I’m going to make a pretty bold statement. Consider yourself forewarned:
If you are at all serious about writing, no matter what stage of the publishing process you are in, you should be on twitter.
I can hear some of you twitter naysayers already: But why twitter, Heidi? I’m already on Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, and Instagram. What is so special about 140 characters?
Read on and I’ll tell you.
Twitter can make you a better writer Honestly, isn’t that enough of a reason right there? See for yourself:
Your characters need to lose something they can never recover. Something that changes them, or the story’s pointless. #editortips — Adrien-Luc Sanders (@smoulderingsea) October 15, 2012
There should never be a part of your book you label “boring, but necessary.” If it’s necessary, make it interesting. #editortips — Adrien-Luc Sanders (@smoulderingsea) October 9, 2012
If you start thinking “Well I need to explain all this before the story really starts…” Stop. Look at what you wrote. Delete. #editortips — Adrien-Luc Sanders (@smoulderingsea) October 9, 2012
Note: Adrien-Luc Sanders give amazing writing tips. Go follow him immediately.
Don’t describe your characters’ outfits as ifyou were filling out a missing-person report. One telling detail is enough. #FE2 — FakeEditor (@FakeEditor) September 26, 2012
Twitter gives you all the good dirt. From contest information, to what agents and publishers are currently dying for – or sick to death of, query information, and even tips on other items of writerly importance, twitter spills it.
There are a lot more reasons why twitter makes sense for writers. I didn’t even get into #AskAgent, #WriteClub, or #indiechat but you can figure those out on your own. Just get over there and get tweeting. Not too much though, you do still need to save time to, oh, I don’t know, actually write something a bit longer than 140 characters.
I have been knee-deep in revisions over the last week. Earlier tonight I tried to say something like, “That’s a strange way of doing business” to my husband and I actually said, “Weird, I think… um… What? Why did…? Never mind.” I think I may have actually exhausted my supply of words.
If my life was a video game, my word supply would have been down to maybe half a heart. That is quite possibly the lamest reason ever for posting late, but there it is. I had to power up first.
So, continuing my post from last time, Seven Questions to Ask a Prospective Agent, I thought it might be fun to follow up with some questions you should never, never-ever, ask a prospective agent (or anyone you hope to do business with).
Have you ever considered enrolling in a speed reading course?
Do you mind if I call you at home? Can I drop by if I’m in the neighborhood?
Have you been saved?
Is [insert client name] as [insert negative personality trait] as she seems from her books?
If you were an animal, what would your favorite book be?
Will you read my Mom’s manuscript?
If there was a biography about you, what parts would I want to highlight?
What’s your blood type?
Will I be your favorite client?
Obama or Romney?
What questions can you think up? Invisible trophy to the best (worst) one.
So you’ve been querying agents for awhile and have gotten good responses. You have a couple of fulls out and are feeling pretty good about how things are progressing. And then, you open your email and discover that one of your possible agents wants to talk to you, on the phone. It’s THE CALL!
Once you recover from your feelings of awestruck glee, you should take a some time to prepare. Here are a list of questions you may want to consider asking your prospective dream agent.
Are you a member of AAR?
Honestly, you should already know the answer to this one. You did do your homework, didn’t you? But just in case you don’t know, ask. You really want to hear a yes on this one. If the answer is no, ask why not.
Who do you represent? Can I contact them?
Remember, as flattered and excited as you will be to have a real live agent want to talk with, and possibly offer to represent you, this is a two way street. While she is scoping you out, you should be scoping right back to ensure that the relationship will be a good fit. Don’t be afraid to interview her.
What are your strengths?
Ideally, your dream agent will be strong in the areas where you feel you need the most help. Do you need editorial input? Marketing advice? Help with career planning? Make sure he has what you need.
What do you read for fun?
This question may help you discern if you are a style match. That’s not to say you should dismiss someone out of hand if she enjoys different genres than you, but this question may help you get a better feel for what (other than your fabulous book) she enjoys, and what she may be hoping for from you as far as future projects.
