What the Submissions Coordinator Would Like You to Know

By Kerstin Wolf

Querying can be a tricky and time-consuming process which can understandably become a bit frustrating with each agency having a different policy on how to submit. As the Submissions Coordinator for the agency inbox, I read every single query letter that is submitted to Holloway Literary. Here are a few tips that I would recommend to make your submission stand out.

Always Research an Agency’s Submission Guidelines

16446563124_940532453f_oIf you’re like me, the first thing you’ll probably think of is that “guidelines” are just guidelines, not rules. This isn’t quite the case with submission guidelines though. These guidelines really should be treated as rules. If you’ve submitted to us and hadn’t quite followed our guidelines, you’ve probably heard from me. Now, it’s not a bad thing to hear from me. Interacting with authors is great, but it can be very time consuming. For that reason, many agencies won’t respond back and will use the guidelines as way to weed out some submissions. While this may seem harsh, agents are looking for more than just a great manuscript; they are also looking for writers they can work well with and can pay attention to instructions.

Our submission guidelines can be found on our website under each agent’s name. When submitting to us, please have the agent’s name, the manuscript title, and the genre in the email’s subject line and copy and paste the query and the first 15 pages of your manuscript into the body of the email.

Know What the Agent Is Looking For

This tip goes hand in hand with the one above. Research the agent prior to submitting. Your time is valuable! Don’t waste your time by submitting to an agent who doesn’t represent your genre of work. If you are querying a screenplay, make sure to submit to an agent who represents screenplays. You can find links below to what our agents are looking for in a manuscript.

Nikki Terpilowski: https://hollowayliteraryagency.com/nikki-terpilowski/

Rachel Burkot: https://hollowayliteraryagency.com/rachel-burkot/

Michael Caligaris: https://hollowayliteraryagency.com/michael-caligaris/

Kortney Price: https://hollowayliteraryagency.com/kortney-price/

Word Count

Always list your manuscript’s word count in your query, but also please know the Untitledstandard word count for the genre that you are writing in prior to submitting. For Holloway Literary, If the word count is too far over or under, you will be notified and asked to resubmit only when the standard word count is met. If you receive this notification, don’t take it personally. It’s nothing against you as a writer, it’s just what publishing houses are accepting at this time. While there are classics out there with significantly lower word counts, often times they were published over thirty years ago when the publishing environment was different from what it is today. Of course, there are more recent examples of published works that have very high word counts, but it is always recommended that debut novelist stick as close to the standard word count as possible. I’ll list below a few of the word count ranges for the genres we receive most often.

Literary: 70,000-100,000

Women’s: 80,000-100,000

Memoir: 80,000-90,000

Thriller, Suspense: 80,000-90,000

Science Fiction/Fantasy: 80,000-120,000

Romance: 70,000-95,000

Young Adult: 50,000-80,000 (Word count can go higher if science fiction or fantasy.)

Middle Grade: 25,000-55,000

Query Letter/Proposal

I cannot stress this enough. Always include a query letter or proposal in your submission email. While vast majority have this in their submission, we do receive some that only have the first 15 pages of the manuscript attached. The query portion is vital because it gives us more information about what the manuscript will be about and gives us a feel for who the author is. Always include the word count, a brief synopsis, and a brief author bio including any previous writing experience and/or publications. Also, it’s always a smart idea to include comparable titles!

How to Respond to Rejections or Notifications Regarding Word Count

0b497e7f2db857ab72f3a1dd865f67ff--rejected-quotes-wide-awakeI understand that querying can be frustrating. I’m sure that most of you would prefer writing your next novel instead of querying. I get it. I know that it’s even more challenging to receive rejection letters or to hear that your novel’s word count isn’t where it should be. Unfortunately, rejection plays a large role in the publishing industry, and it happens to all of us, authors and agents alike. It’s important to remember not to lash out with your frustrations though. We’re all human. Even though all communication in regard to submissions is done through email, it doesn’t mean that a robot or computer is reading them on the other side. I see every single email that comes through our submission inbox. If you ever feel as though your frustrations may take control, take a few deep breaths and walk away for a while. Please try to be as polite as possible or just don’t respond back.

Questions

Finally, if you have any questions in regard to the status of your submission and the our response time has passed, please always feel free to reach out! I try to get back to all status check emails as quickly as possible.

 

Kerstin is an intern with Holloway Literary. Follow her on Twitter @Kerstin_Wolf.

What Happens at an Editor/Agent Lunch?

