‘Play It Again, Sam’
For a long time, most author-agent communications on the front end have gone just that way — author to agent: the query letter.
The query letter is so daunting for many writers that there are whole courses offered simply on how to write a good query letter, never mind the damned book: what to say to an agent, what not to say, how to intrigue without hype. (You can start by getting that agent’s name right. You think I’m kidding? You’d be amazed.)
And even if you do lots of research on agents and work hard to understand what agents and editors want and study their track records and look up their deals and ask a few of their authors what it’s like to work with them, well, that first salvo can still be a complete shot in the dark. And agents do know that. Editors know that. They understand that it’s hard on the other side of the query, too.
Maybe you consult Chuck Sambuchino’s annual Guide to Literary Agents from Writer’s Digest Books, or maybe you joinQueryTracker.net or another popular site for sorting out agents, their interests and how to approach them. A few years ago, QueryTracker was good enough to start listing agents’ gender — so authors at least didn’t have to worry about fumbling a “Ms.” or “Mr.” reference.
And for an author who needs representation, just how many agents are out there to research?
QueryTracker’s folks now count 1,343 literary agents listed in its system. And, as agent Kristin Nelson is noting in her new series of blog posts for writers — we wrote it up here at Thought Catalog — all agents are not created equal.
But most authors don’t know what to look for. A lot of ships are passing in the night.
Maybe that’s why there was so much excitement this week when the word started passing among authors in the tweeterie:
I was alerted by my great colleague Jane Friedman:
And it was Sambuchino — known to many authors and agents for producing theWriter’s Digest Conference “pitch slams” — whose announcement got more than 100 retweets:
And if you missed it, don’t worry. The tweets are captured, categorized, tagged so you can find them quickly…and they’re still coming. I asked the creator of the #MSWL hashtag-o-rama if it wouldn’t make sense for writers to periodically check for new tweets, even when there isn’t an “#MSWL day” under way. And Jessica Sinsheimer said to go for it: It would make sense, yes.
I use the hashtag whenever I think of something–and I know a lot of other agents and editors do, too. Also, as ManuscriptWishList.com continues to grow, there will be more features, more listings, and even more potential matches.
None of the rules of the agent-editor-author speakeasy change, by the way. For example, authors still need to get very tight with an agency’s submission guidelines and follow those rules precisely, don’t wing it. In the #MSWL stream, agents are smart to direct you to those guidelines:
For those who feel sometimes that the entire industry has gone to romance, here’s where you take heart:
I’d like to see more of that, too, but submit it to Eddie, please. I’ll read it when he places you with a great deal at a good publisher.
The “play it again, Sam” aspect of this process is in the frequent use of “comps,” comparison titles. You’ll see many agents noting books they like (or not) to illustrate what it is they’re asking for. Granted, this is part of the reason that publishing sometimes suffers a reputation as a business of trend-chasers. In the world of book popularity, vampires really do seem undead. But practically speaking, “comps” are a useful way for agents and editors to signal what they’re talking about to authors in a short space.
And with luck, you might find out that those 300 pages you thought added up to a non-starter could have a chance, after all:
The range of requests I’m seeing is heartening, even for those of us relieved that the ATP World Tour is back on the road after its winter break:
So just what kind of honky-tonk action is going on here? Glad you asked.
There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog
By Porter Anderson
Writing on the Ether: #MSWL: Agents And Editors Calling Out Requests — To Authors
Originally published by Thought Catalog at www.ThoughtCatalog.com