Posted in journalism, publishing, query letter, writing

Getting to the editor

Working as the editorial assistant for a newspaper has given me some insights about getting past the general email account and to the editor’s virtual desk.

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I work for a small, local paper, but we still get a crazy amount of submissions and requests for op-eds and guest columnists. It was pretty overwhelming at first to learn how to filter these. The editor gave me the basics my first day and spent a couple weeks answering my questions about what was important and who was interested in what. I think I’ve gotten the hang of it pretty well now, and it’s taught me a few things that can be applied to both submitting fiction and articles.

Dear Editor

This isn’t a new realization, because this is the first thing I learned when I started querying fiction, but being on the other side of the query has impressed the importance of this piece of advice.

Figure out who you’re sending your query to!

Addressing an email to Dear Editor, the name of the paper/agency, hello everyone, or no salutation at all is a waving red flag to click the trash button.

Why?

For one, it shows the sender didn’t bother to do two minutes of homework to find out who they should be sending their query to. Second, it’s a clear indication that the sender used the BCC to hide that it’s a mass email to every publication they could find contact information for. Laziness, on both accounts. These types of emails are the first ones I weed out in the morning.

Why would I care about this?

Then next thing I look for when culling emails is relevance. As I said, I work at a small, local paper. Aside from AP wire stories, we only cover local issues and events. The first thing I check on media releases and PSAs is the dateline. If it’s out of our coverage area…trash.

The next thing I look for is whether or not it’s relevant content. For the newspaper I work for, this means it not only has to be a local issue, but it has to fit into one of our sections. We don’t have a technology section, or an aging gracefully section, or a rap music section. I still get emails about random topics or locations we don’t cover every day.

This applies to fiction publishers as well. If the agency or publisher doesn’t work with your genre, don’t waste your time querying them. It’s annoying and wastes their time, too. Your query is not going to make a publisher suddenly decide to take on a new genre any more than it will make a newspaper add a whole new section their readers aren’t interested in. Do your homework.

The lonely link

I am not clicking on random links. I’m just not. If some sends me a link or list of links saying So and So Author has a new article available, I am not clicking on it. To the trash it goes. Same goes for attachments with no description or information.

Let me tell you how to do your job…

There is a difference between doing your research and providing all the pertinent information (section, date, topic, etc.) and attempting to tell someone how to do their job. Emails demanding I place a certain PSA in a particular section on a particular day when neither matches up with our publishing schedule and section requirements is a quick way to irritate whoever is reading your email.

Are you starting to see a pattern here? Do your research! And be polite. Demands rarely go over well with anyone, and certainly not publishers and papers who receive dozens, if not hundreds, of submissions a day and have rules and requirements for every inch of the paper.

Be direct

Unless submission requirements specifically direct you to use the general account, send you query directly to whoever should actually be reading it. Newspapers, agencies, and publishing houses have specific people who deal with specific topics or genres. It takes more effort for me to figure out who should be looking at something, and it’s much more likely to get deleted.

If there’s a list of who handles what, and you’re invited to submit directly, for the love of God, figure out who might be interested in your work and send it directly to them! Your chances of it being seen will be much higher if the person who makes the decision sees it first. I don’t think I’m alone in prioritizing emails specifically sent to me over ones that are forwarded.

So, what should you do?

Basically the opposite of everything I just said.

  1. Address your email to the right person (and spell their name correctly).
  2. Only send relevant content the organization has stated they have an interest in.
  3. Provide a full and interesting description/query, not just a link or lazy “Are you interested in this?” with an attachment.
  4. Provide all the relevant or requested details without being pushy or demanding.
  5. Send queries to the right person.

Basically, put the time and effort in to figure out how to query an organization correctly and be polite about it.

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Posted in agents, new adult, writing

New Adult: The Unsellable Genre?

While researching agents I want to query Life & Being out to, I’ve found that New Adult isn’t listed on many agents’ websites. Not as something they take or don’t take. It’s like it doesn’t exist. There are a handful I found it listed specifically, one way or the other, but most don’t mention it at all.

Life and Being PreAgentThat left me wondering, are they classifying NA as adult? Bumping it down to YA? Ignoring it completely?

So, when I have questions like this, I post them on Facebook to see what other writer friends know or have experienced. I was surprised by the responses.

Most every comment I got said agents and publishers consider NA unsellable and don’t want to bother with it. This was from writers who tried to query NA and a few agents or people who worked for literary agencies.

