each page into your spreadsheet and then line up the information with columns. Put an “1″ under each genre the agent reps. You may want to consider weighting one genre heavier than others – for example, my future agent MUST rep YA, so that column gets a “2″ instead of a “1.”

Step 5 – The remaining columns are weighted columns

So you may have notice that you still have RWA, P&E, Exp, and TOTAL, left.


RWA (Romance Writers of America)
is a very reputable group. Whether you write romance or not, you should consider joining. The group is highly focused on Craft and many agents have said they can often tell a person is an RWA member from their clean manuscript and professional queries.

If the agency/agent is RWA certified, add another “1″

P&E (Predators and Editors) as another amazing resource. They list everyone in the industry they’re aware of. If they give an agency/agent a “highly recommends” add a “2″ – a “recommends” add a “1″ —— they’ll also let you know if they “highly don’t recommend (“-2″), “don’t recommend” (“-1″), or if they are listed on “Writer Beware” (“-3″)

Exp stands for “Experience.” The longer you are in the publishing circle as an unpublished person, the more opportunities you’ll get to interact at conferences and workshops with agents. You’ll also meet some wonderful people who are already represented or have met agents (note: make sure these people are 100% reliable in your book and not just out to bash or praise to feel “in the know”).

Personally, I looked at blogs, talk to other writers, read articles, followed people on twitter. One of my top 10 agents (for book 1) was bumped off my list completely because of her attitude toward her clients and potential clients on her blog. You want to know this ahead of time. Use the same rating system as P&E.

TOTAL – create a sum total column for each row and then sort by the TOTAL column.

The last two columns are just as important. You should always be familiar with the authors an agent already reps. It lets you know what they like and where they succeed. Also, it allows you to ‘sell’ yourself better

The Notes column should be for things like industry updates, reminders about appearances (online and in person) you’d like to attend, site updates (agents sometimes stop taking queries for a short time), contests they’re judging, etc.

Then, on QueryTracker.net sort the agents into folders. I did them as Top 20, 1.5, 2.5, etc Sent, Rejected, Requested.

All this information comes together on one page to let you judge and weigh the agents to see if they’re a potential fit and if you’re a good fit for them. Don’t forget, this is a business decision…not just for them, but for you as well!

Starting this organized with this much info up front is a great step in running your writing career as just that – a CAREER.

ETA: Anyone who sends me your email or requests it in the comments — I’ll email you the blank Agent Search Template page

10 Minute Mentor

17 May

Not long ago, a friend on Twitter announced she was ready to start her revisions again. Trying to be encouraging, I said, “You’ve got your list and you’re ready to go!”

Only, her response wasn’t, “Yup! Can’t wait!” It was, “What list?’

We jumped together to DM and started a conversation on revisions: what they are, what they aren’t, and how to do them. It was a *great* conversation – really made me personally think some things through a little deeper and solidify my thoughts and processes.

When she thanked me, I asked her to just do it for someone else some day.

That weekend, Darynda Jones and I were doing our monthly 4-hour drive to our writer’s meet and I mentioned the great conversation I’d had with the Twitter friend. We realized, that information, the stuff we’d been DYING for people to just tell us and explain the “why” also had probably taken (if we were talking constantly instead of tweeting and working) about ten minutes.

It hadn’t killed me, actually it helped me probably as much as her. There’s a wonderful saying that basically states if you want to learn something, teach it.

And, it was exactly what I’d wished someone had done for me a few years ago.

And so, The Ten Minute Mentor sprung to life in my mind. We’ll see how many topics I can discuss in the 10 mins timeframes and make them make sense…and helpful :)

Let me know, what’s a topic you wish someone had just given you the quick and dirty on when you started writing?

Job Description: Jack of All Trades by Mercedes M. Yardley

22 Feb

Job Description: Jack of All Trades by Mercedes M. Yardley

The easiest part about the whole writing thing is the actual writing. Words are my playground. I roll around in them until I’m good and dirty. When I wrote my first novel, I hopped up and down, screaming. It never occurred to me that the real work begins later. Revising. Polishing. Searching for an agent while balancing other duties. That’s where I’m at now.