How many deals did you do last year? Who with?
Again, this will just help you to get a feel for where someone is in their career. Someone fairly new to agenting will likely have lower sales numbers than someone who has spent years building their career. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is good to know.
Is this your full-time job?
This goes along with the prior question.
Do you have a plan for pitching my manuscript? What publishers do you think would be a good fit?
If you are certain your work is Big Six quality, but your prospective agent is considering pitching to smaller independent publishers, you should ask why. Perhaps your expectations are set too high, but maybe not. This is a good time to discuss that.
Of course you’ll also want to discuss commissions (no more than 15%), who handles sub rights and what those commissions are (standard is 20%), and how expenses like postage and copying are handled.
One last thing, remember Yog’s Law: Money flows toward the writer. Always. A reputable agent will only get paid if you do. If he asks for reading fees, admin fees, or other such fees – hang up the phone. You’ll need the line clear for an agent who is a real dream.
Did I miss anything? What should you ask when you get THE CALLl?
Have you all seen the hilarious post on Nathan Bransford’s website: The Publishing Process in GIF Form? I’m not a fan of the term LOL, but in this case, it fits: I LOL’d. A lot. Then I read it again and LOL’d some more. Take a second and check it out, then come back so we can chat.
If you are right there with me, or gearing up for it, there are a couple of web events coming up that you might be interested in. The first is called, aptly enough, Gearing Up to Get an Agent, or GUTGAA for short.
It’s a month-long blogfest – with agent and small publishing house pitch contests, meet and greets, and drawings and prizes. Even if you are not quite ready to begin the query process, drop in and squirrel away some knowledge for the future.
Both contests will be judged by agents, so in addition to picking up some skills, you might just pick up an agent! And by pick up, I mean sign with. Not date. Although, if you are looking for love…you never know in this crazy world try a dating site. This is for professionals. Hee!
I mentioned these contests on a writer’s email group I am a part of and someone wrote back, confused as to how to write a pitch. I don’t blame her. That’s one of those tricky words that means different things to different people. Like clean. As in, “Yes Mom, my room is clean“.
As far as I can tell pitch has two different meanings.
A verbal presentation to an agent or editor, in person, usually at a writer’s conference. It can be formal – with an appointment set up for you to pitch either one-on-on or in front of a group, or it can be casual where you approach the person you are hoping to work with and tell them about your project. Note: successful pitches, never – never, ever – take place in the bathroom. Just don’t.
Your story’s hook. That short and sweet description that makes people want to read it. Think back cover copy, or the part of your query letter that talks about story. This pitch be verbal or written. In the case of the above contests, your pitch will be written.
If you are still confused, click over to Pitch Madness. They were kind enough to provide an example.
So polish your pitches, get them entered in the contests, win big, and then you will be all:
Okay, that GIF doesn’t really have anything to do with winning pitch contests or publishing success. Just – sloths! So cute! Make up your own analogy. I’m busy waiting to hear back from my future agent.
You now that terrible feeling you get when you oversleep? You crack open a bleary eye and check the clock. Hmm… wasn’t there something I was supposed to do this morning? What day is it? The memory arrives and promptly punches you in the stomach. You respond with a string of near-expletives: “Donut! I forgot about _________!” Well, my friends, that happened to me today. I have been so absorbed in WriteOnCon.com* that I nearly forgot to put up my post for today. You know what that means, right? Today is a video day! I had actually planned to share this little gem with you anyway. In this TED talk, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, speaks about writing genius and good mental health. It is funny, thought provoking, and inspiring. I’m going to slap a very strong declarative statement on it: every writer should watch this. It’s about 20 minutes long so pop some popcorn and settle in. Next time I post, perhaps we can discuss it further. If I wake up on time.
