One Writer’s Journey

September 11, 2018

MSWL Day: Use This to Research Agents

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:58 am
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Are you looking for an agent?  Then you need to check out Manuscript Wish List Day (#MSWL Day).  It is coming up on September 12, 2018.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with #MSWL it is a tag used by editors and agents to Tweet about what they want.  You will see posts about agents looking for young adult novels, editors seeking books with great voice, and so much more.  I’m always surprised how specific some of the requests are.  “I’d love to see the Marvel universe with all autistic heroes.”  I made that up but some of the requests are just that specific.

All you need to do is go to Twitter and search for #MSWL.

The first time stopped by Twitter on #MSWL day, I thought I would search first thing in the morning and leave the feed up, checking it out throughout the day.  That way I would see all the messages.  Um, yeah.  I came home from yoga to find 400+ new messages.  I’m sure there are people who would scan them all.  I am not that person.

Instead, I waited until late in the day and searched for specific requests.  “#MSWL PB,” “#MSWL picture book,” “#MSWL  STEM,” and “#MSWL nonfiction.”

You can also check out individual agents or editors who interest you. Again, if they post often, just reading through their feed can be tough.  So you might need to search their name and #MSWL.  But my favorite way to do it is from the Manuscript Wish List site.  Click through then search for your agent or editor of interest.  On their profile page, in the center column is a button that says “See my latest #MSWL tweets.”  Guess what?  Click it.  I’ve yet to figure out just how the tweets are arranged.  Not by date.  Not by reverse date.  But you can skim them and see if this agent still looks promising.

You can also like tweets as they are posted.  Then you go to your twitter profile and click likes.  Everything you liked is going to come up which again might be a problem if you like a lot.

Fingers crossed that someone will tweet about something that just so happens to be lingering in your files.  If so, good luck with your submission!



June 6, 2018

#PitMad: Getting Your Work in Front of Agents and Editors

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 6:37 am
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twitterIf you’ve never heard of #PitMad, gather round and get ready to take advantage of this exciting opportunity.  #PitMad is a Twitter pitch party.  Writers get to tweet a 280-character pitch for manuscripts. Agents and editors make requests by liking the tweeted pitch.  Any unagented writer is welcome to join in because all writing categories are welcome.

#PitMad is a quarterly event scheduled for:

  • June 7, 2018 (8AM – 8PM EDT)
  • September 6, 2018 (8AM – 8PM EDT)
  • December 6, 2018 (8AM – 8PM EST)

That’s right.  The next #PitMad is tomorrow!   Just a few things to keep in mind.

Only pitch manuscripts that are ready for an agent or editor to read.  That means that you work should be polished and ready to go.  Not an idea.  Not a rough draft.  Polished.

Your character limit is 280.  This will need to include #PitMad so that your pitch can be found by agents and editors.  You will also need to include an age category and possibly a genre.  Yes, this eats into your character count but it can also help the right agent find your work.

Do not flood the Twitter-verse with tweets for your pitch.  You are limited to three tweets per manuscript.  Note, this is per manuscript.  So if you wanted to pitch a cozy mystery and a picture book, you’d still have three per for a total of 6.

When you see a pitch from a friend or simply a pitch that you like, do not click LIKE or FAVORITE.  Unless of course you are an agent or editor.  If that is the case, click away.  Please!

So how do you show your support if you are a writer?  Retweet.  That way additional people can see the pitch but you aren’t liking it as if you were able to receive it.

Polish your tweets and visit the web site for all kinds of helpful information including a blog.  And, good luck to everyone who participates!


April 17, 2018

The Agent Search: Wait for a Good Match

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:54 am
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SCBWI members have through this month to submit their work to Alexandra Penfold, an agent at Upstart Crow.  So I’ve read up on Penfold and I love so much about her.

  • She represents fiction and nonfiction.
  • She’s an agent and an author.
  • She represents picture book authors as well as people who write children’s novels.
  • She’s an editorial agent.

Cool, cool, cool!   So I logged onto my library’s catalogue and started requesting books.  I requested four that she wrote and three that she repped.

First I read the books that she wrote.  She’s a picture book author so I could do this in one sitting, especially since only three had come in. They were all really sweet.  Maybe that’s not the word she would use, but that would be my one word description.

The fourth book she’d written came in and so did the three she repped so I sat down to read again.  These were less sweet but still very “awww!”  Again, this isn’t a judgment call.  Just a description.

But the problem is that absolutely nothing that I’ve written could be described as sweet.  Clever, yes.  Surprising, yes.  But not sweet.

As much as I like her books, I just don’t think we’re a good match.  But still I’ve been tempted to send her my work.  I really want an agent.

Fortunately, I met to agents that I think would be a good match at the KS-MO SCBWI Agent Day.  One of them even recommended another agent for my work, someone she thinks would be a good match.  So that gives me three agents to approach.

And that might be why I have the guts to pass on Penfold.  We just have different sensibilities. I want an agent who gets my work, really gets it.

Still, I really liked what I saw of Penfold. She’s a top-notch agent so if your work is sweet or touching and you’re a SCBWI member read some of what she’s written.  Read what she’s repped.  See if she’s the right match for you.



