Monday, July 25, 2011

Interview with Agent Elizabeth Kracht

Today I have a special treat for all the friends of the Writing Sisterhood: an interview with agent Elizabeth Kracht of Kimberley Cameron & Associates ! In addition, she will to stop by for a Q&A session on Friday, July 29th from 1 pm to 4 pm (Pacific Time). This means you can leave your questions throughout the week and/or during her visit on Friday. Please join us then!

Elizabeth, welcome to the Divine Secrets of the Writing Sisterhood!


Q: How did you start your career in publishing?

A: I have been writing in one form or another for most of my life. Somehow I never thought about a career in publishing until I took a job as a copyeditor/proofreader for an English newspaper in Puerto Rico. It was an epiphany to realize I was equally as happy, if not more, working with others' words. When I relocated back to the mainland I took an internship at a small, nonfiction publisher in California (Hunter House Publishers) and later became its acquisitions editor. I brought to that job years of administrative, legal and technical writing/editing experience. Once working with books, I knew I'd found my "vein of gold." To further broaden my perspective on the industry, I began reading for Kimberley Cameron & Associates in my free time. When a position opened at the Agency and was offered to me, I did not hesitate to accept it. The Agency has a long legacy, and Kimberley is an amazing mentor.

Q: As an editor for Hunter House Publishers you acquired non-fiction books. Are you planning to focus more on fiction now, or both?

A: I will focus on both fiction and nonfiction. At Kimberley Cameron & Associates we receive more fiction manuscripts than nonfiction, but I have a strong, personal interest in nonfiction books, so if interesting proposals cross my desk, of course I will consider them. I also have a real soft spot for memoir and hope to represent many of them.

Q: What type of fiction do you represent? What are you looking for in a manuscript?

A: I represent both literary and commercial fiction. I also represent YA and genre fiction. In genre fiction I’m attracted to mysteries and thrillers and some science fiction. Right now I'd be interested in looking at anything with a Japanese theme, and rumor has it mermaids are supposed to be the next coming rage. Just to give an idea of some of my current projects: dystopian/science fiction YA, two nonfiction humor, literary historical fiction, commercial women's fiction, and a mystery. In a manuscript I look for great writing first and foremost, and am attracted to writing with a strong voice and compelling story that moves.

Q: What genres/themes you do NOT represent?

A: I don’t represent fantasy, but will consider magical realism. I don't represent horror, although Kimberley does. The science fiction that I am interested in is limited; I like grounded science fiction. I also do not represent romance and inspirational fiction.

Q: What are your top three authors of all time? What about your top three novels?

A: Tough question. Top three authors that come to mind: Edith Wharton, Ernest Hemingway, and Jon Krakauer. My current favorite novels: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl, and The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.

Q: Since you lived in Puerto Rico for some time, have you thought about representing books in Spanish or Latin American/Spanish authors? Is there a particular Latin author you like?

A: Although I am not able to represent works in Spanish, I would gladly represent a Hispanic author and/or a novel set in a Latin American country. I think my favorite Hispanic author is Esmeralda Santiago (http://www.esmeraldasantiago.com/), author of When I Was Puerto Rican. Esmeralda has a new novel out, which I plan to buy soon, titled Conquistadora.

Q: Do you think American Publishers are acquiring more or less multicultural novels than before?

A: I think American publishers are acquiring more novels with multicultural themes, and sometimes the trend is set by world events. In the last couple weeks in the deal pages of Publishers Marketplace I have seen at least three works set in Japan sold to publishers. I also believe we read to learn and be transported. What better way to learn and be transported than by entering a setting where we've never been through a voice that is culturally different from our own?

Q: Young Adult and Paranormal/Fantasy novels are extremely popular among agents and writers nowadays. How do you see the market for Historical and Women’s Fiction?

A: There is still a strong market for both historical and women's fiction, but the projects need to be unique. Agents and editors are attracted to a work by a combination of market trends, whether a work has a place in the market, and personal interest and passion for a project.

Q: Approximately how many submissions do you receive per week? What do you look for in a query letter and what is the best way to submit to you?

