As a literary agent in major trade publishing at the Trident Media Group literary agency, I often have to explain the elements of a good query letter to new clients. This article is intended as a description of what goes into a good query letter, for new authors unfamiliar with what literary agents and editors are looking for in a query letter intended the book-publishing world. For a writer who might be currently querying literary agents, or even contemplating that process, this might be interesting reading. Considering the high rejection rate in the book publishing industry for writers trying to become debut authors, this article will hopefully be enlightening for the countless writers who are experiencing rejection due to a poorly-constructed query letter.
Guest post by Brett Halbleib
One thing all authors have in common (or will have in common at some point in their careers) is this familiar quandary: should I write for my fans, or for myself?
Author Isabel Jordan is no different. When she was ready to start work on Semi-Human, the sequel to her bestselling debut, Semi-Charmed, she remembered a discussion she’d had long, long ago with her agent. Isabel had casually mentioned to her agent that she planned to kill off a secondary character, Mischa. The agent flipped out, telling Isabel she’d lose a lot of fans if she killed off Mischa. So, in that moment, Isabel had to decide if she was going to write the sequel she’d originally planned, or something altogether different—something that allowed Mischa to find her own happily ever after.
One of the best parts about being a self-published author is that no one is the boss of you. And one of the best parts about no one being the boss of you is being able to decide, on your own, how to price your self-published novel. Traditionally published authors are at the mercy of their publishing houses. But you? You’re completely unencumbered. Free to price that precious book baby as you see fit. But before you slap a $29.99 price tag on that bad boy, there are a few things you’ll want to consider first. Here are some price strategy pros and cons to think about:
About Mark Gottlieb:
Mark Gottlieb attended Emerson College and was President of its Publishing Club, establishing the Wilde Press. After graduating with a degree in writing, literature & publishing, he began his career with Penguin’s VP. Mark’s first position at Publishers Marketplace’s #1-ranked literary agency, Trident Media Group, was in foreign rights. Mark was EA to Trident’s Chairman and ran the Audio Department. Mark is currently working with his own client list, helping to manage and grow author careers with the unique resources available to Trident. He has ranked #1 among Literary Agents on publishersmarketplace.com in Overall Deals and other categories.
Guest post by author Liza Street
Two years ago, I was desperate to find a job that would allow me to work from home. An avid fan of writing guru James Scott Bell, I discovered freelancing sites through one of his books, and a dream was born. While writing the copy for my profile, I looked at other successful freelancer profiles and tried to emulate their professionalism and confidence.
Despite my professionalism, confidence, and the experience I brought to the table, the work did not start rolling in immediately. I bid on everything related to editing, no matter how small, no matter how bizarre. My specialty, I thought, was young adult fiction, but here I was bidding on copyediting for health blogs, collections of sermons, and real-estate themed PowerPoint presentations.
Who better to offer advice to aspiring writers than famous authors? Here’s some of the greatest quotes for writers, from writers:
Here are our top tips for authors who want to avoid Grinch-y acts of literary asshattery and keep their fans, while continuing to gain new ones:
Guest post from author Isabel Jordan.
I watched Batman vs. Superman last night. (There was nothing else on, and my husband wanted to see it, OK? Don’t judge.) As I expected, it was one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. And just to put this into perspective: I sat through Australia, all the Highlander movies after the original, and Catwoman, people. I have seen things that can’t be unseen.
Tons of people complained about all the crap that’s wrong with Batman vs. Superman, and it’s all true. It’s a bad, bad, bad movie. Seriously bad. Bad enough that I vaguely feel like Ben Affleck owes me money. But unlike so many viewers out there, it’s not Ben Affleck who ruined this movie for me. He certainly didn’t help with his I-can’t-believe-I-really-have-to-be-here-this-is-so-embarrassing performance, but in my opinion, he was the least of this film’s concerns. My main problem with the movie? Lois Lane.
The road to becoming a published author is winding and long and emotional. We get it. It’s easy to stumble and lose your way. And if you’ve made a few mistakes along the way, hey, don’t worry about it. You’re in good company. The best thing you can do is learn from those mistakes, and share what you’ve learned so others can take heed. Here are a few of the top mistakes our authors discovered on their road to publication:
I like reading about monsters. Creepy crawlies that make you wonder about that sound in your closet after you turn out the lights. I also read a fair amount of post-apocalypse fiction, usually involving zombies or some other horde of creatures who want to snack on mankind. It’s dark, scary, intense stuff and I rarely venture outside my ghoulish little literary bubble.
However, regular readers of this blog probably know that I challenged our editor Jennifer, a long-time romance reader, to take a walk on the wild side and give a book in my favorite genres a try. To my surprise, she actually agreed (check out her review of the post-apocalypse series The Purge of Babylon I dared her to read). I wish I could say I was surprised when she issued a similar challenge for me to crawl out from my horror crypt and take a ride down the gooey, happily ever after, lovey-dovey romance road. Given that she’d already stepped up, declining the dare wasn’t an option.
I’m an avid romance reader. I very rarely venture outside of my nice, comfy, and-they-lived-happily-ever-after comfort zone. But I’m also not one to say no to a dare. So when The Design Dude double-dog dared me to read his favorite genre, post-apocalypse/dystopian, I said what the hell? I enjoy The Walking Dead. I’ll give it a go.
Here’s the results of our little social experiment:
About ten years ago, I got a new boss at work. I’ll call him Dan. At the time, my career as a Senior Designer in the marketing department of a Fortune 500 company was going pretty well. My peers, managers and internal clients all valued my work and that fact was reflected in my performance reviews over the years. Going into my first review with Dan, I had no reason to believe that trend would change.
Unfortunately for me, Dan had other ideas.
We get it. In the writing world, few things are harder (Ha! Get it? See what we did there?) to create than an engaging sex scene. As authors, particularly you romance authors out there, you are forced to walk a dangerously thin tightrope when it comes to writing these scenes. Write a classy, “fade to black before penetration” sex scene and some readers feel cheated. Write a realistic sex scene using clinical, accurate terminology and it ends up reading like an instructional manual.
Science, that’s who.
You’ve heard (probably more than you care to) that as a self-published author, you’ll need to hire a professional proofreader before releasing your novel. That’s easier said than done when you’re a debut author, or an author with only a small following, and you have no way of knowing if you’ll ever get any return on that investment. It’s conceivable that you’ll pay, per word, for professional proofreading and never sell more than fifty books. Why spend the money? Why not just proofread the darn thing yourself?
What are some writing tips for young aspiring authors? If this question sounds familiar, it’s because it’s been asked of every successful author ever interviewed. They get so accustomed to answering it that they say the words on autopilot. Answers usually vary from read more, to get into a critique group. That advice is all fine and good (and true), but what aren’t they telling you? What advice do you really need to succeed in the dog-eat-dog world of publishing?
We talked to best-selling authors in darn near every genre to get all the need-to-know info for you. You’re welcome. Here’s the list: