The other day I listened to a workshop featuring Jayne Anne Krentz (for those of you who are curious, it was “Secrets of the Best-Selling Sisterhood” by Jayne Ann Krentz and Susan Elizabeth Phillips from RWA’s 2009 conference). She had a lot of interesting advice for authors trying to sell their first book. Some of them were common sense and others really gave me food for thought. I thought I’d share them today because I’d love to hear your thoughts on them:
- Regarding Your Query
Know where your manuscript belongs in the marketplace. Is it paranormal romance, historical romance, urban fantasy? All the better if you have similar novels to compare it to. The editor or agent will want to know right away what the novel is like and where they would position it in the store.
- Regarding Your Synopsis
When submitting an initial proposal to an agent or editor, your synopsis should be a one-page pitch that reads like back cover blurb. Your main intent with the proposal is to sell the agent or editor on reading your entire manuscript. You don’t want to bore them by writing every single detail of your novel into a 10-page synopsis (though you may need that for later purposes). But right now your goal is to engender interest in your full manuscript.
- Partial Submissions
A partial submission generally consists of the first three chapters (or the first 50 pages). Make sure that partial submission ends on a hook and makes the editor or agent want to read more.
- On Querying Editors
- If you are querying publishers, look for the assistant editor. An assistant editor’s career is made by the writers she discovers, so she will be hungry and more likely to actually look at your manuscript. Senior editors are extremely busy and therefore far more likely to take a look at an unpublished writer if recommended by an assistant editor or an agent.
- Don’t be afraid to query editors as well as agents. Sometimes an editor is easier to sell than an agent. So query widely.
I have to admit, all this advice makes sense, but I was a bit surprised to hear the bit on querying editors as well as agents. I’ve gotten the advice not to query editors because if you do and then wind up getting an agent, the agent will not be able to help you if you are rejected by the editor.
After thinking about it, there are actually several ways this could go:
(a) You query only agents and hope you can find one. But what if you don’t? Should you at this point start querying editors?
(b) You query both agents and editors and end up landing an agent who helps you get your manuscript up to snuff. But what if the editors reject your earlier manuscript? Will the agent have the ability to call up the editor and say, “This has been revised; I think you should take a look at it because you might just love it.”
As you can probably tell, I’m a bit torn on which way to go with this one.
So what do you think? Do you agree with the above tips? What about the advice to query editors as well as agents?