A: At the Agency we receive more than two hundred submissions per week. I appreciate brief and concise query letters--no gimmicks. I'm fairly forgiving of poorly written query letters. I have come to understand that the query letter is a technical piece of writing, a type of writing fiction writers rarely engage in. I often don't get through an entire query before moving straight to the writing. I've often been shocked by how well an author can write after choosing to ignore a poorly written, egocentric or gimmicky query. I would strongly urge writers to invest time and money in writing a good query since many literary agencies have intern readers that are much less forgiving of gimmicks and typos. As a writer you never know the conditions under which your query letter will be read, and you've already invested so much time in your manuscript. It's worth the effort to have a polished query so your submission isn't one that can be discarded on a technicality. There is always an issue of volume when it comes to queries at a literary agency. If you are brief, professional and concise in your query, and if you have done your homework on the agent you are submitting to, your work will likely be reviewed.

If a writer feels we are a good fit for their manuscript, we ask them to submit the first 50 pages and a one-page synopsis along with their query letter attached as Word documents or as PDFs. We prefer electronic submissions. Submissions can be sent to info@kimberleycameron.com and directed to whichever agent seems most appropriate for the work.

Q: What are the most common problems you see in the manuscripts you receive?

A: The most common problems I see in manuscripts are high word counts, excessive description slowing the pace of the novel, stories that don't get moving soon enough, and characters that are underdeveloped.

Writers should know what acceptable word counts are in their genre. Generally, for debut fiction we like to see works between 65,000-85,000 words (historical fiction can sometimes be an exception). Agents will reject you based on word count alone.

Be careful spending time in description of characters and things that aren't absolutely necessary to the forward movement of the story. Description can really slow the pace of a story, especially since the reader's own mind acts to fill in those details many times. If your character is in the elevator with a bike messenger, don't waste story pace telling me what he is wearing if I'm never going to see him again; I can already picture him perfectly. Watch excessive use of adverbs and don't use brand placement to try and give me a sense of the type of person your character is. Should the fact that your character drinks Amstel beer or carries a Kate Spade purse mean something to me? Only use brands if you feel it is important to your character's psychology, if it's an obsession that moves the story forward. If you drop too many brand names, they stand out in the manuscript, and those are not what you want your reader to notice.

To catch the attention of an agent, your manuscript has to move right from the start. Keep your story active and moving. Don't let it get bogged down by excessive description or dialogue that isn't crisp. And give your characters an inner landscape.

Q: Do you consider yourself an “editorial” agent or are you aiming to find manuscripts that are almost ready for submission to publishers? Would you take on a client based on his/her potential even if the manuscript is not ready to be sold?

A: I am definitely an editorial agent in spirit. I love to work on manuscripts with authors. However, because of the number of submissions we receive, I take on these kinds of projects based on both market considerations (is there strong market potential for it) and whether I have the time and strong personal interest. I'm working on developing a nonfiction humor book right now, but it's only a 60-page manuscript and the writer I'm working with is a professional and quick at revisions. In addition, there are hundreds of emails in my inbox that need attention. So, it's a little bit of a juggling act, but if the right thing crossed my desk at the right time, I would take it on and develop it.

Q: Writers are often times frustrated with how difficult it is to get the attention of industry professionals. What do you think is the most effective method for a writer to get noticed: conferences, blogs, query letters, contests?

A: There are many ways for writers to get noticed. If a manuscript is where it needs to be, a writer can easily get published by pitching an agent at a conference or by submitting to an agent online. In some cases it may take longer to find someone to champion your work. If you've gotten rejected by dozens of agents, try and get feedback on why and be open to the notion that your work might not be quite where it needs to be.

Personally, I think every writer should get a freelance editor known in the industry who will give them professional feedback on the market potential of their work, story structure, writing... It's an investment, but one that will speed up the process significantly. Otherwise, a writer may get rejections from agents and not understand from a publishing perspective what the problem is since rejections are usually template. In this publishing climate, the competition is stiff. I think writers spend a lot of time in the dark about their work, and a freelance editor is an unbiased source with a background that can give a writer the perspective that family, friends and writing groups can't give.

Agents usually attend conferences and listen to pitches. I just did eight consultations at the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference in California. If a writer's manuscript is where it needs to be when I consult with them, I would ask to see more on the spot. A writer can also send query letters to agents listed in literary guides, but should make sure the agent is the right fit for the manuscript, that their query letter is meticulously crafted, and that their work is in the best possible shape. Also, be sure to include any information about yourself and your author platform. Author platform is more important than ever. Invest in an author website and get yourself on Facebook, Twitter, and Blogspot. If you have published clips, let us know about them. An author platform can tip the scale on an agent's decision to represent you.

