Friday, January 18, 2008

WGA Strike Update

Maya Reynolds does a better job than I could - here's a strike update.

Query 101

So I got this query last night. It was addressed to about ten agents, and the first paragraph read as follows:

Hello. I am looking for an experienced agent, with an outstanding track record of publishing with major presses. Only serious responses, please. I have prepared a book proposal, for those of you who want to read it. I will not pay any fees. I am not interested in self- or electronic publishing.

I don't want to embarrass the author of this query, but I thought it could be used as a good example to provide some guidance on querying. I'm not going to address the substance of his project, nor any grammatical errors.

First, I don't accept e-queries unless they are sent via my agency submission form.

Second, do not address your query to multiple agents at once. It doesn't take much to cut and paste your query in multiple emails and add personalized introductions. Imagine if I wrote an email to a bunch of editors at once about your book!

Third, start off with a sentence that brings us in, not one that turns us off. In addition, there are multiple resources now available to authors, so with a bit of research you could verify in advance whether an agent is experienced and has sold books to major houses.

Fourth, this is not a personal ad. No need to tell us to be serious - this is our job, our livelihood. Of course we're serious.

Fifth, you should only be submitting to agents who have made it clear somewhere that they don't charge fees. This author has done just enough research to know that he shouldn't pay fees, but not enough to know about the Association of Author Representatives, agentquery.com, etc.

Sixth, we're not interested in representing you if you want to self-publish or e-publish your book either.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

My Morning

Ever wonder exactly what agents do all day? Below is a running diary I kept of my morning. It was a bit busier than normal, but I think it accurately represents what we do.

8:45am – Checked email at home and responded to e-queries before leaving for work (9 rejections).

9:15am – Starbucks. Delicious.

9:25am – Arrived at the office. Responded to Client A’s questions regarding offer received yesterday.

10:00am – Submitted mystery to editor via email after querying about project yesterday.

10:05am – Responded to e-queries (7 rejections).

10:20am – Spoke with Agent Colleague A about preemptive offers.

10:40am – E-mailed with Client B about book clubs and her new book.

10:45am – Reviewed amended contract sent by publisher for legal client.

11:15am – Wrote new French subagent about a project that I sold last week.

11:35am – Updated Client A regarding offer and possible auction.

11:40am – Spoke with Agent Colleague B about audio books.

11:45am – Read Publisher’s Lunch.

11:47am – Began reading requested partial.

11:53am – Received offer via email for Client C. Called client and left message to discuss. Returned to reading requested partial.

12:42pm – Spoke with Client D about phone conversation he had with an editor interested in client’s project.

12:46pm – Called editors reviewing Client C’s project and let them know that an offer was received.

12:57pm – Responded to e-queries (3 rejections)

1:03pm – Posted a blog entry.

1:08pm – Went to Chipotle for lunch.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Godfather Comes Before The Godfather II and III

Are you writing a trilogy? If so, Kirsten Nelson blogs on how to address this in your query letter.

The Tax Man Cometh

Tax season. It's like drinking orange juice right after you brushed your teeth. I've been deluged with 1099-MISC forms for the past week (this is the form I have to provide to authors and file with the IRS reflecting royalty payments made), but I think I've turned the corner.

I know there are many of you waiting for me to respond to your work, and I'll be diving into my reading now. Thanks for your patience.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Question: When should you query?

Writing can be a kind of "hurry up and wait" situation, with a good amount of time between submitting a manuscript and actually seeing it in print. My first book (un-agented, but with a traditional publisher) is due out in Spring 2008. I'd like to start querying agents for my next "big project" but would like your advice on whether I should wait and see what the reception is to the first book (it's a history title) or begin querying in advance.

This is a tough one, and I expect you would get different advice from different agents.

There's no special cachet that might make me look at your query differently if you waited to pitch your book till after it has been published, excepting possible sales and publicity. But this is a double-edged sword - your book may not sell well (no matter how well-written it is), but if you don't wait for publication you could miss an opportunity to cash in on any possible success.

I'd probably suggest querying agents now, unless you're expecting some good reviews or blurbs to come in for the book in the near future, or the publisher intends to spend significant amounts of money on publicity. Also, the querying process is long and ongoing, so it's quite possible that you could still be querying by the time your book has published and you can then alter your query accordingly.