Just Write Cat

One Writer, One Journey

Miss Snark’s Bakers Dozen Auction November 12, 2010

Filed under: Agents,Query,Social Media,Writing Contests — justwritecat @ 3:34 am

You do know about the incredibly cool Baker’s Dozen auction over at Miss Snark’s First Victim, don’t you? How this gal finds the time to put such things together is beyond me, but she does – and we (writers) are the better for it. Hop over to her blog for the details, then take a look at the list below for a ‘cheat sheet’ on the agents, authors and editor participating in the contest. Even if you don’t enter (or win), you can use the list when researching agents to query. Um, you do research agents that might prove a good fit, right? Because sending out queries willy-nilly wouldn’t be the best way to go…

Please note – the info below is based on what I found on the web/agent blogs/agency websites. Always check for the most up-to-date info before querying an agent. If you click on the name of the agency, you will get an ‘about agent’ page with genre, interests, etc.

And…many of the talented individuals listed below are also into social media. I didn’t list facebook or twitter accounts, because well – that seemed sort of ‘stalkerish’.



Ammi-Joan Paquette– agent with EMLA 

Interviews on Cynsations and Guide to Literary Agents

Danielle Chiotti – agent with Upstart Crow (how can you not love the name of the agency??)

Interviews – World Hustler and Guide to Literary Agents

Josh Getzler – agent with Russell & Volkening  

Interviews – Guide to Literary Agents

Kate McKean – agent with Howard Morhaim Agency  

Interviews – Guide to Literary Agents

Kathleen Ortiz – agent with Lowenstein Associates  

Her Website: http://www.kathleenortiz.com/ 

Laura BradfordBradford Literary Agency

Interviews – Guide to Literary Agents

Lauren MacLeod – agent with The Strothman Agency

Interviews: http://www.strothmanagency.com/articles/2010/july/lauren-macleod-interviewed-galleycat

Guide to Literary Agents 

Melissa Jeglinski – agent with The Knight Agency

Interviews: http://www.ninc.com/blog/index.php/archives/meet-agent-melissa-jeglinski

Women on Writing

Michelle Wolfsonhttp://www.wolfsonliterary.com/

Interviews: http://kierstenwrites.blogspot.com/2009/09/q-with-michelle-wolfson-super-agent.html

Sarah LaPolla – agent with Curtis Brown
Her blog – Big Glass Cases

Interviews – MotherWrites and Guide to Literary Agents

Suzie Townsend – agent with Fine Print Literary Management

Blog: http://confessionsofawanderingheart.blogspot.com/

Interviews: http://caseylmccormick.blogspot.com/2010/03/agent-spotlight-suzie-townsend.html
Tina Wexler – agent with ICM

Interviews: http://algonkianconferences.com/agent-TinaWexler.htm



Weronika Janczuk – agent with D4EO Literary

 Blog: http://www.weronikajanczuk.com/

Genres She Reps http://www.weronikajanczuk.com/p/agent.html

Other Helpful Links http://www.weronikajanczuk.com/p/what-i-read.html – some books she likes and what she’d love to see, by genre (I thought this was incredibly helpful of her to offer)



Stacy Whitman

Her blog: http://slwhitman.livejournal.com/

Interview: http://nathaliemvondo.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/interview-editor-stacy-whitman-of-tu-publishing/


Holly Bodger http://hollybodger.com/

Jodi Meadows http://www.jodimeadows.com/Home.html

Beth Revis http://www.bethrevis.com/

(notice how the authors above ALL have blogs? Hmm….)


The Importance of Being Patient May 10, 2010

Filed under: Agents,Life,Social Media — justwritecat @ 10:36 pm

First, an update on JustWriteCat’s submission process (or, the process of my submission which sounds wrong and sort of dirty):

As of May 10th, I have a partial out to four agents, a full to one agent, and one unanswered query.  Sending out the partials was certainly scary, but that full – whew, something about sending out your entire manuscript is downright nerve-racking.  Let me add that all of the agents who requested material were incredibly quick to respond and very friendly.  I know it can takes weeks, even months, to hear back on your query (longer on your partial or full), so I guess I lucked out.  Or the stars were aligned just right or something.  Whatever the reason, be sure you have EVERYTHING ready to send out should you get a fast response to your query.  In addition to your completed manuscript, you should probably have a synopsis and short bio ready to send as well. 