April 9, 2018

Literary Agents: Seeking Representation

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 12:36 am
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On Saturday, I got to attend the Kansas Missouri SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators) Agents Day.   Here are five interesting things that I learned.

  1.  Always include in your letter that you are an SCBWI member. This is a biggie and I always did it before I had any sales.  But lately?  I’ll have to check my letter.
  2. Do not tell an agent that you just finished writing your manuscript.  Revising.  You just finished revising your manuscript.  Yes, this means they get a lot of things that are really rough.
  3. Some agencies will take requests from publishers who are looking for authors for work-for-hire projects or who are otherwise looking for authors to write about specific things.  Not all agencies do this.
  4. If you write picture books and the agent loves picture book number one but is lukewarm about picture books two, three, and four, this person may not be a good match for you.  You want to work with an agent who is enthusiastic about your body of work not just one or two pieces.
  5. When you meet an agent or hear her speak at an event, they don’t want to get your manuscript while they are in the airport.  They want you to take the time to apply what you learned at that event to the manuscript that they saw or to any other manuscript that you are thinking about submitting.  Being first in line isn’t going to get you anything special and you won’t be first anyway.  Something probably came in while they were at the event.

Agents understand that looking for an agent is a frustrating experience.  But be patient.  They will get to your letter but they will only get to it after they get to the things they need to do for people who are already clients.   You’ll appreciate that when you land an agent.


January 29, 2018

Using a Decision Matrix to Select an Agent

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 3:17 am
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This weekend, I had to select which of four agents to have critique my manuscript at an upcoming  event.  I started by Googling each of their names.  By the time I had read a bit about each, I couldn’t remember which had looked like a great match.  Or had it been two?  And one didn’t rep half of what I do. But which one?

There was just too much information to keep straight. At least that’s how it felt at first.

Fortunately, my husband is the King of the Decision Matrix.  We’ve used this technique to buy a car and select a vacation destination.  It’s a great way to convert information to a visual format and compare apples and oranges.

pb mg ya nf other
Agent 1 X X X X Christian but interested in other faiths.  STEM. URL for “what I’m looking for”
Agent 2 X X Quirky nonfiction. Very into crystals etc.
Agent 3 X X
Agent 4 X X X X Weird. Creepy. Loved I’ll Love You Forever

The first thing that I did was list the names of the four agents.  Here, I’m calling them Agents 1 – 4.

Next, I included various types of children’s books – PB (picture book), MG, YA, NF (nonfiction).  Ideally, I want to find an agent who does a bit of everything because my own writing interests are diverse.  Reading up on each agent, I X’ed what each of them reps.  Agent 1 has a good spread but so does Agent 4.  Agent 2 listed only middle grade specifically although she also does nonfiction.  Agent 3 only does middle grade and young adult and doesn’t rep nonfiction.

This eliminated 2 and 3.  But I still had two equal candidates.

This time I read interviews and bios.  I quickly found that Agent 1 is Christian but also interested in acquiring work about other faiths. She’s interested in STEM and her wish list sounded like a go-to of things I’ve done or am working on.  Only one of my pet projects wasn’t specifically listed.

Agent 4 loves nonfiction. Especially the weird and creepy.  Pukeology would be her cup of tea.  Then I read about her favorite books.  I’ll Love You Forever.  Ugh.  Personally I”ve always considered that one both weird and creepy.

Using the matrix I could see that Agent #1 is an excellent match.  Agent #4 might also be and is someone I’ll consider submitting to after the event.

The next time you are trying to choose between several agents or several publishers and are having troubles keeping the information straight, draw up a decision matrix.  Not only does it make the information visual, it makes it easy to compare several things at once.  Give it a try the next time you find yourself question which project to work on next or which agent in a specific agency to approach.



January 8, 2018

The Agent Search: What to Look for

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:18 am
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After getting discouraged in searching for an agent in 2017, I’ve rebooted my search.  This means that it is time to study up on a batch of new agents.  Here are some of the things that I look for when I’m checking out an agent.

  1. Make sure the agent is taking clients.  I know.  It sounds like a no brainer.  But I’m constantly finding excellent interviews that make me want to approach this agent so badly.  Then I do a bit of reading and discover – too bad, so sad – this person is not taking clients.
  2. Check out what type of books this person does.  This is a tough one for me because I do a variety of work.  I need someone who is willing to do nonfiction because that’s where I am strongest.  I also need someone who will take not only mg and ya adult novels but also picture books.  Nonfiction and picture books are often the problem.
  3. Check out book specifics.  Once I know this person does more or else everything that I do, I start to look at types of books.  This is where I often have a problem.  For example, I love, love, love so many of the books that Kate McKean loves.  It looked promising enough that I requested four titles to read.   But you have to go beyond the books they’ve repped and the ones they love.
  4. Read interviews.  This is super important because while I was busy requesting books on McKean’s list, I was also reading interviews which is where I came across one horrible line.  “No gross out nonfiction.”  What?  Nooooooo.  That may not be my mainstay but if you can combine science and gross, I love it!  I write it.  Ker-plop.  That was just me falling into a despondent pile on the floor.  Ignore me.  I’ll get hungry or thirsty and snap out of it quickly enough.  Read all you can because there’s more you need to know.
  5. Check out this person’s vision/publishing world view.  As you read, find out all you can about how this person works with authors and thinks about publishing and author careers.  I want someone who wants to help an author build a career.  Some agents think book by book.
  6. Searching for a pro.  Also remember that you are looking for a professional.  I took one agent off my list because although I liked the sound of her interview, I couldn’t find her affiliated with an agency.  Yes, she may have her own agency but I couldn’t find anything that said that either.  I kept finding places that mentioned her as an author.  No, no.  I’ve got that covered.  I want an agent.  In an agency.  I’m not saying that I’ll only work with someone with 20 years experience, but I want them to be part of an experienced team.

