Tag Archives: query letters

The New Agent Paradigm and Summer Reruns

After having been late or absent for my last several blog posts, it has come to my attention that I might need a blog break!

I will be fantastically busy through July, but I dislike stagnant blogs, so I have decided to put myself into syndication. That’s right. Summer reruns.

Starting Monday I will be doing blog REposts for the next few months (think of it as a “best of” The Accidental Novelist), although you probably won’t even notice, since most of you have only joined me in the last several months, and I can pull from years of bloggy goodness.

I will still post news every once in a while and will definitely respond to comments. Just trying to stay mentally healthy and balanced.

But, before I turn myself over to other life duties, I wanted to write about something I’ve been exploring recently: the new paradigm evolving for finding an agent.

Authors have gotten a lot of attention in the past 10 years. Some are practically rock stars. More and more people see it as a viable career choice. And because the Internet has made it so easy to submit a query, the agent slush pile has gotten out of control.

Agents live to discover great writers. But I can only imagine how overwhelming it must be to receive thousands of unsolicited submissions every year.

Agents were the gatekeepers; now they need gatekeepers of their own. Some agents curb their submissions by only accepting them part of the year or only through conferences. Conferences are terrific places to meet agents, of course, but they are sometimes cost prohibitive or problematic if one has small children.

But where there’s a problem, helpful people always find opportunities. And what is manifesting are creative ways for authors and agents to connect. Some of these places are more like online bulletin boards and others are places to hone your work. Bottom line is that many authors and agents are finding each other through these resources.

One of the most entertaining sites is the blog Miss Snark’s First Victim. The author who runs this blog hosts manuscript auctions where agents bid on the work, secret agent critiques, and other critique-driven submission contests. She also posts success stories of authors who found their agents through her site. She is a generous host and keeps the site positive and professional.

One of the latest sites I’ve come across is webook.com – which is “community picked writing.” Anyone can sign up to be a “reader” on webook and rate and critique work. Authors pay $3.95 for each submission in webook’s “Page to Fame” program. In a nutshell, writers start by submitting 1 page and this gets rated. If it makes the cut, then the first 5 pages is rated, and so on. The whole thing is anonymous for the writer.

Readers can get promoted as well as writers and only the top of the top readers can rate the top of the top work.

From the site: “Each time a book gets elevated, a publishing pro reviews the writing. Winners of Round 3 are promoted to a large group of literary agents who are eager to find the next bestseller on PageToFame.”

The site also has an online query system called Agent Inbox. There’s no vetting here, it’s just a system for querying their partner agents.

I have not used the site and there are legitimate agents involved. So, check it out. Maybe it’s the site for you.

The one that has really caught my attention is AgentSalon.com. What’s interesting about this site is the very involved profile application process as well as how involved the staff is with the process. You can’t just join the site. They want to make sure you are career-minded, able to take criticism, and truly wanting to grow as a writer.

The “application” includes your story’s hook line, conflict, characters, summary, climax, writing samples, as well as a bio and personal writing goals.

Once you are accepted you form your own unique peer group. These folks critique your profile and you edit it until you receive a high enough score to move on to editing. Then they critique your first 50 pages. After that you reach “marquee” level and if A.S. approves (they always have the last call as to whether your work is ready), they will showcase your work to agents and publishers and producers. Movie deals have been made and agents acquired through the site.

I think this site is a great idea for writers who have had work published in the past by small presses, or in a different medium. Personally, I like the exclusivity of it, because I want the people in my writer’s group (virtual or otherwise) to be serious about their careers as well to be at a certain level of writing.

Here’s an article on Writer’s Edge about what they are doing on Author Salon.

BTW – A.S. is currently free in its beta stage, but it will eventually cost money to join. If you are at all interested, I’d get in now while it’s still free.

Another site worth exploring (free and open to everyone) is W.A.E. (writers, agents, editors) Network. This is less critique and more conversation and advice. It’s basically social media for writers (and agents and editors), and a helpful community for writers of different levels who want to learn about the query process (and beyond).

They also have a “pitch fest” area where you can post your queries for agents to peruse. I have no idea if any agents have been procured via this resource, but there seem to be agents who use the site and the creators of the site are former agents.