Not all agents will ask for a synopsis, but it’s good to have one ready.  Even if you’re not asked for one, writing a synopsis helps you get a better handle on your novel.  Sure, it’s a pain in the buns to write – but it serves a purpose.  For help, check out the following sites:

Guide to Literary Agents  – offers examples of well-written synopsis (primarily based on films).

Mastering the Dreaded Synopsis – straightforward approach, but be sure to check individual agent guidelines if they request a synopsis. 

Nathan Bransford’s Blog (his blog is great for a number of reasons) – practical advice on how to tackle a synopsis.  You may want to start with this one!

The bio was rather fun to write.  I don’t know if it’s good – but it was fun!  I felt like George in that episode of Seinfeld, where he keeps saying things like “George likes his chicken spicy.”  “George is getting upset!”  I  might have a “talk about yourself in third person” day once a month.  You know, just to keep the family guessing about my sanity.  Oh wait, they already do that anyway….  Catherine doesn’t like it when people talk about her behind her back!

An aside – about response times….I emailed the full manuscript to one of the agents this morning.  She quickly replied to let me know that she’d received the file, was able to download it, and was looking forward to reading it.  She also told me that given things were hectic, it might take up to sixty days for her to get back to me.  She even apologized that it might take that long.  Wow.  First, sixty days is really not that long for an agent to read a full.  From what I understand, that is rather a fast turn around.  Most agents state (on their submission guidelines) that it can take up to six months to read a full.  So, two months – I’m happy.  And, I think it was very cool of her to reply and give me a heads-up on the timeline. 

You may wonder why it can take months for someone to read a manuscript.  Well, yours is not the only one they have to read.  Plus, they have – uh – clients….  I’ve noticed a few agents post a query or partial/full status update on their blogs.  Often, they have something like thirty fulls to read (plus hundreds of queries).  That’s thirty books, people.  I mean, I’m a fast reader (I read Stephen King’s Under the Dome in three days, without neglecting my family) – but thirty manuscripts?  With more coming in each week?  Not to mention, agents do have a life (see below).  Anyway, patience people.  Patience and understanding.  🙂

That’s the status update on Set ‘Em Up, Joe.  And so now, I wait.  And write.  And maybe go a little crazy, but I can put that to good use (which goes back to the writing part).  Here are some other things to do whilst waiting to hear back on your query/partial/full/hopes & dreams  (about that last one – even if the responses are ‘a pass’, never, never, ever, never give up your hopes & dreams.  Never, ever.

Things to Occupy Your Time

Start or continue on your next novel (duh).

Social media – work on your blog, visit/comment on other blogs, tweet – get connected!

Catch up on your reading.  I checked out over a dozen books last week – with several more on hold.  I also have a few purchased books to read on my Kindle.  I’m set, for at least two weeks.

Hey!  Did you know that there’s a whole world out there, filled with people and places and things to do?  It’s called – ‘real life’.  Give it a try.  Sure, sometimes it’s not quite as…exciting…as the world you get lost in when you write, but sometimes it is!

Learn a foreign language.  Seriously.  We’re starting a Spanish program (as a family) this week.  Next – Italian.

Start a hobby.   I have a vegetable garden.  And not a small one.  My husband built five raised beds…and ahem, I asked him to build another one last week. 

Watch the first two seasons of Damages (netflix).  The writing is incredible!

What about you?  How do you maintain your sanity while waiting to hear back from an agent?  How do you find balance in your life (which is really the hidden topic of this post)?

 *Yes, I love Oscar Wilde.  And Stephen King.  And Jane Austen.  Go figure, I like variety.