 

The Great Agent Search

Responsibilities

  • Research each agent carefully
  • Follow query guidelines exactly
  • Prepare query
  • Mail query
  • Wait patiently
  • Accept response gracefully, whether it is a rejection, rewrite request, or request for more pages
  • Follow up appropriately
  • Sure, querying agents is a little daunting at first, but all it really takes is some patience and time. Unfortunately time is in extremely short supply in my house. I’m a mom. A wife. A friend, a volunteer, a writer, and I work for the print magazine Shock Totem.

    Shock Totem Magazine

    Responsibilities

  • Read slush
  • Prepare nonfiction piece for publication
  • Read more slush
  • Gather reviews and choose which ones to run
  • More slush
  • Be a friendly presence on the magazine forum
  • Prepare, promote, and oversee writing contest
  • Find those beautiful shiny gems that are hidden in the slush
  • But one does not live on slush and queries alone. I am also writing a nonfiction book about my son’s rare genetic syndrome. It is going to be the book that I wish somebody had given me when he was diagnosed.

    Williams Syndrome Project

    Responsibilities

  • Study information on Williams Syndrome
  • Reread old journals for accurate documentation
  • Read nonfiction
  • Make an outline
  • Write each painful chapter
  • Cry a lot
  • Remember that I’m strong and I’m doing this for a reason
  • Solicit kisses from my son in order to galvanize me
  • Research nonfiction book proposals
  • It’s tough to have so many different projects going on at the same time, but I feel like it’s an accelerated learning path for me. I look back to where I was a year or two ago, and I feel a hundred times more educated. More tired, perhaps, but definitely more educated. And isn’t that what this game is about? Getting stronger, better, and smarter?

    Yeah, I thought so, too. :)

    Silliness

    18 Feb

    I just got the cutest picture from Jodi Meadows (who had the amazing news of signing with her agent this week!)

    VIVA LA MOXIE!

    How cute is that?

    Juggling the Writer’s Job Description

    1 Feb

          It’s amazing how changing the game a little, changes it a lot.

         This past fall, I contracted with The Agent (curious? on the sidebar is my little series on the whole agent process start to finish) and I didn’t realize just how much would change. . . Just how much *I* would have to change.

         This weekend it really hit home.

         The Agent is getting notes read of my revised pages to me soon. Plus I owe here stuff. I just wrote the blurbs for my 7 current ideas for books — This is my first run thru of this process. I assume we’ll discuss what is strongest and most viable to work next. I need to get the next books synopsis written for I’m in the first stage of editing (we won’t discuss the pain and humiliation involved in me trying to synopsis). Also, this is usually the time I fast draft the next book so it can sit over in the corner ferment.

         But now, there’s other plans in the game. Another person…a business plan. So, if I get revision notes for book 1, reader notes for book 2 and start writing book 3 — Um, yeah, I think we all see where this is going.

         Let’s add into the mix that between books is where I try to pound thru all the reader responsibilities I have to my CP and beta readers. They’ve been kind… don’t worry, when you get to it… etc…But January has been so crazy that they really do have to come first right now. There isn’t an option.

         And so, with this next step comes the newest part of the writing game: Time Management Part 2.

         Typically Time Management is a fun game for me, but when you’re still not sure of all the rules, of what’s needed when… But that’s part of moving up in the world.

         I’m thinking of getting The Agent like a certain job I had out of college. My boss had…let’s just call it an early midlife crisis (and when I say crisis I mean complete break in reality) and promoted me up two steps with no job description and no guidance… Am I saying The Agent would do that –NO! But, writing is kind of like that: There’s no job description.

         Oh, we think the job description is: Write Books.

         I’m pretty sure anyone trying to get published has already realized it’s more complicated than that. So stick around as I figure out my own Writing Job Description…and wish me luck on Juggling February!

    Advice for your Agent Search

    4 Jan

    My blog post on Organizing Your Agent search is a constant favorite, but I realized when speaking with someone about to start querying, it left a lot of the advice stuff out that friends have been asking about now. And so, here goes.

    KILL YOUR DREAM AGENT

    Not literally. Don’t hunt them down and shoot them or anything (especially if she’s my agent. I like her and we’re still getting to know one another.) There is one thing I learned in this process. There is no such thing as a dream agent.