(Years ago I used to hang out on ZoeTrope – one of the original online critique communities. I found it very helpful at the time, but again, since anyone can join, writers of all different levels were critiquing each others’ work. It’s a great place to learn HOW to critique someone else’s work. Which is a great way to become a better writer. I do not know if agents ever look on this site)

Well, for someone who wanted to blog less, this was quite the long post. But I wanted to share this new information as well as hear from any of you who have explored some of these new sites or have any others to add to the mix.

I was approved on AuthorSalon last week and am forming my peer group. I will let you know how it goes!

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Filed under novel adventures, query process, writing life

Weekend Workout: Facing Fear (Character – Action Part 5 of 6)

Querying can inspire (or despire, haha) feelings of anxiety and depression, even in the most Polyanna-ish writers. I have been through a few agents over the years (all amicable separations) and the approach is an emotional challenge every time.

When feelings of “what-if-no-one-likes-my-story” hit, I like to step back and view the process as a game. I think of the situation as one of those story problems my math teacher gave me. Okay, that’s probably a bad example for many of you because everyone I know hated those problems. I didn’t. Those were my favourite kind of math problems. They were little riddles to be solved and they involved storytelling (yeah, okay, I’m a geek).

Or today I emailed one of my query buddies and said “the pool ball just has to land in the right pocket.”

(Art by Alison Woodward, click for source)

In any case, if something in front of you is causing anxiety, instead of looking at it as this THING looming in your way, see it as an exciting opportunity to do something new and learn something new. How am I going to get to the other side of this? What will it take? How can I do it better? What have I learned so far that I can apply?

If it’s challenging, it’s probably because you haven’t done it before (or figured out how to do it without anxiety).

So, what does this have to do with your Weekend Workout?

I started thinking about these THINGS that we come up against in life and how it’s important to bring that kind of anxiety to our characters. I know you love them, but you can’t make things easy for them if they are going to grow in a satisfying way. How will they learn?

Try putting something directly in front of your character that addresses a fear and then requires them to behave the opposite of how they normally would.

This works for comedy or drama and creates tension in your story. What could you put in front of someone that would make an honest person lie or steel? What could you put in front of an extremely shy person that would put her in the spotlight? (I just pictured this really shy woman going up on stage in front of hundreds of people to distract the audience so someone she cares about can escape.)

What’s even better is if their actions lead them into deeper trouble. You can always get into deeper trouble. Keep digging as far as you can go.

YOUR WORKOUT:

Set your timer for 5 minutes.
Start at the top of the page with the following startline:

1) The one thing my protagonist swears she would never do is . . .

Write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

When the timer stops, Set your timer for 7 more minutes.
Start with the following line: 

2) My protagonist agonizes when she must . . .

Write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

When the timer stops, Set your timer for 10 more minutes.
Start with the following line: 

3) Things get even worse when . . .

Write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

Read your exercises, make notes, highlight what makes sense.

Happy Weekend!

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Filed under Character - Action, weekend workout, writing exercises, writing life

NaNo Hangover: What to do between your first draft and second (part 1)

I don’t know if my NaNo is the best thing I’ve ever written, or the stupidest. It’s certainly the weirdest, and was definitely the most fun.

I think one of the most helpful things you can do after you finish a first draft is write a query letter.

DON’T SEND IT, for Pop’s sake, you manuscript is not ready. Not by a long shot. But writing the query letter does amazing things.

First off, it’s fun and you can ride the energy of finishing your first draft.

Second, it forces you to figure out what your story is really about because you have to summarize it on one page. Who is your story about? What are the stakes? What must she learn/do/experience in order to redeem herself? How is it resolved?

When I teach this I always ask: what MUST protag do BEFORE / OR ELSE what will happen?

Third, I like to try to capture the tone and voice of the story into the query letter itself to make it stand out. Be careful not to fall into a GIMMICK, though. It has to sound authentic.

There are tons of great web resources for writing query letters. Here are a few of them:

How to Write a Query Letter (AgentQuery)

The Complete Nobody’s Guide to Writing a Query letter (Sci Fi / Fantasy Writers of Am)

Query Shark (An anonymous agent who crits queries online)

Miss Snark’s First Victim (a repped/published author who has lots of query info and links)

Chuck Sambuccino over at Writer’s Digest who has a feature called Successful Queries that posts the letters that landed agents. Then the agent discusses why he/she liked the pitch.

REMEMBER – I am not saying you are ready to start sending your pitch letters out. I just think this is a fun way to help focus your story and prepare for the rewrite.

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Filed under NaNoWriMo, weekend workout, writing exercises