#askagent – It’s Fun! April 9, 2010

Filed under: Agents,Life,Social Media — justwritecat @ 2:36 am
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You do know there are some incredibly helpful agents you should be following on Twitter, right? Following now. Agents who tweet about the industry, post links to their blogs, offer helpful tips (on queries, writing, blogging, whatever), and generally do what they can to reach out to writers in an attempt to make the road to ‘publishdom’ less bumpy. Or to agentdom, if that’s a more immediate concern of yours.

There’s a goldmine out there, folks – and Twitter is but one way to get the inside info on things. Case in point: #askagent. #askagent is a Twitter chat, scheduled on a whim, that gives writers the opportunity to ask REAL AGENTS questions about the biz. Please note – there are absolutely no questions allowed about queries (so don’t go to hawk your own manuscript). You can (and should) research individual agents to find out their query and submission guidelines, as well as what genres they’re open to at the time you plan to submit. What you can ask are questions about anything else – what it’s like to work w/ an agent, their take on changes in the industry, views on the use of social media for writers….and just about anything else you can think of that an agent would know.

Last night, I asked if four months was too long to re-send a revised manuscript to an agent who offered to read it again after changes were made. I was worried I’d taken too long to work on the revision. Their replies suggested that wasn’t too long, and in fact – would show the agent I had taken the time to really work on my manuscript. Also, when I resubmit I should remind the agent I was invited to do so. In my mind, I thought waiting too long (which for me, is like a month) might cause the agent to lose interest. I never considered sending it back too soon would suggest my revision work had been….lax. So, good to know that sending the revised manuscript out this month is still a viable option.

The other great thing about the #askagent chat is that you get to interact with agents. You know, as if they are real people. Seriously, when I first started on this journey I felt so nervous by the prospect of interacting with agents. I wasn’t sure how to approach any in a less formal setting. Should I make jokes?  Would offers of baked goods and/or liquor be well-received?  Am I allowed to make direct eye contact, or will that only anger the royalty?

Ok – I’m kidding about those last few things. They agents, not queens and kings.  And while you should NEVER send gifts to an agent until you are officially represented by said agent, they do like sugar as a general rule. But when I started, I was…well, kinda scared by ‘them’. I had this vision in my mind of the archetype agent – someone standing on a pedestal (made out of published books, of course) so high that if she looked down all she could see was some little dot running around, trying to scatter its way up the books (ahem, yes I’m the dot).  Or a bookish sort (and really, I have no idea what that means) sitting at an oversized mahogany desk, looking over his glasses and saying something like “what makes you think you can write?” 

Where, oh where, did I get those ideas?  Who knows?  Certainly not from any agents I’ve actually met (or interacted with via blogs and twitter).  All have been unfailingly kind, helpful and supportive.  Most likely those images were conjured up by my over-active imagination (good for a writer) and insecurity (not good for a writer).   But see that’s one of the problems new writers face – fear.  And the only way to get over that fear (and ignorance, in my case) is to put yourself out there and interact with real, live agents.  You can do that at conferences, via blogs and on twitter.  Yes, you should be professional and courteous – but you can also be yourself (uh, unless your self is naturally rude and obnoxious.  In that case, be someone else). 

So, why don’t you check out #askagent to start – even if you don’t want to post a question, you can follow the chat and see what others have to say.

A few suggestions – some of the questions often asked cover information you can find by doing google searches, reading books, and/or reading agent blogs/submission guidelines.  #askagent is not the place to ask how to query or to find out if an agent wants to read your manuscript on a zombie rockstar who falls in love with a wayward werewolf in a postapocalyptic world (and no, I’m not writing that book.  Sorry – zombies creep me out and anything related to the end of the world as we know it makes me depressed, but I do like werewolves).

To attend the next #askagent chat, you can either do a Twitter search or start following the chat’s host @colleenlindsay  In addition to agents, editors and other book pros attend the chat to answer your questions.