By Rachel Burkot

I think it’s safe to say that networking is a word that evokes fear and panic in a good number of people, coupled with the immediate desire to run away fast. This is potentially because networking is something that can be falsely associated with schmoozing, acting smarmy or showing fake interest in people. We all know those types, the charmers at any party who work the room like a pro—and watching it happen, something about it feels…inauthentic.

But I’m not talking about those people, who use events to make connections and home in on people they can use in some way. Or the people who buff up their resume and kill an interview with confidence, even though they’re not quite qualified for the role. I’m talking about networking in a purer, simpler form. In fact, networking is meant to be, and often is, a completely organic way of making connections, be they social ones or professional ones. You probably network at least a few times per month without even really being aware you’re doing it. And in publishing, networking is key to success, as great books most often come to life starting with a connection between an agent and editor.

Wining-and-dining-clientsEven though Holloway Literary is an agency where all the agents work in a remote capacity, I’m fortunate enough to be based in New York City, where the majority of publishers are located. Since I don’t want to stay in NYC forever, I’m trying to take full advantage of the time I am here, in this publishing hub, to go out to lunches and drinks with editors.

So what exactly goes down at these mysterious publishing industry insider lunches? Here I’ll do a little FAQ with a rundown of how they usually go, do’s and don’ts, etc., to demystify the experience a little for anyone who’s curious!

 

Q: Who reaches out? The agent or editor?

A: Either can! Agents need editors to buy their clients’ awesome manuscripts, and editors need agents to send them said awesome manuscripts for their inventory quotas. So it’s fair game for either an agent or an editor to reach out to the other with a networking invite.

 

Q: Can you reach out cold to an editor you’ve never met and simply invite them to lunch?

A: Yes! An email introduction is perfectly sufficient. I would explain why you’re especially interested in meeting with them, specifically, face-to-face out of all the other industry professionals. Usually when I’ve been approached for a networking lunch or drinks, the editor will say how they came across my interests online or a recent sale, and they feel our tastes overlap nicely and they think we could probably have a match at some point down the line.

 

Q: Are these long, leisurely lunches with martinis, or mid-day wine involved?

A: I’m afraid that’s a publishing stereotype! Or rather, it’s one of the past. I’m pretty sure it used to happen that way, but these days, every publishing professional is busy wearing so many different hats that they can’t afford to take more than an hour or so during the day. Not to mention that budgets are tighter than ever in publishing, so no drinks with lunch, unfortunately! As the agent, I usually follow the editors’ cues when ordering for things like appetizers, dessert, etc., as they’re the ones who pay (see below).

 

Q: Can an agent pitch a book to an editor during a face-to-face meeting?

A: Yes…with a few caveats. I would definitely be gentle about it. You shouldn’t give anNetworking-Lunch elevator pitch that sounds rehearsed, as this can be off-putting over pasta or enchiladas where you’re getting to know each other as real people who do exist beyond their teeny tiny picture in the corner of an email chain—and if it sounds too rehearsed, the editor will think you only wanted to have lunch with them to ply them with the manuscripts you’ve been unable to sell. Make sure that any pitching is organic; only go there if the conversation naturally does. If they ask if you have any projects you’re excited about, that’s definitely an opening (so long as it’s in the genre they work on). Or if you’re talking about how much you both loved X published author’s book, and you’re trying to sell something that’s similar or you think he/she would like based on that, go for it. The worst that will happen is that you’ll email them the pitch letter when you’re back to your desk, and they’ll respond saying it doesn’t actually sound like something up their alley after all—and they’ll likely direct you to a colleague who’d be a better fit!

 

Q: Speaking of, meeting up face-to-face probably means you’ll get a better response rate from that editor down the line, yes?

A:  Not necessarily, unfortunately. At least, not without some continued cultivation of the relationship. People are just generally so busy and are meeting new people all the time, and retention can be hard, especially if months or even years go by before you have something to pitch them. If the meeting was memorable and you remind them when pitching how you had lunch X # of months ago, it’s more likely they’ll be responsive to at least looking at the manuscript. But it’s still hard to grab an editor’s attention in this busy day and age of publishing, even if you’ve met in person! The best thing is that if you meet up with an editor you’d really, really like to work with someday but just don’t have that perfect project for them yet, send them notes from time to time—but nothing lengthy or creepy (I’m not condoning stalking anyone! J) It can be as simple as sending them a one-line email congratulating them on a deal when you see their name in Publisher’s Marketplace.

 

Q: Can you talk about non-publishing related things? How much small talk is appropriate at first before diving in to book talk?

