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About Writing Right: The Blog

FINDING AGENT FOR OFFBEAT FANTASY

So, you've written a book that's a bit offbeat, let's say a fantasy based upon Celtic and Irish folklore. That means it just about but not quite fits into a specific genre, and now you wonder how to find an agent willing to 1.) read it, and 2.) represent it. Is that your problem, Bunky? If so, it's not necessarily as large a problem as you may think.

 

Okay, I assume you've researched literary agents and what they're looking for in submissions until your eyes turned to glass and fell out of your skull. Lo and behold, not one of them appears to be searching for your exact book. Well, that's actually the good news. Agents (and publishers, by the way) are always looking for good genre fiction that appeals to their existing readers or marketplace and yet that has an exciting new wrinkle to get them salivating. A detective book about the search for a serial killer is pretty generic (spelled "ho-hum"). A detective book about the search for a serial killer who just happens to be the detective, himself, is a stunner. See my point? Both are genre detective stories. Because one is more offbeat than the other isn't a bad thing; it's just the opposite.

 

So, how do you go about finding just the right agent? Here's how I suggest you proceed. Read More 

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HOW LONG TO WAIT

Newbie writers often ask me how long it takes to hear back once a book editor requests a complete manuscript for review. Someone online asked that very question the other day, wondering what he could expect after sending his baby off to do battle. Here's how I replied.

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I can tell you from experience in dealing with hundreds and even thousands of publishers of books, magazines, and newspapers over the years that the Queen of Wrong has missed the boat again. Sure, you can expect to wait "as much as a year," but you'd be an idiot to do so when no conventional publisher takes that long to reply to a requested manuscript. None. Nada. If it did, it wouldn't be a conventional publisher for long.

 

Here's the reality. A book editor with a conventional, legitimate publisher takes a few weeks to a couple months to review a query. If he or she finds the query interesting, he may ask to see sample chapters. Once he receives them, he may need another two-to-four weeks to read them. If he likes what he sees, he'll request a "full read," or the complete manuscript. At that point in the editorial process, most responsible, professional editors will prioritize the manuscript. After all, he asked to see it! Read More 

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DO BOOK EDITORS OFFER COMMENTS?

I ran across this question on a forum the other day. Will a book editor comment on a good book when he sees one? I wasn't surprised at the large number of misleading and outright wrong responses the author received. Here's what I know about the subject.

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If, by the phrase "book editor," you mean a conventional book publisher's acquisitions editor to whom you submit your book for publication and not someone you hire to clean it up, the answer is far more simple than your other respondents indicate. Those respondents include the person with a self-published eBook on Amazon and another who, in forty years, has never heard of an editor saying a story is good. The truth to your question is obvious.

 

Of course he will! That's what a book editor's job is—to find and publish quality, marketable books. Remember?

 

Now, you didn't ask about a book editor providing a detailed criticism or offering an unpaid assessment or any of the other ridiculous things to which some respondents replied. The reality is that, if a book is any good and fits an editor's list, he or she will tell you so and offer a contract. Even if it's not something upon which he can make an offer (wrong genre, wrong subject, bad timing, not a large enough potential audience), if he's an intelligent and thoughtful editor, he'll let you know you're on the right track. Read More 

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HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?

A newbie author recently asked if it really takes 3 - 6 months to hear back from an editor after furnishing him with sample chapters and a synopsis for a book. Naturally, Queenie jumped in with her usual inaccurate response, detailing the life of an unsolicited manuscript ending up in the ubiquitous "slush pile." Here's the reality of the situation.

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Not to question the integrity of the reply from the Queen of Wrong, but, no, not all publishers take 3 - 6 months to respond after receiving sample chapters and a synopsis. I imagine that if she had taken the time to read your question more carefully instead of shooting from the lip, she would have seen the critical elements to your question: "receiving the sample chapters and synopsis."

 

For a writer to have gotten far enough into correspondence with a publisher for an editor to ask to see sample chapters and a synopsis of a book submission, the author already queried that publisher and met with a positive reaction. Acquisitions editors who request chapters and synopses don't throw them in the slush pile. Ever. They tag them for reading and additional consideration as soon as practical. Read More 

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CREATING A ONE-PAGE SYNOPSIS

Somebody asked, rather skeptically at best, how to turn a 150,000-word manuscript into a one-page synopsis. I mean, it just can't be done. Can it? Can it?

 

Well, you've probably already guessed the answer to that. Here's what I advised.

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You've received some useful pointers here, most notably the need for you to reduce the total word count of your manuscript by a third. That's true if you ever hope to sell the novel to a conventional publisher or until you make a name for yourself as a top-selling author, at which time you can sell any number of words you want. One not-so-good pointer you received is to write a synopsis with a misplaced modifier in the very first sentence, as in this respondent's example:

 

"John invites Mary to spend the weekend with him at a cabin by an upstate lake, that his dad has agreed to let him use."

 

Huh? His dad agreed to let him use an upstate lake?

 

Besides that little bit of ridiculousness, not one of the respondents to your question actually answered you when you asked How does one go about compressing a 150K novel into a page … The respondents tell you why you should condense your story into a single-page synopsis (which is not a "spoiler"). They tell you what your synopsis should include and why it should include it. But, they never give you a clue as to how to accomplish your goal.

 

But I will. Read More 

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Literary Agents: When To Submit

When is the best time to submit a proposal to a literary agent? Or is there a best time? I had been wondering for a while when I came across something from the agents of Bookends Literary Agency, who were recently asked which months they would consider good- versus bad-submission months.

Jessica Faust: I tend not to read any submissions in the month of August. This is the time of year when I take my break to recharge and read only published books. While you can certainly submit in August, it will likely sit in August and sit through the month of September when I’m focused on my clients and getting back in the swing. It’s October when I am likely to really sit down and get my reading in. The tough part about this question is when a good or bad time is depends not on the calendar, but on what is happening in my business. Lately, for example, I haven’t been reading as many submissions since I’ve been busy with my clients. I took on a few new people earlier in the year and have been focused on getting them into the hands of publishers. Next year, I could spend September and October desperately seeking new clients. So for me, submit whenever you want to submit and I appreciate your patience as you wait on my clients and other work.

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