Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that requires correction or clarification, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com.
Panellists: Amanda Sun, Mary Fan, Gerald Brandt, Matt Bin
AS: Online resources that can help you get an agent: #MSWL, Miss Snark, Query Shark, Guide to Literary Agents blog.
MB: #MSWL is critical these days.
GB: You have to do the research.
MF: There are writers who get an agent and their first novel fails to sell, their second novel fails to sell, but then their third sells big.
MB: The agent has to love your book.
GB: If your query doesn’t match their submission guidelines, it will be rejected.
AS: I used to be an acquiring editor for Room. If a submission didn’t meet the submission requirements, I’d never see it. It would go straight to the spam folder.
Q: How formal does your query have to be? I write YA.
GB: You have to be professional up front. Your second paragraph, where you’re pitching the novel has to have the flavour of your book, but it’s a sales pitch.
MB: The agent wants to understand how your book works and why it will appeal to readers.
MF: 250 words is a good goal length for your query.
Q: At what point do you look for an agent?
GB: As soon as you have a book that’s finished and ready to go out into the world.
MB: Query agents first. If you submit to publishers, agents will have their sales channels limited. Remember, it’s your agent’s job to sell your book to publishers.
GB: Take advantage of pitch sessions at conferences and conventions.
AS: And work on your next book.
GB: The agent is in it with you for the life of your career.
Q: So querying an agent first is better? Is that because editor A might love you book and editor B might hate it?
GB: At Penguin Random House, if one editor rejects the book, all of them do.
MF: That can happen at agencies, too. Agents can move around, too.
Q: What happens when your agent leaves the agency?
GB: In my experience, I was given the option to follow the agent or stay with the agency.
MB: When agents send your novel to publishers, they do so with a different perspective.
MF: I know a writer whose agent is all business. Some agents will want to help edit or develop the work prior to submission to publishers.
MB: Look at the agent’s reputation before you sign with them. You have to be able to work with them.
GB: When an agent is interested in your work, the tables turn.
MF: When you get an offer, don’t be afraid to ask for references.
AS: Don’t be too eager. You don’t have to back down 100% of the time. It’s a partnership.
MF: There are some Schmagents who aren’t legitimate. There should be no reading fee.
GB: The money should flow to the author. Check out Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors.
MB: Querying is the traditional road. Networking at conferences and conventions can help.
GB: But don’t be stalkery. Have your elevator pitch ready, just in case.
AS: Don’t burn your bridges. Publishing is a surprisingly small world.
MF: Maybe we should talk about the structure of a query? It’s three paragraphs. Introduce yourself and your book. The second paragraph is your pitch. Then the third paragraph is about you and your qualifications.
GB: List publication credits if you have any, memberships in any writing organizations. Make sure you look serious.
AS: Your introductory paragraph should focus on the reasons you’re querying this particular agent. Have you met at a con? Do you write books in the same genre as other authors they represent?
Q: Do you use Canadian, or US spelling?
GB: Everything should be in US spelling.
MF: Your comps (comparative novels) should be published in the last three years.
AS: X meets Y is a popular formula to use. Agents can use it to pitch to publishers.
MB: We should also mention online pitch contests like #PitMad. Look them up. Most of them are on Twitter and you have a limited time to pitch directly to agents. Use the hashtag. If an agent likes your 140 character pitch, they’ll respond to you. The rules are all online.
Q: How long should my book be?
MF: It really depends on your genre and category. There are a lot of resources for this online.
Q: Should you query to an agent if you mostly write short fiction?
AS: You can do that without an agent and, in fact, most agents won’t represent short fiction, even for authors they represent for novels.
GB: Collections of short stories are a hard sell.
And that was time.
Next weekend, it will once more be time for a next chapter update (already?).
Be good and write well!