Nothing to Complain About… January 6, 2010

Filed under: Agents,Baby Steps, Baby Steps,Life,Writing,You Can't Do It Alone — justwritecat @ 6:26 am

A blog in which I rant about not having anything to rant about.

I’m rather fortunate.  Blessed, in all truth.  In 2009, I decided to follow a decades-long dream and become a writer.  I’d been a writer before – but never of fiction.  And boy, is the transition from writing nonfiction to fiction a huge one!  I’ve had rather positive experiences with my “writer’s life” so far, but the true reason I feel so very fortunate — my family.

From day one, my family has shown support in so many ways — encouragement, story ideas, peace and quiet time so I could write….you name it, they’ve probably done it.  And to give full credit where due, my husband is the one who finally convinced me I should ignore my fears and give in to my desire to write.  Support has come from other places, too.  My Mom’s constant praise and encouragement, my neigbors’ enthusiasm to have a ‘real writer’ in the neighborhood, even the electrician who wired and installed our ceiling fans.  Yes, I talk about my writing to everyone.  And so far, not one person has shook his head or questioned my sanity (not to my face, at least).  All have asked about my novel, offered to read it, shared their love of books…basically, convinced me that this endeavor was only ever possibly foolish to one person and one person alone – me.  But a life of not taking risks tends to do that to a person.  And writing very much involves risk-taking.  Which is not a bad thing.

Back to my lack of things to complain about, though…

I often come across comments in blogs that suggest many beginning writers do not have such positive experiences.  The comments suggest that the writer is anything but satisfied with how things are going – from their lack of finding an agent to lack of finding a publisher to lack of finding anything positive to say about any aspect of their experiences.  And I know some writers are not as fortunate to have such a strong support system in place.  Still, it seems a few writers — especially those new to the life — are simply, and forever, unhappy.  Not me. 

I wrote a novel last year.  My first one.  Is it great?  Of course not – certainly not yet.  Is it good?  Parts are, I think.  Does it have potential?  I believe it does, given some of the responses I’ve received.  Enough potential that there is at least one agent out there open to reading it again.  One agent who was kind enough to take the time to give me feedback on my work.  And another agent who is also waiting for the revised manuscript.  I’m going to work with a developmental editor this month on my manuscript.  That should be quite the adventure…and one I’ll blog about over the next few weeks.  All in all, I feel things are heading in the right direction.  Meaning, forward.  Not that I mind taking a step or two backwards, but so long as I’m improving as a writer and continuing to put those voices in my head down on paper….well, that’s moving forward to me.

And about those agents…sometimes some of those posts I mentioned above suggest agents aren’t nice.  Or that they’re even mean-spirited.  I’ve honestly not found that to be the case at all.  Any agent I’ve come into contact with has been polite/kind/encouraging/helpful/a regular person (i.e. approachable).  Guess that’s just another thing I can’t complain about.

So — looking forward to 2010…revision of my manuscript.  Probably major, which is fine.  I would rather be working than not.  Family support strong, attitude positive, complaints — zero.

Happy Writing!



Query Me This…My Queries November 17, 2009

Filed under: Agents,Query — justwritecat @ 11:04 pm
Tags: ,

As promised, below are the before and after queries.  I sent the first one out to two agents, both passed.  Looking back, I’m not amazed by that fact.  More like upset with myself for sending out a clearly not-yet-ready query.  I thought it was…but I was wrong.

 The Before:

(note that I included a couple of lines customized to the agent, not included here)

Medical examiner Joe Cooper is a vampire with an insatiable appetite for booze, blood and women—and a hunger for justice. 

Joe would rather be drinking scotch.  Instead he’s up to his fangs in murdered Innocents, partnered with a suck-up profiler sent by the Council, and chasing rogue vampires on a killing spree during Baltimore’s peak tourist season.  Using his vampiristic abilities and skills acquired as a medical examiner, Joe tracks down the vamps responsible for the murders.  When he does, he discovers there’s more at stake than a group of bloodsuckers hell-bent on breaking all the laws that govern his kind.  And that the vampire calling the shots is the same one who turned him sixty years ago—a female with the darkest of blood running through her veins.  As the story draws to a close, Joe realizes that before you can knock down all your demons, you have to SET ‘EM UP, JOE. 

