Exciting News!

120605_6779_INGRIDI want to take a moment to celebrate life’s little big moments!

I’m super happy to announce that I have just signed with the brilliant and wonderful Melissa Sarver at Folio Literary Agency! Yes, I have an agent! It’s amazing to find someone who loves my novel. Someone who is truly passionate about my writing and has a vision for it! (Yup, I’ve pretty much looked like the image to the right for the past week!).

Of course, this hasn’t been an easy road. Getting an agent has been many years in the making. Not only is the querying process long and painful, but there’s all the time before querying. Time spent writing and revising my book, getting my MFA, going to conferences and workshops, querying (and getting rejected) with that other book (which I can now admit wasn’t ready). You know … all the many pieces of the puzzle that add up to simply learning how to tell a good story!

I know there’s plenty of hard work ahead, but I’m ready for it. And it’s so exciting to have an agent in my camp ready to be an advocate for my work!

I want to thank all of you as well! Thank you for reading my blog and sharing in this writing journey with me. I can’t wait to hear about when you sign your agent and sell your books, so I can celebrate with you!

Now everyone, get up from your computer, toss your hands in the air, and happy dance!

calvin_hobbes_dancing

Are you in the process of querying and finding an agent? I’ve compiled all the links and helpful articles I used in this process. You can find them here:

logo_FolioLitMgmtLearn more about the marvelous Melissa and Folio Literary Agency with these links:

Thanks again for celebrating with me!

The Silent Treatment

Empty MailboxIf you’ve every queried an agent you’re probably familiar with the no response = not interested policy. This is when an agent/agency says if you haven’t heard from them within X-amount of time, they’re passing on your project. This isn’t a new policy. It’s been around for years.

Writers hate this policy. We get a little neurotic about it. Waiting to see if someone likes us – Ahem! I mean, likes our project – is hard. How can we know if an agent “just isn’t into us” if all we get is the silent treatment?

On the other hand, agents are busy. I mean busy! One agent reported getting 20 queries a day, and at the time of the blog-post, had 967 queries in her in-box. Is she supposed to send a personal email to all of them?

This has been a controversy for a while now, and there seem to be great points on both sides of the debate.

too much spamThe agents say:

  • Not having to send rejection letters means they can actually read more query letters, request more materials, and find YOU sooner!
  • An agent’s time is valuable! They’re busy. They have their normal day-to-day duties to tend to – like selling their client’s books!
  • It’s a business transaction. Do you get a response from every job you apply to? No.
  • There’s negative karma with sending out rejection letters.
  • Agents have the right to create whatever submission policy they like.

But… some agents also say:

  • Responding to queries gives them a “leg up” on other agents. Now they have the “kindness factor.”
  • They like to send responses because it allows them to feel like they have no loose ends.

Patience ImageMeanwhile the writers…

  • Find it discouraging. A no-response can feel harsher than a rejection letter. Does the agent not respect them or their time?
  • It can make a writer feel like they are in limbo. Did the query letter even get to the agent? Was it ever considered? Did it get stuck in the SPAM filter? (To combat this problem, some agents have created auto responders which let a writer know the query was received).
  • May the mass-querying begin! If a writer knows they aren’t going to hear from an agent for months (and possibly never at all), they may start to send out mass queries. Of course, this creates more letters in an agents in-box, and the cycle begins.

Is there an easy answer to this? No.

I think an agent has every right to conduct business any way they see fit. But I do have respect for those who have sent me a rejection letter in the past. It shows me they’re a professional and they respect me. Personally, I am more likely to recommend that agent to my writer friends (even though I was rejected).

As for us writers, I think we all need to take a step back and practice our skills of patience and perseverance. The right agent is out there waiting for us – and they will contact us when the time is right.

Patience

Want to read more about this subject? Check out these other interesting articles:

SCBWI Open Letter to the Industry

Agent Natalie Lakosil’s Opinion

Agent Rachelle Gardner’s Opinion

Agent Janet Reid’s Opinion

Traveling Through the Digital Landscape (Part 2)

Continuing my notes from Emma Dryden’s 2011 SCBWI LA talk on publishing and the digital landscape, this post will cover the challenges publishers and authors are faced with as the marketplace keeps changing. Be sure to read PART 1 on the development of digital technology and how it affects the way we read.