    Knowing an agent’s client list does not mean you know the agent. She may rep similar things, but that doesn’t mean you’re a good work match. There are agents who are a *perfect* match for you, your style, your career choices — but may not currently rep a TON of what you do. That’s great too. That means she doesn’t compete against her own list. That’s why finding someone who reps a lot of stuff “exactly” like yours probably isn’t your dream agent.

    Also, you’re going to be surprised how many agents are out there that aren’t part of your “Social Knowledge Circle.”

    Think of it like this: If you said “Who is the best professional baseball catcher?” I’m going to say Jason Veritek. Why? Well, because I don’t know a ton about baseball players, but I’m from Boston and so he’s my knowledge base… Is he the best catcher? Or do I need to do some more research?

    CHEAT ON YOUR SHORT LIST

    Querying is like looking for a job: You wouldn’t send out one resume at a time, would you?

    Not only that, but querying your list in big chunks gives you leverage. Ask a bunch of recently agented writers and you’ll hear all about sending the “I was just offered representation, are you interested in looking at my book and talking before my final decision” emails. The fewer queries you have out, the fewer chances of getting the first offer, the fewer fulls and partials you’ll have in play to send that email to. This is a business. Think opportunity.

    I looked at my stats —> Let’s pretend you have grouped your agent list in 3′s. So you send 3 queries out at a time. My stats show that 1 agent will respond within 2 or 3 days. 1 agent will respond within 2.5 weeks. 1 agent is a wild card who could not respond at all or email you in four months to ask if it’s still available. That means, you only truly have 1 query in play at all times (the fast responder) the others are sitting in an email box collecting dust.

    Change that number to a bundle of your top 20 agents (because you’ve learned about your Social Knowledge Circle) and you’ll constantly have 6 queries in play and turning over.

    EAVESDROP ON AGENTS

    It’s time to put your super-spy glasses on and eavesdrop on agents. There are four major things you should do:

    1. Follow their blog and twitter – This will give you current information about what they’re doing and looking for, their attitude toward genres, writers and style, and any changes they may announce (I pounced when my now agent put on twitter that she was caving to the call of YA.) I will admit to striking 2 “Top Agent Choices” from my list completely because of their blogs. I know I’m not the only one who has done this.
    2. Google Alert or Search List – Google Alert the agents you’re interested in OR Google them every week. Pick a day as “research day” and keep up with who is say what, looking for what and discussing what. They may be doing interviews off their own blogs OR one of their clients might be sharing info OR they might have a new deal getting reported. This move slow and change fast sometimes.
    3. Conferences – These are so good for so many reasons:
      1. Face to Face meetings and pitches. This is your chance to (1) make an impression and (2) gain an impression. Don’t ignore the vibes no matter how much you like what she represents.
      2. Talks and Panels – I love these. The conferences I went to these were basically all I went to. Craft I could learn off a tape weeks/months later. What the agents were saying I needed to know because it was up to the minute info. Also, seeing them relax and chat with each other up there gives you personality ideas. The questions people think to ask are often things we might forget ourselves. Overall, really helpful
      3. The bar – I’m not a big drinker… I may have had a drink in 2009 LOL. But, let’s be honest. Just like any business, a lot goes on in the bar at conferences. People relax and chat. Information is shared. Deals are struck. I once heard a 7 figure deal being worked at the table next to mine. It was an Eavesdropping Experience to remember.
    4. Inner Circle – Your Inner Circle will tell you things people in general won’t. I heard the good, the bad, the ugly and the very very ugly from people I trusted who knew I’d lock that info in a vault and never repeated. Not only did some agents come off my list or move further down it, but several agents I wouldn’t have known about or may have overlooked were bumped up it. But, don’t forget. Keep the faith, lock the vault.

    ORDER YOUR AGENTS

    No, don’t boss them around. Put them in order. If you haven’t checked out Organizing Your Agent Search, do so. It will tell you the how and why of making your list clear. It will also give you away to shuffle things when you finish eavesdropping and to remind you of who is where why (that’s a lot of Ws).

