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Al Stevens
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PostSubject: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyWed Jan 26, 2011 1:57 pm

As I've visited agent pages, read their submission requirements, and sent queries, I've developed a procedure to cut down on the agony. It consists of getting together fragments of boiilerplate material that you need to have at the ready. I query only agents who accept email submissions. Here's what I've learned.

You need three documents ready to send.

  1. A query letter
  2. A brief synopsis
  3. A detailed synopsis

I won't try to tell you how to write these things. There are guidelines everywhere, and few of them agree. The query letter, however, should contain the title, genre, word count, a summary of the story and an author bio. They all seem to agree on that. And one page only, please.

You need these three documents in two formats: A Microsoft Word document in standard manuscript submission format, and a raw text file that you can paste into an email. An agent might ask for any of these documents embedded in the body of your email message or as attachments to your message.

You also need, in the same two formats, several abstracts from the manuscript. I prepare them as new requirements surface. So far I have sent the first 3 pages, the first five pages, ten pages, 35 pages, 50 pages, two chapters, and three chapters.

Once you have your boilerplace collection, read the submission guidelines to see what each agent prefers.

If they want paper I don't bother. I am interested in being represented by someone whose grasp of contemporary technology fits somewhere into the 21st century. I started writing books in 1985. I haven't submitted a paper manuscript since 1987. If then. I'm trying to remember.

They all say they want an error-free submission. No typos. I wish they'd give the same attention to their websites.

Their guidelines are often ambiguous. Yet they say if you don't adhere strictly, if even the tiniest detail is wrong or omitted, they won'd read your submission, won't respond to it, and won't tell you why.

They also *all* say they represent the next generation of writers--new voices, new and innovative approaches to writing and storytelling, revolutionary turns of plot and scenes. Bull hockey. If that's true, how come their sales lists are rife with the same ol' same ol'? And yet they need months to reply. By the time they get back to you, your new, innovative, revolutionary approach will be stale and cliche-ridden.

Self publishing looks better every day.

PS. If I have any typos in this post, you don't have to read it.
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Shelagh
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyWed Jan 26, 2011 3:02 pm

According to Elise Capron of Sandra Dijkstra Agency, you need a good recommendation, Al:

ELISE: We're always on the lookout for first novels. A new novelist is fresh, has a unique voice, and has the brilliant and exciting potential to become the "next big thing". One of our mottos here at the agency is "find a need and fill it." If an author is a terrific writer and has a voice or perspective or style that's not been seen before, there is a far greater chance it will have a place in the literary market. Though it's true that it can be tough to get a first book published, agents and editors are always looking for the next voice or story.
Many agencies are looking for new talent, which is true of the Dijkstra Agency, as well. We give first-time authors as serious consideration as other submissions. It does help tremendously, of course, to have blurbs by known writers or community figures, or other recognizable names endorsing your work.

http://www.webdelsol.com/Algonkian/interview-ecapron.htm

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Al Stevens
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyWed Jan 26, 2011 4:10 pm

I'm not, however, what would be called a "new author." But the game has definitely changed since I was making my living at it.

The agents I describe in the posting above are not the ones to whom I am sending queries. They're the rejects. You have to wade through a lot of dross to find the gem. The same as they do.

I might go to the Space Coast Writer's Guild convention this weekend. http://www.scwg.org/ A couple of the agents I queried just this week will be there. For $20 you can get an audience with one of them. They don't specify what they expect you to bring with you, though. Maybe I'll take my iPad with that lovely cover you folks helped me design. drunken
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Al Stevens
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyWed Jan 26, 2011 4:49 pm

The next thing you have to do when querying many agents, after selecting the agencies to query, is keep track of who you sent queries to.

I keep a folder in my email program containing the queries I have emailed. That helps me keep track of who they are so I don't send the same query twice. It also helps me remember which agent I chose from each agency.

I keep a list of websites of agents I haven't queried yet in a folder in my browser's Favorites folder. That's how I keep track of agents who haven't yet had the pleasure of getting my query.

When I run across another likely agency, I check both lists to make sure I didn't already query them.

You have to do something like this just to avoid going nuts. I'm not sure I've avoided it, but I'm hopeful.
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Shelagh
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyThu Jan 27, 2011 1:52 am

Al Stevens wrote:

Maybe I'll take my iPad with that lovely cover you folks helped me design. drunken
You are joking? Right?

