Tag Archives: literary agents

How To Find A Literary Agent For Your Manuscript (Part Two)

Today, let’s talk about the most fun part of landing an agent – the query letter.

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Please don’t follow the example of the picture above. Above all, your query letter should be intelligible.

Your Opening Salutation

First things first, you need to start with an opening salutation. Just not any of the following:

Dear Agent:

BAD! Most agencies have several agents on staff. Find the one that most closely matches your book’s content and use their name.

Also, if no agents represent your type of material, don’t apply to that agency.

Your vampire novel will not go over well with an agent who represents literary fiction.

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Agents talk. Word can get around about unprofessional authors.

Dear Alfredo Colesono:

BAD! Some people have difficult names to spell. In my case, it’s called being of Italian descent.

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Expect an automatic rejection if you misspell an agent’s name. It’s a sign of sloppiness that will be assumed to carry over into your writing.

Hi Alfonso,

BAD! Don’t be too informal with an agent until you develop a rapport. Address them by their surname (e.g. Ms. Howell; Mr. Chan) in your query.

I’ve just written a novel that will change literature forever. And it’ll make you at least a million bucks. Only an idiot wouldn’t represent me. You’re not an idiot, are you?

BAD! A writer who toots his/her own horn only means that no one is tooting it for you. Let your work do the talking and save the grandiose statements for your mom.

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Query Letter Contents

So, what should you have in your query letter?

A pitch/synopsis of your work, usually in about two or three paragraphs.

A brief 3rd person biography with your writing credentials. If you lack writing credentials, include either interesting facts about you or your strongest accomplishments in another field.

For fiction, you’ll frequently include part of your manuscript. The number of pages requested varies, but industry standards usually range from three pages to three chapters.

A few agents will only want a query letter.

A few agents will want your whole manuscript.

Most agents (though certainly not all) will want your manuscript pasted into the body of an email.

Don’t send attachments if an agent wants your sample in the body of an email. It will be deleted unread.

Follow The Rules and Avoid the Slush Pile

To get the best results when querying an agent, make her job easy…

Or you’ll have to resign yourself to self-publishing.

And yes, there are excellent self-published works.

And yes, there are self-published works that do get recognized.

But mostly, self-publishing is a participation trophy. You’re better than that, aren’t you?

And I know some people who either have self-published or make money steering authors to self-publish will hate me for saying the previous statement.

If you Google my name and this blog, you’ll probably find a piece saying that I’m an idiot for talking smack about self-publishing.

Hey, it does work sometimes. I mean, people do win the lottery. But I wouldn’t bank on self-publishing working for you if getting a literary reputation is what you’re after.

Or if getting any financial compensation beyond a few dollars is what you’re after either…

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So, moral of the story, be nice to your agents and give them what they want!

There’s So Much More

What’s a synopsis?

How do I do a chapter outline?

Why do I need a market analysis?

What is this thing called “platform” and why do agents like authors with one?

Do I need to write a non-fiction manuscript before pitching it to agents?

I promise I’ll get into these topics in subsequent posts. Until then, write write write!

I Need All The Help I Can Get

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If you found this post entertaining or informative, please do me a solid and like and subscribe. If you’re really looking for a way to get on my good side, why not share this post on social media?

If you have any questions about landing an agent, just leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to shoot a helpful answer your way.

Fighting the good fight with you,
Alfonso

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Find A Literary Agent For Your Manuscript (Part One)

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If you’re anything like me, and I hope you’re not, then the thought of having to land a literary agent can provoke any number of responses. These include, but are not limited to:

Sobbing uncontrollably while cursing the gods for being born a writer.

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Checking Facebook. Then Twitter. Then your email. Then your texts. Then Facebook again.

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Considering whether magic or the law of attraction can be used to get you an agent without any bit of effort on your part.

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Hopefully, you’ll eventually come to your senses and scrap these less-than-useful approaches. But what then?

It Starts With A Book

$9.90 and Internet access. That’s all it takes to move your literary career forward and begin querying agents…

Of course, we’re writers, so having $9.90 and Internet access isn’t a guarantee.

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Oh yeah, one other thing, you’ll need a completed manuscript (if you’re a fiction writer) or a pitch for a workable idea (if you’re a non-fiction writer).

Not too much to ask, right?

For $9.90, you can purchase the E-book version of the Writer’s Market 2018 from Google Play. This book contains a comprehensive list of literary agencies that work with authors of all types, from middle grade fantasy authors to romance novelists and anything in-between.

And the best part, the Writer’s Market tells you exactly what types of books these agencies are looking for, eliminating any guesswork on your part.