    I’M THE BOSS OF ME

    You need to remind yourself that you are the boss of you. Act like every day is going to be the day you get the call as soon as you send that first query letter out. You need to know exactly what you want in and from this business partnership. What questions are you going to ask them…AND know the answers you most want to hear to line up with you. What’s YOUR business plan for your writing? Are they interested in that? Do they have an idea of what they want to do with your book(s) — Yes, that’s plural. One of the parts of my conversation was about what else I’d done, was doing, and had planned. The idea that some agents didn’t care was off putting. I’m an aggressive planner and wanted to know that I wasn’t the only one look at the now and the future… Know what you want and look for a match – OR someone who knows better and can tell you why?

    Also, as the boss of you, don’t let your best employee (YOU!) slack off at work. Just because the query is out for book 1 doesn’t mean you should be getting ready to hand over book 2. Worst Case Scenario: No one wants book 1, but you’re ready to start querying book 2 when you get through your agent list. Best Case Scenario: Everyone wants book 1 and during your discussions you’re able to talk about what else you’ve written to see who is the best overall fit for you back list.

    If you missed them, here are the Great Agent Hunt – Getting To Yes series:

    Getting To Yes, Part 1
    Getting To Yes, Part 2
    After the Yes

    Great Agent Hunt – After Yes

    27 Nov

    What am I going to do with all this time once I can stop looking for an agent?

    How many times have you or one of  your friends said that? A kazillion? Yeah. Probably. Trust me, I know the feeling.

    Think of all the writing I’ll get done! I’ll finally do some really great deep cleaning and catch up on housework! I’ll join a gym! I’ll SAVE THE WORLD! Yeah, that’s what I’ll do! I’ll Save! The! World!

    So, you may have noticed, the world (in general) is still in peril.

    One thing I noticed thru the entire process is the understanding of the Before Agent and Post Agent friends. I’d always fallen firmly in the BA w/slight sympathy…but, yeah, there’s a divide.

    BA looks like this: What do you mean your stressed making this decision? You’re picking from amazing agents who want to represent your work! It’s great! There’s no stress here!

    PA looks like this: Don’t worry. They will get back to you. Yeah, it’s a big decision.  Just start the process as the emails come in. But, as long as you did your research, talked to people, spoke  with each agent and feel confident in the ones you narrowed it down to, it will be hard to make a *wrong* choice. There’s *BEST* choice though, so make sure you do all the steps. It will be fine.

    Then the decision happens:

    BA: Now you’re a represented author. It’s all cake from here.

    PA: Now you’re a represented author. It’s your gig to lose my friend. Nose to the grindstone. This is not the relationship to slack on. Do not forget, this is a business relationship so you have to focus. Yeah, you can be friends with people at work, but don’t forget this is your career.

    Then the revisions happen:

    BA: This is great, someone to tell you exactly what you need to do! You’re so in!

    PA: Ok, so you’ve got general feedback, now you have to make it your own. How the heck are you going to do this? Yup, it’s time to read that manuscript start to end *again* Now get to work. PANIC PANIC PANIC…ok, stop panicking. The worst thing that happens on this first time out of the gate is failure to give her what she wants. FAILURE? I DON’T DO FAILURE? WHAT THE HECK IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN? Well, you’ll work this the way you work everything. Do it, check it, re-do it, have someone you trust look at it, re-do it and hand it in.

    So, if you’re making these decisions and are really struggling with your friends not getting it, don’t worry. You aren’t alone. We didn’t get it when we were BA no matter how supportive we tried to be. It’s a path, and you can only see the path from where you are on it.

    And, that’s as far on the PA path that I am. I can say, I’ve had a really stressful couple weeks (life-wise) since signing and it’s definitely effecting my work in a negative way. I”m pulling out all the stops trying to work around that stress because, like our PA said above, this is work. This is the career I want. And that means learning new ways to do old things…It means that in every job. It means that no matter what life is throwing at me (and it really feels like it’s throwing a lot now) you push forward. But mostly it means that I need to learn to keep my writing attitude up-beat and focused. And that is something that as a PA I have to do, because it’s no longer a Oh, I can do this someday. It’s a I should do this now.

    You can also check out GETTING TO YES Part 1 and GETTING TO YES Part 2 segments.

    Great Agent Hunt – Getting to Yes (part 2)

    23 Nov

    So, if you’re just joining us, last week I announced my signing with my agent, posted how I researched, organized and sorted agents during the search process, and discussed what I learned from the first half of the query process. At the end of the last post, I promised to discuss more of what I learned since I am (apparently) becoming blogwinded.

