"The Creative Process of Writing is a Liberating and Therapeutic Experience"
In This Issue:
2. Publisher's Note
3. Keith's Guide to Literary Agents
4. Helpful Hints
The Writer's Connection explores the creative process of writing and the interplay between thoughts, feelings, and actions. We are an interactive community of authors and readers who share ideas to enhance our knowledge, skills, and experiences in writing fiction in any genre, but our emphasis remains mystery and suspense thrillers.
Published monthly, the Newsletter offers writing tips for authors, coaching suggestions, editing, and marketing information.
Topics are presented from the perspective of Keith Barton and represent only his ideas on producing your first manuscript, and are provided to the general public. Because we are an interactive community of writers, other viewpoints are welcomed and may be printed in future monthly newsletters with permission from Keith Barton.
2. Publisher's Note
Dear Writer's Connection Subscriber,
This month features how to find a literary agent who has the best chance of publishing your book with a reputable publishing house.
3. Keith's Guide to Literary Agents
Not to be confused with Jeff Hermann’s annual Literary Guide to Agents and Publishers which is considered by many in the business to be the most authoritative resource for new writers or Peter Rubie’s latest acquisition The Everything Get Published Book, my guide is intended to be succinct, humorous, and informative. Let’s face it—there are three ways to get published: traditional publishing houses, self-publishing (with subset print on demand), and vanity presses. If you enjoy seeing copies of your books adorning your own library or sitting in unopened cartoons in your garage, then I suggest you go the traditional publishing route. Now that you’ve made the decision that John Grisham, Martha Stewart, and any other self-respecting authors did, remember that publishers do NOT accept unsolicited manuscripts. That means you must find an agent who will represent you and sell your manuscript to a publisher. Everyone hopes for a NY publisher, but regional, mid-level, and university presses are alternative avenues for niche books. With the advent of the Internet, one can find publishers and agents on-line. An excellent resource for first-time authors is www.firstwriter.com although a modest monthly fee of 3.99 is required. I’ve recently used this website to find a reputable agent for a humorous look at retirement for the Boomers.
Now that you’ve decided to keep your day job and let an agent work for you, be sure to follow Keith’s ten rules for successful presentation to a potential agent:
1. Always follow directions. You learned this in kindergarten. If an agent says no emails, that means NO emails. Many agents still want a query letter by smail; additionally 2-3 chapters may be asked for or the first 50 pages if you have a 100k word fictional manuscript.
2. Don’t be cute and try to impress the agent with the King’s English. Don’t use your thesaurus to think up big words that will leave the agent befuddled by your insipid sense of self-importance.
3. Follow the required format. If the agent wants one-inch margins and Times Roman or Courier 12-point font then don’t provide cutesy 14-point Arabic or a font of 8 to make your agent go nuts and want to crush his reading glasses.
4. Look for the agent to belong to the Association of Author Representatives (AAR). While this is no guarantee of professionalism, there are ethical guidelines.
5. Never, NEVER, pay upfront fees for reading, photocopying or mailing. Any agent worth their salt will recognize talent and make their money AFTER your book is sold to a publisher.
6. If you’re writing non-fiction follow the proposal format to the letter. Important here is a marketing plan for your intended audience and why your “how to” book is destined to become the next Dummies Book.
7. Forget phone calls. Agents are too busy reading 100 manuscripts and queries weekly and don’t have time to chat about why you’re going to make them money. Many agents will not list phone numbers in their contact information for this reason.
8. SASE stands for Self-addressed Stamped Envelope. If you send material remember that any reply must be prepaid. If you don’t have an SASE, then don’t expect a reply.
9. Even if you’re unemployed and expect your book to pay next month’s rent, don’t expect a reply within two weeks for emails and three months for smail. Be prepared for the “Dear John (Jane) letter.” Verbiage sounds something like “sorry but we must pass on your manuscript at this time,” and that’s if you’re lucky to receive a reply. Sometimes a postcard will arrive with the box checked, “not at this time (or any other time).”
10. Have thick skin. Remember that agents are people too, with families and bills to pay. Any relationship you enter into with an agent will remain a “business.” You are not paying 10-15% commission for a friend, cheerleader, editor, or associate. The agent’s job is to sell your book to a publisher. From there, it’s a new ballgame with publishers vying for a shrinking audience of readers with declining profit margins and increased competition from other publishing venues.
Hope my ten points help to dispel some of the myths about agents. They provide a valuable service for authors who are writers and not publicists. Despite the rejections (passes) on your manuscript remember to keep writing and believing in yourself. Once upon a time an innocuous author wanting to pitch his first book was passed on by all major publishing houses and was ultimately published by the Office of Naval Research. Three decades and 50 books later, Red Storm Rising, his first in 1983, is still considered by many to be his best.
1. Go to the firstwriter.com website and look at the different formats agents require for a proper query letter or submission.
2. Review Jeff Hermann’s or Peter Rubie’s books on how to get published.
3. Take your rejection letters or postcards and make a collage, frame it, and place it in your study or wherever you work for inspiration as a constant reminder that if publishing was that easy we’d have a “button” for it called “easy.” (Remember the Staples commercial)