How Querying an Agent is Like Dating

Mar 11, 2015 by

I’m a mom, and I have three kids who are of an age where they would really, really, really like to meet someone to spend the rest of their lives with…

OK perhaps just the rest of the month, or the  year with, but I’m sure you get the idea.

In order to find someone special, you have to spend time going out on dates with them to find out if you have more than that initial spark of interest to keep things interesting beyond the requisite “I have to use the restroom” break where you text or call your nearest and dearest friend to let them know if you’re going to stay on the date, or if they need to call and rescue you with some sort of trumped up emergency to get you out of this fix.

I recently found a great agent blog: Linda Epstein, The Blabbermouth Blog.  She’s very direct, almost abrupt. But by darn, you know where you stand! Read this interview about how to “Query, Sign, Submit on Write for Apples blog. She’s looking only for serious relationships.

So it is with looking for an agent to represent you.

You’re not looking to just hook up.

Seriously! You’re not!

You’re looking for a relationship. One where you and the other party in question pretty much fall in love with each other. Otherwise, it’s just not going to work.

We’ve all seen the relationships where one person is ready…oh so ready. But the other one is checking their phone for a text, an email, an “emergency” phone call.

The thing is, you both have to love each other.

Why?

Because things are going to get rough after that short honeymoon phase is over.

What? You don’t like that I keep a week’s worth of dirty underwear on the floor? What’s wrong with you anyway?

And your agent is going to tell you that your baby is ugly…your baby, that manuscript you’re holding so protectively against your chest that you’ve created, nurtured, sweated blood and tears over…yeah, that one. As good as you think it is, your agent is going to know whether it’s ready or not for the big time…to be paraded before the various publishers you want to court.Couple walking on a dutch beach

That is their job!

You don’t want an agent who can’t be bothered to tell you your work isn’t up to par. When that happens, they take your latest submission, read it (maybe), sigh, and toss it aside.

They don’t call.

They don’t write.

And when you ask if anyone’s interested, they say, with apparent sincerity, “I’m sorry, but no one seems interested in it at this time.”

OK, maybe you have an agent like that, and it works for you…but I know that’s not what I’m looking for.

I’d really rather an agent tell me my baby’s ugly so that I can do some revision, er, prettying up before we send it out into the cold cruel world.

Why?

Because you’re up against some really intense competition. And if your agent isn’t going to champion you, get you to be at the top of your game, you’ll both fail.

So before you query an agent, start to do some investigating…and I mean more than J.K. Rowling did by just looking at Writer’s Market and selecting two that looked good. Heck, the agent who took her didn’t even represent children’s books.

And that is the exception that proves the rule.

But your agent, or the ones you’re querying, won’t want to be that exception. If they represent only adult paranormal, don’t bother sending them a children’s book. Really, why bother?

As with dating, you need to do a little research. And sometimes you have to go out on a lot of dates before you find one that looks promising.

If your agent returns your manuscript with a note that says, “Nice, but needs revision.” What is your response? Do you just jump up and down and curse their neanderthal sensibilities that they don’t recognize your genius? Or are you going to see just what it is about your work they don’t like. If they don’t represent that type of work…look for another agent. If they want to know if you know how to revise, then SHOW them you do!  They’re courting you too, and as with any date, if you don’t pass the “meet the folks” test, you are in for a very short run, and then back on the market.

Not sure of the answer…Read Linda Epstein’s Response here on her Revise and Resubmit posting.

Don’t be so desperate that you’ll date just anyone.

And don’t let an agent think you’re that desperate either.

In both dating and querying, your future partner needs to know that you’re mature, capable, interesting, and committed to the relationship.

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NaNoWriMo

Nov 7, 2014 by

Yes, it’s November.

Usually November means the holidays are coming, that means cleaning, decorating, food preparation, family, friends, parties, and gatherings.

Unless, that is, you are a writer.

When you’re a writer, you have developed a rather unusual malady…

It’s called OVERLOAD!