Q: How do you feel about writers posting excerpts of their unpublished novels and/or creating websites for them?

A: I think I'd prefer to have an author work on an author website rather than one for the novel, to start, since titles often change in the publishing process. I'd rather see an author build up their general online presence first. And rather than publishing or posting excerpts, it might be wiser to write some additional content about the characters in the form of a short story and publish it on a website such as Smashwords for free or $.99. I would love to be able to say to an editor I am pitching that an author I am working with has had thousands of downloads (and great reviews) of a short story of content related to the manuscript.

Q: As a former publicist, do you think every author should hire one? Or do you think most agents can (or are willing) to take on that role for their authors?

A: Agents do not take on the role of publicist for their clients. Because I have publicity experience, I tend to keep my eyes open for opportunities, but agents do not handle publicity at all. We may do some promotion on our website, but publicity is handled by the publisher, and now more than ever, publishers require that authors help promote their works.

I urge writers to hire outside publicists if they have a book in the publishing process. However, the author should be sure to avoid conflict with the publishing house publicist (assuming there is one).

It is in the best interest of the writer to help sell as many copies of their work as possible. If a writer has only sold one book to a publisher (no series deal or two/three book deal), that writer wants to make every effort to sell as many copies of their work as possible so when it comes time to pitch the next book the writer can show that there was demand for their work. Publishers look at Nielsen BookScan, which will tell them how many copies of an author's work have sold. If your first book did not sell well, it will influence a publisher's decision on whether to acquire your new work.

In addition, the more copies sold, the more royalties the author will receive! This is an author's paycheck. Work it.

Why not just rely on the publisher? Because some contracts I have seen are vague about the kind of publicity a publisher will do; meaning, they may not be legally bound to do any publicity for you. I've heard a publisher say that some books aren't important in the scheme of an entire list, which may be accurate from the viewpoint of their financial perspective, but that can be a real bummer for you as a professional writer. Even if your work is published by a big house with an in-house publicist, you will only have that publicist for a window of time unless your book really takes off. Help it take off!

Q: How much marketing/self promotion is expected from a writer aside from Internet interviews/blogs? What are other ways in which authors can promote their novels?

A: If not you, then who? Your book will have a window of publicity with your publisher, and maybe not even much of that depending on who your publisher is and what your contract agreement states. It is in all writers' best interest to research book publicity and marketing. Know your audience. Who will buy your book and where can you find them? Think of your work from as many angles as possible; what are the themes? Does your book have a theme that the National Organization for Women can get behind? Are you an African-American author? Dissect your work from multiple viewpoints and seek relevant publicity and marketing opportunities. Get authors or experts to give you a quote about your work. Get Amazon reviewers to review your book (or galley) or find other online reviewers and/or bloggers on the subject to review it (most people buy books based on reviews, Verso Study on book-buying trends). Review other authors' works and have the review link back to your author page, short story content, or book. Write articles related to some theme in your book and offer the article for free to magazine editors if they agree to include your bio at the end of the article, which will include an "author of..." sentence (you aren't pitching your book in the article, rather your expertise on a theme of your book). Magazines need to be pitched six or seven months prior to publication. Pitch them articles for holidays or another tie-in date with your book.

Write related content and publish it as an e-book for free. Do a book trailer. Get that author website up (check out www.LoisReed.com or Xuni.com) and do all available social media (get your kids or grandkids to manage it). Consider getting basic CisionPoint for a year, which is a database that has every media contact you could ever want (not cheap). Organize a book tour in your area and find creative ways to get local media involved. Let your alma mater know you've published a book and offer to write an article for the newsletter. Get all your friends, family and colleagues networking for you, and listen to their ideas on how you can generate interest in your book. Sign up for Amazon Author Central on the Amazon.com site as well as other websites. Pitch a radio show, rather than your book, to your local radio. Do an email blast (Constant Contact is great for this). Write a press release about the book and send it out to relevant media. Get friends and family to review your book on websites such as Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and e-book retailers if you have an e-book out. Submit your work to book clubs and moms' groups! Google "How do I promote my book?" or "book publicity" and read as many articles as you can.

Be creative. There are so many ways to get your work out there and so many opportunities online. Create a media plan (examples can be found on the Internet) for your book, and begin promoting your work six to seven months before release.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for these very informative answers!

38 comments:

  1. Things have changed so much in the last four years in terms of the importance of online presence for writers. This thoughtfully-answered interview certainly affirms as much.