A: Of course! This is a human connection. It’s the genuine, non-sleazy side of networking—getting to know someone else as a real person, including their interests outside of reading and editing. In general, I would say don’t overthink this side of things. Just go with the flow of the conversation, and whatever feels natural. Lately I’ve been talking about my upcoming wedding with editors for part of my networking meetings, because other women are interested in that and excited for me. I also like to ask editors where in the city they live, then swap stories about NYC neighborhoods/apartments/moving stories, etc. I also like to ask where they’re from originally and how they knew their calling was moving to the big city for publishing. Anything that helps the connection become a stronger one is fair game!

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Q: Who pays?

A: Generally the editor pays, since they are the ones who will ultimately pay the agent for their clients’ work—so they’re already on that side of the transaction situation.

 

I hope this has been a helpful glimpse into what goes on during an editor/agent meeting, and if you’ve been trying to get up the gumption to get your face-to-face time on, now that you know what to expect, go forth and network! Just don’t be that arrogant person in the corner of the room asking if they have rooftop access or an in to the hottest restaurant in town 😉

 

Rachel is an agent with Holloway Literary. Learn more about her here and then follow her on Twitter @Rachel_Burkot.

An Interview with … Kortney Price

This week we’re talking with associate agent Kortney Price of Holloway Literary and we’re talking special needs characters, favorite books, and how she became an agent.

 

When was the moment that you knew you wanted to become an agent?

If I had to mark a specific moment, I’d say my first day of my first agency internship. I was assigned to the query inbox and allowed to request any material that caught my eye. I mean, who wouldn’t fall in love with the job? It’s like browsing in a bookstore where you don’t actually have to pay for the books you want to read!

 

How did you become a literary agent based in Missouri?

cd16ce_c14ea2c81bb3437d9ff416aaa7595411My first internship was remote with a company out in Seattle, but my advisor decided to leave agenting and I had to move on. I started searching closer to home and found a small press and a remote agent in Saint Louis. I actually landed internships with both places within a couple of days of each other. I knew there weren’t advancement opportunities with either company, but I got a ton of experience, which led me to a place in Holloway’s Intern2Agent program as an assistant. And now, here we are!

 

What advice would you give to others who are looking to break into the industry, either as an author or as an industry professional? Especially those not located in a major city like NYC?

For future industry professionals, remote internships are key. Follow the people you want to work with on social media and keep up with what they’re doing. Remote internships don’t typically run on a semester rotation and so you’ll need to watch social media to see when these openings appear. While you’re waiting, look for anything and everything related to reading, writing and editing that you can do to build your resume.

Connections are vital. Heading to conferences in your area can help authors can get their manuscript out of the slush pile and hopeful industry professionals can meet future employers. It might be a bit of a drive, but it’s totally worth it.

 

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned working at an agency?

I know it’s going to sound totally cliché but absolutely everything I’ve learned has been fascinating to me. I remember thinking I was pretty cool when I leaned about standard word counts and so I wouldn’t shut up about them for a few weeks. My poor Dad has read maybe two books in his life, but knows the standard word count for a YA Thriller off the top of his head.

 

What about YA and MG books do you love?

I love the adventures MG stories will take you on. There’s a simplicity to the stories that I find utterly refreshing. At the same time, I feel like authors can tackle some pretty heavy themes in these books and affect positive change in the reader. This is why I especially love seeing special needs characters and themes such as acceptance in these books.

YA stories are at a really cool time in life, when the characters entire lives are open in front of them and anything can happen. The characters are somewhere between thinking they’re mature adults and still doing the stupid things that teenagers will do. They’re working on figuring out who they are, what they want and where they stand. It’s a lot of turmoil to pack into one book, nonetheless one character.


What was your favorite book as a young reader? book-pile

The first book I absolutely fell in love with was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. I vaguely remember begging other people to read it to me and then, once I figured out the whole reading thing, reading it myself over and over again. By the time I got to fifth grade I was pretty obsessed with Dog by Daniel Pennac, Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and all of Gordon Korman’s survival/adventure series (On the Run, Island, Everest, Kidnapped). A couple of years later I discovered Lois Duncan, Jane Austen, and Kenneth Oppel.

 

If you could describe your perfect book to represent, what elements would it have in it?

Probably a plot centered around something artsy. I love to paint so I like to see art and artists incorporated in stories. I’m a big fan of books that make me smile whether it be through comedy or witty banter. On the flip side of that coin, I’m mildly obsessed with psychological thrillers and dark contemporary YA stories featuring a diverse cast of characters, high stakes and a fast pace.

 

What are major turn-offs for you when you are reviewing a manuscript?

Probably the biggest reasons I’ll stop reading are boredom and flat or unlikeable characters. I’m looking for books that I can’t put down, so if I’m bored in the beginning of a manuscript, it’s going to be an issue for me. If the pace doesn’t pick up by page 50, I’m not going to keep reading past that point.

