Ever wonder how agents decide who to submit a project to and how we keep track of all those editors? The very not glamorous answer is spreadsheets, networking, and Publishers Marketplace. Publishers Marketplace (PM) can help keep track of agents for querying authors as well. If you are willing to throw money at a membership, even if for only a month, you can learn a lot from PM.
I keep crazy long spreadsheets of editors arranged by house and imprint. I have one for YA editors and a separate one for editors accepting adult books. When I say long I mean my spreadsheets can go up to hundreds of rows long. PM’s newsletter announces when editors move, leave, or new editors get prompted. New imprints or closing imprints also get announced. My spreadsheet helps me keep track of what genres editors accept, where they are, if they recently moved, and what past titles they’ve bought that are similar to the type of books I either represent or want to represent. If I or a coworker talked to the editor recently, I make notes of what they said they are looking for. Editors move around a lot and my spreadsheet makes sure I keep track of those moves and possibly changes in their acquisitions focus with their moves. Continue reading “Keeping Track of Editors”
Agents get a lot of queries, way more than we can represent. That means a lot of competition for querying writers. Believe me, I have plenty of experience querying as well and understand the frustration. Sometimes being an agent and knowing how it all works soothes the rejection, but not always. Rejecting queries is my least favorite part of agenting. I know how those rejections feel having been on the other end of them. But when it comes down to it agents might only take a handful of new authors a year but receive hundreds of queries. Currently I’m building my client list with vigor, which means I’m hungrily looking to fill out my list, but even then I still get way more queries than I can represent.
So why do I reject queries? A lot of people assume the majority of rejections are due to bad writing or us hating the queries. Most queries where the writing falls short just need another round or two of edits or are newer authors who will improve with time. Often a project needed one more round of edits before querying, but there is too much editing needed for me to feel comfortable taking on the project. I’m a big fan of Revise and Resubmits because if this is the case but I love the project, I’ll request a R&R to see how the author handles the edits. Being able to edit well is a key to success as an author. Continue reading “Why I Reject Queries”
I’ve been thinking about pitch letters to editors a lot lately, mainly because I’m working on several. Authors are always talking about querying agents, but I notice many don’t know what to expect when their agent pitches editors. Basically the pitch letter is querying 2.0, but this time to editors. What makes the pitch letter more difficult is they can vary more than your regular queries in style. I’ve seen completely different approaches to pitching. Agents hone their own pitch styles. Some even prefer to call up editors to pitch over the phone.
I remember during one of my internships we did an exercise where all of us interns wrote a pitch for the same project. None of them were the same. Even when we focused on the same aspects of the book, we all chose a different wording. All the pitches varied depending on each intern’s own style and what stood out to them. I’ve talked about subjectivity playing a role in offers and sales before, but subjectivity can also play a role in how an agent pitches. Continue reading “The Pitch Letter”
During my time reading queries whether for myself or another agent, I’ve seen the same mistakes over and over. Querying is hard and you don’t want to be your own biggest barrier to finding representation. If you’ve done your research these mistakes shouldn’t be a problem. However, many of the authors I see making these mistakes often appear to have not done their research on querying and end up hurting themselves right out of the gate. Remember to always be prepared and well-informed to give yourself the best chance!
Not following submission guidelines. I see this far too often. If an agent says to query them on a specific form or at a specific email, do so. Not following guidelines is an easy way to get your query rejected and possibly not even seen by an agent. Guidelines exist for a reason and going against them will make you stand out, but not for a good reason. Make sure you are pitching agents who represent your genre and age category. Don’t get yourself started off on the wrong foot by not following guidelines. Continue reading “Querying Mistakes to Avoid”
Batch querying is sending out batches of queries to agents, usually 5 to 10 queries a session. Then an author waits on responses to see if the query and pages are hooking agents or not. If they aren’t, or perhaps if they got feedback, the author revises and sends the next batch. This is the querying method I see recommended all the time, but recently while reading agent interviews I noticed an agent who shall remained unnamed complain about this method. However, I disagree with the agent’s complaints as a writer and as someone trying to break into agenting.
The perks of batch querying means an author has a chance to revise and follow any feedback (which admittedly is rare to get from agents) before querying other agents. Plus let’s face it, querying agents takes a lot of time and authors can query anywhere from a few dozen to over a hundred for any given book. Batch querying helps authors break those large amounts up into a smaller, more manageable amount. For those with busy schedules, it would be impossible to find enough time to query every agent on their list in one setting. Continue reading “Batch Querying”
Those who follow my blog by now should be super aware that I’m an editor. I’ve edited for 5+ houses, but I’ve also been a literary agency intern and assistant. I wanted to take a break from all my book reviews to discuss some of my experiences on the agency side in regards to the slush. One of my first thoughts after getting a peek at the slush during my internship was that I wish I’d gotten that experience earlier in my editing career. I think it’s useful experience not just for aspiring agents, but also editors and writers. It gave me a whole new respect for acquiring editors and a better understanding of the acquisitions process. I found there was a lot to be learned from the slush.
As an editor I don’t deal with acquisitions, just the edits that come after. That means I often heard tales about the slush, but until I interned with a literary agency I never saw it for myself. The most surprising aspect of seeing it? How many of the subs had decent writing. Sure you get authors who don’t follow guidelines and aren’t in querying shape yet, but I was surprised by how many subs I read that had passable writing. I was expecting a lot more of it to be nowhere near ready. My first dive into the slush to find something to pass to my agent caused me to struggle to decide what to pass on since as an editor I was so used to taking something no matter the quality and polishing it. As I got more experience with the slush, it became much easier as I learned to pick out the best writing and most eye-catching stories. The editor in me could see possible edits for many submissions, but as I learned through experience some of them just needed too much work. I was used to making editing decisions after acquisitions, not deciding what to acquire, and that was the big learning experience for me. I learned how to spot quality in the slush and pick out the gems. Continue reading “Lessons from the Slush”
Subjectivity can be so frustrating for querying authors and those on submission to houses. When you are trying to get an agent you will get tired of hearing about how subjective the industry is but it is so true. Subjectivity is real and not some myth created to frustrate or console rejected writers. As frustrating as it can be for those trying to get published, subjectivity is what lands all the varying books out there on shelves for readers.
What is subjectivity? You know how some people prefer chocolate ice cream but those who are wrong prefer vanilla or strawberry? (Guess which flavor is my favorite!) That is subjectivity. What one person might prefer another disagrees with. In publishing subjectivity is why some of us prefer specific genres or third person point of view over first person or vice versa. You know how a friend or family member recommended that one book to you that everyone was raving about? Yet when you read it you didn’t much care for it? That’s subjectivity in the industry. For me the most recent book that happened with was A Darker Shade of Magic. But subjectivity is why we get so many different types of books and writing on shelves. If not for subjectivity our reading options would be narrower. I’ve seen several books written in verse lately, but that sort of writing doesn’t appeal to me but it does appeal to others, so we can thank subjectivity for the variety of books it gives us. As they say variety is the spice of life. Continue reading “Subjectivity in Publishing”