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Querying lots of agents 81KU-cLOw3L._SX110_ Querying lots of agents 41C9GeFDNWL._SX110_ Querying lots of agents 41%2BmGkZJdOL._SX110_ Querying lots of agents 51eDGllZXhL._SX115_ Querying lots of agents 41y7VHKoszL._SX115_ Querying lots of agents 51Zs4N4T4eL._SX115_
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Al Stevens
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyThu Jan 27, 2011 6:39 am

Me? Joking?
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Shelagh
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyThu Jan 27, 2011 7:51 am

Thought so.

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Querying lots of agents 81KU-cLOw3L._SX110_ Querying lots of agents 41C9GeFDNWL._SX110_ Querying lots of agents 41%2BmGkZJdOL._SX110_ Querying lots of agents 51eDGllZXhL._SX115_ Querying lots of agents 41y7VHKoszL._SX115_ Querying lots of agents 51Zs4N4T4eL._SX115_
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Shelagh
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyFri Jan 28, 2011 11:40 am

Now, if you had a cover like this to take with you ...

http://duncanlong.com/blog/?p=2341

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dkchristi
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyFri Jan 28, 2011 2:12 pm

Al, I appreciate you sharing the details of your search for an agent and wish you the best in securing a great advocate for your work. Thanks. Many authors keep things under their hat rather than share. It's as though their success or lack of it may be jinxed by sharing with others in the same boat.
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Al Stevens
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptySun Jan 30, 2011 11:13 am

During my meanderings throughout the cyberworld of agents, I often run into the two phrases, boutique agency and cozy mystery. I can guess at their meaning but I'm not sure. I think we need a book of jargon for this business.
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LC
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptySun Jan 30, 2011 4:53 pm

Quote :
Al, I appreciate you sharing the details of your search for an agent and wish you the best in securing a great advocate for your work. Thanks. Many authors keep things under their hat rather than share. It's as though their success or lack of it may be jinxed by sharing with others in the same boat

I think some authors share too much, which may impede their success. I have always wondered about authors who loudly complain about agents and publishers, esp. when they do it under their own names. Do they not think that that could be a complete turn-off to unrelated agents and publishers reading their posts? A perfect example is the AW PAMB board -would you want to work with any of those whining malcontents, parrots, and pseudo-experts? I wouldn't.
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dkchristi
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptySun Jan 30, 2011 5:41 pm

You are probably right on why people keep things to themselves. I've always been a bit too forthright in sharing information. However, I am clear that negative information does not win friends, ever. Yet, I did share my less than stellar experience with a PA contract and it did bite me back. I wasn't complaining about PA, just indicating that the questions I asked about the contract were not answered in the manner that fit my needs at the time.

There's also the issue of professionalism. If you have info to share and someone less than professional presents themselves as recommended...then, repercussions can occur. It's the old job reference issue. Better to give dates of employment and nothing else; any further info can return and bite.

However, this forum has a learning element. Therefore, sharing insights that help each of us in our profession is positive. I'm far from a query expert and need to know more. The info provided by Al can save me a bunch of time.
A woman at church today mentioned a list of agents actively seeking new clients. In this ebook, small and micro press, self-publishing environment, some agents might, indeed, be in more need of clients than others.

I must admit, those "whining malcontents, parrots and pseudo-experts" have been a fountain of information over the years, some worth having, some not. I'm grateful for their board and the detailed analysis they provide, including some of their "good" and "bad" lists. I posted a couple times, but it just didn't feel like my club.
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LC
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptySun Jan 30, 2011 5:48 pm

The malcontents, parrots and pseudo-experts there have given plenty of terrible advice as well as good. Best to find unbiased, objective sources for the things you need to know, not hormone and emotion driven information, like that board is soaked in, written by fired employees, bad unpublished writers, failed lawyers and middle-aged people needing ego strokes. I'm still a fan of commercially published books written by people in the field for info on querying, agents, publishers, etc. There are plenty of those.
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Lindy Vinke

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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptySun Jan 30, 2011 11:09 pm

Thanks for sharing all of this with us, Al. The current process of selection for publication seems to be flawed, but, unfortunately, I can't think of a better way to do it at the moment.

However, I think that the market will eventually sort itself out. Plenty of authors, agents and publishers will go belly up and the "gems" will survive and prosper.

By the way, what is the AW PAMB board?
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Shelagh
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyMon Jan 31, 2011 2:54 am

Absolute Write Publish America Message Board board -- one of the message boards on the Absolute Write Forum. Allowed by moderators, some members of AW copy and paste posts from the PAMB onto the AW forum. This hideous behaviour is defended on the grounds that PublishAmerica is the real target and the posts made by new authors on a steep learning curve are used, supposedly, to attack the publisher. In reality, much fun is made of PA authors themselves as the AW members bandy around "Drinking the Kool-Aid" and popcorn comments. Such comments are not worthy of aspiring authors and reflect badly on AW members.