A main character who has some sort of superiority complex and is lacking in the flaw department is the absolute best way to lose my interest. I just end up frustrated. However, dynamic and three dimensional characters are one of those craft elements that can push me to make an offer even if there are other issues.

 

What’s the worst mistake you’ve seen in a query?

I once read a query where the author spent the first two paragraphs telling me that I wasn’t smart, informed, enlightened, etc. In the third paragraph he explained that I could fix that by reading his book. I’m not a fan of that approach lol.

 

What is the best way for a writer to connect with you when writing their query?

Personalized queries are awesome! I love it when the author is actually talking to me and not copying and pasting the letter and adding my name. I get really excited when an author talks about loving the same books I love. Whether it’s mentioning Lois Duncan’s books or happening to have a comp title I was obsessed with at some point or another, it gives me something to connect with and get excited about right from the start.

 

You have a soft-spot for special needs characters due to your work with special needs kids. Would you tell us more about your experience with that community?

noraHow much time do we have? Lol Thanks to my amazing aunt, who founded a special needs sports nonprofit (TASK) in 1996, I’ve been around the special needs community for almost my entire life. I started helping at programs when I was around nine years old and started volunteering every summer when I was 13. I’ve gotten to work with the most amazing kids who have grown up to be some pretty awesome teenagers.

Since moving to Saint Louis I’ve been volunteering at least one night a week every week, and I’m hoping to head back for at least a few days of TASK Camp this summer. TASK is my therapy. It doesn’t matter what’s happening in your life, you can’t stay in a bad mood when you are with these kids. They’re amazing inside and out!

 

Can you name a book or two that features a character with special needs that “gets it right”?

I’d have to go with Wonder and Out of My Mind. If you’re looking to incorporate special needs characters into your story I highly suggest researching whatever disorder or disability you’re character has after getting a pretty good idea of who they are in your mind. One of the most difficult things about crafting special needs characters is making sure they aren’t a textbook example of their disorder/disability, defined by that disability, and lacking personality.

 

What types of submissions are you specifically looking for that feature characters with special needs?

I’m always excited to see a special needs character in a manuscript, no matter where it lands on my wish list. I get particularly excited when a special needs character pops up in a genre I wasn’t expecting, like in fantasy.

When I ask for special needs, sometimes people get hung up on developmental disabilities such as Downs Syndrome, autism, Asperger’s, and the like. Special needs can refer to any physical or developmental disability. I’m looking for everything from amputees to the Deaf community, autism to albinism. To me, it’s about helping people to understand people who may look or act differently than they do and giving the kids I work with a chance to see themselves in a book.

 

Kortney is an associate agent with Holloway Literary.  Learn more about her and then follow her on Twitter @kortney_price.

Why Word Count Matters

By Kat Kerr

Let’s play Two Truths and a Lie. Which one of these following statements is the lie:

  1. A book should only be as long or short as it needs to be.
  2. One should keep writing, until it’s done.
  3. Length doesn’t matter as long as the story is good.

What’s the answer? All of them; and at the same time, none of them. One should  keep writing until your book is done, and then go back and edit, edit, edit, edit. A book should only be as long or short as it needs to be, however if it’s too long or too short, it’s a red flag that there are problems. And no, length doesn’t matter as long as the story is exceptional, not just good, and exception is determined by market and how well established the author is in the publishing community. For the rest, there are industry standards pertaining to book length. And the one truth you can count on is that word count matters.

I know; it’s infuriating. You’re an artist. You create. You want agents to at least read your book, see its brilliance, and then it’ll be obvious how word count doesn’t apply to you. As creative beings, we relish our freedom and are repulsed by anything which seeks to limit us.

word-count-01

As an industry professional, I’m here to tell you that we too, love your creativity. We love your art. We love your work so much, we want you to be able to live off it. To buy groceries with it. To pay your bills with the money you’ve earned from selling it. We want you to have your best chance out there on the market because we believe in you and we believe in your work.

Why do agents and editors care about word count so much? What is the big deal about whether or not your book is too long or too short?

From a crafting perspective, too short of word count is indicative that a book may lack proper development. While this may seem like a pre-judgment, and the initial knee-jerk reaction may be to want someone to read your work and decide based on its merit, industry professionals who have waded through those slush piles, reading submission after submission of great pitches with low word counts just to find that low word count almost always results in great ideas that weren’t properly executed. Common problems are lack of well-developed secondary characters, lack of sub-plots that help maintain character motivation throughout the book, lack of appropriately developed conflict arcs, and rushing story development to hit major plot points but not to develop all the transitional moments in between.