*If you haven’t heard of WriteOnCon, the free online children’s writers conference, you still have a day left to take part in all of it’s fabulousness. Go there. Now. (Then come back and watch the video.)
After more hours than I care to count of writing, rewriting, insightful critique partners and beta readers, rewriting, hair-pulling and tears, rewriting again, and a few rousing rounds of Typo Search and Destroy, I am satisfied that I have a product ready to be represented. Now the real fun begins. I have diligently done my homework, learned the dos and do-nots. I now present for your benefit, Seven Deadly Sins* of Agent Querying:
1. A proud look: Certainly you should be confident when describing your work. Avoid self-deprecation and phrases such as “I hope that you will like this.” On the other hand, overconfidence or cockiness are off putting. Even if you are certain, in your heart of hearts, that your book will be adored by the masses (and why wouldn’t it be? You are gifted, darn it!), do not, I repeat, do not allow the words ‘blockbuster’ or ‘bestseller’ to come anywhere near your query letter. Present your work in the best possible light, but avoid hyperbole.
2. A lying tongue: You know, up there, where I said to avoid hyperbole? That applies to your entire query. Do not exaggerate your education, publishing credits, blog visitors, connections, or word count. Just don’t. Shakespeare knew what he was talking about when he wrote, “The truth will out”. A simple Google search can tell volumes these days, and from what I’ve heard, many agents like to do lsome research when it comes to potential clients. Exaggeration, or as I prefer to call it, lying, is no good way to make a good impression.
3. Hands that shed innocent bloodpen the wrong agent’s name: The preferred salutation is ‘Dear Mr. or Ms.’ followed by a correctly spelled last name – of one particular agent, not a cc’d list of all the agents you would like to query. Sure, agents know that you are likely querying widely, but a lack of personalization is just rude. Rudeness is not helpful to your cause. In the same vein, do not send your query to an agent that does not represent the type of work you do. Do your homework!
4. A heart that devises wicked plots: No wait, that’s a good one. Do that, then devise a wickedly smart query letter describing it. See Query Shark or Slush Pile Tales.
5. Feet that are swift to run into mischief Fingers that are swift to create typos and eyes that are slow to correct them: Read over your query. Have someone else read over your query. Read over your query again. Be sure to have correct spelling, punctuation, and for the love of Pete, correct word usage. You are presenting yourself as a professional wordsmith. Show your mastery. This is not to say that you should grab your thesaurus and fill your query with $10 words, but whatever words you choose to use, please use them correctly.
6. A deceitful witness that uttereth lies: Lies again? I think this one may be important. Don’t lie. Even if you do land a contract, you will always be worried that your deceitfulness will be discovered. Just don’t lie.
7. Him that soweth discord among brethren: If you get a rejection that particularly stings, call up and cry to a friend, drown your sorrows in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food, or take a day to lie on the couch staring vacantly at daytime television (but only one – that stuff will rot your brain). Do not under any circumstances tweet, blog, facebook, google +, mass email, stumble, pin, or tumbl your displeasure about the obviously idiotic (and possibly drunk) agent who refused to see that you are the next J. K. Rowling. The internet is a small town. Do not anger the villagers. By the same token, do not reply to a rejection with annoyance, vitriol, or sarcasm. In fact, do not reply at all unless it is to say, “Thank you for your suggestions”. An angry email is not going to convince anyone to take a second look. It may, however, convince someone to share your email address with colleagues, under the subject line: Avoid Like the Black Death.
*Though not the traditional seven (Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride), I felt that Proverb’s list of things the Lord hates fit quite nicely. To be on the safe side be sure to keep the traditional seven out of your query letter as well, unless they are describing your plot ( in a wickedly good way).
Call my hometown bookstore, The Book Bin at 503-361-1235, and place an order!
This is my blog.
I have a newsletter.
Do you like my book and event news, prizes, and having fun? Do you enjoy receiving emails from me, but no more often than once every month or two? Well, then, this newsletter is perfect for you! Register here.