    Thank you, Lorena and Elizabeth.

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  2. Thanks to Sister Lorena and to Elizabeth for a good and informative interview. Like Sister Suze, I am astounded at all the on-line resources available to advertize an incoming novel. I didn’t know Amazon reviewed galleys. I wonder if all these steps that Ms. Kracht proposes are only for books that are about to be published. Could an author in search of agent/publisher/readers use the Web to promote her/his MS?

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  3. Good advice about publicity--thanks!

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  4. Thank you for the in-depth advice and information.

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  5. Thanks for the link to your article, Lorena! Lots of great ideas for marketing!

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  6. Thank you, Lorena and Elizabeth, for this frank and useful information.

    I especially like the advice about writing an outside-the-book short story and trying to garner attention that way.

    Much appreciated.
    --Lora

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  7. Great interview! I've heard a lot about Smashwords, but I've wondered whether there could be a negative backlash if a writer's work is not well-received. Could an aspiring writer have premature damage to one's career if their work gets torn apart on a site like Smashwords?

    Also, why does the Japanese culture seem so popular right now? Do current events (i.e. the earthquake and tsunami) bring awareness to different parts of the world and then more people are interested in reading more about those areas, fiction or non?

    Thanks both to Sister Lorena and Ms. Kracht!

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  8. I also wanted to add another question. I recently read an article about the fact that agents are in danger of becoming a "dying breed." Is this a true assessment in such a technical age? Are agents wearing more hats than ever nowadays in order to keep up with the changes in the e-book publishing industry? Any thoughts as to the sinking of Borders? Is this a forecast for other large bookstores such as Barnes & Noble?

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  9. This interview is packed with so much useful information. Thank you Elizabeth and Lorena!

    It's shocking to know that writers might need to hire their own publicist. But I'm so glad to know this now so I can start budgeting for it.

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  10. My questions for Elizabeth
    1. How do you define the difference between fantasy and magic realism?
    2. Why won´t you represent fantasy?
    3. Could/should an unpublished (and probably unrepresented as yet) author create an online presence?

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  11. Wow! Great interview! I love her comments on multicultural fiction, a genre I absolutely love. And her suggestion of hiring an independent editor, of course! Thoroughly supported! lol
    And the writing a short story with your novel's characters tip? Brilliant!!!!

    On the hiring an editor, I have a question. What should a writer look for when researching an editor? And do agents usually look into suggestions coming from editors whose work they like?

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  12. Really, really great interview! I especially love what she said about queries, and how she'll forgive a poorly written query letter and go straight to the writing. That's nice to know, because she's right, it's so difficult to write a query letter. Generally, I don't think a query is indicative of the writer's ability to write a book.

    Good stuff. :)

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  13. That was great. She is very encouraging and informative. Thank you.

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  14. A big thank you to Lorena and Elizabeth for this fascinating interview. Here are my questions for the Q&A:

    1. Is previous publishing experience of interest to agents if the writing is unrelated to the current work-in-progress? Say you have a freelance writer who's published hundreds of feature articles, but she's now trying to publish a novel. Is her nonfiction background relevant?

    2. If one is not a published author yet, what content would one put on an author website?

    3. “Rumor has it mermaids are supposed to be the next coming rage.” I heard that about angels last year. How are these rumors generated? Is it based on a bestseller or is it straight speculation? Also, is it a recent thing that the “coming rage” happens to involve a magical creatures (wizards, vampires, angels, now mermaids apparently) or has it always been that way?


    4. “I would strongly urge writers to invest time and money in writing a good query.” Are there books or websites you’d recommend? By "invest money" do you mean hire an editor?

    5. “Don't use brand placement to try and give me a sense of the type of person your character is.” Having taken several writing classes that push brand placement, this surprised me. I wonder if the trend is an extension of the “get specific” rule. Do you find that this rule is overused in other ways? Writers are getting a little too specific? The conflicting advice writers get is so confusing sometimes.

    6. “If a manuscript is where it needs to be, a writer can easily get published by pitching an agent at a conference or by submitting to an agent online.” We hear so often that Harry Potter was rejected a dozen times, that The Help was rejected thirty times, and so forth. If even brilliant writers who are eventually to become bestsellers are getting rejected so often, how can it be easy? From a writer’s point of view, getting published can feel like winning a lottery. It seems to depend an awful lot on luck. This isn’t really a question so much as a plea for more information: is it really ever easy?

