Hey everyone! I attended the North Carolina Writing Workshop over the weekend and I want to share a few of my favorite notes from the events. The event was set up by Brian A. Klems and hosted a lot of fabulous agents and editors. Brian’s pretty much the expert for getting these workshops running, so if you if you’re interested, follow him on twitter at @BrianKlems.
Now, onto the notes!
- Make sure your novel is finished and edited. Agents can’t sell something that isn’t complete and they have no guarantee that you’re even going to finish it, so make sure your book is in its best shape before you start querying.
- Do your research on agents. You don’t want to just hook an agent. You want to hook the right agent for you. Look for someone who enjoys your genre. Someone you’ll get along with, may share your values, and cheerlead your ideas. Know how you’d like to communicate with your agent. If you want someone more inclined to call, text, or email.
- Err on the side of professionalism.
- Query multiple agents. Consider it like your job interviewing. You’re not going to stop at one job, you’re going to keep applying to multiple places, so keep querying to multiple agents. If you do get an offer of representation from one agent, let the others know.
- Easiest way to remember to write a query letter is to follow “The Hook, the Book, and the Cook” guideline.
- The Hook is your awesome intro. Something to snag the agents attention right off the bat.
- The Book is the summary and details of your book. By details, I mean wordcount, genre, and comparison titles. When you go into your summary, remember not to spoil your book’s ending. You want to leave the agent wanting to know more. I’ve been advised to include the main character’s emotions throughout the summary, so the agent can connect with the main character and then end on a Hero’s Dilemma: revealing two (or more) options my main character has to pick from to achieve his goal, but I won’t give away which option he makes.
- The Cook is you. Credentials are important for Nonfictions writers, but for fiction, a great writer can come from anywhere. Give a little about your writing accomplishments or history and then jump into hobbies. I’ve been advised that the bio should only be 2-3 sentences.
- Make sure to personalize your query letter to with the agent’s name because “Dear Agent” tells them you’re not serious about signing with them. If you can give a personal reason behind why you’re querying that particular agent then do it. Otherwise, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t.
- Follow submission guidelines. Send whatever the agent wants and nothing more (unless they request it). And remember to make sure your pages are double-spaced. I’ve been querying for two years and did not know that…
- If you’ve queried an agent before and they rejected you, it’s advised to not query that agent again. If you’ve made improvements on your novel since the last time you query that agent, it doesn’t hurt to query again, just be courteous enough to let the agent know you’ve queried before, but are resubmitting your work after improvements. Who knows, they might change their mind?
- Try to be easy to work with. If you get the interest of an agent, don’t be a stone wall to any and all feedback they suggest. You’ve also got to be understanding. Agents have busy lives too. Just because they asked for your full manuscript, doesn’t mean they’re going to get it back to you in a day or even a week. You gotta be patient.
- Don’t let criticism get to you. You gotta have thick skin toward it because it will never go away. It goes unsaid that not everyone will like your book. There are over 7 billion people on the planet. Odds are someone isn’t going to like it, so let that criticism roll off your back right now.
- Keep writing during the query process. It’ll save you from going crazy while waiting for responses. Plus, it’ll help you get going on the next book so you’ll have something for after your first book comes out.
Lastly, my favorite piece of advice from the workshop this week: