Monday, May 16, 2011

Crossing Over

When I asked yous guys what you wanted me to blog about the most, many of you said you want to know what happens after you get an agent. So that's what today's post will entail, in order of events:
You accept an offer of rep from an agent. You're on cloud ninety-nine. All your hard work has paid off. Now you can just sit back and...Yeah, not so much. While your agent was/is ecstatic about your project, it doesn't mean it's ready to send off to ye editors. Ideally, you will have discussed this sort of thing *before* you accept the offer of rep, but if not, then NOW is when you talk about the possible revisions and tweaking your MS might need. Depending on the extent of the remodel, it will take a few weeks to a month or more to sculpt it into submittable shape. *Note: Lucy requested minor changes, which I made within a week. Each situation/time frame will be different. You will get tired of hearing me say this.
Now that your baby has been through MS boot camp, it's ready to go to war, vying in the big arena for the attention of editors. You are excited about this. You can't sleep at night. You accidentally put the milk in the cabinet and the cereal in the fridge, and you don't remember driving to work but you must have because you're pulling into the parking spot that you'll soon come to loathe. Your relationship with your agent feels like that of a newlywed, all googly-eyed and rose-colored bifocals and such. It will be difficult to remember that she is your business partner instead of your bestest friend in the whole entire snuggly world. Seriously. But you won't have time for this mushy-gushy-cuddle-muffin stuff because...
Probably you'll be having another phone conversation with your dream agent about where she'll be submitting, and the strategy she'll be using. You'll want to know how long it will take to hear back from these editors. She won't be able to tell you. This won't be because she's not fantabulous--because trust me, she's fantabulous. It's just that this business is...wait for it...subjective. Some editors will read it right away. Some won't get to it for a month, maybe more. Like agents, editors don't have time to sit around all day and read submissions. Much of their reading, like agents, is done on the weekend.
You'll ask Fantabulous Agent what you should be doing while these editors are reviewing your work. Fantabulous Agent will say...wait for it...keep writing. So, aside from the floaty, euphoric feeling of having a professional cheerleader on your side talking up you and your project, the whole process of submitting to editors is much like the query process we go through to snag Incredible Agent. You still watch your email obsessively. You still feel like maybe you're not good enough. You still bite your nails and curse yourself for ruining a perfectly good French mani.
And you still have to wait. So, to harden you up for this process, I'm making you wait for the next blogpost to find out what happens when you get "the other call". ("The call" is, and always will be, reserved for agents.)
Happy Monday!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Are You Ready to Tell People About Your Book?

Many of you already know that agents ask for different things in a query letter. Some simply ask for the query letter, some ask for the query and the first five pages, while others ask for the query, a synopsis, and the first three chapters. But what they ALL ask for is a well-written blurb that describes your book. Nathan Bransford, a former literary agent, discusses one-sentence, one-paragraph, and two-paragraph pitches here.
As difficult as writing a good query letter is, I'm finding that telling people about my book is harder than writing about it. To the point where, when someone asks what my book is about, I say, "It's about mermaids." They usually return this indulgent looks that tells me I should have at least added an expletive or two to make it more interesting, since I didn't take the time to manipulate my plot into an informal blurb. But writers, you NEED this. You need to be able to tell people about it, to make a memorable impression for reasons other than awkwardness.
Complete strangers who hear you talking to your daughter about your book. Bookstore managers with whom you're trying to arrange an in-store signing. Friends and frenemies, acquaintances, relatives and twice-removed cousins. You need to be able to pique their interest verbally, and sound freaking cool while doing it. You can fling a bagillion marketing dollars at your book, but word of mouth will always be more effective in selling it than the prettiest internet ad.
It will take practive. It might take some wine. But get ready. You should be the best person to ask about your book. "It's about mermaids" = writer fail. So, by the end of the week, I hereby promise to have an interesting informal-sounding pitch, AND I promise to use it on at least 10 new people.
What about you? Are you ready to tell people about your book?