    7. Between attending writers' conferences to meet agents, hiring your own publicist, hiring a critiquer for the manuscript, publishing short stories to sites like Smashwords for a fee, managing a professional website, and hiring an editor for the query letters, a prospective novelist could go broke trying to get published. Which investments, in your opinion, pay off the most heavily?

    Thank you again, Elizabeth, for the comprehensive answers to Lorena's questions, and for your willingness to participate this Q&A!

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  15. Good morning, Ms. Kracht, and thank you for taking the time to respond to our inquiries.

    My question for you this morning is, if an author had all of her other ducks in a row, would not having an online social-networking presence be the dealbreaker if her aim was to secure agent representation in order to go the 'traditional publishing route?'

    I realize there is a fair amount of subjectivity on the topic and do appreciate your informed opinion.

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  16. I just wanted to jump onto Stephanie's question #7. As an aspiring author, what has really bothered me lately is the enormous amount of money we are supposed to be spending just to get published. Then we are told that it all boils down to is how well written our work is and nothing else. A lawyer right out of law school or a medical student just out of med school is not required to spend large amounts of money in order to secure a job with a firm or medical center (although they do spend a lot on an education, but that's the price of education), so why do unpaid, broke writers need to spend so much money just to get their work out there? It makes little sense to me and I was wondering Ms. Kracht's opinion on this matter as well. If there were two or three things we as writers should wisely spend our money on to get published, what would those things be?

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  17. Hello Ms. Kracht. I just sent you a Japan themed query--magical realism relating to Japanese mythology! :)

    Keith Yatsuhashi

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  18. I look forward to seeing it Keith.

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  19. Dear Elizabeth,
    This is an issue that has plagued me for a while, and I dare ask you since you are the expert. A couple of years ago, I wrote a novel that was turned down by two agents who sent me standard rejections. I came to the conclusion that perhaps the subject matter was unsuitable. I´ll let you be the judge. It´s a combination of historical fiction and fantasy set in “The Old Country.” My “Old Country” is the Balkans and Mediterranean prewar Jewish communities. In the Sephardic communities prior to WWII, cousin marriage, and even uncle-niece marriage was very common, the same applies to teenage brides (my great-grandmother married at thirteen!) In my novel, the protagonist marries her uncle when she is fifteen years-old. Although that is a socio-historical fact, I know that it will upset modern sensibilities. Should I give up the story in favor to one that would be more acceptable to contemporary audiences?

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  20. Mary Mary,

    I would make sure that any short fiction you publish online is edited professionally, if possible. Make sure you feel confident in your work. I think an unbiased, outside opinion is always a good idea, especially from a person who understands what the industry and readers are looking for.

    Yes, world events definitely drive interest. I've seen numerous book deals recently made with Japanese themes, and even two or three books sold on the Casey Anthony story.

    I hope I'm not a dying breed! Actually, agents are having to change along with everyone else. Our agency is experimenting with e-books. We are planning the launch of an e-book for a well-known author of ours who wants to experiment. This means we will need to do a little publicity for him as well. So, yes, we are changing along with the industry, but our first commitment is to the traditional publishing model.

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  21. Raquel,

    I think authors have always needed their own publicists, they just haven't known it. Now the industry is making it a requirement of publishing on some level (if not having a publicist, to know the author will help promote through social media, tours...), so authors are becoming aware of it.

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  22. Hi Violante,

    I guess the difference for me between fantasy and magical realism is that (in my mind, and I could be wrong) magical realism is more magical or fantastical elements taking place here on Earth. Even though books like those of Castaneda or Millman may be considered nonfiction, they have these somewhat believable magical and fantastic elements to them. I like to stay somewhat grounded or Earth-based. I like my science fiction to be Earth-based as well.

    If I read a fantasy story that I really liked, I wouldn't pass it up. I do look at them when they come into my inbox. But also, as an agency, we haven't been keeping track of fantasy editors. That's not to say we couldn't find them fairly easily, but I guess in terms of personal interest, fantasy isn't exactly what we tend to read. Sometimes it just plain comes down to personal interest, which is why it's good to do homework on the agents you pitch. Jeff Herman's guide is great for learning about agents' interests.

    Last, DEFINITELY create an online presence. Don't let yourself get absorbed, but put up an author website, get on Facebook and start making "friends," and blog and tweet two to three times a week. Doing this will only help you. This is part of your brand as an author. Get your kids, grandkids or pay someone to help you do it. There are also media management sites that will tweet for you... I think one is called Oomph.

