From the HSW President
At a previous meeting, I explained push/pull marketing and promised to get back with more information on “pull” marketing, which can best be described as market research. Specifically, I want to show how market research can help find the right agent.
A lot of my editing clients are first-time novelists. They make two huge mistakes in trying to get signed by an agent. First, they give up their querying far too easily, when they don’t get a quick, positive response. The need for instant gratification causes problems. Realistically, even if a writer has cranked out fifty queries, that’s not unusual. It’s important to wait; agents usually take months to respond, if at all.
Let’s apply market research. Worst-case scenario, you send out twenty queries over a two-week span. Let’s say two months later, you’ve received zero responses. Not even rejections. The market is telling you something. You may have written a brilliant novel, but a crappy query letter. Is the letter short? Short is better.
Did you follow the agents’ instructions? If they ask for the first three pages, only send the first three pages. Don’t squeeze in a couple more with the belief that the more the agent sees, the more he’ll just love your work.
Change the focus of your letter. Try to capsulize the basic conflict of the book without trying to explain the whole plot. Three or four sentences should be enough. Agents usually say they only want a one-page letter. That doesn’t mean you cram every word possible into that page. Shorter is better. You’re trying to whet their appetites not force-feed them.
Maybe your writing is not up to par. Yes, your mother and your friends love your manuscript, but they’re not editors. If this is the problem, it may be why you haven’t received responses. More and more agents just ignore a query they’re not interested in rather than waste time to send out a form letter rejection.
Have you put your manuscript through a critique group? That’s a free exercise. Other writers will very quickly see the flaws in your work. Or hire an editor. Get feedback from people who are published instead of friends and family, who have no experience in publishing, editing, or writing.
I find that I get the best feedback from other writers who don’t like me, because they will find every last tiny molecule of imperfection in my work. You’ll find your enemies eager to help.
My point here is that if you’re not getting responses from agents, it’s not the agents’ faults. Something you’re doing has to change.
The second mistake new writers make is wasting time and effort contacting the wrong agents. Here again, market research is the key. I’ve heard tales of woe from many writers who have sent out skadey-eight zillion queries but can’t get an agent interested.
Before starting a new query campaign, it’s important to marshal good resources. Two I recommend are The Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) and QueryTracker.
AAR agents are the cream of the crop. AAR requires certain qualifications to become a member: ethical conduct, experience, and a minimum number of book sales, among others. These are usually the most established agents and those with the most thriving practices. You can use their agent search engine at www.aaronline.org. You can use key words such as mystery or romance to find the agents who handle those genres.
Another search engine and great tool to track the queries you send out is QueryTracker. They currently have a database of about 2000 agents, which are searchable by all sorts of filters (more than AAR), such as genre, location, gender, and whether they’re closed or open to queries. As you send out queries, you can enter the contact info in QueryTracker and they will keep track for you, showing how long the query has been in play, rejections, requests for partial or full manuscripts, etc. The basic service is free.
So, what do you do with these tools? They are valuable sources of market research. Instead of sending out a mass of queries in a shotgun approach, chances for success are greatly increased if you send to the specific agents who would be most likely to want your work. This takes research. I suggest at least a half-hour for each query.
Let’s say you have a mystery. In QueryTracker, you click that genre. Maybe you want to first try for agents in New York City. Click that location. And so on. You make sure the agent is not closed to queries. If your book has a lot of violence, you might also winnow down the agents by gender. Male agents would probably be more interested than women. The reverse holds true for romances.
As you investigate an agent, click on the link for the agency website. If there are a half-dozen agents in the agency, read the information on each agent. One of the other agents might be a better match than the first one you read.
Many agents post links to their blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. Check these out. I’ve seen a lot of blogs where agents say exactly what they’re looking for right now. This information is much fresher than what’s on the agency web site, which might not get updated for months or years.
Now, as you query from a short list, you’ll reach agents who have the greatest likelihood of signing you.
This process is ongoing. If you’re not getting results, evaluate your query letter, revise, try again. Same with your manuscript. It should be a feedback loop. The market is constantly giving you feedback, whether negative or positive.
Try something. Stir, rinse, repeat.
And most of all: Don’t give up.
MAY MEETING PROGRAM
From Podcast to Best-selling Author
Mignon Fogarty was the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase “grammar nazi” and loves the word “kerfuffle.” She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University.Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. She strives to be a friendly guide in the writing world. Her archenemy is the evil Grammar Maven, who inspires terror in the untrained and is neither friendly nor helpful.
Find Mignon at her website: https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl
The May Meeting will be Saturday May 12 at the South Valley Libraries on Wedge Parkway. (The big yellow building next to the soccer fields.) It begins at 10:00 a.m.
Parking was at a premium last month with the game season now started, so come early to get a parking place.
Overcome Writer’s Block
HSW Member and writer Paula Riley is presenting a class on Tuesday, June 12 from 6 to 9 p.m. that explores techniques and tools for breaking through creative roadblocks. The course fee includes handouts.
To learn more about it, go to TMCC’s Workforce Development and Continuation Education website.
Annual HSW Contest Coming in June
Mark your calendars for the June meeting now. Donna Stegman with be announcing all the particulars and the prize for the 2018 Writing Contest at our meeting on Saturday, June 9th. This will be one contest you want to enter ’cause it may change your life. Donna will also be critiquing blurbs at this meeting… only time this year, so get yours ready to go.
Is Your Mailing List a Potential Violation?
Many writers have a mailing list of fans and potential book-buyers. It’s a great, personal way to market books. You collect the mailing list from your website, Facebook, and other online sources then store in a database. If you’re actively promoting, you may be mailing out a newsletter a month or even more frequently with updates and general chat to entice your readers to look at your book.
However, if you have people on your mailing list who are in the European Union, a new law going into effect on May 25, could affect you. Called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), its purpose is to provide more security and moderation of online data gathering. In conjunction with this, the EU is requiring a double opt-in for email sign-ups and the opt-in must state the purpose of the mailing list, such as book information only, general newsletter, etc. The person opting in needs to have a confirmation response that they do, indeed, want to be on the list.
Failure to comply with this can lead to a significant fine from the EU. So, take a look at your mailing list opt-in. If it isn’t clearly stated what the data is used for, change it. Also, check to see if it is set to a double opt-in.
Learn more about this change at this web site:
Get A Professional Book Review and More Exposure
The LeRue Review-A Publisher’s “Three-Chapter View”
What kind of review? It’s brief and to the point from a publisher’s perspective. One of the features is a scale of the likelihood we would publish (if we were open to submissions in that genre/topic). This is not a solicitation for new manuscripts. We love to encourage authors and want to provide a review service that is unique and helpful to readers and to you.
You can use the review AFTER it is published in What’s the Story? as long as you give LeRue and WTS attribution. Deadline: 1st of the month. You will usually see your review in the following month’s issue. (Example: Received by May 1st, published in June issue). We will notify you of your anticipated publish date.
Why wait? Get your review now! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Include LRR-3 Chapter View in subject line.
Reprinted with permission from Janice Hermsen at LaRue Press.