My 92,000 word manuscript, SET ‘EM UP, JOE, is an urban fantasy similar in style to Richelle Mead’s Dark Swan series; with flavors of noir similar to those found in The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.  It is my first novel and the first of a proposed five book series featuring Joe Cooper. 

May I send my manuscript for your consideration?

Thank you for your time, 

Catherine Misener  (contact information was included with query)

I’m going to comment on why I think this one didn’t work, but first: 

The After

Dear, (again, I included a few lines customized to each agent I queried.  More on this when I compare the two queries.)

SET ‘EM UP, JOE is a 92,700 word paranormal noir similar in style to Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files.  It is my first novel.

Being undead has its perks.  And for medical examiner Joe Cooper those include inhuman strength, good looks to spare, and the ability to get what he wants from any woman, anywhere, anytime.  Joe’s a vampire with a lust for booze, blood and the fairer sex.  And while Joe could spend all his nights with one hand on a bottle of scotch and the other on some curvy dame, being a member of the walking damned does carry baggage.  That tug on his conscience that for every ounce of blood he takes, he should give a little something back.  So to his other appetites, add a hunger for justice. 

Sure, Joe likes his blood direct from the source—and that doesn’t mean cud-chewing cows or big-eyed deer—but in his world, that doesn’t mean his mark has to die.  Take what you need and never leave the human worse for wear.  When others of his kind fail to follow that dictum, Joe doesn’t hesitate to point out the folly of their ways.  And in Baltimore, the latest place Joe calls home, more than one rogue vamp needs redirection. 

In this novel—the first of a proposed five book series—Joe finds himself up to his fangs in murdered Innocents and chasing rogue vampires on a killing spree during Charm City’s peak tourist season.  Using his vampiristic abilities and skills acquired as a medical examiner, Joe tracks down the vamps responsible for the murders.  When he does, he discovers there’s more at stake than a group of bloodsuckers hell-bent on breaking all the laws that govern his kind.  And that the vampire calling the shots is the same one who has hunted him for decades, the same one who turned him sixty years ago—a female with the darkest of blood running through her veins.  A nasty bit of goods he’s done everything he could to avoid, but the time for running is over.  Joe soon realizes that before you can knock down all your demons, you have to SET ‘EM UP, JOE. 

May I send you my manuscript for consideration? 

Thank you for your time, 

Catherine Misener (contact information, plus personal and character blogs included)

And there you go…two queries.  My thoughts on why I feel the second one is better, and the thought process behind my query next!


Query Me This…Part II November 16, 2009

Filed under: Agents,Baby Steps, Baby Steps,Query — justwritecat @ 2:42 am
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In part II, Catherine worked her way through part of the definition of Query (A one page letter to entice a prospective agent or producer into requesting and reading your work – provides only brief and relevant information.)  She made it as far as the part about enticing, when suddenly the urge to work on her novel overtook her sensibilities.  She swore to come back to her four-part blog on the query process, but Joe–charming cad that he is–kept her enthralled with his story longer than she expected.  Finally freed from his debonair ways and sharp bite, she is back with the second part of Query Me This.

We are now at the prospective agent part of the definition of query.  This is where you need to give serious thought to who you want to query, and why.  Some do take the ‘catch-all’ approach, meaning–they query to any agent they hear of/read about/find on the internet.  O.k….that was not my approach.  As I mentioned at the end of part one, I took the slow and steady way to sending out my query. 