Follow Those Submission Guidelines

Once you find an agency that works within your form and genre, all you have to do is visit their website.

Well, that’s not ALL you have to do. But it’s still pretty easy – trust me!

Different agencies, and agents within the agencies, will have different submission guidelines. Please please please follow those guidelines. Agents, like editors and publishers, will curse you and the next ten generations of your family if you don’t follow submission guidelines to a T.

How do I know that they’ll curse you and the next ten generations of your family? Well, after all, I am the co-founder and an editor at Beautiful Losers, a super cool literary magazine which you should totally check out. (Yes, this is a shameless plug!)

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Oh wait. About the cursing thing. That’s probably just me. I should get some help for that.

But seriously, follow those guidelines. You want to be seen as a professional, don’t you?

Many Agencies Have Multiple Agents

So it’s on you to find the agent that’s the best match for your manuscript.

Yes, it’s on you. No pressure…

Okay. Deep breaths. Try some more. Back with me?

The good news is that almost every agency has summaries of the literary interests of their agents. Find the agent that’s the closest match for the genre, style, and age target of your manuscript. If you’ve written a darkly comic picture book, don’t query an agent that specializes in upmarket women’s fiction.

That is, unless you like wasting people’s time. If that’s the case, you’re most likely a horrible person that would be awfully fun to hit the bars and make some poor life decisions with.

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But you’re used to making poor life decisions already, right? After all, you chose to become a writer.

Don’t hate me! I jest because I’m from Brooklyn. The sarcasm is love. Really!

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But Wait, There’s More

Query letters.

Author bios.

Synopses.

Market analyses.

Chapter outlines.

And more. Much more!

And I promise I’ll tell you all about how to navigate through it soon.

But first I need some sleep.

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Yes, you horrible person who likes to waste agents’ time, you may be fun to hit the bars with, but it’s only a little after 10 pm and I’m calling it a night.

I may or may not be a horrible person, but clearly it’s safe to assume I’m not much fun to hit the bars with.

Blah Blah Blah

If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for reading (you may want to get your mental health checked!)

If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you may have noticed this post is very different from what you’re used to seeing here. I still want to provide helpful advice for aspiring and emerging writers, but the professorial tone is gone. You see, I’ve recently discovered that I’m actually not Ben Stein’s character from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Shocking, right?

If you found this post entertaining or informative, please do me a solid and like and subscribe. If you’re really looking for a way to get on my good side, try sharing this post on social media!

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If you have any questions about landing an agent, just leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to shoot a helpful answer your way.

If you have any funny stories about landing an agent, you can share those in the comments too. The more absurd the better! To quote the late Hunter S. Thompson, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

Fighting the good fight just like you,
Alfonso

 

 

8 Questions To Ask Yourself If You Aren’t Getting Your Writing Published

 

In baseball, some of the best players in the game only get a hit roughly one out of every three times they are at the plate. The same can be said about writers and publishing.

Ty Cobb, one of the legends of the game, had a .366 batting average, the highest of all-time in Major League Baseball history. On average, 634 out of every 1000 times that he was at the plate, he would fail to get a hit.

Writers looking to publish can learn a lot from batting averages. A position player in the major leagues will generally hit between .200 and .360 during a full season. A writer successfully targeting journals relevant to their style, tone, and themes will have a success rate roughly equivalent to the average baseball player. If you get in a particularly hot streak, you may get a few acceptances in a row without a rejection. You may also get into a slump. In time, everything will average out.

If you are submitting your poetry or short fiction to competitive journals, contacting agents, or submitting your manuscript to publishers, and you are getting rejected consistently without any acceptances, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Have I had my writing edited? Does it read well, or is it choppy? Are there major problems?

2. Am I targeting the right literary journals, publishers, and agents? Would they actually be interested in my type of writing, or is this completely off the mark?

3. Do I need to build my platform? From where I am right now as a writer and a person, can I do anything to attract some attention to myself?

4. Do I know where to find agents, publishers, or literary journals? Duotrope.com, PW.org, and the Writer’s Market 2016 are all great places to start.

5. Have I been writing consistently enough to develop my skills to the point where my work is of a publishable standard? Do you treat writing as a part-time hobby or a fatalistic dream, or are you serious about it? Your writing will improve the more you actually write.

6. Did I ever learn the fundamentals of writing, or have I gone into creative writing with a lot of passion, but little education in the workings of craft? If you never learned how to write well, you won’t.

7. How is my mindset? Am I visualizing success or am I anticipating another rejection letter? Your thoughts become reality. Create a reality where you expect to publish your writing.