Who Gets What Percentage?

  • Currently publishers take in 50% of profits from e-books.
  • Self-published authors get 60%  to 80% of their royalties.
  • Barnes and Noble currently has 25% of the e-book market.  Apple has been interested in purchasing Barnes and Noble so they can compete head to head with Amazon.

Google is No Giggling Matter:

  • Pay attention to Google! They are trying to put out-of-print books into digital devices.

Do Agents become Publishers?

  • There is a new trend of agents and agencies doing editing, cover design, and even some publishing.
  • Andrea Brown Agency and Dystel & Goderich are becoming agency consultants.
  • This is a controversial concept. Is an agent really the perfect publishing partner? The jury is still out on this topic.

New Publishing Outlets:

  • Retailer Publishing
  • Author Publishing
  • Children’s Publishing by: tik-a-tok, inkpop, and figment.
  • UTales is a new platform for illustrators and picture book writers.
  • Indies on Demand
  • Great places to share content include: youtube, itunes, flicker, blogTV, Glogs, Skype.

How does a Publisher Stay Competitive and Fashionable?

  • What keeps a publisher making money?
  • They need to consider Google editions and Google affiliates. How do you control what is on Google? What is fair to the copyrights?
  • How do we deal with piracy? How do we determine what’s free and what is not?
  • “Don’t pirate this book because your friend needs the money vs. Buy this book so you can read it.”
  • Publisher’s Competition = Online Vendors. How does a publisher make themselves a better outlet for authors than these other outlets?
  • Publisher’s Competition = Self-Publishing
  • Publisher’s Competition = Print on Demand (POD) (Such as: Lulu, iUniverse, or Amazon.)
  • The relevancy of the publisher will be diminished if they are not involved in the digital market.
  • Publishers are asking: Who are our customers and why are they our customers? The answer used to be the bookstores, but that is changing.

Changes in Customer Choice:

  • Consumers are now starting to demand some choice in what they consume.
  • There is a growing trend in creating objects that a customer can purchase and customize.
  • We’ve moved from average mass media to the individual.

Author Interaction with His/Her Audience:

  • Lots of interaction is happening online now in “The Cloud”
  • Are authors ready to socialize? Do they want to create a dialog with their audience?
  • Do authors want to create a shared experience online with their audience?
  • What’s your web-utation (play on the word reputation).
  • As an author do you provide your audience with a website that includes: backstory (yours or your books), photos, contests, surveys and reviews, and songlists? Do you create content that your readers can share?
  • Listen, participate, talk with people (not at them), create relevant content, and show respect.

Some Social Media Statistics:

  • Facebook has 760 Million subscribers and the median age is 38.
  • Myspace has 100 million subscribers and the median age is 31
  • Linked in has 100 million subscribers and the median age is 44.
  • Twitter has 200 million subscribers and the median age is 35.
  • Google Plus is growing (no stats as of yet) but is a blend of social and professional.

Some Interesting Digital Things to Look Into:

  • Social Networking:
    • Online social networking for books: Goodreads
  • People to Follow on Twitter:
    • Open Road Integrated Media
    • Scroll Motion
    • Callaway Digital
    • Ruckus Media Group
    • Mindiemoms
    • Goodreads
    • Write4kids
    • drydenbooks
  • Other Fun Stuff:

Closing Quote: “We need to raise a new generation of writers and artists not for our nation’s economy, but for our nations soul.” – Mark Seigel

Emma D. Dryden began her career in children’s publishing in 1986 as an Editorial Assistant at Random House Children’s Books. She was then hired as Associate Editor for the legendary Margaret K. McElderry, whose eponymous imprint was a part of Macmillan Children’s Books, and was later named Senior Editor of the imprint. After McElderry retired, Emma was made Vice President, Editorial Director, and in 2005, Vice President, Publisher of Atheneum Books for Young Readers and Margaret K. McElderry Books, imprints of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, a position she held until May 2009.