    Fast forward to the first offer. I got the first off on a Friday (all of my friends have gotten Friday calls to. We’re really curious why this is.)

    I was out and about and missed her email. When I emailed her back she asked if she could call…in ten minutes. Honestly, I loved this as it cut down the panic time! The downside was that my computer was in the shop and had the list of “What to ask potential agents” on it. So I felt like I was flying blind. Agent 1 was amazingly nice about this and actually suggested questions I may have forgotten to ask because I didn’t have my list. She was friendly, professional, excited and kind. I loved her and would highly recommend her to anyone. I did wonder about some of the suggestions we discussed and she was kind enough to send me written notes. I spent a lot of time looking at these and thinking over how I could attack them. A few I knew I couldn’t do. I knew I could go back and discuss them with her, she’d been very open with me and that wasn’t a fear.

    After a stressed out call with poor Gwen Hayes (because I’m a worrier, and worrying always comes first) I realized that (unlike last time) no matter what, I would have an agent at the end of this process. it was an amazing feeling.

     

    So, when we got off the phone, I looked at my list of who had partials and fulls out. I had sent out queries to my top 20 agent’s on my Top Match list and had more requests than I expected. Looking at the list, I sent an email to each agent I knew I’d be super interested in (which since that was my top 20 was all of them. Yeah, not much for cutting the list down that way) saying that I’d been offered a contract and wanted to know if they would like the opportunity to read the full and potentially discuss my manuscript.

    Everyone said yes.

    Some passed for various reasons: Not as intrigued as they expected, Already had someone with a similar voice, Didn’t know what to do with it.

    Some waited until the last minute to email me back because they were busy. I understand, but one thing I definitely did was include a deadline (making it very clear) and stick to it. This is a business and you don’t want to mess with the people you’re already working with.

    Two asked to read it and then got back to me a week after the deadline asking to offer. I let them know it was no longer on the table. One apologized. One was annoyed.

    But several wanted to offer for it. And so the phone calls began. . . Oh, and one really great get together. 

    I can say that speaking with Agent 1 was easy, straightforward, fun and informative. But, it was that for most of the people I spoke with. I felt very much like we were on the same page. That the things she mentioned were either a “doh!” moment or a “yeah, I can see how that would be better. Now I just have to figure out how the heck to do it.”  There was a lot to the phone call that made my decision clear.

    But it was still a difficult decision because I could see that there was no *wrong* decision. Everyone I talked to was great. It was amazingly encouraging to discuss my work and publishing with such an intelligent, driven yet nice group of women. It reinforced to me that I was being blessed by the whole process!

    After making my decision and hoping she hadn’t realized she’d read and loved someone else’s book (I mentioned I worry, right?) I spoke with Agent 1 again, solidified revision thoughts, discussed the contract and we were a go! Then the second worst part happened (beyond the worrying) — letting people I really respected know I was passing on their generous offers. It was hard. It felt personal after talking with them and it so wasn’t. I think every author who has to send those emails gets a small taste of what agents who meet and do some preliminary work with writers, and then in the long run pass, feel. Yuck.

    Next step: Send quick notes to the 7 people who still had the query only letting them know that I had accepted an offer. Make sure you put something that lets them know you’re pulling your submission in the subject line so you don’t waste their time. Also, 2 of those agents thanked me for stating the date they would have received my query so they could find it quickly — they said that was a time-saver.

    Two of those agents responded with the fact that they were disappointed because they were just about to request. Seriously, I could not believe this process.

    So, what did I learn beyond the process?

    I learned that my blog was a big help. Everything I’m about to say was mentioned by at least 2 agents:

    • My free read and it’s ability to showcase my voice and writing in a different setting….also the mention of not being a one trick pony
    • My fantasy – some of the agents were aware that I was actively writing fantasy as well and also had a fair idea what it was about
    • Excerpt Monday – I was asked the reasons I started this and got to have a great discussion about the pre-business of being pre-published
    • Bio – It’s a little less formal than the one on my query letter and gives more of a feel of what a nerdy dork I am – they should be prepared, right?