8. Have I been reading other writers who write like I do? Absorbing ideas and style from other writers is critical, and writers who don’t read are writers who don’t get published.

If your writing is almost never accepted, or is never accepted, with around 95% certainty, I can say that you are probably doing at least one of these things wrong, and most likely many of them.

Now, once you correct your mistakes, you will not get accepted to every literary journal you submit your poems or short fiction to, or every independent publisher that you submit your manuscript to, or every agent that you contact. Far from it. But, you will get some successes.

I hope that this post motivated you to move forward. If you need to learn more about the basics of writing, take a look at my free Writing 101 course. If you have a specific question, use my free Q&A service and I’ll either answer you directly, or turn your question into a post if I feel it would benefit other writers, as well. If you need an editor to shape up your writing, or a publishing consultant whose versed in targeting effectively, I’m also available to help you.

I know that if you work hard and make the appropriate tweaks, you will become a successful writer.

In success,
Alfonso

Literary Agents: Are They Worth Querying If You’re An Aspiring Writer?

Since I started working with aspiring writers in December of last year (with my old project that’s currently on hiatus, The Adept Writer, a literary journal designed to promote the work of aspiring writers), I’ve seen a lot of writing from unknown writers. The quality of the work has varied. A writer like Russell Zintel of the University of New Hampshire really impressed me with the quality of his poetry. One fan of the website wrote in to say that he was the next Tao Lin. Maybe. 

I met an aspiring writer named Zubair Simonson about six weeks ago. I have some advertising for the website on my briefcase (I admit it looks funny, but it gets the word out.) He noticed it, and after a brief conversation, he sent me the first chapter of his novel. It knocked me out.

After I read Zubair’s chapter, we set up a meeting to discuss his prospects. He asked me if he should query literary agents. Zubair had previously self-published one book that received unanimously great reviews from those who read it, but like most self-published authors, very few people had read his book. 

My concern was Zubair’s platform. He had done a few smart projects in film and web TV as an actor and director, but they were not in Hollywood, or even in an independent studio, but homemade movies with friends. He blogged for a religious organization, but his name was not huge in that sphere. He had a self-published book that anyone who read loved, but almost no one had read it. 

Still, I told Zubair that he should query a literary agent. 

Any aspiring writer should query a literary agent. The worst that could happen is nothing. 

Now certainly many literary agents will refuse taking on a client that has no platform. If you haven’t been published in big literary journals, if you don’t have an MFA, if you’re not known in some other sphere, even if your work is dynamic, you will still probably get passed on; however, why adopt a loser’s mentality and not even try? 

When you’re an aspiring writer, you need to go for the throat. You need to make things happen. Yes, most likely, if you don’t have a platform, if you don’t have an MFA, if you haven’t published in big literary journals or won contests, and if your work is mediocre or poorly edited, you don’t really have much of a chance, but if you work to accomplish as much as you can within where you’re at, then it’s certainly worth a shot. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. 

Now if you need a little bit of help finding literary agents to query, or for any other publishing concern, please click here. I’d be happy to guide you in the right direction.

 

Do Your Homework Before You Send Out Your Writing

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If you were unemployed, what would be a better use of your time, sending out 100 unedited resumes to different positions, many wildly outside of your skill set, or sending out five targeted resumes to positions that are a match for you based on your skills, experience, and possibly even contacts within the company.

The answer to this rhetorical question is obvious.

The same rule applies when submitting to literary journals, agents, or publishers.

It really is not in your best interest to submit your writing everywhere. Why?

1. It shows a lack of respect for the agent, publisher, or literary magazine. You’re expecting them to work with you, but you’re not spending even the slightest bit of time finding out what they’re about. If you think about it, it’s a pretty classless move.

2. It can seriously damage your reputation. Even if your writing improves dramatically, once you’re inside, you’ll realize that the literary game is a small world. You don’t want people remembering you as the aspiring writer who carelessly sent work out to everyone in the industry.

3. It will bruise your ego. Facing countless rejections without any mixture of acceptances will hurt. That’s not to say that you won’t get rejected if you strategize, but you’ll mix those rejections with more than a few acceptances.

So, how do you research publishers, agents, or literary magazines?

Two websites and one book can help you to target effectively. They are Duotrope.com, PW.org (Poets & Writers), and the 2014 Writer’s Market.

With that information at your fingertips, you can begin the process of researching good fits for your writing.

Of course, if you want to speed the process up, save some time out of your day, and remove the trial and error aspect, I’d be happy to work with you as a publishing consultant. Simply click here for more information about how I can help you.