Over the course of Emma’s career she’s edited nearly five-hundred books for children and young readers, ranging in format from board books and picture books to poetry anthologies, novelty books, non-fiction, middle grade fiction, and YA/teen fiction and fantasy. As publisher, she oversaw the annual publication of more than one-hundred hardcover and paperback titles. Authors and illustrators whom Emma has edited include Ellen Hopkins, Karma Wilson, Susan Cooper, Alan Katz, David Catrow, Raul Colon, Shelia P. Moses, Marjorie Priceman, Lee Bennett Hopkins, David Diaz, and Paul Zelinsky.

Recap of the 2010 SCBWI LA – Agent Panel

Agents Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown), Josh Adams (Adams Literary), Lisa Grubka (Foundry), and Ken Wright (Writer’s House), all spoke at the 2010 SCBWI LA Conferences. They discussed what they are looking for, the state of the market, and how the rights landscape is changing. The following are my notes from the event:

MODERATOR: Introduce yourself, your agency, and a little about the marketplace from your perspective.

GINGER: I’ve worked for Curtis Brown for Five years. I represent middle grade and young adult novels. I also represent British rights to the Curtis Brown children’s List. It’s good to have an agent that can think globally for you. I have found that editors are looking for middle grade books, middle grade series or one shots. There is really a neglected audience in the 8-12 year old area. On the YA end I like fantasy and paranormal books. I look for the more unusual stuff. Angels were really big in Bolognia this year, but personally I am looking for any book with mermaids or sirens in it! Distopia is coming in and getting big. I prefer email queries, but will still accept snail mail as well.

KEN: Writer’s house is the largest and best known house for Children’s publishing. We have 3 or 4 agents that deal exclusively with children’s books. We have some good franchises at Writer’s House including Twilight, and The Baby Sitters Club. I was an editor at Scholastic before becoming an agent. YA literary fiction is selling right now, as is middle grade series. There is also a small phenomenon to take note of which is very young middle grade fiction. But we aren’t sure what that is yet. Picture books are really tough to sell right now. My personal specialty is nonfiction books.

JOSH: My wife and I run our boutique agency ourselves. We started our agency in 2004, and we represent the children’s book market exclusively. In our opinion the state of the market is strong. We’ve seen a resurgence in hiring editors, and more acquisitions lately. The market is bouncing back. When writing I would stress that you strive for something that is timeless, that’s really what we are looking for. Timeless will always be timely. We look to manage careers over time. We only take submission through our website, and we do get about 8000 submissions a year.

LISA: I’ve been at Foundry for about two years. Before that I was at Williams and Morris for six years. I represent both children’s books and adult books. I see that there is a trend in YA and MG for books that have an international focus, and that is also a personal interest of mine. I like reality grounded projects,  I like to feel as if I could be the character. Dystopian novels are hot right now. But I’m always looking for something that is voice driven with strong characters and humor. Adult crossover novels are also good.

MODERATOR: Can you explain how foreign rights and other markets work?

GINGER: An agent tries to keep as many subsidiary rights as they possibly can. This is so we can sell those rights over seas, etc. It is important for an author to try and not make their book super American, as it won’t sell well in another country. For example American Football or baseball are very hard books to sell internationally. Most agents will partner with an agent in another country to sell those rights.

KEN: It’s subjective on the other side of the ocean. You never know what they will buy.

JOSH: I agree. You want an agent that will market your book for you overseas. The publisher will probably take a percentage if they are marketing those rights overseas for you. It is better to have your agent do it for you so you get more of the pie. We have co-agents overseas, and we want them to aggressively market you. Though it can be hard to sell books in places like Scandinavia and Europe if your book is not a series.

LISA: You want an agent to have an eye on how to sell your book. Do you speak a foreign language? Tell your agent! Then you can do a book tour in that country.

KEN: If the publisher controls the rights, then your agent should still be talking with them on what they are doing with those rights.