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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyMon Jan 31, 2011 3:28 am

Thanks Shelagh.
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alj
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyMon Jan 31, 2011 4:58 am

LC wrote:
The malcontents, parrots and pseudo-experts there have given plenty of terrible advice as well as good. Best to find unbiased, objective sources for the things you need to know, not hormone and emotion driven information, like that board is soaked in, written by fired employees, bad unpublished writers, failed lawyers and middle-aged people needing ego strokes. I'm still a fan of commercially published books written by people in the field for info on querying, agents, publishers, etc. There are plenty of those.

What LC said.

Ann
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alice
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptySun Feb 06, 2011 2:18 pm

I am very proud to have been thrown off of that board.
It wasn't easy and took pages of ranting , but finally!
Lane and I were both tosed and we were so glad.
My advice, never join that forum. affraid
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Al Stevens
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyFri Feb 11, 2011 8:23 am

Al Stevens wrote:
If they want paper I don't bother. I am interested in being represented by someone whose grasp of contemporary technology fits somewhere into the 21st century. I started writing books in 1985. I haven't submitted a paper manuscript since 1987. If then. I'm trying to remember.
This strategy could be self-defeating. I might be reaching agents and publishers who are too young to appreciate the potential impact that the 50th anniversary will have on the marketplace. Sending out all that paper would be a pain, particulary given that technology offers a far more efficient way to do it. But I might be sunk in a generation gap here. It's hard to tell.

On the bright side, they respond much more quickly than they promise to. At least for rejections.

My acquisitions editor said to me years ago, "People in my business delay publishing decisions as long as possible, thus postponing failure and blame. Our job is to not publish."
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyFri Feb 11, 2011 8:53 am

The problem with electronic submissions is in the lack of standardisation. When Alice submitted her story to Mandinam Press, I couldn't open the file on my laptop. I had to copy the file onto a key and load it into Word on my mac. Then I had to save it again and load it onto the laptop. When I viewed the file, a space had been added between every letter of a word and two spaces between each word. I had to do a search and replace of the double spaces with ** then a search and replace of all the single spaces with nothing. This produced a text with ** between every word: A**story**by** Alice**Crooker.

Finally, I replaced ** with a single space and I had a readable manuscript. Agents will not take the time to do this and wouldn't know how to anyway. Digital technology has done many things but sometimes it's a pain.

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alice
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyFri Feb 11, 2011 9:06 am

Shelagh,

I hate Vista. It is a difficult operating system. No wonder I was turned down "for no particular reason."

Thanks for staying with it.
You are amazing.
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Al Stevens
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyFri Feb 11, 2011 9:51 am

Shelagh, your experience, which sounds like a nightmare, isn't typical. But there are formatting issues that one must be aware of.
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyFri Feb 11, 2011 9:53 am

Many epubs have different MS formatting options. Oy.
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dkchristi
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyFri Feb 11, 2011 1:58 pm

I received a manuscript to edit that had such embedded formatting (including pages with illustrations) that I practically had to retype the manuscript to edit it at all. It was a nightmare, and I had already given a price quote that was for a normal manuscript.

It took me forever, and it was a draining experience. I suggested to the author that I would return her original payment because I was taking so long, but I would eventually finish it for her anyway. She did not respond further. I finished the manuscript, but not to my satisfaction. I hope she found another editor with her operating systems and software compatible.

I am discouraged from taking on further manuscripts to edit for fear of another such time-consuming, technical nightmare.
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PostSubject: Re: Querying lots of agents   Querying lots of agents EmptyFri Feb 11, 2011 2:41 pm

Al Stevens wrote:
Shelagh, your experience, which sounds like a nightmare, isn't typical. But there are formatting issues that one must be aware of.
It's very typical, Al. I put together an anthology by writers from all over the world. Forty-seven contributors were chosen for Forever Friends. The submissions may have looked okay on the senders' computers but they were all over the place by the time they arrived on my computer. Different spacings, tabs, indents, formatting, font types and sizes.

No professional publishing company would have accepted the amount of work necessary to convert all the various submissions into one standard format. At the time, one of the contributors said that I should not be paid because I volunteered to do the work. There is no way that the contributors could have afforded to pay for the number of hours spent on the anthology. Not even at the lowest rate of pay.

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