An agent by any other name…

September 21, 2007 at 2:09 pm | Posted in agents/ editors, career, Meg, names, Queries | 2 Comments

So do you have your query written? Ready to send it out, but don’t know where to start looking beyond the name of an agent or editor (here’s my twist on the name topic for this week since I prematurely blogged about names last month in What’s in a Name). I’m here to help. Or at least here to share some links and places I used to research agents and editors.

First, what are you looking for in an agent or editor? (I’m going to refer to these two essential publication people as a/e from now on to save time and space) Do you want someone who is hands-on and will serve as a coach to guide you through your career or do you want a no-nonsense, only business, give-it-to-me-straight kind of person? Do you need to stay in constant contact with your a/e or do you want to only hear from them when they sell your book? These are things that you’ll want to consider as you learn an a/e’s management style.

Okay, so you know what you’re looking for, but where do you start? Here are some links:
A good place to start is: Preditors and Editors has a comprehensive list of a/e. They also post an occasional warning or accolade for the a/e so you can start getting a hint of who to look for or avoid.

Charlotte Dillon has a page full of interviews with a/e so you can learn personalities and styles. In addition, her website has numerous articles on why you need an agent and what to look out for in dealing with a/e.

If you’re a romance writer, The Passionate Pen has a great list of agents that deal with romance.

An agent herself, Kristin Nelson recently shared a list of agents who accept email queries on her blog, Pub Rants .

Believe it or not, there are numerous a/e looking to take advantage. I think there is actually a listing on Preditors and Editors that an agent faked her own death to avoid charges brought up against her. I could be wrong, and apologize if I am, but it amused me. You never know where you’ll get an idea for a new book, but that could be one! Anyway, Writer Beware is another website to check to make sure you aren’t querying a scam artist.

Candace Havens has a monthly online writing class that has included a month of interviews with agents. A great place to learn some writing skills and gain some inside knowledge of a/e.

I’m sure I’m missing tons of other useful links and sites, probably some obvious ones, so please let me know of them! I could use all the help to send out my own queries!

So send out your queries, e-queries, sample chapters and synopses. You’ll never get published if you don’t take that chance. Keep us posted! We’d love you to be our next Honorary Heartlette!

-Meg

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‘Fall’ing apart at the query

September 14, 2007 at 1:59 pm | Posted in Meg, Queries, writing | Leave a comment

I love fall. Apple picking, leaves crunching under my feet, warm days and cool nights. Mother Nature at her highest glory as leaves turn all colors. Beautiful.To me, fall means a new start. A new class or new school, new job, new adventure. And there’s something about seeing the circular from Staples that makes me want to stock up on notebooks, folders and number 2 pencils. Makes me yearn to expand my mind and start something new. Unfortunately, my next project has to wait since I’m stuck in project limbo or as I affectionately call it: Query Hell.

Yup, the romantic comedy/ mainstream novel with romantic elements/ women’s fiction whatever-you-call-it is finished. Caput. Done! Written, edited, and readied to be shown to the world. What’s in my way? The damn query letter. How do I condense the plot, theme and unique nuances of 300 plus pages into one to two paragraphs? What catchy words and lines would attract agents and editors so they want to read more? UGH!

It seems every writer I know can write endless pages of dialogue, establish complicated plot and resolve conflicts with style and grace. But I’ve never heard one writer say they love writing queries. More often than not, I hear ‘well, queries aren’t my strong point.” And I confess I’ve actually said that three times this week (once in asking for help with my own letter and twice as I tried to help others with theirs).

So if you’re at the query stage either for an upcoming conference (good luck to all of you pitching at NJ next month!) or to send out in email or snail mail, here are some links I’ve used to try and figure it all out:

Lisa Gardner writes great romantic suspense and has Tricks of the Trade webpage with advice on writing a synopsis and the dreaded query letter.

Charlotte Dillon is a writer’s dream. Her website has information on everything from formatting your manuscript to writing the query letter. She’s my hero!

And here’s another one I just found that makes me want to revise my current letter: Writer’s World.

And check on agents’ websites for sample queries. For example, Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency posts her clients’ initial queries and explains what caught her attention on her blog, Pub Rants.

And you have a week to write that query since next week I’ll share the sites that post information on agents and editors. Then we can all flood the inboxes and mail bins of those who can help us get our stories to the world!

Oh, and for those who love or are skilled at writing queries, I suggest (and beg) you to open your own business writing queries for those of us who don’t. You’d make a million dollars in the first year, I guarantee it!

-Meg

Jane Austen and the Borrowed Query

July 25, 2007 at 12:01 pm | Posted in books, Bria, Queries, romance, writing | 1 Comment

Let’s play a game, shall we? Opening lines – hooks – grab points. . .whatever you choose to call them. . .they’re often what a book is known by. 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. . .” (yes, that isn’t the end of the sentence!)

“Call me Ishmael.” (and what about the prologue people?) 

Anyway, one of the things that popped up on our Con-treat this weekend was whether or not Jane Austen would be published now. We talked about the speed life moves out, the amount of time a person has in one sitting to read, attention span, instant gratification, etc.

It wasn’t looking good for our dear friend Jane.  I must admit, this made us all a bit sad.  No matter what era of my life I’ve been in, Jane Austen has consistently been in my top 5 author’s list. 

David Lassman, the director of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath, decided to find the answer to that very question and queried several well-known publishers. See the eye-opening article here: http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,2129738,00.html 

What does this say about our culture?  Asking around, I found a few answers:

  • People don’t seem to have the patience to ‘read through’ a sentence. They want it to be easy to read and not have to dig for a gem
  • While everyone said they love Mr. Darcy (ok, 3 women said they never ‘got’ the Darcy thing and I promptly ended our friendship) those who loved him didn’t understand why he was in so little of the book
  • The misconception that older literature was dry and serious confused people about humorous portions.  Is that supposed to be funny – was often asked.
  • We are more familiar with literature than educated by it.

That last one made me particularly sad.  Literature, to me, is a brilliant love affair, not a passing romance. 

So, getting on to our game, below are first lines of some great books.  How many can you get right?  Page down for the answers. 

1  Mr. Phileas Fogg lived, in 1872, at No. 7, Saville Row, Burlington Gardens, the house in which Sheridan died in 1814.” 

2 “My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip.” 

3  “I am an old man now, but then I was already past my prime when Arthur was crowned King.” 

4 “’Tom!’” 

5  The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of rock and began to pick his way towards the lagoon.” 

6  Ba-room, ba-room, ba-room, baripity, baripity, baripity, baripity — Good.” 

7 “When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.” 

8  “Matchmaking mamas are united in their glee — Colin Bridgerton has returned from Greece.” 

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1        Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

2        Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

3        The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

4        The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

5        Lord of the Flies by William Golding

6        Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

7        To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

8        Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn – had to be done! 

How many did you get right? How many would you want to read just from the first line? I must admit, my two favorites are quite typical: 

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” 

And 

“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.” 

What’s your favorite first line?  Let me know, and then Go Write!

-bria  

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