Yup! I’ll do my level best to get your question answered by an agent as I attend the Pikes Peak Writers Conference next weekend (May 1-4) in Colorado Springs.
Either ask by commenting on this blog, or use the “Contact Me” form to ask me a question.*
Writing conferences, although pricey, are a fantastic way to get real-time, expert advice on specific questions pertaining to marketing, querying, synopses, market trends, first pages, and loglines. I have no affiliation with PPWC, although it’s my favorite. For advice for the PP conference and how to get the most out of writing conferences in general, click here. For more info on how to get an agent’s attention at writing conferences, click here.
If you don’t have an agent yet, you’re only likely to get tailored information from one in two ways: by checking out their agency websites to see if they’re answered your specific questions on wishlists, blogs, pubrants, etc– or by catching them when they hold open sessions, usually at a conference. They’re so dang busy reading queries and marketing their authors that it’s understandable, although frustrating, that they can’t give a specific reason why they rejected, or seemingly ignored, your query.
Here are two questions I’ve had answered from a variety of agents in the past few years at conferences.
What should I include on my query bio section if I’m unpublished?
Relevant education (briefly), participation in current critique groups (this shows understanding of the exhaustive need for revision before submission and the ability to take feedback), related skills or experience (editing, presenting on writing, teaching writing), and published writing besides the novel in question. Also, this is a good place to include your credentials for writing on this topic, especially if you’re writing non-fiction or fiction about a marginalized population in general. A link to your author platform if not already provided.
Yup! Every agent said something different, and really, you want to keep this part brief if you’re unpublished. Your goal is to seem knowledgeable and demonstrate people/social skills that won’t send them running from the idea of forming a business relationship with you. Don’t get too cutesy here, although you might demonstrate having something in common with the agent if you’ve researched them.
“Is my novel more marketable because it’s part of a series?”
Possibly, but not if you’ve only written one that’s dependent on sequels that you may never write (these agents can’t bank their income on the idea that a new author will write the rest of the series).
Best advice: say it’s a “standalone with series potential” (if that’s true) and then note if you have written the others already. If it’s not a standalone, it’s going to be really hard for an agent to take you on as a new author. I have heard agents might be happy to know you’ve already written a few sequels. In general, emerging authors will do best by querying novels that fall squarely within industry standards for word count. (Here’s my post on “How to Wallop Your Word Count” if you’re struggling with novel length).
Here are some questions I’ll be asking, so tune in for my post-conference blog! I’m attending with friends and students, so they can help me get the scoop.
How should I handle multiple POV in my query letter? And can my query be longer if I have multiple protagonists?
Where can I find good examples of successful novel synopses?
I have an ethnically diverse ensemble cast. Do I need to specify ethnicity in the novel when characters are introduced (which seems fake) or can I simply describe the characters’ appearances when it feels natural? Follow up: it seems annoying of me to highlight ethnicity of supporting characters in a query, but should I if they are major?
Do I need to include authors’ names in comps, or just the book titles? How old can a comp be before it’s irrelevant?
Is it okay to mention other current books or movies in my novel? For example, if someone has named their pet mouse “muggle” or if kids reference Dumbledore as part of their everyday pop culture experiences, is this an infringement or just an allusion (artistic license)?
If I write children’s novels, to whom should my author platform be aimed?
Where can I find good info on self-publishing vs. industry publishing?
Is the dystopian genre trending again with agents?
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for as many answers as I can glean, and good luck with your writing until then!
*You knew there’d be an asterisk… Please keep questions reasonably simple and pertaining to novels (not other genres). I can’t read your novel for context. If you ask “How do I write a query letter” I’ll direct you to my favorite resources.
*If you send me your question, you’re agreeing that I can SHARE your question, and any answer, on my next blog. If you don’t want your name used, email me the question and tell me to omit the name. Please consider following my blog as a courtesy, so I can prove to agents that I exist in the land of zeroes and ones.
*In the spirit of supporting the conference, I won’t mention agents or anyone else by name, I’m not recording anything, and I’ll focus on only on questions asked by myself or a friend who gave permission. Depending on the question, I might answer with what I’ve gleaned from other conferences/prior experience.