MODERATOR: What rights should authors seek to obtain?

JOSH: All of them!

GINGER: There is a lot of arguing about audio rights, and there is plenty of discussion about multi-media and enhanced media rights. Boiler plate rights is when we’ve settle on one clause or term for all media. And that can be a problem. Film people don’t like to see that the publisher has the media rights, because there is some overlap and this can be very tricky. Media is more interactive with picture books.

KEN: We’ve started inserting aversion language into our contracts. Time limits for example…if they haven’t used said rights yet then they revert back to the author, etc.

JOSH: More publishers are looking for audio rights when they don’t have audio programs. We see rights grabs with the higher the advances. Don’t grant commercial and film rights to publishers.

LISA: There is so much new technology that we don’t know what the next thing will be. “Winter is coming and we all want to be in on it.” Publishers have been doing presentations for agents to show them the possibilities. But we are still waiting to see what’s really going to happen.

MODERATOR: Is a simultaneous book and e-release a good thing?

JOSH: The talk in Hollywood is all about convergence. What platform do you want to see it on NOW! Traditional books are still selling better, and e-commerce is only a fraction of the other sales. So the question is what’s fair for the author with these rights?

KEN: Three years later we often look back at rights and see what was used.

GINGER: 25% of net for e-book is the royalty right now. We are hoping this will change. Andrew Wyle launched his own e-rights publishing house (he’s an agent). Will this help or hurt?

MODERATOR: With so many new platforms how does this affect your opinion of self publishing?

GINGER: There’s a question right now with people like Andrew Wyle starting his own publishing company. Can we (as agents) ethically function as a packager for our clients? Do we do direct to self publishing? What’s okay or appropriate for an agent to do? We may see the cannon of ethics changing in the future and it may change our jobs as agents.

JOSH: Do you see self publishing as a way to break into traditional publishing? Everyone is looking for a new way to break into publishing. Maybe…

LISA: Most people who self publish are struggling to get the numbers. This is a grey zone and I’m not sure how an agent fits into that picture.

MODERATOR: How do you assess the business, conglomerates, and the opportunities right now?

LISA: It’s really hard for mid-list authors right now. Lots of imprints are looking for new authors. Amazon’s power grows daily and the publishers have to listen to them. How do you allocate money, balance budgets, etc.? An agent may need to help an author get a publicist if they are a mid-list client.

JOSH: It can be easier to sell a debut novel than say a third book. This is because there is no track record for that author. The PNL has more unknown variables. Some authors struggle in one genre and were trying to stretch them into a new place. Quality fiction will always find a home. But there are more challenges today.

KEN: The adult book market focuses on big books. But the editors are looking for great new voices.

GINGER: We are heading into a golden age for children’s books (particularly YA). People are seeing the importance and power of children’s books. I’m seeing the snobby side of the industry start to take note. Children’s books are paying people’s salaries!

MODERATOR: What services do you provide your clients? And what is your client/agent relationship?

JOSH: We are all about teamwork! Communication, and making sure you are on the same page in the relationship. Authors are looking for editorial agents, but agents aren’t here to replace the editor. I’m not going to re-decorate the house. But I will help you stage your book. It’s like real-estate.

BEN: Sometimes I’m your shrink. I’m your eyes and ears to the market. I’m the bad cop to your good cop.

LISA: I do edit quite a bit. I want to give the project the best opportunities. Communication is important. How will we work well together depends. Do you need hand holding, etc. I will help to manage your career, and I take my job very seriously.

JOSH: I like to strategize together. Always tell me what you are working on next, so we can think about the big picture. We may need to put things in the drawer depending on where we are taking your career. I want to manage your career to help maximize the earnings of your career.

GINGER: I am not your therapist, best friend, or your mom! This is a professional relationship. I won’t talk on the phone with you for two hours to shoot the shit.

JOSH: Some authors email or phone all the time. Some I don’t talk to for a month. We are here 24/7 for you.  And occasionally I can be your shrink for you, or at least suggest one. We are your rock. We want to help instill confidence in you so that you can do your best. Our job is to help you gain that confidence.