Almost all writers I know want to get some things done before the end of the year. Maybe a poem. A short story. A picture book. What about a novel? Sure, that’s totally doable isn’t it?

Before I heard of NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writer’s Month – I would have put off starting a novel until January at least. And we all know what happens in January, right? We make resolutions, we intend to keep them, but without a plan, most of those resolutions end up being recycled and repurposed next January first.

So NaNoWriMo came along and I thought, “Why not?”

It’s all on me.

I have a daily word count of 1,667 words to write for the 30 days in November to finish a 50,000 word novel.

So I did it.

Call me crazy.

I did. My husband did. My family did.

But I had 50,000 more words written for a project that I’d not have done if I hadn’t started NaNoWriMo.

Oh, and along the way, I learned a lot of lessons on how to stay motivated, how to “free write” how to meet a daily goal even when I didn’t want to. (Usually, if I didn’t write those 1,667 words a day, the number the next day was even more intimidating, so I learned to fear that “snowball” effect and got my writing done.)

I’d never before produced so many words.

Were all the words good?

Nope. Not at all.

But what it did do was give me a draft…and it’s that first draft, from beginning to end that sets you up to finishing a real book.

So, yes, I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year…because of all the positive lessons I learned by putting myself in front of the computer and getting something done for the day.

Even on days when my other writing suffers, I know that I have 1,667 words to work with later. And that makes me feel pretty productive.

 

Participant-2014-NaNoWriMo

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The Art of Brainstorming

Nov 3, 2014 by

November seems to be a favorite month for writers to challenge themselves in some way.

NaNoWriMo was the first one I was aware of and I have participated in that challenge more years than not ever since it started. I haven’t done much with the manuscripts created, but the very act of writing daily, developing characters, story, back story, arc for both story and characters will never, EVER hurt your writing career!

This year I discovered a new challenge, PiBoIdMo (I know, these become a little funny in trying to determine what they mean…) which stands for Picture Book Idea Month. The idea here is to come up with a new idea every day for a picture book.

It can be fiction.

Nonfiction.

Your choice.

And Tara Lazar has people writing posts daily to inspire us to be able to do just that…come up with new ideas.  Today’s guest blogger is Kelly Bingham and she shares with us her techniques on brainstorming ideas.  Her post: Kelly Bingham Makes Time and Makes it Count today is brilliant.

Stop by, read it, see if it might not help you get past those blocks that always pop up the instant you come up with a viable idea.

What’s your plan to improve your writing this November?

Nov02

 

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The Not So Great Escape

Oct 31, 2014 by

I’m deep in the midst of my research of the 1944 escape attempt of 25 German POWs from Papago Park POW camp in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona.

What an ironic situation for Papago Park deep in the Sonoran Desert to be home to a multitude of German U-Boat captains and crew.

As if it weren’t enough of a joke, the map stolen by some of the German prisoners showed the Gila River as a river leading to the Colorado.

Everyone in Arizona knew that most rivers on the map were either dry river beds or nothing more than a series of puddles.

The idea of rafting or kayaking away to safety disappeared in a hoot of laughter, and then tears from the three crazy boatmen who believed that all rivers were filled with water.

There is so much to learn from the mentality of people who have had their freedom taken from them. For the most part, POWs in America were treated fairly well. Some were turned into conscripted labor because so many men were overseas fighting the war.

But, once your freedom has been taken from you, all thoughts logically turn to that of escape.

Think about it, any time you are prevented from doing anything you wish, you want to do it more. If you can’t eat dessert, you want more dessert. If you aren’t allowed to read or learn, you yearn for instruction materials.

Have your freedom yanked, all you want is the ability to move about freely. It doesn’t much matter how “nice” it is at your POW camp.

You’re a prisoner.

‘Nuff said.

Barbed wire against moody sky. Toned shot, closeup.