     

    So there it is. The process as seen by a crazed YA writer. Right after this happened (like the next day) I got in the car to move across the country. It didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped and diving into the revision notes was a slower process than normal for me. But, I’m there — in my revisions — now and excited about the whole darn thing.

    I love hearing your stories! To everyone who has commented or emailed, keep them coming – the support has been amazing.

     

    OTHER AGENT SEARCH POSTS:

    Starting & Organizing Your Agent Search

    17 Nov

    When I started the querying process with my first book, I was part of a group blog called The Purple Hearts. While there I did the following post on how I found, researched and sorted agents. I thought I’d already transplanted that post, but here it is. Of course I’ve done a little updating :)

     I’m very visual – I need a logical way to look at information or it might as well be street graffiti. At first everyone laughed at me, but now they’ve started asking for the Bria Agent Search Spreadsheets for themselves (maybe I should start charging!)

    I won’t lie. It is time consuming in the front-end. But later, when the querying begins, it will keep you on track and organized. Another plus à it will stop your focus from drifting to time wasting (and embarrassing) querying of agents who don’t rep what you write.

    So, breaking this down in very easy steps, here we go:

    Step 1 – Decide what you write.

    My main passion and focus is YA Fantasy, but I also have ideas for a RomCom and a historical (which may be YA, Women’s Lit, or Romance – depending on who you ask) so my focus groups are: Fantasy, YA, Romance, and ChickLit. You’ll have your own, but we’ll stick with mine for these examples.

    Step 2 – Create an Excel Spreadsheet

    This is very easy if you’ve never done it before. Open it up and then save it as “Agent Search.”

    Across the top create a column for each of the following: Agent Name, Agency, Solicit?, Email, YA, Fantasy, Rom, ChLit, RWA, P&E, Exp, TOTAL, Authors, Notes

    Step 3 – Link to: http://www.agentquery.com/search_advanced.aspx

    In place of my genres, put all your writing genres

    Step 4 – List Creation: This is the longest part. Cut and paste each page into your spreadsheet and then line up the information with columns. Put an “1″ under each genre the agent reps. You may want to consider weighting one genre heavier than others – for example, my future agent MUST rep YA, so that column gets a “2″ instead of a “1.”

    Step 5 – The remaining columns are weighted columns

    So you may have notice that you still have RWA, P&E, Exp, and TOTAL, left.


    RWA (Romance Writers of America)
    is a very reputable group. Whether you write romance or not, you should consider joining. The group is highly focused on Craft and many agents have said they can often tell a person is an RWA member from their clean manuscript and professional queries.

    If the agency/agent is RWA certified, add another “1″

    P&E (Predators and Editors) as another amazing resource. They list everyone in the industry they’re aware of. If they give an agency/agent a “highly recommends” add a “2″ – a “recommends” add a “1″ —— they’ll also let you know if they “highly don’t recommend (“-2″), “don’t recommend” (“-1″), or if they are listed on “Writer Beware” (“-3″)

    Exp stands for “Experience.” The longer you are in the publishing circle as an unpublished person, the more opportunities you’ll get to interact at conferences and workshops with agents. You’ll also meet some wonderful people who are already represented or have met agents (note: make sure these people are 100% reliable in your book and not just out to bash or praise to feel “in the know”).

    Personally, I looked at blogs, talk to other writers, read articles, followed people on twitter. One of my top 10 agents (for book 1) was bumped off my list completely because of her attitude toward her clients and potential clients on her blog. You want to know this ahead of time. Use the same rating system as P&E.

    TOTAL – create a sum total column for each row and then sort by the TOTAL column.

    The last two columns are just as important. You should always be familiar with the authors an agent already reps. It lets you know what they like and where they succeed. Also, it allows you to ‘sell’ yourself better

    The Notes column should be for things like industry updates, reminders about appearances (online and in person) you’d like to attend, site updates (agents sometimes stop taking queries for a short time), contests they’re judging, etc.

    Then, on QueryTracker.net sort the agents into folders. I did them as Top 20, 1.5, 2.5, etc Sent, Rejected, Requested.

    All this information comes together on one page to let you judge and weigh the agents to see if they’re a potential fit and if you’re a good fit for them. Don’t forget, this is a business decision…not just for them, but for you as well!

    Starting this organized with this much info up front is a great step in running your writing career as just that – a CAREER.

