"We do not usually acknowledge unsolicited manuscripts, but we want you to know that we tore yours into tiny pieces. Yours sincerely, The Op-Ed page."
Isn't that the universal fear? Rejection?
Now that my third novel is complete, I've been working on writing the synopsis and of course, the next step will be to query agents. I have to admit it's more than a bit intimidating but exciting all at the same time. Unfortunately, it's not going to get done unless I roll up my sleeves and think positively.
On the up side of things, I've been blessed with the many contacts I've made over the years--other authors who have been willing to share their experiences with me. Several years ago, a good friend of mine who has been published numerous times by Bantam and Simon & Schuster offered these words of advice.
Where to start:
1) Purchase a current copy of "Writers Guide to Literary Agents." Another option is to check with your local library to see if they have a copy.
2) Pick the best—aim high.
a) Put together an A, a B, and a C list.
b) Mail five from the A list wait 2 weeks.
c) Mail five from the B list wait 2 weeks.
d) Mail five from the C list wait 2 weeks.
3) Go to a your local book story and look through the acknowledgements sections of books in your genre for names of agents. Best if you read the book before mention it to the agent.
a) Write to the agent: “I just read ….. and noticed …..’s acknowledgement of you. I admire ….’s work
and think it is reminiscent of my work.”
4) Query Letter:
a) Three parts to the letters:
i) Introduction/what genre do you write?.
ii) Provide information about your novel.
iii) Information about you (degrees, previously published works, awards etc.)
b) Refer to other works they represent.
c) Don’t compare your work to that of a famous (or not so famous) author.
d) Check with Writers’ Guide for specifics
i) Write ONLY one page.
ii) Get in and get out—tell them what you write and why you’re the person to write it.
iii) DON”T self-praise own work.
iv) Condense the theme of your book to 2-3 sentences.
v) Send ONLY what they ask for.
vi) Be very corporate in your letter
vii) Times New Roman 12
viii) Title and page number in the upper right-hand corner of the manuscript.
ix) Send SASE if requested.
x) E-mail your query, synopsis, and sample chapters only if the agent states he/she will accept e-mails
5) Be cold-blooded. This is the time when it pays to be self-centered and focused on a goal. Sales of 5,000 books will get you noticed. An agent is the only one who can get me into the big times.
6) Don’t be locked into New York. There are good agents in California, Colorado, and other states.
7) It’s best if the book is completed. If you’ve been previously published, that will give you a leg up. An agent will see the quality of your writing from reviewing your previous works.
8) Polish the first three chapters and send out the queries.
9) Give it time. It could take several weeks/months before you receive replies.
10) Attend writing conferences whenever possible and get in on pitch sessions with agents.
An excellent website full of information about literary agents, manuscript submissions, queries etc., is Guide to Literary Agents editor’s blog by Chuck Sambuchino.
About the author:
Marta Stephens writes crime mystery/suspense. Her books are available online at familiar shops such as all the Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, and Powells. Other locations include, but are not limited to those listed on her website.
THE DEVIL CAN WAIT (2008), Bronze Medal Finalist, 2009 IPPY Awards, Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).
SILENCED CRY (2007) Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery),
Personal site: www.martastephens-author.com
Personal blog: http://mstephens-musings.blogspot.com
Collective blog: http://murderby4.blogspot.com
Character Blog: http://www.samharpercrimescene.blogspot.com