Audience Question: Can you address Asian Markets?

GINGER: Manga is its own world. It hit its peak and what’s here has been translated. Non-fiction adult books do well in Asia. Asia does not have the vampire virus. What’s doing well in Europe doesn’t quite sell well in Asia.

Audience Question: Can you comment on the state of non-fiction books in the market?

KEN: It’s been a great year for non-fiction! 2009 was a banner year for non-fiction. There’s been a ground swell of interest in non-fiction. Nonfiction doesn’t sell as well in the trade market, but it’s great in the educational market.

Audience Question: Is there a good season to submit to an agent?

KEN: Summer is a good time. We are trying to get things lined up for the Fall.

JOSH: When the work is ready that’s when you should submit! Some people mention the “lazy days of summer” but I don’t know what that’s about, I’m always busy!

KEN: Agents submit less to publishers in the summer because they are often on vacation.

GINGER: If an agent goes to Bologna, that’s not a good time to query.

LISA: There are spikes around certain times of the year.

Ken Wright was an editor and publisher for 20 years, most recently at scholastic, where he was an editorial director. Ken joined Writer’s House in 2007 as an agent, specializing in children’s literature. Ken’s clients have been the recipients of many awards including the Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz Awards.

Ginger Clark has been a literary agent with Curtis Brown LTD since 2005. She represents science fiction, fantasy, paranormal romance, literary horror, and young adult and middle grade fiction. In addition to representing her own clients she also represents British rights for the agency’s children’s list. She previously worked at Writer’s House for six years as an assistant.

Josh Adams, together with his wife Tracey, runs Adams Literary, a boutique agency exclusively dedicated to children’s book authors and artists. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia Business School, Josh spent years in publishing and media before bringing his editorial and business backgrounds together as a literary agent.

Lisa Grubka spent six years at the William Morris Agency before joining Foundry in 2008, and represents both fiction (literary, young adult, and women’s) and non-fiction (pop-culture, food, and narrative). Lisa has worked with a broad variety of authors, from debut novelists to Food Network stars. She take a very hands on approach in working with her authors, and is a thorough editor, ensuring to the best possible proposal or manuscript.

Tweet. Tweet. Tweet.

Twitter has become a great way to get involved in the kidlit writing community. Online you’ll find authors, editors, agents, illustrators, and pre-published writers alike all posting great articles on writing. Or simply letting you know what type of cream they take in their coffee. It’s a great place to get to know agents/editors pet peeves or insights into the marketplace. You can support fellow writers as they punch out thier 1000 words per day. Or just say hi to a favorite author. And nothing makes you feel more connected, than finishing an authors book, tweeting about it, and having them thank you for reading their book the next day! How cool!

Therefore, I’ve compiled the following is a list of Kidlit professionals and their twitter names/profiles.  I highly recommend you follow all these great tweeps.

Kidlit Book Editors and Publishers

@planetalvina : Alvina Ling – Editor at Little, Brown and Company

@editrixanica: Anica Rissi – Editor at Simon Pulse

@sadtoby: Sara Sargent – Assistant Editor at Balzer and Bray

@ABBalzer:  Alessandra Balzer – Editor of Balzer and Bray

@GCPeditor: Grand Central Publishing

@thisjordanbrown: Jordan Brown – Editor at Harper Collins

Kidlit and Adult Literary Agents

@MichaelBourret: Michael Bourret, Agent with Dystel & Goderich Literary Management

@bradfordlit: Laura Bradford, Agent with Bradford Literary Agency

@literaticat: Jennifer Laughran, Agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency

@RachelleGardner: Rachelle Gardner, WordServe Literary Agent

@JillCorcoran: Jill Corcoran, Agent with The Herman Agency

@Natalie_Fischer: Natalie Fischer, Agent with Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency

@Kid_Lit: Mary Kole, Agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency

@ChrisRichman: Christ Richman, Agent with Upstart Crowe Literary Agency

@RebeccAgent: Rebecca Sherman, Agent with Writer’s House

@BostonBookGirl: Lauren E. MacLeod, Agent with Strothman Literary Agency

@Janet_Reid: Janet Reid, Agent with Fine Print Literary Mangement

@NathanBransford: Nathan Bransford, Agent with Curtis Brown Literary Agency

@colleenlindsay: Colleen Lindsay, Agent with Fine Print Literary Mangement

@mikalroy: Michael Sterns, Agent at Upstart Crow Literary

@UpstartCrowLit: Upstart Crow Literary

@bbowen949: Brenda Bowen, Agent at Greenburger and Associates.

