Writer’s Digest is a print and digital publication serving writers interested in writing, editing, and publishing novels. In addition to the magazine, Writer’s Digest publishes books, host conferences, and hosts a number of other opportunities online.
I’m about to say something controversial. Are you ready?
Freelance book editors aren’t necessary to get published.
I know, crazy right? And coming from a freelance book editor, no less.
Here’s the thing: Editors can be helpful in getting a manuscript ready for publication. Think about it—at some point, all writers are new to this strange and intimidating genre of novel writing. Generally, it isn’t something anyone has been formally taught, so you wouldn’t know things like making three-dimensional characters, natural dialogue tricks, three-act structures, and so on. Such things are unique to novels, and that’s where editors come in.
It’s been said that literary agents are the gatekeepers to the (traditional) publishing industry. Every year agents receive thousands of submissions in their respective query boxes—both unsolicited and solicited. Many agents also work full-time jobs separate from their work at an agency. Needless to say, they are incredibly busy people. As a result, the unsolicited slush piles are often left to agent apprentices and interns to sift through as the first readers (though, this isn’t always the case).
In order for your submission to reach the eyes of the agent, it has to really stand out—which begs the question: How can you make your submission (and ultimately your novel) shine with sheer awesomeness?
There are few things more rewarding than receiving paralleled excitement about your manuscript from someone who has just read it, hence the sharing addiction that many writers often fall into. Once we as writers have overcome our writerly sensibilities of ‘I don’t want to share my writing with anyone,’ next comes the ‘please read and love this’ phase.
The writers who continue after their publication pursuits must at some point share their writing with other writers and have it ‘workshopped’ (or critiqued by several writers). Sometimes, we as writers get so excited about the story that’s unfurling on the page before us, we want to skip the editing and workshopping step and go straight to submissions. (Trust me, I’ve been there, too.)
However, there is an ideal time to submit your manuscripts for consideration by a literary agent or editor.
When writers begin the querying process, there always seems to be that moment at the beginning of the research process where you find SO MANY RESOURCES. All with great advice. All with advice on different things. And nothing that seems to cover everything or in simplified terms for an overwhelmed writer.
I remember when I first began querying, I tore apart every article, every blog, and every how-to on querying, particularly ones that provided examples of successful queries. But what I really wanted was a (moderately) comprehensive checklist of things to include (or not to include).
Now, I know not everyone thinks in concrete terms and bullets (like my brain always seems to gear towards), but perhaps you think in checklists.
Consider perusing this querying checklist before you click send on your next query.
In an age where time is precious and emails are plenty, grabbing a literary agent’s attention right away is the key to a successful query letter.
There are many ways a query letter can stand out; however, it’s important to remember that the point of a query is to make an agent want to read more of your manuscript.
Many writers often focus on their personal bio and writing credentials, their passion for writing, or why they chose to write this manuscript rather than the story itself. While those are all important elements (and help us get to know you as the author better), be careful that the bulk of your book industry-specific cover letter is geared toward the reason you’re querying: to find representation for your work.
The Corvisiero Literary Agency team’s insight on what makes them request additional pages.
Ah, querying. That dubious part in the writing process when you check your email as often as you use the restroom—perhaps you’ve started checking your email while using the restroom—and wonder if the literary agent has read your query… and if a form rejection is in your near future. Again.
Followed on the heels of a well-earned victory dance for completing and polishing your manuscript, such a time of uncertainty often leaves writers wondering if this is the field for them after all.
Yet, many push through those moments of doubt, propelled by the aid of Mr. Daniels or another friendly face in the wine cabinet, and find themselves with that long-desired email: “Could you please send more pages of your manuscript?”
But how do writers get to that point? What do literary agents see that propels them to ask writers to send additional pages (or the entire manuscript)? How do the first several pages of a manuscript bring out the excited reader (and inner book nerd) in these agents?
Several members of the Corvisiero Literary Agency team have answered this very question.
Storytelling is in the very essence of our nature as humans. From the beginning of time, people have tried to make sense of the world through stories—from naming the stars and the deities behind them, to the causes of natural disasters, to the changing of the seasons.
Nowadays, authors—the equally poor modern equivalent of a bard or chronicler—must navigate the seemingly tricky landscape of book publishing in order to get their manuscripts traditionally published. But, fear not! Follow these 11 easy steps to getting a literary agent and you are well on your way to seeing your book on the shelves.
