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An Agent Requested Your Material! Now what?

1) Email them back

Copy their tone. If they’re “so totally excited to read it!”, start with something like “Thank you so much for your interest!”. If they’re more ‘interested in reading further’, say “thank you for your interest.”

Usually for requested material agents want everything attached in .doc format but make sure they don’t specify otherwise. To be super careful, if you’re feeling paranoid, check out their webpage to see if they have specified anything there. 

Specify a specific day you will follow up with them, about a week away. So, it’s Wednesday today, maybe I’d say “I’ll follow up with you on Thursday of next week to ensure everything is in order”. 

2) Follow up with them

Keeping it fairly brief, you’re calling and saying something like “Hello, my name is NameName, I’m the author of TitleTitle, a manuscript under your consideration right now…” And if its the agent speaking, ask if it’s a good time, and if its not, ask to speak with the agent you submitted to. 

*Note: It’s often an agent or agency’s assistant that emailed you requesting more material. In that case, I always still asked to speak to the agent I submitted to but sometimes ended up speaking to assistants anyway. That’s fine, they’re often working very collaboratively, so you’re still talking to a good contact.

So, you’re on the phone with an agent or an agent’s voicemail. Oh sweet mercy, now what? Keep it brief. Say you’re calling to ensure the documents open properly and when that’s done, ask for an estimated response time (unless they already told you). 

The point? 

You’re suddenly the author that actually called. You care. They said the manuscript’s name out loud, they found it on their computer. They said your name out loud. 

The first time I did this, I had further requested material the next day, when I hadn’t heard from the agency in weeks. Phones are terrifying but they’re magic. Do it. 

*Note: Keep in mind, you should probably only call agents who have requested more material after your initial query. It’s not cold calling, it’s following up.

3) Get rejected anyway

Yup.

Here’s an awesome thing about getting to this step though: they usually give feedback. What they liked that got them to request more material and what they didn’t that got them to reject it. 

Thank them for their interest and their time. An email is sufficient for this. Agents’ phones are ringing off the hook and there’s no reason to call them now, but if they put in the time to read your work, thank them for it. You’ll notice they’ll thank you for the chance to read it.

4) Consider making edits based on the agent’s feedback

I didn’t at this step, but I’m thinking I should have. When an agent did call me interested in representing me and requesting some revisions, they were all very much in line with what I’d already heard. Maybe that call could have been an offer, if I’d moved faster on the advice I’d been given. 

5) Sent out the next round of queries and find other ways to pitch to agents. 

This process takes a remarkably long time.  Be patient and keep in mind that if you’re looking to be a professional writer, an agent might very well be a long term career decision. It’s about more than getting that one finished book published, its about getting your career started. Of course that takes a long time. That doesn’t mean your career stays stagnant while you wait. Check back on Monday for ‘Waiting for an Agent to Call. Now what?” 

 

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Your Manuscript is Finished. Now what?

I finished my first manuscript in the middle of Hong Kong in March. I decided to go the traditional publishing route. Let’s assume we’re together on that one and I’ll write more on that later. So:

The Story is Finished. Now what? 

1) Hand it to a friend.

I had ‘stubble’ written into a sex scene, implying that the 19th century duke shaved his pubes on a semi regular basis. This created much hilarity between my sister and me, but suffice it to say: hand it to a friend.

I had friends love every word on the novel, friends who made suggestions I didn’t agree with at all, friends that found very important mistakes. Turn circles around the room flapping your hands in the air to dispel anxiety if need be – keep in mind that I got kicked out of the hotel room for it – but hand it to your friends. It needs to be done, so oh well.

2) Check your genre specs – especially for word count.

I wrote a regency romance and discovered that every publisher had a requirement for the word count. The most common was between 75,000 – 85,000 words for me, so I edited until that was done. 

3) Make the changes you agree with

And maybe some that you don’t, just to see what it looks like.

4) Hand it to another friend.

Hope that you have lots of friends that read your genre. I ran out and had to have my friend KK re-read it after an agent requested some edits. Lord, but she must have been cross-eyed reading it a second time. Ask anyway. People can be amazing.

5) Continuity check

Aka the worst thing ever. Get out a pad of paper and a load of chocolate and start at page 1. For every character write down details as you receive them. Blue eyes, tall, brown hair, left-handed. And go through checking every detail against that sheet, all the way through, until nobody changes lip size halfway through a sex scene. It’s off-putting. 

Also look for what people are wearing/drinking/holding. If it’s day or night, what month is it/what day is it. I had bourbon change to sherry, canes disappear, February stay February for at least seven weeks, etc. 

6) Make a list of agents to submit to

I did this based on my preferences from the top down. My thought was, you can usually only submit a manuscript to any agent once and only really resubmit it to an agency once after a long wait period. So, make sure you’re submitting to people you like who’re a good match for you or you’ll burn out an agency without ever contacting the agent best for you. 

So, research this. I’d recommend AgentQuery as a good place to get started learning about this. They have a good intro article about agents here.

Poets and Writers has a very good basic guide on choosing agents. Click Here for that. 

Tethered by Letters is more in depth. Click Here for that.

7) Write a query letter and a synopsis

Advice on this is online everywhere. Agent Query has a really extensive article on this here .I found reading examples with criticism to be the best way to learn it, so here is a link for that. 

I also found working with friends to be enormously helpful. 

Also, like the manuscript, edit, get a friend to read it, edit, rinse and repeat. This one’s easier ’cause a query is only one page long and should answer everyone’s pesky ‘what’s your novel about?’ questions.