@JuliaChurchill: Julia Churchill, Agent at Greenhouse Literary

Young Adult and Kidlit Authors

@KarstenKnight: Karsten Knight (Wildfire – Coming 2011 Simon and Schuster)

@rachelvailbooks: Rachel Vail (Gorgeous, Lucky, Brilliant)

@carolynmackler: Caolyn Mackler (The Earth My Butt and Other Big Round Things, Virgin Vegan Valentine)

@jtdutton: JT Dutton (Stranded, Freaked)

@barrylyga: Barry Lyga (Goth Girl Rising, Boy Toy)

@gayleforman: Gayle Forman (If I Stay)

@jandynelson: Jandy Nelson (The Sky is Everywhere)

@halseanderson: Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak, Twisted, Wintergirls)

@realjohngreen: John Green (Looking For Alaska, Paper Towns, An Abundance of Katherines)

@maureenjohnson: Maureen Johnson (Suite Scarlett, 13 Little Blue Envelopes)

@EllenHopkinsYA: Ellen Hopkins (Crank, Impulse, Glass)

@hollyblack: Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles, White Cat)

@sarahdessen: Sarah Dessen (Just Listen, Lock and Key, How to Deal)

@megcabot: Meg Cabot (Princess Diaries, Teen Idol)

@elockhart: E. Lockhart (Fly on the Wall, The Boyfriend List)

@JustineLavaworm: Justine Larbalestier (Liar, How to Ditch Your Fairy)

@PaulaYoo: Paula Yoo (Shinging Star, Good Enough)

@suzanne_young: Suzanne Young (So Many Boys, The Naughty List)

@susanecolasanti: Susane Colasanti (Take Me There, When It Happens)

@libbabray: Libba Bray (Going Bovine, A Great and Terrible Beauty)

@sarazarr: Sara Zarr (Once Wast Lost, Story of a Girl)

@kdueykduey: Kathleen Duey (Skin Hunger)

@serenarobar: Serena Robar (Give Up the V Card)

@RichelleMead: Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy Series)

@MelissadelaCruz: Melissa De La Cruz (Blue Blood Series)

@heatherbrewer: Heather Brewer (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod)

Who Do You Follow?

Please leave a comment and share your favorite kidlit authors, editors, agents, and community members!!

Query Letter Suicide

Agent Jill Corcoran (of the Herman Agency) shared the following lists of things you should NOT write in your query letter. Take a look and make sure you aren’t committing query letter suicide!

Things NOT to write in you Query Letter:

1. I’m a new writer.

2. This is my first book or this is the first book I have written.

3. This is the second/third/forth/tenth book I have written.

4. This is the first book in my 9 book series.

5. I have recently completed the second book in a series of four.

6. The following example doesn’t tell the agent anything about the book: My book XXX, is a series of stories involving a cast of recurring characters. I have written approximately 20 stories in XXX series. Each story is more exciting than the last, and take the XXX to farther away places and more fantastic situations. The story, “XXX”, which I am sending you, introduces XXX, draws the characters and sets up the premise for the book. While each story may stand alone, they could be combined to form a chapter book following the progression of story lines and new characters.

7. This is not a good way to start a first paragraph: My book is called XXX. My target readership would be geared towards middle school children around ten years of age. I have completed the book, it is 88 pages in length and is the first book in the series XXX. (This intro is choppy and dull).