I follow several agent blogs, and that’s where I started my ‘who to query’ search.  I’m not going to mention specific names of agents I queried, but I will provide a list of agent and editor blogs worth checking out (below).  Even if you have no intention of querying any of the agents, I suggest you check out their posts.  There is a ton of practical information and encouragement to be found by reading agent–and editor–blogs.  You also get to know something of the personality of the agent, as well as his or her genre interests.  When it comes to the query, you may also be fortunate enough to find specific guidelines posted by an agent.  Things such as how many paragraphs should cover your novel (some want one, others two to three); should you include just the hook and a few lines about the plot or should you also include how the novel ends (usually, not…but I’ve come across a couple of agent guidelines that call for giving away the ending of your story); and what other material should accompany the query (synopsis, first five pages, etc.).

All of this information is given freely to you by the agent, so why not read it…and then, follow those guidelines.  This helps ensure that you submit a query package in a way preferred by an agent.  It’s like dressing the part for a job interview–you want to start off on the right foot my making a good impression.  Showing you took the time/made the effort to read the agent’s guidelines and that you can follow directions is part of that good impression. 

The other reason you should read agent blogs is to get a feel for their genre interests.  Many agents are open to a wide variety of genres, while some focus on just a few.  Do not waste anyone’s time by submitting a query to an agent who does not represent the genre of your novel.  Often you will find an agent blogs about his or her interests–including, what he or she is looking for right now.  To me, that is like gold.  If her interests match your genre or more specifically, novel, then you know there is a potential match.  When I come across something like that, not only do I say to myself ‘hey, maybe this is a good agent to query’, but it strengthens the belief that my story is one of interest to others.   

I could pen an entire blog on the benefits of reading agent and editor blogs (hey, maybe I will), but for purposes of the query process just keep in mind that there is only so much time in a day.  You can either query at random, or query at will.  To do the latter, you need to research.  And while there are viable guides to literary agents, nothing beats going straight to the source. 

Note:  If the agent you want to query does not blog, be sure to check out the agency website.  Often, you will find a short write-up on each agent, including genre interests and what they are looking for right now.  Plus, you need to find the submission guidelines specific to that agency and agent.  Checking out the website is one step better than relying on possibly outdated information found in more general written or online guides.  One exception is the Guide to Literary Agents blog, which usually offers current and correct information.  Again, check the agent’s blog and agency website to be sure…before you send out a query.

Before I move on to the last part of the definition, here are some stellar agent and editor blogs worth reading.

http://arcaedia.livejournal.com/  When you pop over to Jennifer Jackson’s blog, you can view her tagline:  Et in arcaedia, ego.  (and then) Saving the world, one book sale at a time.  I just love that.  One of my favorite things to read on her blog…her weekly ‘letters from the query wars’ where she provides a numbers review of how many queries received to how many partials requested (w/ genre).  Read some of those weekly posts.  If nothing else puts things in perspective in terms of how many queries are sent out each week (and to just this one agent, so do the math), this will.  From what I’ve read on other agent blogs, the numbers are comparable.  Agents receive hundreds of queries–per week.  I’ll write that again.  Hundreds, per week.  Don’t you want your query to stand out (in a good way)?

http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/  Rachelle Gardner’s blog is one of the most uplifting blogs around.  Yes, she gives you practical advice on being a writer/finding an agent/being part of the industry, but what she really gives you–encouragement and advice in an unbelievably supportive environment.  She’s just so darn kind. 

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/  Nathan Bransford is hilarious.  And witty.  And also supportive and helpful.  Did I mention hilarious?  Sure, I get all manner of advice from how to format a query to the Ten Commandments for the Happy Writer–but it’s the laughs that get me every time.  And again, with the hope.  Geesh, what with all the positive advice some agents give you, you’d think they actually want you to succeed as a writer.  Oh, wait…

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the unflappable Janet Reid.  Actually, I have no idea if she’s unflappable as I’ve never met her, much less tried to…uh, flap her??  But in her blogs, she comes across as cool and collected.  Though not always calm (and I mean that in the best way possible).  Ms. Reid has two blogs–her own, which is great for following the weekly/sometimes daily thoughts of a kick-a– agent, and the one she might be better known for.  Query Shark is the first place you should go to get some serious–and straightforward–insight into what makes a query letter work.  Although, you more apt to find what makes a query not work.  You can submit your own query for attack review, but from what I understand there’s a hell of a waitlist.  Just keep that in mind if you’re eager to send out your query.