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  23. Gabriela,

    Thank you!

    We have a list of editors that we provide authors whose works are almost there but not quite. In researching an editor, an author wants to find one that has worked in the industry within their genre. There are genre-specific editors. Find those editors that work within your genre.

    I think it's important to have an editor that works or has worked for a publishing house. These editors can look at the work from the many angles of publishing, which is important. Your writing and story may be great, but if the market is flooded on the topic, as it is with vampire stories, an editor can tell you this.

    If we do receive a submission passed on by an editor we know, we will look at that submission, although it doesn't happen too often. Usually, if we send a writer to work with an editor, the writer will come back to us with their revision if we've indicated we will look at it again.

    I think it's a really good idea for writers to go straight to professional editors before coming to agents in this publishing climate. I think it saves time and money. We want to publish your stories, but sometimes they are hampered by things that an editor would catch immediately. Writers need unbiased, professional feedback.

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  24. Jennifer,

    Keep in mind, I am probably the exception to the rule. The more concise and professional the query letter, the better. No gimmicks. No ego.

    In most agencies, interns are reading the queries. They may be in MFA programs and sticklers about typos or punctuation. And sometimes with the agents, it comes down to a volume issue.

    Put the time and effort into one of those pitch conferences or looking over template queries on the Web or paying a technical writer to write the query. You don't want an agency to reject you based on something like a typo or a rambling query.

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  25. Hi Suze,

    Can you clarify your question?

    By social media I don't mean e-book publishing. We are committed to the traditional publishing route, although we are experimenting.

    Sometimes an agent may be on the fence about a particular work. If the author has a clear platform (an author website, a blog readership, Twitter followers, lots of Facebook friends) it can influence our commitment to a project, especially if there is developmental work involved.

    Keep in mind we take a writer's "assets" to the editors when we pitch their work. Everything helps. Editors want a sure thing. The more a debut author can do to bolster their platform, the better.

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  26. Hi Stephanie,

    PART 1

    1. Yes, your previous publishing experience is of interest to agents. It's part of your author platform or assets. Both agents and editors want to know about the author. If you've published hundreds of articles, we want to know. At the end of your query there should be a short paragraph where you list your platform and/or information about yourself.

    2. I think it depends on what platform you already have. My suggestion would be to go to www.Xuni.com and look at all the author websites listed there. Look at the tabs and see if you could put information under a similar tab on your own website. Think about yourself as a brand. In your case, you have hundreds of published articles; have a section that links to them and call the page something like "Published Works." Have a professional photo taken of yourself and create an "About the Author" page. You can have a "Contact Author" page. You can also have a "Press Kit" page with downloadable information about you, including a "Tip Sheet" relevant to some area of your expertise that is relevant to your novel.

    I think a website is a place where you can have some fun and be creative. If you are an unpublished author, this will be something that continually develops. It's OK for a page or two to be under construction. Just keep thinking of creative things you can do to add to that website. Put links up to a short story you are offering as an e-book. Blogging two or three times a week on writing or topics related to your book might bring readership, which is a real asset.

    3. I can't remember where I heard the mermaid rumor, but shortly after I heard it, I saw a mermaid book deal take place in the deal pages. Because we monitor the deal pages in Publishers Marketplace, which you should all have subscriptions to, we can spot trends.

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  27. Hi Stephanie,

    PART 2


    4. There are many query letter templates online, and guides like Jeff Herman's has a section on query letters. You might try Writer's Market as well. Nowadays there are also pitch conferences. Michael Neff runs pitch conferences in both California and New York, but I also think most writers conferences have workshops on writing queries. If you can find a freelance editor with experience in publishing that would agree to write a query for hire, great!

    5. I am not a fan of brand placement, unless it really moves the story forward or the story revolves around a brand in some way. If it happens too often, it becomes very noticeable in a manuscript. I wouldn't reject a manuscript based on this, but sometimes people run the risk of their characters being too much like other characters that we've seen using the same brands. Monolo Blahnik comes to mind. You don't want an agent to picture some other character when reading about yours. You want your character to be unique. Think about what you are trying to say about your character and figure out a way to say it without dropping a brand. Brands mean different things to different people. If you do use a brand, at least tell me the character's connection to it in some way.

