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From the Take 5 panel

My contribution to the two-hour "Take Five" panel of agents at RWA

 

5 Things That Can Make You More Attractive to Agents and Editors

1) Write a fantastic novel

In the end, it's all about the product.  A great concept, a strong, fresh voice, a well-developed plot with perfect pacing and a satisfying conclusion.  It can be difficult not to rush your novel out the door, particularly when it's been requested at conference, but remember, you probably only get one chance to impress a particular agent or editor.  S/he won't sign you just because you had a laugh or a drink at the con.  That only gets you a foot in the door.  It's your work that will have to blow us away, not just with the quality, but with the marketing possibilities, which leads me to…

2) A great hook

Is your heroine, maybe, a police sketch artist or your hero a panther shifter wanted for a murder he didn't commit?  We're looking for new and oooh; we want something we haven't seen a million times before and something that will intrigue not only us, but marketing departments and book buyers.  Acquisitions are about more than a single agent or editor loving and championing your work.  Editors require second and often third reads to get others behind your work.  They need to run P&Ls (Profit and Loss statements) and present the work at meetings where it's decided whether offers can be made and for how much.  Work on tag lines – brief single phrase or sentence descriptions of your work that pack a whollop for query letters and pitches.  If your work can't be described in a juicy sound bite – not that we don't all know it isn't more complex than that – it may not have a high concept or a clear enough hook for the market.

3) Speaking of which, do you have a platform? 

Maybe you write for a magazine or have some other claim to fame or connections that can be used to promote your work.  Let us know.  Our decision will be based primarily on how much we love the work, but you've first got to get us to request it.  Then we'll have to consider not only whether we like it and think it can sell, but whether we think it will stand out in the marketplace and that we can really build your career.  Knowing that you've got a leg up on building an audience can be very helpful.

4) Contest wins and previous credits

Again, we still have to fall in love with the work itself, but knowing that you've placed first or second in a contest we really respect can get your foot in the door, maybe even get your work requested by the contest judge(s).  It appeals to agents because a) it indicates that this is a quality work that's worth considering and has received a level of editorial feedback already and b) it gives us fodder for our own pitches to editors down the line should we decide to represent you.  Likewise with credits.  Already we know that you're writing publishable work, so the question will be, "Is it for us?"

5) Personality

I say it here, but it really pervades all the other points as well.  We can tell a lot from a meeting and a query letter – whether you've got a good attitude and a sense of humor, for instance, or whether you'll be arrogant and difficult to work with.  It's not a perfect system, but just like with fiction where voice is all-important, personality and attitude matter.  We're in it for the long term.  Agents and editors want to build your career, build you to bestsellerdom, and want to know that you're going to help pave the road rather than put up road blocks.



Unfortunately, Deidre Knight from The Knight Agency was sick the day of the panel, but Kristin Nelson, who moderated, has posted her top five pearls of wisdom on how authors can get derailed by comparisons with other writers.  Check it out.

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Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
ex_rachelca
Aug. 5th, 2008 12:22 pm (UTC)
As always, you are fantastic. This is great advice. I try to tell people that the *sale* is about the book, but after that, it's their responsibility to build a relationship and career with the people who've expressed confidence in their work.

Mind if I repost a link?
varkat
Aug. 5th, 2008 01:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Absolutely good to repost.
(Deleted comment)
varkat
Aug. 5th, 2008 03:17 pm (UTC)
Absolutely!
trembling_aspen
Aug. 5th, 2008 03:48 pm (UTC)
Really Good Info! :-)

I'm going to post a link for my writer friends. I've heard many writers early on the publishing journey contemplate on these things. Hearing it from the horse's mouth (so to speak), from someone on the inside, is priceless. Thank you!

Delilah
(Anonymous)
Aug. 5th, 2008 04:30 pm (UTC)
There are two I'm confused on.
2) A great hook.
It's what you said underneath, especially the second sentence. 'We're looking for new and oooh...' From what I've seen as a blogging book reviewer, it's 'More of the same which is selling hot now, but with a fresh twist.' It's sending readers to ePublishers and used bookstores for variety. Please, tell me I'm wrong.

