Monday, August 16, 2010

A note about querying agencies

I really didn't think this needed to be said, but as I talk to more and more aspiring writers, I realize that this is not self explanatory.  Firstly, I'll give you the advice anyone should be giving you, if you want to be published, research.  You've already done hours and hours of research and traveled to Rome and South America and the Antarctic and spent five months in silence with a Buddhist Monk for you 200,000 word fantasy novel?  Guess what?  The research isn't done.

For one, if you were informed, you would know that no one is going to look at your 200,000 word novel no matter what genre it is.  Nothing over 100,000 words please (yes there are some exceptions for world building, but please don't go too far over that, 20,000 words max).

Alright, here's a recent anecdote which has led me to this blog post.  A few months ago I had been working with another agent in the agency, and had come across a vampire-fantasy-detective novel.  The title was good, the concept was good--good enough to stick with me--but the writing wasn't up to snuff.  So it was ultimately rejected.  Last week, I'm going through my boss's queries (same agency mind you) and I see a familiar title.  Same title, same man, same story, same writing.  Different Dear so-and-so at the top.

Not allowed!  If you query an agent at an agency and are rejected, do not query another agent at the same agency.  You will be caught.  You will be made the fool.  The man was rejected again.  Now his name is imprinted on my special little list.  Should I ever receive a query from him in the future, I'll be raising my brows, scoffing in my head, and clicking the shiny red reject button.

Agents live by the same rules when we submit your manuscripts to editors.  One editor per publishing house.  It would reflect badly on us if we blindly send to everyone in the department, and it won't get your manuscript sold.

Below are some tips for aspiring authors.  Even if you think you know what you are doing, read them, consider them, and do them.  You are not the exception to the rule.  No matter how amazing your manuscript is, you must play by the rules.

1. Read blogs by authors who have successfully been published--blogs are the most up to date information you will get.

2. Attend conferences and talks given by recently published authors--again I stress the recent.  Publishing is changing rapidly, and someone might give you out of date information.

3. Read about publishing--I recommend The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Published.  I'm serious.  Sounds silly?  It's not.  When I started my internship with an experienced agent, she told me to read it.  There was so much more to publishing than I had realized!  Look around on Amazon and check out other blogs to see which publishing and writing books are favored.

4. Read about publishing--wait, I already said that?  I'm not blond, I'm just reemphasizing a point, so it must be important, right?

5. Join writer's groups, online chats, Publishers Marketplace, critique groups--listen and take notes, introduce yourself (not only does this give you information, it also gets your face out there for people to see).