Honestly, I was a little stumped by this. Why? Because readers are certainly buying NA. Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster and Walking Disaster were both NA, and both HUGE successes. NYT Bestselling successes. Let’s also consider Jennifer L. Armentrout (Wait for You), Cora Carmack (Losing It), and Colleen Hoover (Slammed), all of which have been wonderfully successful writing NA.

So, if readers are buying, why aren’t agents and publishers?

I’m sure if NA is looked at as a fad that will pass sooner rather than later, or if the high number of successful self-published authors in the genre make agents and publishers want to pass on competing, or what the exact reason is. If anyone has thoughts, please feel free to share them in the comments! I’d love to hear them.

I’m still going to query a few agents I think would be a good fit and see what happens, but it’s looking more and more likely I’ll keep Life & Being indie, which is a great option as well. I guess I’ll just have to see what happens!

 

Posted in publishing, query letter

Writing a Query Letter: Part 1

The query writing process incorporates some of the most frustrating aspects of publishing.

But…it’s necessary no matter what publishing option you choose

Typewriter illustrationWhat is a query letter?

According to Jane Friedman, the CEO and co-founder of Open Road Integrated Media, this is the definition:

To seduce the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work. The query is so much of a sales piece that you should be able to write it without having written a single word of the manuscript.

In other words, it’s your pitch to agents, publishers, and readers.

Query Letter Basics

◦ONE PAGE

◦Pitch to “sell” your book

◦Professional letter

◦First impression

◦Book MUST be finished!

But First…

How to sift through the billion search results to find an agent to query?

Blond Business WomanQuery Tracker

Agent Query

Publisher’s Marketplace

Preditors and Editors

Dark Markets (Short Stories/Mags)

◦Agent Interviews

◦Be as SPECIFIC as possible

◦Social Media Stalking 😉

Nest week I’ll be discussing the parts of a query letter in detail, or if you want the full lecture now, check it out out on the Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast now.

Write. Publish. Repeat. Podcast: How to Write a Query Letter Without Going Completely Crazy

Posted in writing thoughts

It’s Done…Walk Away

DeathtoStock_Medium6I have to start this post off by saying, it was inspired by a post my lovely writing buddy, SeriouslyGina, recently posted on her blog. She was talking about the awfulness of querying agents and trying to write that perfect query letter that simply no one can refuse, despite the fact that it is like a rainbow unicorn made of sparkle dust and dark chocolate.

Hint: It doesn’t exist.

Querying is my least favorite part of writing. Maybe that’s why I gave up on trying to find and agent or pitch to publishers and went almost entirely indie. Actually, there are a whole bunch of other reasons for that!

In all honesty, though, thinking about what a torment querying is reminded me of some advice I got from one of my painting instructors in college that has really helped me in my writing and other areas of life. It was simple and kind of a silly thing to stick with me for almost fifteen years, now that I think of it, but oh well.

I had been working on a single painting, a master study of a JW Waterhouse painting, for the majority of the semester, and it just never seemed quite “done.” My painting professor, the incredible William Hatch, finally walked up behind me one day and said, “It’s done. Put your paintbrush down and start something new.” I didn’t think it was done. In fact, I have a print of it hanging in my house and every time I walk by it I think, “Ugh, I should have fixed that part.” But, there’s no sense trying to paint on top of a print and I don’t have the original painting anymore, and I’m not quite that much of a crazy person.

I think Professor Hatch might have just been sick of looking at that painting when he told me to put down my paintbrush, but even if he really did think it was as good as it was going to get, his comment actually stuck with me and I’ve applied it to more than just painting.

I often reach a point in a project, writing or otherwise, when I just have to put it down and say, “It’s done.” When I’m writing, that’s usually after way too many edits when my eyes are crossing and I’m beginning to hate my own book because I’m so tired of looking at it. Before I actually get to that point, I tell myself, IT’S DONE…WALK AWAY. I don’t go back to it. I move on to a new project and don’t look back whether I have that nagging feeling that it could use a little more tweaking or not. It’s just done.

I heard a piece of advice once, and I can’t remember who it was from but I’m pretty sure it was one of those huge 19th century writers we all aspire to be. The advice was to never read your published book. You’ll always find little errors or things you could have tweaked, sections that could have been stronger, blah, blah, blah. It will never be perfect. No book will ever be, nor has ever been perfect. NOT A SINGLE Girl with Book 3ONE.

Instead of chasing your starburst and sunshine with sprinkles on top masterpiece, write the best book you can write, find great beta readers, even better editors, friends who’ll support you no matter what, and pour your heart and soul into your story.

Your book will never be perfect, but the message you share and the way it impacts your readers will make up the difference.

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