What a Former Editor for the New Yorker Had To Say
Before I get to the title of today's article, allow me to say a few things. Okay, all writers everywhere. You've written that latest manuscript and now you're wondering what to do with it. If you're like the rest of us, you're hoping this manuscript will surpass all the others and get you on the New York Times Bestsellers List and a movie deal! Admit it. All authors dream of seeing their work being read by millions and being seen in a movie, hopefully, that didn't cut too much content and stayed true to the novel. That's the dream, but what is the reality?
I have said time and time again how I learned much from powerhouse literary agents and editors in chief of the big five. What did I learn? Most queries from new authors are turned down. Why? The main reason is budget, but there are also other reasons. Think about it. A literary agency doesn’t make money if they can’t sell manuscripts to publishing houses. Since the emergence of eBooks, I’ve seen some of the large agencies drastically cut down their staff to maximize their capital, keeping only the agents who has an eye for talent and can get them the contracts that can keep the company afloat. So with that in mind, agents ARE looking for manuscripts, even from unknown authors. So how do you make your query stand out? Good question. I suggest meeting these agents face to face and giving them your 25 word pitch. By meeting an agent face to face you can earn the golden ticket of an Exclusive query. This is given when the agent is interested in what you had to say during your pitch, and they share with you what subject to list on your email when you query them. This tells them when they see your email arrive that they have talked with this person and an opportunity might await. The second thing you must do, and listen to me when I say this, is send them a very compelling opening chapter that has all of the elements of a bestseller! The sample pages should be edited well, as any mistakes can have your manuscript turned down regardless of how well your storyline is. All agents I have ever met personally have expressed their stern disapproval of errors found in the opening pages, because errors appearing in the beginning of the manuscript mean many more errors will follow in the remaining pages. You may think, well, if they’re going to edit it anyway why should I pay someone to edit my sample? We’ll get to that in a moment. You also want to make certain that your mss is a current trending genre and possibly on a trending subject matter (this includes fiction). Sending blind queries is a sure way to get your manuscript rejected. Now here’s the flip side. I know several authors who have attended multiple conferences, because it’s easier to meet an agent at one. These authors spent good money on conference’s tuition, hotels, food, transportation, and still were rejected. Don’t give up! If you think you have the next huge bestseller, follow your dream until it becomes reality.
Here are more flip sides. An agent receives countless queries a day. What does this mean to you? It means your synopsis should be as compelling as your manuscript. First you have to hook them with the synopsis, only then will they even read the first page of your mss. If an agent is reading dozens of queries a day, I would think that pretty soon all of the queries will start sounding the same. This is another reason why you want permission to send an Exclusive query. The agent will take more time with those than they do with blind queries. Here’s something else you need to keep in mind. The Bible had it right. There’s nothing new under the sun. The same book idea you have come up with, a hundred other authors have come up with it too, so never think your idea is original, although… it very well may be original, especially if the author has thought outside of the box and offer readers a different take on the same story that’s been told a million times. Let’s say you’ve done that. Now, how do you get your work noticed? At writing conferences that showcase guests from the top literary agencies and publishing houses and also allow attendees the opportunity to meet these people one on one.
There’s a good side and bad side to everything. I’ve heard New York Times bestselling authors tell me of their disappointment in the contracts they received. If you’re an indie author like myself, and you have interacted a lot on social media, you will notice that many Middle of the Road traditionally published authors are also turning to self-publishing to make a better profit off their work. You may even notice that their book sales are better than the average indie author. But why is that? The answer is money. Show me a USA bestseller or New York Times bestseller and I’ll tell you thousands went into their budget while they were doing promotions, which leads to this next comment. MOTR (middle of the road) traditionally published authors get with each other to offer a book bundle at the low price of $.99 and the bundle reaches the USA bestseller’s list. Why are they doing this if the profit from each copy sold is pennies? For the bragging right of saying they are a USA bestseller. They can now list this on their work and readers will notice it and pay attention, which in turn becomes a good marketing tool.
There’s so much more I can say on this subject and I will, but at a later time. If you ever wanted to know what an editor at a publishing company does all day, check out this link written by Erica Verrillo here.
Stay knowledgeable. Keep writing. Don’t know what elements a bestseller includes in its first chapters, trying picking up my writing guide titled Anyone Can Write. Even if you don’t, keep coming back to this page to discover more about the writing world and how it will affect you as a writer.