How to Sign with An Agent

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Tag: Tips

contractToday on her blog, my lovely client Shannon Morgan detailed twelve ways an agent can sign a potential client based on our own experience just about one year ago. I thought I’d return the favor and catalog the twelve steps a writer may experience when signing with an agent.  (Author’s Note: If you look hard enough, you may actually find some decent advice in here. But no promises.)

1. Write an awesome story, revise, share it, sit on it, revise again, research agents, send it out, and commence fingernail biting.

2. At first, check email constantly, even though you’ve researched response times and know, in your heart of hearts, that you’re in for a wait. Finished with fingernails, move on to toes. … [more]

Michael discusses the basics of writing a query letter.

What follows is by no means dictating the only method a writer should use to query us or any other agent. There are as many ways to write such an introduction as there are writers. As with any advice, use whatever seems useful, discard whatever is not, and try to find a way to make the letter you send as vivid with your own voice and style as you can make it.

I see the cover letter as a way for me to get context about the book, sure—but also about the writer: who she is, where she comes from, and why this manuscript matters to her.

Download: HowToQueryLetter

Address

Address it however you address letters. Obviously, email requires different treatments. What you see here is … [more]

baby

I am working on a new handout for talks, one about mistaken ideas that come out of workshops. And I thought I’d ask you all for help creating it. But first, a disclaimer: I have spent a lot of time in writing workshops—as a student and, later, as a teacher—and I have learned a ton from them. Good, useful things that improved my craft and gave a professional sheen to my work that would have taken years and criminal acts to achieve otherwise. I love workshops and think most every writer should have one, so don’t get me wrong when I warn you that sometimes …

Workshop members have no idea what they are talking about. You know the person I am talking about: Full of advice, self-important, hellbent on hearing herself speak, convinced … [more]

ghostbustersI’m often asked by writers if I like to hear in a pitch that a book is part of a planned trilogy, or if an author is hard at work on a sequel.

For some projects a sequel, or multiple sequels, make sense. Imagine if Harry Potter’s adventures had ended after the first book! We would never have had all that snogging that made the later books so enjoyable. Or what if Bella and Edward had ended up together at the end of Twilight and never had the complications of love thrown their way? BOR-ING!… [more]

questionsBecause one post wasn’t big enough to answer all the questions you all asked of us a few weeks back.

Q: Can one actually make a living as a writer without acheiving a megalomaniac dream’s of fame?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Good question. But what is “a living”? And where? And how good? And …  Really, this is a question better directed to working writers.

Q: When it comes to YA specifically, do you have any guidelines in mind for what you want? (i.e., word count, age range, topic, morality…)

Well, the “morality” question is one we don’t have any clue as to how to address. We disdain moralistic fiction, disdain moralistic people (even John Gardner in his woefully ill-advised and specious On Moral Fiction, though we kind of sort of adore Grendel and much of his other … [more]

Many of you know that I’m still relatively new to this whole agenting thing. In fact, last month I hit my one-year anniversary of being in the business (although I’d received an MA in Writing and been involved in the SCBWI before that), and next month I’ll hit one year since my first sale. After that, the milestones get a lot more boring: one year since my first conference, one year since that time I fell asleep and missed my stop on the subway, one year since writing this post about one-year anniversaries…

But I digress. A question that used to come up a lot when I would offer representation was, “Why should I go with a young and unproven agent?” Even though I’m not as green as I once was, the unproven vs. established … [more]

goldI see a lot of queries for manuscripts, but one sort of query drives me absolutely nuts. This kind of query is written with a barely contained e!x!c!i!t!e!m!e!n!t! about … not the story or the manuscript itself, but about the author’s fully envisioned marketing and merchandizing plan.

Yes, the writer informs me, there is this children’s book manuscript, but that is only the first step. Following quickly on the heels of publication—or maybe at the same time—will be the licensed video game, the bed sheets, the mugs, the T-shirts, the cocoa flavor, the branded colonic, the weekly sitcom, the Nike shoe endorsement, the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and so much money and glory showering down upon the writer and—if I am wise enough to seize this opportunity—me, that we will … [more]

sammichThere used to be site called www.rejectioncollection.com where people would post their rejection letters. Sadly, it’s been taken down or the operators failed to pay their bills or some printer’s demon got loose and did its evil work. Regardless, it was sort of morbidly fascinating, and not just because I recognized so many of my rejections among the many posted there. (Usually I would read what I’d written and feel that pleasant burr of recognition of something you’ve put out into the world. Sad, but true.)

What I found most interesting about the site was how very wrong-headed it was. After each reproduced letter, the rejected author would answer a series of questions: How did receiving this rejection make you feel? and What bothered you most about this letter? As though a rejection letter is … [more]

This first appeared as a handout circulated by Michael to a workshop back in 2004.

Download: Printable version of Ten Commandments of Writing for Children

Thou Shalt Not Talk Down to Your Readers

Some beginning writers make the mistake of trying to appeal to kids by writing in a manner that can only be called “cutesy.” Resist this urge! Cute gets in the way of clarity. Clear writing, evocative writing, truths simply put—these are what we strive for when we write for kids. Though our characters may be children, or bunnies, or what-have-you, their lives and problems and the way we write about them must be those of the real world put into a language that children can understand. Maxim Gorky writes that “You must write for children the same way you write for adults, … [more]