According to The Huffington Post, 80 percent of Americans want to write a book. Think about that for a moment. That’s eight in every 10 people. (Whoa!) That isn’t to say, however, that all of those people succeed in completing said books. Many (if not most) don’t.
Writing a book is hard. Really hard. But if this is a journey you know you’re destined to make, consider these nine tips before launching into your manuscript.
I don’t know about you guys, but I totally dragged my feet to get on the Twitter boat. It was only after posting to Twitter was mandatory for my job as an editor that I actually make an effort to learn what it was about.
Twitter, I quickly discovered, was the home of not a few writing contests for hopeful writers—particularly ones wanting to get their stories in front of literary agents and editors. Some of the contests, such as #PitMad, #SFFPit, #SonOfAPitch, #DVPit, and others offered writers the opportunity to pitch their book to agents and editors via a specific hashtag, while other contests, such as Pitch Wars and Pitch to Publication, paired writers with mentors and freelance editors prior to the agent round.
For each type of Twitter contest—whether an editorial round is included or if it’s strictly a Twitter pitch event—there are certain rules of etiquette a writer should follow in order to achieve optimal results (which could be anything from connecting socially with other writers to connecting with agents and editors).
Thanks to the Internet and social media, we, as consumers, are constantly inundated with advertisements, opinions, and new platforms. There are so many people to follow, so many newsletters to sign up for, and so much information coursing through the veins of the digital world that writers often feel lost in it (and rightly so).
Book publishing, specifically, has taken a huge turn in how it operates as a result of the digital shift. As many of you know, publishing houses continue to get smaller, e-books increase in popularity, and writers are expected to have a (nearly) perfected manuscript to agents and (ultimately) editors—as there is no longer the time nor the bandwidth to aid writers on their journey as had been done in the past. Along the same line, the marketing of books has changed so that much of the responsibility for marketing now falls on the shoulders of writers.
Whether you are a writer seeking a literary agent, are traditionally published, or are going the self-publishing route, developing your online author platform is essential in today’s market. Readers must not only be able to find you easily online but to want to find you.
What Was I Missing?
Ever wonder why, after only submitting the first few pages of your manuscript to an agent, editor, or a Twitter writing contest, your submission was swiftly rejected? Why, after spending countless hours of editing and perfecting those pages in your life’s blood and drowning your doubts in wine, did it get a quick “thanks but no thanks”? What made them decide so quickly? What do they see, and—more importantly—what did you miss in your rounds of editing?
These are all good questions—and questions I asked myself countless of times after submitting early drafts of my manuscript. What was I missing? And, after hearing feedback from writers who submitted to Pitch to Publication, a Twitter pitch contest for novel writers, this was the question that they were concerned about as well.
Every word on your query should count. You get precious little time in front of an agent, so make those 30 seconds (or less) count (as well as give the best impression you can during that time).
For those of you who aren’t intimately familiar with the term “query letter,” it is a one-page professional letter (300 words or less) where you endeavor to woo a literary agent into falling head over heels for your story. Only… the wooing is ideally done in a very specific, very strict format.
Consider the following dos and don’ts of querying.
For writers beginning their querying career, one of the key questions you will be asked is this: what genre is your book in? However, as you may surmise, that’s a rather loaded question.
Perhaps your tale takes place both on Earth and in another medieval world, features new mythical creatures, and your protagonist is at the wonky age of 19. How on earth do you categorize this? High fantasy? Urban fantasy? New adult? Adult?
First, let’s start with a few definitions.
Whether you are a seasoned writer with published works or are only now starting your journey as a wordsmith, there is one thing you will always need: feedback on your writing. Let’s be honest—after we complete a piece of writing, we may often perceive it as perfection personified and immediately start clicking the send button to various contests or submissions. However, rarely are these first drafts ready for publishing. In fact, they rarely ever are.
There’s a rare breed of writers who can sit down and write a novel that’s both well written and applicable to its intended market in a single shot (plus a moderately painless round of revisions). I’ve heard about these mythical people and perhaps so have you. However, for many of us, there is much more strategy and forethought than that. Consider these five things as you begin your next (or first) novel.