8. I hope you and everyone around you are doing well. (This is too familiar).

9. In my pursuit for agent representation, I am about as bedeviled as X, the protagonist, in XXX. (An odd way to start).

10. I am looking for an agent to help me publish my book, XXX, a 77,000 word long fictional young adult novel. (Get rid of the word “fictional”. Also, this is too non-specific, it seems like any agent will do. You need to say why you have picked this particular agent to query.) (It is best – and business like – to start a query like this: I am looking for representation for XXX.)

11. I am looking for an agent to help me publish my book, XXX.

12. Do not write in the subject line of an email query: One minute read. CB Query. (It’s rude).

13. I’ve worked on XXX for a decade, which includes feedback from writers groups, a freelance editor, and now an interested publisher. I believe XXX will benefit anyone, but targeted girls, ages 9-12. (Why have you been working on this book for a decade? That’s a big red flag.)

14. I hope you would like to represent my book, X, to publishers. (Too unprofessional, and not a strong sentence.)

15. This is not a full query, though I get this a lot: My children’s book is called: XXX. It is the story of an eight year old girl, X, who gets seperated (use spell check!) from her family on a fishing trip. She is rescued by and spends a couple of weeks in the company of a small family of x-fish. It is a simple fantasy story that includes a valuable lesson (Lessons are  no no!) for small children. The importance of heeding their parents advice even though it interferes with every childs wish to grow-up to fast. (This whole paragraph is blah, and lacks specifics.) If you would like me to e-mail you the full story, I would be more than happy to do so.

16. My completed novel, XXX, is an original and unique coming of age romance that will appeal to young adults, with a distinctive plotline. With so many stories in the YA genre out there now, I have managed to blend genres – contemporary YA and historical romance together into an interesting and one-of-a-kind premise. The writing is energetic, and the supernatural twists and turns make it a page turner. (I don’t think there is anything that is one-of-a-kind out there. There’s always something similar to it.)

17. XXX should fit in well with your other titles, though it is very unique in its own right, since there are no other YA novels out there like it. (Agents don’t have lists – like publishers. We don’t want things to fit in with our titles. We have clients not titles.)

18. Don’t write back and ask for a critique or a quick opinion. Most agents put this in their rejections if they feel like sharing. Often we don’t share so that we do not get more and more questions. If an agent is interested in your work they will offer critiques.

Jill Corcoran shared the above information at the 2010 Southern California SCBWI Writers Day. Corcoran is an agent with the Herman Agency. She has an English degree from Stanford University and an MBA in Finance and Marketing from The University of Chicago, Jill has marketed everything from sneakers to cereal at Leo Burnett Advertising, LA Gear, Mattel, and at her own consulting company, LAUNCH! New Product Marketing. Jill is also a children’s book author and poet. You can learn more about her on her blog: www.jillcorcoran.blogspot.com

Queries and Synopis: How to Get an Agent Salivating to Read Your Manuscript

Writer turned agent extraordinaire Jill Corcoran, of the Herman Agency, spoke at the 2010 Southern California SCBWI Writer’s Day about how to get an agent to request your manuscript. The following are her tips, personal preferences, and insight to help ensure your inbox is full of requests instead of rejection letters.

What’s a Query Letter?

  • A query letter is a simple letter to get an agent to read your book. That’s it.
  • It’s a pitch.
  • It’s a business letter. So be professional.
  • The purpose of the letter is to entice an agent to request your full manuscript (that’s your objective).
  • Sometimes an amazing query letter will have a book that doesn’t live up to the query.

What To Do Before You Write Your Query Letter:

  • Finish your book!!! Never query before the book is finished. In fact, the book should not only be finished, but should be so good that it is ready to be published! Be critical of your work.
  • Research what agents are good for you (and your book).
  • Know what your book is about. You need to be able to summarize your book in your query letter.

Great Ways to Research Agents:

  • Follow agents on twitter. You’ll really get to know them by what they post.
  • Read an agent’s blog! This is a great way to find out an agent’s individual tastes, personality, and what they are looking for.

