The Agent Game

A viewpoint on publishing

Archive for January 2009

Getting the writing done

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Writer Cory Doctorow has an excellent piece over at Locus Online about how to keep technological distractions under control and get words onto the page:

The single worst piece of writing advice I ever got was to stay away from the Internet because it would only waste my time and wouldn’t help my writing. This advice was wrong creatively, professionally, artistically, and personally, but I know where the writer who doled it out was coming from. Every now and again, when I see a new website, game, or service, I sense the tug of an attention black hole: a time-sink that is just waiting to fill my every discretionary moment with distraction. As a co-parenting new father who writes at least a book per year, half-a-dozen columns a month, ten or more blog posts a day, plus assorted novellas and stories and speeches, I know just how short time can be and how dangerous distraction is.

But the Internet has been very good to me. It’s informed my creativity and aesthetics, it’s benefited me professionally and personally, and for every moment it steals, it gives back a hundred delights. I’d no sooner give it up than I’d give up fiction or any other pleasurable vice.

I think I’ve managed to balance things out through a few simple techniques that I’ve been refining for years. I still sometimes feel frazzled and info-whelmed, but that’s rare. Most of the time, I’m on top of my workload and my muse. Here’s how I do it:

If you have a problem getting your writing done because of the myriad of distractions that the Internet provides, give Cory’s methods a try.


Written by incognito

22 January 2009 at 5:03 pm

Posted in Writing

The pleasure of a reply is appreciated

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In this age of server errors, spam filters and other communications issues, here’s a simple rule:

When an agent writes to lets you know that they’ve read your requested partial or full manuscript, it’s a good idea to send some sort of reply.

I think it goes without saying that your response should be, at the very least, professional. If the agent has taken the time to send you extensive comments you may even want to thank him or her, especially if you might approach that same agent for representation again someday.

Written by incognito

20 January 2009 at 8:53 pm

Posted in Getting an agent

Getting published is not supposed to be easy

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Last week, agent Nathan Bransford did a great job of making an important point:

The system is not perfect, but it’s also not broken. In fact it’s working precisely as it should: It’s winnowing tens of thousands of projects down to the few that are published. There are far more novels out there than can realistically be sold to publishers. Far, far, far, far more. To paraphrase Sean Lindsay, there are too many writers and not enough readers. Getting published is not supposed to be easy.

I recommend reading his entire post, because he does a good job of explaining a fact that some writers seem to miss. Getting a book published is hard. It’s hard because the number of books being written far exceeds the capacity of the current publishing industry to successfully publish them, and it’s that fundamental truth that can make trying to get published frustrating for writers. Taking out that frustration on agents or editors doesn’t change anything, it just makes the whole process more unpleasant for everyone involved.

Written by incognito

18 January 2009 at 5:04 pm

Publishing explained

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[via Boing Boing]

For entertainment purposes only. Any resemblance to how publishing actually works is purely coincidental.

Written by incognito

12 January 2009 at 9:01 pm

Posted in Publishing

Write your own query

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In a recent blog post, agent Kristin Nelson said:

Seriously though. Sometimes it is difficult for a writer to write his or her own query. The writer is very close to the material and can’t often see the forest for the trees. If you’ve struggled with the query writing process, I don’t think it’s playing unfair to have another person write the query on your behalf, or with you, or revise it for you. As long as you end up with a strong letter that you believe fully represents your work, I, as the agent, will not ask if you wrote your own query letter. It can be your own deep, dark secret.

The problem here, as always, is that some people will assume that because this holds true for Ms. Nelson, it also holds true for every other literary agent.

It doesn’t.

For example, agent Jennifer Jackson included the following in her own recent post (which also includes a great extended analogy about how reading queries is like deciding on a restaurant):

To me, this is also one of the reasons that you should always write your own query. While Agent Kristin said as an aside in her blog post about marketing letters that sometimes it’s hard to write your own query (a point with which I will certainly not disagree), she also said it was fine with her if someone else wrote it as long as it was good. That’s where I will differ. I have a few reasons: (1) No one will know your book as well as you, (2) No one will be as passionate about your book as you, and (3) The query letter may reveal things about voice and personality which can contribute to the overall sense of you as writer.

Speaking as someone who reads a lot of queries, I can definitely say that the last of those points is especially true for me. A query is a chance for the writer’s personality to shine through, giving me an idea of them as a person. A great voice in the query also makes me look forward to reading any included sample pages, and that can be enough to tip me over into liking the project enough to want to read a partial. I want the voice in the query to be the voice of the writer, not the voice of their friend, their critique partner, or, worst of all, someone they’ve hired to write the query for them.

It’s fine to get input on your query, and for some people getting another perspective can be very useful. In the end though, it’s you who are trying to start a relationship with an agent, and it should be you who writes the query.

Written by incognito

7 January 2009 at 8:19 pm

Posted in Getting an agent

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