    6. I think getting published can be easy, and happen very quickly, but you're right, that is not always the case. I read an article about Kathryn Stockett recently and how many times she had to pitch her manuscript. But I think what people missed in that article, was how many times she revised her manuscript based on those rejections. Her work wasn't complete yet. You can learn a lot through rejections. This, again, is where I think professional editors can help. Agents don't have the time to give a lot of personal feedback. Kathryn most likely eventually found someone willing to help her develop her manuscript, or received enough feedback to understand what the problem with her manuscript was. Sometimes there are subtle reasons a manuscript doesn't work, and it's not always possible to relay that to an author due to time constraints or not knowing exactly what the fix is.

    7. If you have reached a plateau with your work or are confident you're finished with final edits, go straight to an experienced editor in your genre. I think this would save authors a lot of time and money in the long run, especially if they tend to go to a lot of conferences. There are only so many agents. Make sure your work is where it needs to be by having a professional help you with it. If you've had your work professionally looked at and agents are rejecting it, try and get feedback from them. If you have the money, get a consult with an agent at a writers conference where you are allowed to submit your work to them in advance for feedback.

    You need professional feedback on your work, and you want it from agents and freelance editors above all others. There is a lot of competition out there and editors at publishing houses are being very conservative right now. A freelance editor can quickly direct you to problems in your manuscript, saving you a lot of time and frustration.

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  28. Hi Mary Mary,

    I don't mean to offend anyone by saying this, but sometimes writers can be in the dark about their writing (myself included). I think freelancers can point out subtle things a writer may not even be aware of. I had quite a few consults at a conference recently, which I enjoyed doing very much. And most of the authors were good writers, but dialogue was slowing the pace or the characters weren't fleshed out quite enough... Subtle things can trip a manuscript up. As an agent, I listen to the subtle reactions I have to what I'm reading, because they may be the same reactions the reader or an editor will have. You want to find someone who can read your manuscript objectively. Friends, family and writing groups can't always do that. Again, my advice is to get your manuscript to that place where you feel there are no more changes that you can make, and put it in front of a professional. But be blunt with that professional; ask them for their subtle reactions to your work, and tell them you're aim is to be published and you want to know if there is a place in the market for your work (market might be flooded), the pace moves, the plot works, the dialogue flows... I think the investment is worth it if being published is what you want.

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  29. Violante,

    I wouldn't give the story up based on two rejections and the socio-historic fact. I think pitching your work as historical fiction/fantasy could be a problem. I think your work is probably one or the other and can see this as being confusing to an agent. An agent that represents historical fiction may not represent fantasy. Certainly your setting and the cultural part of novel is interesting. If you send it to me with Violante in the subject header of the e-mail, I'll take a look and give you some feedback.

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  30. Thank you, Sisterhood! I wish you all the best in your literary pursuits! Should any of you find our agency a good fit for your work, feel free to query me directly, but make sure you put Divine Sisterhood in the subject line of your e-mail so I can get to you more quickly. Please keep in mind that I'm swamped with reading, but I will try and get to you as soon as I can.

    Best of luck to you all,
    Elizabeth

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  31. Dear Elizabeth, thank you SOOOO much for such insightful responses and for taking the time from your busy schedule to answer our questions.

    Best of luck to you too in all your projects!

    To all our wonderful readers: thank you so much for your comments and for visiting our blog. I hope you found useful information here today.

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  32. Elizabeth, thank you so much for your time and all your informative answers here. I found your responses extremely helpful.

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  33. Thank you so much Elizabeth for your time, input and all this helpful data!

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  34. Thank you Elizabeth for taking the time to answer our questions! Your responses are very helpful and it's always good to have great useful information in the publishing world.

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  35. Thank you Elizabeth. I hope you find me query! I find your comments very informative, particularly your words regarding PR. FWIW, I've been a sales, marketing and promotion professional for over twenty years. I've done a market powerpoint on my book that I can share. I showed it to Orbit and Tor at BEA, and both requested the full after seeing it ;) I know how to pitch, run seminars, give sales presentations etc. :) From your comments, I can only assume that's an asset that isn't usually represented in a query, but can be quite valuable to you.

    Keith Yatsuhashi

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  36. i just re-read this wonderful interview with Liz in preparation for the interview with Liz I am posting on my own blog/website (http://www.peterhogenkamp.com). It is going to be difficult not to repeat things because you did a bang-up job.

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    1. That's very nice of you, Peter. Thank you!

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