How To Query:

  • The First Paragraph: There are two schools of though on how to open your query letter. The first one is to start your query with your story, just jump in and start with the synopsis. The other school of thought (which Corcoran prefers) is to explain why you are contacting the agent. The first paragraph in this situation should include short, precise and true reason(s) you are querying this particular agent. Research helps you to write this part, because it will show how well of a fit you and the agent are.
  • The Second Paragraph: Next is the story synopsis. Write a 2 to 10 sentence synopsis of your story. Here’s how: In (Title of book), X-Main Character needs to (define problem) before (obstacles). Now not all stories will fit into this neat and tidy premise, but you get the idea. Just remember that this is a sales piece and not a play by play of the story. The important information to include would be: title, main character and his/her age, the dilemma, the genre (YA, Picture Book, etc.), and the setting (if applicable).
  • The Third Paragraph: Write about yourself. Agents vary on what they like to see here. Corcoran likes to know whatever you think is important. While other agents don’t care if you train lemurs as a hobby, Corcoran thinks that would be interesting. But in general you should include: previously published work (yes, magazine publications count), writing honors and awards, a writing MFA, a specialty that relates to the book, SCBWI memberships, etc. Don’t include how many cats you have, or that your kids loved this book.

How To Write A Fantastic Synopsis:

  • Read flap copy from published books. This is a sales pitch to you the reader. When writing your query you are doing the same exact thing. Be enticing and keep it simple

Things to Avoid When Writing a Query Letter:

  • Always default to Ms. or Mr. and then the last name of the agent. You don’t need to include the first name. And be careful of using the prefix of Mrs.
  • Don’t be to “sales-y” in your query. It’s a turn-off.
  • Stay business-y and avoid getting to cutesy.
  • Don’t use large blocks of text. White space is good. Break up your paragraphs and keep things short.

Other Tips Before You Query:

  • Most agents do e-queries these days. But check submission guidelines to be sure.
  • You’ve got to know what sells “you”! If you’ve written books and are published then start your query with that. Know what makes you unique and will make you stand out.
  • Be specific!
  • It’s not bragging to talk about yourself and “sell yourself.” You’ll have to do this over and over. Get used to it.
  • Your query should be different for each agent you submit to. Particularly the part where you specify why you are submitting to this particular agent. Your synopsis may be the same, but the intro should be different.
  • Remember your query is a business letter.
  • Find out what other books are in the market that are similar to your book. Make sure that your work isn’t done already by someone else.
  • Sometimes an assistant will read your query before the agent will. Don’t fret, the assistant is trained to have the same taste (and look for) what the agent is interested in.

The Order In Which Jill Corcoran Reads Your Submission/Query:

  • Corcoran doesn’t always read query letters in order. She starts with who you are. Have you been published? What makes you interesting.
  • Then she look to see what genre your book is. Is it YA or MG (which she represents).
  • Now she goes back and reads your first paragraph, followed by the rest of the query.
  • If the query is interesting, she’ll read the first 10 pages (which you should submit with your query).
  • Then she goes back and reads your synopsis to see if the rest of the book seems interesting.

A Few Formatting Tips for Your Submission:

  • Use the Font Times New Roman with a 12 or 14 point size.
  • Don’t send your manuscript in Courier, as it will skew the page count.

About Little About Jill Corcoran and What She Likes:

  • At the Herman Agency, Corcoran represents young adult books, middle grade books, and chapter books. Meanwhile the other agent at the Herman Agency covers picture books and illustrators.
  • Corcoran and her partner are very close so it will feel like you get two agents in one!
  • She don’t like books about bullies. That is an automatic rejection based solely on subject matter.
  • Corcoran likes tight writing and poetry.

Jill Corcoran is an agent with the Herman Agency. She has an English degree from Stanford University and an MBA in Finance and Marketing from The University of Chicago, Jill has marketed everything from sneakers to cereal at Leo Burnett Advertising, LA Gear, Mattel, and at her own consulting company, LAUNCH! New Product Marketing. Jill is also a children’s book author and poet. You can learn more about her on her blog: www.jillcorcoran.blogspot.com