 http://www.therejectionist.com/ The Rejectionist is…well, it’s…ok….the blog is like this…oh heck, just go check it out.  It’s…unique.  And certainly worth reading. 

http://editorialanonymous.blogspot.com/  Editorial Anonymous is covered by a children’s book editor.  I don’t know who…because, it’s, uh, anonymous.  It’s also very helpful if you write children’s books.  Or maybe read children’s books.  Hey, why not? 

Another one worth your browsing time is The Rejecter.  In the description, the Rejecter states she or he is the first line of defense for the boss.  Isn’t that a great image?  I like it.  Puts things in perspective.  And perspective’s good. 

And now, on to the last part of the definition:  provides only brief and relevant information.   Brief and relevant.  Keep in mind you get one page.  If two to three paragraphs are devoted to the hook and the book, and one paragraph is customized to the agent, then that leaves about a paragraph for the cook (about you).*  What’s relevent is a hard call.  If you have writing experience–professional writing experience, you should probably include it.  Meaning, you’ve written articles that have been published in magazines or journals; you’ve written other novels or stories (again, published); or something you’ve written (including the novel in your query) has won awards.  That you wrote your family’s holiday newsletter when you were ten…that’s cool and kinda cute, but not really relevant to your current project.  I’m going to leave more on this part of the definition to the pros.  Below are links to sites that cover what and what not to include:

Writer’s Digest  

Guide to Literary Agents

Nathan Bransford on whether or not to list your publishing credits and what to do if you don’t have any.

This concludes Part II of Catherine’s four-part Query Process blog.  Methinks Joe has caught her attention again (bad vampire…naughty, naughty vampire).  When she returns, she will post her before and after query.

*The Hook, the Book and the Cook is a term used by Barbara Poelle.


Query Me This… November 9, 2009

Filed under: Agents,Baby Steps, Baby Steps,Life,Write — justwritecat @ 3:57 am
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This is Part One of (what will be) a four-part rant blog on my thoughts on querying.  The first two parts offer my general views or approach to the query process.  Parts three and four walk you through the steps I took when working on queries.  Included are two versions of the one for Set ‘Em Up, Joe.* 

A Query: The Sum of Its Parts

Query:  To pose a question.**

Rather succinct definition.  To the point, though not extremely helpful–unless you think of the question being asked as  “Will you read my work?”  Because that is the fundamental goal of any query.

Here’s a more detailed definition:

A one page letter to entice a prospective agent or producer into requesting and reading your work – provides only brief and relevant information.**

Let’s break that down.  One page letter.  Hmmm….might need to break it down even more. 

One Page.  ONE.  Not three, not one-in-a-half.  One.  Yes, it’s possible.  Yes, it’s what agents typically want.  If you can’t boil down the premise of your novel to one page, you may need to rethink things.  More on this later when I discuss how I worked on my query.

Letter.  This is actually important to think about.  A letter is a form of written communication.  When you are writing a letter, you consider the recipient as you craft it.  This means you consider your audience and structure how and what you write accordingly. 

A note to your mom might be done on the fly, filled with more lax prose or cutesy language.  Maybe you share a beef or make a snide remark about something that’s got your jammies in a bunch.  A letter to an agent, not so much. 

The query should be professionally approached, written and sent.  Think of it as a job interview (in a way, it is…you want to be hired as a writer), and put your best self forward.  Warning–this next sentence is very long. If you’re reading this out loud, for some strange reason, take a deep breath first. 