8) Start submitting query letters/synopsis/material based on agency submission guidelines

 Not all at once. They say you should do 3-5 at a time but I couldn’t see how that’s good for the author. For an agent it means if they like it they’re not waiting for you to hear from other agents and competing with them. And given, if its too many agents that could be a real problem and super rude so I figure don’t do All at once. But 3-5 sounded slow to me. As an author, I wanted agents to have to compete. I wanted the chance to choose if multiple agents were actually going to be interested in me, and I wanted the process to go faster. I went with 10 at a time. Maybe that was rude – I really hope not. But I also didn’t want agents telling me what was best for them to make up all of my decision. So make your own call on that and submit. 

A note though – the slower you go, the more chances you’ll have to take feedback from one run of agents and use it to edit the manuscript before submitting to the next round. That’s a business decision based on your own needs/time. 

9) Get a ton of rejections

Yup.

10) Get an agent to ask for more material.

This one is easy. They email you. You match the tone of their email (first name/mrs.___, equal emoticon type excitement or business professionalism, and attach your stuff as a .doc. Then, promise to follow up with them about a week later. Specify a day. “I will follow up with you on Wednesday of next week”. That’ll be super handy the next week when you, you know, follow up with them.

Alright! That was exhausting and horrid, right? On to the fun part! For Wednesday: what happens next? 

Twitter

So tweeting.

Honestly, I never thought it was particularly valuable. The internet is inundated with witty, clever little one liners and I never really thought attempting to compete with that would help my career. But my friend Ann told me something rather interesting – Twitter doesn’t work well to connect to fans in every industry, but that’s not precisely what its designed for – what its great at is networking Within your field.

So…all those people I just met at my conference – I could follow them on Twitter and see what events they’re going to and what they’re doing within my field? Now, that I can understand.

So far, I’ve liked it quite well. As I am mostly following authors, publishers, promoters, and editors, I go on twitter and get a long list of interesting links to articles. The articles are mostly about how to promote better, how to edit better, how to use twitter better, and so forth. In other words, a long list of suggestions on where to find the information that I need. Now that is very, very nice. And I’ll retweet the ones I like, and so add to the cacophony. 

So, long story short – I have a twitter page now. Follow me @GwendolynTweets.

RWA Conference

The RWA Conference just ended and my information is all in.

Conference Registration: $435
Flights To/From: $500
Snacks in Airport: $21.13
Meals During Conference: 31.52

Total: 987.65

Worth it? Totally, absolutely worth it.

I’d been searching for months for information on Traditional vs. Self Publishing options, and I got it all laid out for me over the course of an hour, and bonus: I made a new friend!

I’d been annoying all my friends with my longwinded diatribes on the direction of book sales, and now I met a bunch of people who actually cared! (Or pretended they did with significantly more skill) Who did fancy things like give me their cards so that we can keep in touch. So, project for today: send a bunch of emails out to some spectacular women! Yes, please.

I signed up to pitch to an agent and they requested a partial manuscript, so that’s Awesome and clearly career advancement whether or not it works out.

And I got some seriously useful advice. Anecdotal do’s and don’ts for pitching, warnings and recommendations about publishers, and some fabulous conversations about how the heck to do what I’m trying to do.

The bonus? A giant kick in the ass to write more, network more, and work harder. I couldn’t ask for a more inspiring group of people!

Business Cards

Today I’m working on putting my business cards together. It’s taking way more time than I thought it would.

Why: I decided I needed to attend a conference in order to learn more about how to do what I’m trying to do, and so I looked up advice on networking and career building. Almost every single post about conference going was about how to make connections, but it seems to me that an exchange is only really successful if the person actually has a way to connect with you again. Hence the invention of business cards in the first place (or ‘calling’ or ‘trade’ cards, as they were known in the 17th century). So, clearly, I need them. 

How: Well.. I googled this and my screen was instantly filled with advertisements from suppliers. So, that part is simple. Except I clearly left this project too late because I need stuff to put On the business cards. So, a website and a phone number and some reason for them to actually care to follow up with me. Well, the website would take way too long, but I can buy the domain and make a little Coming Soon page, so that’s done but not particularly useful or professional. The phone number will have to be my cellphone (d’oh!) and now we get down to the ‘reason to follow up with me’. Something online that I have that will interest them? That’s the time consuming complication.  

My idea: 

I don’t know how to make a business connection wherein I cannot provide anything to anyone. People are amazingly generous, and I’m sure I’ll find people who are willing to help me, but I’d love to have something to offer them as well. That’d probably be my fanfiction; not the fiction itself but my ideas on how to use it for marketing. I’ll post about those soon, so I can connect people to this blog. So that’s cool.  

The Complication:

 I’m concerned that I might be shooting myself in the foot with my fanfiction marketing idea. I’m not concerned that it’s illegal – if you use original works within the public domain you don’t even have to worry – but that it’s viewed quite negatively in the professional writing world. I wouldn’t know; I’ve never been in the professional writing world before. But I could understand how that connotation would exist – at base fanfiction is assuming a different author’s beloved characters/world/plotlines and using them without permission. That’s why I’ve only ever worked within fandoms that have been expressly supported by their creators, like JK Rowling. George R. R. Martin has expressed his views against fanfiction and so I’ll never work within his world. I could understand why authors would be against fanfiction in general, and so I worry that putting my fanfiction name on my business cards will be viewed quite negatively. 

So, a choice: do I risk being gauche in order to have something to offer or do I go to a conference with nothing but contact information on my business cards and nothing to offer? Neither is a particularly awesome position to be in but which is worse?

I found out something neat – as long as you’re not picky about style, you can get business cards printed to arrive with next-day shipping. So, at least I can procrastinate on this for the rest of time. Well, until the 20th.