Also, too long of books can be indicative that an author doesn’t know how to self-edit. Common problems are the presence of too many sub-plots that lose the focus of the story, narrative thought vomit, overly detailed descriptions for non-pertinent plot devices or characters, and (in the case of literary works) an author who is a little too in love with their own prose. It’s really important to make sure you are thinking about your manuscript critically and to not be afraid of making changes, because changes are going to happen. Several rounds of them, in fact.

Aside from craft, there’s also the business side to consider. In traditional publishing, 71088429_scaled_251x167the publishing house is investing in your work. That means they are taking ALL the risk in the event your book doesn’t sell well. They pay for the editors, the cover artists, the production costs, the marketing, not to mention your advance; an advance that you get to keep, even if your book doesn’t sell a single copy. That’s a lot at stake for a publishing house.

That’s why there’s so much research done on book sales and on what readers roughly expect when buying a book and on what market predictions look like for future trends based on what readers ask for in stores and libraries as well as a million other things publishing houses will research to help them get the best return on their investment.

So, what are the rules? How long should a book be? What’s a good sweet spot? Well, generally speaking for adult fiction:

Below 70,000                      too low, (except certain types of genre fiction)

70,000 – 80,000                  decent

80,000 -100,000                  good

100,000 -120,000                a bit long, but still okay depending on genre

120,000 +                             too long

YA has, over the years, actually gotten longer to where it now competes pretty well with the adult market. While YA books are still written for teen readers (as they should be), they can still safely fall anywhere from 55,000 – 100,000 words, depending on sub-genre.

MG and children’s picture books are going to vary depending on target reader age range.

These are very general guidelines and word counts will still vary depending on the genre of fiction you write. For instance, thrillers, mysteries, and suspense will probably fall a little shorter due to their fast-paced, page-turning nature, while science fiction, fantasies, historical, and literary works will run higher due to world building, language, and prose.

“But what about….

  • JK Rowling
  • George RR Martin
  • All these classics that are like a million words long that were published before the 1950s?”

keep-calm-and-write-onAh, yes. The exceptions. Remember what I said earlier about how publishing houses are the ones taking all the risk? Classic literature will always have a market of buyers. There is no risk in reprints of classical literature. They’ve already proven their market base as consistent.

And while JK Rowling most certainly had some pretty thick books come out, her first book clocked in to around 76,000 words and the length of her books grew as their popularity grew. George RR Martin’s books may have started out at epic lengths, but also keep in mind that George RR Martin also had several books published with Simon and Schuster and S&S imprints before selling Game of Thrones to Bantam. And guess what? His first published novel, Dying of the Light—much smaller book.

Chances are you’ve spent a lot of time on your manuscript and want it to be successful. You want to see it on shelves at bookstores and libraries, available on amazon, reaching new heights with five star reviews, and affecting readers everywhere. The best way to achieve that dream is by knowing the industry well enough to get your foot through that industry door. Don’t give the agent or editor reading your query an easy reason to pass due to astronomical or too miniscule word length. After all, you have to know the rules in order to break the rules.

 

Kat is a literary assistant with Holloway Literary. Learn more about her here and follow her on Twitter @thekatsmews.

When Querying Hurts: Deciphering the Rejection

By Kat Kerr

So you’ve carefully crafted a story that you poured your heart into, pulled hair out over, and lost who knows how many hours of sleep for. You send off a query to a handful of agents and wait. And wait. And wait some more. One day, you hear that fateful ping notifying you of a newly received email and…it’s a pass.

You stay strong, keep your head up. After all, rejection was anticipated, and you wait for the next one. Another rejection. And then another. And then another. Sometimes you don’t even get a rejection, and the radio silence is a rejection in and of itself. You go through a time lapsed YouTube video version of all the stages of grief and are now left questioning your choice to pursue writing as a career because clearly your writing sucks, your ideas suck, you suck, your brain sucks…everything just sucks.

rory-suck-gilmore-girls-6515

Rejection is a huge part of any creative industry. You have to keep in mind that this isn’t like a regular 9-5 job where you put in an application, show up for an interview, and have a good chance of hearing back in a couple of weeks. Where your average office employee may be rejected for a job maybe a handful of times throughout their career, creative industry personnel get rejected many times more. Whether it’s an actor/actress on their 50th audition, or if it’s a writer querying their 20th agent…the likelihood of being rejected is simply a higher rate for all of us. And yes, I do mean all of us. Agents get rejected too, and not just from editors. Every agent has experienced getting excited about representing a project and finding out we’ve been rejected by you, the writer, when you’ve chosen to sign with another agent.