If your best self is a ranting, whining, angst-ridden writer who believes the only thing standing between his book being on the shelves of every bookstore in the world and author obscurity is an army of agents, editors and publishers who wouldn’t know a good book unless you told them they were a mere request for a full away from it–get thee to a shrink.***  Or your spirtual advisor of choice.  Or the group of friends and family who always get that creative types are perpetually misunderstood and underappreciated.  But whatever you do, don’t query.  Not until after several therapy sessions and some serious self-contemplation.  And maybe a stiff drink because you need to chill. 

Agents are not the enemy.  If you send a query that is in any way pushy, rude or disparaging of the industry- you’re your own enemy.  Politeness, respect and an appreciation for the process is a better way- to not only approach an agent – but to approach anyone.  And why would you not want to be professional?  Don’t you want to be treated that way?  Remember that whole do unto others lesson you learned as a child?  The lesson doesn’t become moot when you make the transition to adulthood.  I stress this part because lately I’ve noticed an alarming trend in agent blogs.  Many are sharing common problems with query letters they receive (and pass on).  From what I gather, many queries are borderline rude.  Some go so far as to criticize other agents or editors, or the industry as a whole.  I don’t get it.  Why would anyone want to be part of something they seem to hate so much??  Anyway, point made.  Be a professional (as in you want to be a professional author, right…so start by being a professional writer).

** From the best source for finding information–Google (o.k., maybe not, but my dictionary is upstairs and honestly, I go online for just about everything anyway).

*** Never underestimate the power of a good shrink.  Er, psychiatric professional. 

Entice.  Ooh, this is a good part.  I’m all a tingle here.  Again, we must turn to our trusty google dictionary.  To entice means to lure; to attract by arousing desire or hope.  And while the lure part almost sounds a little stalker-like, the rest is great.  To attract by arousing desire or hope.  I mean, doesn’t that get you all a tingle, too?  Arouse, desire, hope.  Good stuff.  It’s what you want your novel to do, right?  So you need your query to do that, too.  

How do you entice?  Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t have dismissed that lure part so quickly, because what is another word for lure?  Bait.  And when you see the word bait, what do you think of?  Come one, quick word association 101.  Bait: Hook.  Ah, now we’re cooking, because the HOOK is what gets the interest of an agent–in fact, it gets the interest of any reader. 

So you want to lure an agent by dangling that hook, that thing which makes your novel a must-read.  Now, you don’t actually say that.  You don’t write something along the lines of “this is the greatest book you will ever read!”  or “you must read this book, it’s the next BIG THING!”.  Because first, that’s just obnoxious.  Second, and please don’t take this personally (I don’t), but really?  The greatest book ever?  Cuz, there are some really, really great books out there.  I’m not saying your book isn’t incredible, but pride goeth before the fall and all that. 

You don’t state your book is fab–you show it.  Show, don’t tell.  I know you’ve read that before.  This goes back to the One Page part, but essentially you need to present that which makes your book unique/fantastic/at least a great read.  Seriously, you need to let the agent know why your book is what it is–the premise and how the premise is met.  This is where that ever elusive thing known as voice comes in.  Entice an agent by offering a glimpse of your novel—the tone, the character(s), the conflict, the driving passion if you will.  And you allow your voice to come through it all.

By the way, one other reason not to state your novel will be the best one that agent will read?  How do you know?  Hey, maybe it will be.  But it’s a subjective call.  Only that agent knows what she or he loves.  Although that does tie in with the next part of the definition–Prospective Agent–which is covered in Part Two.



*In a nutshell (what does that mean, anyway?) – I worked hard on the first query I sent.  I read books on how to write queries, attended a query workshop, asked for outside input…and sent it to two agents (I took the slow and steady approach).  Both agents passed.  So, I did more research–this time, reading agent blogs and pouring over agency and agent guidelines.  My revised query was sent to four agents, three of which requested partials (current status-still on cloud nine due to requests, hoping partials turn to fulls, fulls turn to…oh, you know).  I did research, I read, I revised…and I honestly feel good about the query I sent out the second time.  My sincere hope is that my comments might help any other writers who are struggling with the query process.