How to Sign with An Agent

The best books start here.

Category: Choosing an Agent/Submitting

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]

paper-stackA few months ago, when we Crows were newly hatched, I wrote a post about how our submission guidelines ask for 20 pages with your queries. At the time, I was unsure whether or not this was the best way to go, more because of how long it would take me to read through them than what it meant for you. What can I say, I’m selfish.

Now that we’ve been at this for a little while, I’ve come to find 20 pages plus a synopsis is perfect for my needs. The query gives me a general idea of who you are and what the book is about, and the 20 pages is just enough for me to decide I’m either not feeling it or I absolutely have to read on. Granted, sometimes I like … [more]

keyboard-on-fireAnother November is upon is, and, as I’m sure you savvy writers know, that means it’s once again time for NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month, for those afraid of acronyms).

Agents and editors sometimes cringe when we think of NaNoWriMo, because we envision a gigantic pile of rushed, ill-conceived manuscripts being wheeled our way.… [more]

large_crowdLet’s be honest: you can only do so much on your own. Yes, yes, writing, as Ms. Jessamyn West wonderfully pointed out, is a solitary occupation. We know this. But we also know that networking can help abate just how lonely the writers have to feel. And conferences. And going outside to breathe fresh air every once in a while.

The other way of feeling a little less solitary can come from sharing your work with those you trust.  I’m not talking writing workshops here—although they can, in certain circumstances, be useful—I’m more thinking a great writing group or trusted friend. Yes, writing groups also have their pitfalls, but finding a really terrific group that will be honest, constructive, and sometimes downright brutal about the shortcomings of your work can be really terrific.… [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]

raised_handsA few days ago, we asked everyone (or rather, those of you who are reliable readers of this blog, which is more or less everyone so far as we’re concerned) if there were any questions not covered in our FAQs section on our site that you were just dying—dying—to have answered. We wanted to hear all those secret questions that leave you lying awake at night, staring at the play of passing cars’ headlights on the ceiling and thinking, How will I ever find out the answer to my question about marbles?!?! and Is it really so bad to wear white after Labor Day? and Why “different from” instead of “different than,” huh? and other such dire burning issues that we all worry over but are too shy to ask about.

Well, now … [more]

faqIf you’ve been to our website, you probably know that we have a list of Frequently Asked Questions. However, after taking a long, sobering look in the mirror, we’ve admitted that maybe we’re not perfect, and perhaps there are questions every writer wants to know about an agency but hasn’t had a chance to ask.

To remedy this, we’re offering writers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be anonymously immortalized on our site. We’re looking to add about five new questions to the FAQ that perhaps we overlooked, things you think all writers should know about an agency before sending in their work, or questions specifically about our how we work as an agency.

An example may be:

  • Q. I sent in my submission but didn’t immediately receive an auto-response. What gives?
  • A. Each of the

modestThe other day, the easygoing and brilliant editor Cheryl Klein made “a modest proposal” on her blog (here) that, unlike Jonathan Swift’s, actually makes a lot of cynicism-free good sense. It’s a long, complicated post that you should read, but the gist of it is that when agented manuscripts garner pre-empt offers and then hasty auctions, the book may not land at the best house. There are all sorts of considerations that should be made in matching manuscript to house and editor, and to give all of those a backseat to Speed is to ill serve the book. So Cheryl proposes that manuscripts be submitted with timelines attached to them—well, here’s the proposal:

When you send out the manuscript, say in your cover letter that you will not make a decision about any


No Diving!Many unagented writers out there are terrified of breaking rules when it comes to getting in contact with agents. What rules? Always wait patiently to hear back on a submission! Never, under any circumstance, follow up on a requested manuscript!! FOLLOW SUBMISSION GUIDELINES TO THE LETTER LEST YOU FEEL OUR WRATH!!!

We at Upstart Crow are not wrathful ogres full of wrath, but we do appreciate writers with a sense of decorum.… [more]