So, before you return to your rightful and needed moment to wallow and eat an entire gallon of ice cream, let’s look at a few of the different kinds of rejections.

Radio Silence Rejection/Standardized Rejection

The rejection that never comes or the rejection that is a general, standardized rejection may not be very telling in and of itself, but when you receive twenty of them, you start to see the hidden meaning behind each “no”. This can be due to the fact that your MS doesn’t line up with the agent’s tastes in literature or, if it does, that it doesn’t quite grab the agent’s attention. It can also be because the writing isn’t strong enough or if your story isn’t right for the market currently.

“Often, you have to fail as a writer before you write that bestselling novel or ground-breaking memoir. If you’re failing as a writer – which it definitely feels like when you’re struggling to write regularly or can’t seem to earn a living as a freelance writer – maybe you need to take a long-term perspective.” – J.K. Rowling

While rejection is expected, if you are racking up these kinds of uninformative rejection, it may be time to take another look at your manuscript with a hypercritical eye. Send it out to new beta readers or hire a professional editor for an in-depth critique. Do some research into the industry and the market. Assuming that you have a flawlessly put-together story that simply isn’t getting picked up due to the current market, I urge you to not lose hope! The great thing about the market is that it’s constantly moving and changing. Just because your MS isn’t right presently, it may be in just another year or two. This would be a great time to try and query with another work.

“It’s not you, it’s me” Rejection/Rejections with a “why”

Still a rejection, but one that will help you. Realize how valuable these are. The reason why standard responses or no response is so prevalent in this industry is because we just don’t have time to respond to each and every submission. If we are giving you a reason for the rejection, it’s because your work stood out to us enough that we want to help you as you continue your pursuit in publishing.

Sometimes, we think your story is great, but it’s just not the right fit for a particular agent. We all know how much it sucks to get broken up with the age old, “it’s me, not you” line, but in publishing, this is most often the case. We can still be objective and recognize a body of work with serious potential, even if it’s not the right work for us personally.

It’s important to realize though that even though you are getting a reason why we decline your manuscript, it is still a rejection. Please do not send an email to inquire if you can resubmit with edits. Agents will make it very clear in their responses if they want to see a revision by inviting you specifically to do so.

“I got a rejection letter from an editor at HarperCollins, who included a report from his professional reader. This report shredded my first-born novel, laughed at my phrasing, twirled my lacy pretensions around and gobbed into the seething mosh pit of my stolen clichés. As I read the report, the world became very quiet and stopped rotating. What poisoned me was the fact that the report’s criticisms were all absolutely true. The sound of my landlady digging in the garden got the world moving again. I slipped the letter into the trash…knowing I’d remember every word.” – David Mitchell

Revise and Resubmit Rejection

These are by far, the best rejections to ever get because it means we see something we really like, but it’s a little too problematic to consider representing as it stands. It may seem off-putting to know that an agent will reject a really great story due to the amount of work needed to fix it, but realize that no matter how much we may love a book, there is still that business side of publishing that needs to be addressed. The top of that list? Can an author read, interpret, and apply edit notes in a way that enhances the story? A brilliant manuscript that needs a lot of cleaning gives us pause to consider whether or not you will be able to handle a 4-7 paged edit letter from a publishing house editor.

Generally speaking, if you still receive a rejection AFTER you’ve revised and resubmitted, it’s because the edits you applied didn’t work. I can attest first hand that not everyone knows how to apply edit notes. Writing may seem like the hardest part of getting published, but writing is only a small part of the process. Editing is by far what you will spend most of your time doing.

“Nope, it’s you” rejection

While most rejections really can’t be helped and are in no way the fault of the author, especially as art is subjective and an agent’s personal taste has to be accounted for, there is still also the flip side. Sometimes, it really is your fault. Not following submission guidelines to a T is usually the first reason why your query will be deleted. Not put in the box to get a rejection notification. I mean, deleted. Trashed. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, gone.

right oneYes, every agency has their own guidelines. Yes, it can be exhausting making each and every query personalized and fit each different guidelines. But those guidelines make the system for each agency. It’s how we organize our information, keep track of whose email went where and when. And quite frankly, how do you expect us to give your query our attention, when you can’t give us yours long enough to read our rules?

Also, having too high or too low of a word count will also get your query deleted. Make sure you know what the industry standards are for your genre.

This is your intended career path. Get to know the industry that you are trying to be a part of. Agents want to sign authors who are serious about writing, but also writing for this industry. Not doing appropriate research into industry standards would be the same as showing up for an office interview wearing crocs, beach shorts, and ripped, paint-splattered t-shirt. You’re not putting your best foot forward.