3) Speaking of which, do you have a platform?
I don't know if I should mention I'm a blogging book reviewer in my query letters, even though the blog draws significant traffic. We only post positive reviews at Enduring Romance, but someone still might take something we say about one of their client's books as an insult. I've had authors complain that I didn't gush about their novels as much as I gushed about the ones I reviewed before theirs. The irony is I started the blog to help my fellow readers find the books they'll love and to learn how to be a better writer myself.

Kimber An
enduringromance.blogspot.com

P.S. Linda Gerber rocks!
varkat
Aug. 5th, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC)
Re: There are two I'm confused on.
2) There does seem to be a lot that's similar out there, which is because it's been proven to have a broad, dedicated audience. This is why something new and different really stands out. For example, urban fantasy wasn't the hit that it is today before Laurell K. Hamilton and other pioneers tapped into that audience. Being at the forefront of a trend can be very powerful. Yes, you might have a harder time convincing the pros there is a market for your work. That doesn't mean it isn't worth trying. Also, trends come and go, but fabulous writing and great characters are eternal.

3) Mentioning the blogging/reviewing: if it's a well-trafficked site, I don't see how it can hurt. I can't imagine getting my nose out of joint over a not-positive-enough review. A rotten one, maybe, or a review that gives away plot points, but I don't think you can burn bridges by using fewer exclamation points .
joyamannan
Aug. 5th, 2008 05:22 pm (UTC)
I was directed here from lagringa's blog.

I never really thought about #3. It's tough trying to stuff so many things into query letters, but I suppose #3 is an important one, as query letters are all about building up your novel, and the ways you can help in the selling of your novel.

Anyway, thank you for this list/post. It's going in my bookmarks and LJ memories. :)
(Anonymous)
Aug. 5th, 2008 06:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the informative post! This is my first visit to you and I'll definitely be back!

Kelly
www.twoboysintwoyears.blogspot.com
johnesimpson
Aug. 5th, 2008 07:43 pm (UTC)
#3: platform
I keep hearing different things about this. "It's important." "It's not really important for fiction writers, but it is for non-fiction writers." "It's not really important for non-fiction writers, but it is for fiction writers." [endless permutations ensue]

Fwiw, I hope it's nowhere near de rigueur. :)
varkat
Aug. 5th, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC)
Re: #3: platform
My two cents, it's nearly crucial for non-fiction to have a platform. For fiction it's helpful but certainly not the be all and end all. That is the novel itself.

Edited at 2008-08-05 07:58 pm (UTC)
johnesimpson
Aug. 5th, 2008 08:04 pm (UTC)
Re: #3: platform
Whew. Thanks! I mean, I've got the novel ready to schlep but am still... "building" the "platform."

(And let me add my thanks for the excellent list in the first place.)
ruthannereid
Aug. 5th, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC)
Oooh, this is SO excellent! Thank you!
ext_106953
Aug. 6th, 2008 12:16 am (UTC)
>Being at the forefront of a trend can be very powerful. Yes, you might have a harder time convincing the pros there is a market for your work. That doesn't mean it isn't worth trying. Also, trends come and go, but fabulous writing and great characters are eternal.

Science fiction romance writers everywhere are cheering about this!

All I know is, bloggers I've met like Kimber An of Enduring Romance and Laurie at Spacefreighter's Lounge and Lisa Paitz Spindler and all the rest, well, they work so hard and I know any agent/editor will be very lucky to partner with these artists. It amazes me to see such devotion and I will be first in line to buy their books.

Thanks for this post--I surfed in from Pubrants.

Heather

The Galaxy Express
(Anonymous)
Aug. 6th, 2008 06:09 am (UTC)
Take 5 - Panel from RWA - Top Tips
I love all this info it's like a FREE on-line class. I've added this link to my blog at http://kimkasch.blogspot.com
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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