    Contact me for a blank template set up of the Agent Hunt Spreadsheet

    OTHER AGENT SEARCH POSTS:

    Query Tracker

    9 Oct

    Since we’re talking about queries, I thought I’d tell you about one of the God-sends of this process: Query Tracker.

     

    Query Tracker was one of the things I actually put aside money for this year. My premier membership keeps my queries straight and me informed. They have a section for comments, tracking your queries, personal statistics, agent specific statistics, and a track of the dates of response. It’s always nice to be able to see where you stand in the list of who has heard and who hasn’t.

     

    On top of that, you can search agents by name or agency. Each agent has a page that lists the links that will search them, how to contact them, their twitter address. It allows you to search by genre and then there’s the “agent’s with similar tastes” link.

     

    If you want to get organized and informed for your agent search, check out Query Tracker.

    In Defense of Agents, by An Unpublished Writer

    4 Sep

    I’ll be upfront. I hate non-responding policies. I want to know an agent doesn’t want me so I can emotionally move on. Non-responding is the equivalent of the high school “go away to camp and come back with a new girlfriend” guy. But, I feel like there is just some absurdity coming from writers about the responding agents that I really don’t understand. Here is what I’ve learned ….not from being a writer, but from being an HR person.

     

    A little background: When I first started in HR I started at the bottom of an international service industries corporate HR ladder: Staffing. (Dear staffing people, I know for a lot of people this is a career. It wasn’t here. Please don’t be offended.) Not only did I not stay there, but I had the highest success rate. How did they measure that? The managers I hired stayed longer, had more successful units, trained up more success managers from within. They also stole less and had fewer complaints brought against them. Basically, I’m decent at reading people’s abilities and integrity.

     

    And it all starts with the world’s equivalent of a query letter –> a resume.

     

    I feel bad for agents sometimes. It’s a double edged sword. You take “too long” with the query and you’re not working hard enough (don’t twitter like the rest of the world, or you’re slacking). “Too fast” with the query meant you either didn’t even see it OR you didn’t bother to read it. Oh, and the same people that hate non-responders, hate form letters. I say, “Bring on the form letters and thanks for letting me know!”

     

    So, what, you might ask, does this have to do with resumes? A lot.

     

    Just from the resume, I can tell several things. What they value. What’s important in a job. How much they know about the industry and that company specifically. You start to have a sixth sense about what might be lies or exaggerations. Stability. Not just job stability, but personal stability. The excuses that are softly folded into resumes can be amazing. And, just like publishing, the industry I was in was a big-small-world. I could pick up the phone, call a colleague and find out if my hunch was correct before you could find yourself an alibi. And don’t forget: Personality. Oh, don’t believe me about that one? Think of the most pompous person you know. Think of their vocabulary and how they use it. I know one guy who uses his like a weapon to slash everyone down before they even have a chance. Trust me, you can see that in a resume. Do you want that guy to be your boss?

     

    And then there’s just a point that you can’t know: I know what my team needs. I know what I like working with. I know where the promotions (holes) are going to be. I know where somethings going to be hot because of a company move. I know a ton that you can’t know, not because you’re uneducated or unaware ….but because you aren’t in my position and my position is to keep those things to myself and do what’s best for my employees and company.

     

    Finally, I can often tell if I’m going to like you. And let’s be honest, that’s important. Because no one…and I’m betting this is true for agents no matter how much they like a book…wants to work with someone long term they can’t stand to be around or don’t respect.

     

    And I can do this all under 3 mins. I know what I’m looking for. I know what I’m not looking for. And, honestly, it’s 1 page. How long does that take someone who doesn’t know? 6 mins? 8?

     

    So, yeah, when I get a fast rejection I get that “arg. why don’t you love my book?” feeling. But angry? No. Oh yeah, except for the one agent who responded in 47 SECONDS and misquoted my query letter. Him, I wonder about.

     

    Trust agents. They want to find great books. You may have a great book but a lousy query letter. Thank goodness for the agent who told me I had a “trite looking synopsis” — it changed the entire game for me. Hopefully soon as I start the process with a new book, someone will see my query and ask for pages…and then more pages…and then more books…and then and the and then we’ll have the beginning of a beautiful partnership.

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