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Using CreateSpace to Publish on Amazon – One Pitfall

May 19, 2014 by

CreateSpace and Amazon

 

Using CreateSpace to publish my books and those of my clients changed my life. Most people I’ve met have at least one book in them.

Seriously!

Every single person I’ve met and talked to has an interesting life to talk about, a career, an occupation, a life experience, a hobby, an interest that has consumed them 100% during a portion of the time they’ve been alive. It’s one of the things they always talk about, it’s what they dream about, it’s what they think about when they want to daydream.

I’m often asked if this is true, then why don’t more “average” people write books?

That’s the topic for a different blog posting.

Today’s topic is all about the freedom the average person has to publish their own material.

That’s why CreateSpace and Amazon are the best friends of the new authors of today. Yes, you still have to get the book written. Either you write it, or you have someone help you write it. If you write it, be sure to get someone else to edit it to correct the myriad small errors that abound in self-published efforts. The big publishing companies have done an amazing job of putting out nearly perfect books for years, after all, they used to have large numbers of editors and proofreaders to ensure that. More and more “big publisher” books, however, are coming out with proofreading errors…and it’s because their budgets are a lot tighter. So, do yourself a favor and be sure to get that book edited.

Mistake I Made When Using CreateSpace

Always Picked Last at 155.74

I have several clients who I have helped to shepherd their books onto the world stage through CreateSpace and Amazon. When they make changes to either the cover or the interior of their book, I still help them with those changes.

Today, I discovered that I forgot to check on one client’s book. He asked me to update the cover as he had gotten an endorsement from an organization to promote his book. I uploaded the new cover and then promptly forgot about it.

Then when I was working on updating my Welcome page on my website, I discovered that his book was only available through third party sellers and was going for $155.74 per book!

His book was originally priced $14.99.

But, because I’d uploaded the new cover, CreateSpace puts a hold on the book until you order a proof copy or approve the cover. I neglected that final step and all of a sudden, his book was no longer available through Amazon.

Yikes!

It’s a good reminder that when you self-publish, you still have to make sure to check and recheck your book(s), verify that any changes have been effected, AND approved so that your material remains available to the public. This can be one of the difficult components of self-publishing, but in the end it’s worth it.

Why?

Because you have your book published.

And not everyone can say that.

They’re still dreaming about writing that book they have inside them.

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Being Truthful When Writing

Nov 17, 2013 by

Writing our truth is both easy and yet the most difficult thing in the world for us to do! The idea of writing “truth” changes depending on our purpose.

If we’re writing “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…so help you…” well, then, it’s going to be sometimes interesting, but most of the time boring.

When we write about our memories and the remembrances of things that were important to us, we’re writing OUR truth, the truth that resonated with us at the time, the truth that helped us to see the world in a different light, the truth that helped us to know ourselves.

I’ve been a researcher for far more years than I’d care to admit…and when I get into that mode, I find myself struggling to take even one more damn step, because I’ve found so many facts and figures to either support or deny my purpose that I find I can no longer breathe.

If I’m writing a medical piece that not only insists on the absolute truth, but the lives of people depend on it…I have to continue.

But when you’re looking to understand yourself, your life, your world…then skipping over the boring parts is not only how to continue on your quest, but absolutely necessary!

People today don’t stay connected as long as they used to unless you can retain their interest…and trust me, they only want to know the INTERESTING parts!

I work with memoir clients all the time, and sometimes they get bogged down in the minutiae of their lives, but my job is to make sure they don’t lose their reader.

So here’s my two cents:

If what you’re writing is boring to you…

…IT WILL BE BORING TO YOUR READER!!!!

So, find the interesting parts, the sad parts, the happy parts, the very humorous parts and include those, because that is what will keep your reader reading. To exclude boring parts is part of writing and editing. It’s not being untruthful. If someone were to contact you and say, “So tell me the WHOLE story, you would.”

But they’re not going to do that. People have a very limited amount of time to spend and if you can keep them connected during the time they allow you…you’ve made a connection that you don’t want to ruin.

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