 

Kat is a literary assistant with Holloway Literary. Learn more about her here and follow her on Twitter @thekatsmews.

 

Building Your Author Platform

By Kortney Price

Contrary to popular belief, building your author platform is not the same thing as marketing. It’s all about networking and creating a community of people who believe in the same things your book is saying. If you were to write a young adult contemporary romance, your community might contain young adults with a belief in love at first sight or a weakness for a good ol’ fashioned love story, publishing professionals who specialize in young adult romances, and other authors in the same genre.

When agents or editors are looking at your author platform, we are basically just looking at how visible you are to your target audience. No matter how outgoing you are on social media, if your followers are all outside of this group, it won’t help you sell more books. Ask yourself who you know who will be most interested in your book? Publishing professionals? Other authors? What media outlets are you connected with? Blogs? Newspapers? TV? Radio?

millennials-networking-ftrGrowing your network

When I was first trying to break into publishing I had no solid connections to draw on. Being from middle of nowhere, USA, I had to get creative in finding ways to reach my goal of becoming an agent. After dozens of internship applications proved fruitless, I went through the list of people I already knew to see how I could use the connections I already had to find work in editing. Long story short, I ended up working as the editorial intern at a special needs nonprofit, which gave me the much needed experience on my resume to land me my first internship at an agency. If you’re feeling like you have no connections to draw on, I definitely suggest trying something similar.

Are you part of a writers group? Who do you know at your local bookstore? Library? School? There’s no harm in asking friends and family if they know of anyone you’d be able to connect with. Finding out that your aunt’s co-worker’s cousin published a novel in a genre similar to yours could lead to a fantastic connection for your platform, and a mentor to help you through the publishing process.

Make every effort to attend conferences and talks in your area. You’ll meet some awesome people who will, more than likely, support you as you move through the publishing process. You might also learn about writing organizations that connect writers and will help and support you as well.

Once you have a book published, make it your goal to get out and communicate with your target audience. Book signings at your local bookstore, talks at community venues, and interacting with readers on social media are all great options for being accessible to your readers.

Your online presence

Notepad, laptop and coffee cup on wood table. View from aboveIf you do not have a book published  yet, it can be hard to create an online presence as an author, however you can establish yourself as a writer.  Start out by finding two social media outlets that you enjoy being on. While Twitter is the major social media outlet for publishing, you do not want to select a certain social media outlet only to let it lapse because you do not enjoy spending time on it.

And while it may be tempting, do not post covers, excerpts or titles of your work-in-progress. Once sold, a cover will be created for you, your title may change as well as some of your content. You do not want to post a rough draft of your work online for your readers before your work is ready.

But do write about your writing process and journey to publication.

You will also want to create a website or blog to link your social media profiles to. If you are concerned with content for your website, try starting a blog. If you do not have a book published yet, write about what interests you, or write about subjects that will be featured in your book.

For published authors, a blog is a great place to express your thoughts related to your book, writing, publishing, or whatever topics you want to write about. For example, if your book is centered around food, post your favorite recipes, review your local restaurants… or interview local chefs. If your book is sports related, share interesting sports news and your thoughts on what’s happening. Content ideas for your blog is only limited by what you can imagine.

Every author platform is different, find what works for you and run with it.

Consistency is key

No matter what you’re doing with your author platform, you have to remember that it isn’t something you build in a month or two and then leave alone. Maintaining your platform is part of your job as a writer and so my suggestion is to schedule it into your day as you do with writing or other tasks. Yes, adding yet another thing to your daily to do list sounds daunting, but its a necessary task for getting your message out.

Get your name out there

author-61So, you have some wonderful social media profiles and a website or blog, but how do you draw people to them? Here’s where your connections will really come in handy. Partnering with another author in your genre is a great way for both of you to extend your visibility. You can boost each other’s posts on social media or guest post on each other’s blogs. Your readers can see her name and her readers are introduced to you.

If your book has a set release day, contact your old schools or other places who might benefit from the publicity that comes with having a published author listed among their ranks. Another great option to make sure you’re open to is other media outlets such as interviews, radio, or television. Get creative in utilizing your connections to get in touch with your target audience.

A solid author platform can give you that boost to make agents or editors say yes to your story. Publishing is a business and so if a book or author doesn’t show promise for sales, it’s less likely to be published by a large publishing house. Whether you’re already published or just starting your journey, you can always benefit in building a solid platform through professional networking, social media, fan engagement and online presence.

 

Kortney is an associate agent with Holloway Literary.  Learn more about her and then follow her on Twitter @kortney_price.

 

What Are Agents Really Looking for in Partials and Fulls?

By Kat Kerr

Lots of writers ask why agents bother asking for a partial manuscript. After all, what can agents really find in those fifty pages? Wouldn’t it save a lot of time if agents just asked for the full?

Short answer? No. Not at all. Aside from just saving a lot of time, agents are also looking to see if they want to read more of your work. It’s much easier to give an interesting idea a fair shot when agents know they are only going to be committed to a shorter read. You’ve piqued the interest of the agent in your original query and now they want to see what else you’ve got.

Unfortunately, this seems to lead to heated debates with writers questioning whether or not agents can glean enough of the story to decide whether it’s good or not with only fifty pages.

the-best-note-taking-software_evodify-com_How can an agent fairly judge a book by its beginning? Shouldn’t they just go ahead and commit to reading the whole thing so they can see how things play out?

Another short answer: No, but there’s also a longer answer. Aside from making it easier to process the amount of submissions an agent gets in a day, each stage of the submission process also tells us a lot about your story and how it’s crafted. So what are agents really looking at throughout the query process? Everyone has their own preferences, but generally speaking, agents look for the following:

Requested Pages In Your Query

Now this is not about the query letter. If you want more information regarding the query letter you can look here. This is about the sample pages you copy and paste in the body of the email. With only fifteen pages, agents understand that they’re not going to get much story content here. So what these sample pages boil down to are two things; writing strength and style.

“You mean you’re not looking for clichés and an active beginning and an engaging voice?” I hear you ask. Well yes, but realize all of those things tie into whether or not you can write. And knowing an author can write well is absolutely the first thing an agent needs to establish. One could assume that the “why” is pretty self-explanatory, however I would be remiss if I failed to mention that there are many writers out there who believe that bad writing can be fixed with an editor. I am here to tell you this is not the case. Far from it, in fact. Agents can help edit a manuscript for problems in story-telling, a good round of line edits can help recast minor flaws in sentence structure that impede clarity, copy edits can fix grammatical issues, and proof-reading will make sure all your syntax is in its final place. But if you don’t have the writing basics under your belt, there’s no amount of editing that can fix that. At least, not without resorting to hiring a ghost writer.stock-photo-101277739-woman-using-notebook-computer-taking-notes-at-cafe-working

Partials

Time to start getting a little more picky. Now, agents aren’t just looking at your writing. Now they’re looking for the hook and the heart of your story. I know that for me, personally, if I can’t tell what the story is about within the first 30 pages without re-reading the query, I will recommend a pass. The heart of your book should be apparent by this point in the book. Readers should be able to see a rough outline of the journey they are in store for whether it’s solving a murder, trying to escape a captor, seeking a new life in a new place, or a character’s road to self-discovery; whatever that hook is, readers should have it. You cannot expect anyone to keep reading in hopes that the book will get better. Every page matters, but especially in the beginning when the plot is first starting to come together.

In addition, here are some specific things agents may look at:

  • Pacing (Are we getting bogged down in exposition or a huge info dump?)
  • Characterization (Are they relatable? Can readers get emotionally attached to them? Do they sound real?)
  • Dialogue (Is it reading cheesy? Does it accurately reflect how the character would speak?)
  • Conflict (Are we getting the catalyst that sets this book into motion?)

Fulls

Fulls are fantastic! At this point agents know you can write well, you’ve hooked them into the story, and now they get to sit back and actually READ it and see how everything comes together. The most important thing to look at when reading a full manuscript is how the story works overall. This ranges from how it’s organized and structured to how well both the story as well as character arcs are developed and how plot devices are used. Are there any loose threads left untied at the end of the book? Was each page just as compelling as the last? How much editing does this book need before it’s polished enough to pitch to an editor? And even if all these things are perfect, there is still one last item to check off the list: Chemistry.

Imythofthespoiledchildebookparentingnotesintentionalmamat’s important to realize that there are still a million and one reasons why an agent may still decline representation at this point. You can have the most perfect, well-put together book, and still get a rejection because chemistry is really important. Agents have to LOVE your book, not just like it a whole lot. This is because selling is very hard and if an agent isn’t completely over the moon about it, it makes pitching it to a publisher that much harder. Your book could be completely perfect, but it just may not be perfect for that particular agent.
Rejection is never easy. Agents know and understand how much time and effort it takes into creating a book. No matter what happens, don’t give up. What may not work for one, may work for another. Keep revising and keep querying.

Kat is a literary assistant with Holloway Literary. Learn more about her here and follow her on Twitter @thekatsmews.