So there’s your short list of things to look for – taking clients, part of an agency, the right types of books, books you love, and a publishing world view that matches your own.  It seems like a lot but it is all essential if you are going to build a partnership that works.



November 17, 2017

Querying Agents: Wait!

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:26 am
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When is the best time to send out your agent queries?  In truth, I was just getting ready to send a few out.  Getting ready can take a while and that’s a good thing.  Wednesday I was reading the November 2017 Nelson Literary Agency Newsletter.  Kristin Nelson recommends waiting until January 2, 2018.  Why?  Because agents are clearing out their in-boxes.  Don’t worry!  Whether you are approaching an agent with a picture book or a young adult novel, this means that you have almost 2 months to do your homework.

  1.  Check out the listings on Manuscript Wish List, #MSWL tweets and agency submissions information.  This first step just involves finding people who might be a good match.
  2. Google their names.  Read every interview you can find.  Look for the names of books they love.  Look for the titles of books they’ve sold.  Keep an eye open for the things they are passionate about.
  3. Start requesting some of these books.
  4. Read, read and read!  Don’t just request the books.  Read them.  This is vital because you need to know that an agent who is looking for quirky middle grade humor will find your humor quirky vs frightening.
  5. Keep track of what makes this agent a good fit.  This list will fluctuate as you do more reading and find more information.  Agents will move up the list and down.  But that’s okay.  You really do want to submit to someone whose an excellent match.

Whether you go with a new agent or an established agent is a matter of personal choice.  There are pluses to submitting to a new agent.

  • New agents need to build a client list.  They need to find new clients.
  • New agents are often the ones granting interviews and going to conferences because of #1.  This means that it is easier to find out about them — whether they are editorial agents, what they like, etc.
  • New agents don’t have as many estaliblished clients taking up all their time.

An established agent has a client list and can be pickier about what new work they sign, but there are also pluses to established agents.

  • Established agents have more contacts.  They can get your manuscript read by editor you can’t approach.
  • They have a track record.  A google search will show you what an established agent has sold and often find comments (hopefully praise) from their authors.

Fortunately you’ve got some time.


September 15, 2017

Looking for an Agent

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 6:43 am
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mswlAre you looking for an agent?  One of the best ways to find out what agents want is to explore the hashtag #MSWL on Manuscript Wish List Day.  The most recent #MSWL Day was Tuesday, 9/12.

I have to admit that I started out with good intentions.  Since it was Tuesday, I didn’t have yoga so I popped over to Twitter several times to see what various agents and editors had posted.  The easiest way to do this is the search #MSWL and then just click on the Twitter bird to add the newest tweets to the top of the feed.

The first time I popped by there were 40 or so posts.  Several of them weren’t terribly specific – just agents reminding you to go by the MSWL site and check their listing.  Honestly, I can see how this makes sense.  For many agents, these listings are incredibly thorough.  You get what the agency likes, what they want to see, recent favorite books and movies and more.  I saved a short list of names to check out.

Then I got busy writing.  The next time I popped by there were almost 70 new tweets.  I skimmed them and copied out the ones that overlap by own work.  The next time I came back, there were between 150 and 200 new tweets.  (help)

At that point, I decided that I better spend some serious time with the submission that is due a week from today.  I’ve worked on my chapter and outline for two days, popping back over to Twitter on Thursday.

By Thursday I know that the agents and editors have had their say.  Instead of searching “#MSWL,” I got a bit more specific.  First I searched “MSWL PB.”  That gave me 8 listings.  Yes, there were a lot more than that but there were 8 that describe my work.  Then I searched “#MSWL nonfiction.” Again, I narrowed down the search results to (drum roll) 8 listings.

One of the things that I noticed on #MSWL Day was the number of agents asking people to take their time to submit.  Make sure your work is ready to go.  Don’t get in a kerfuffle and send in something that isn’t ready just because you saw a tweet.

If you’re looking for an agent, pop on over to Twitter and do a search.  Don’t forget to check out anyone that intrigues you.  I’m sure the majority of agents that post are legit but, as G-ma used to say, use your head and be careful.  And, good luck finding the help you need to get your work into the hands of young readers!


May 12, 2017

Agents and/or Editors

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:00 am
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When you are shopping your work around to agents, do you cease and desist sending it to editors?

Yesterday, I read a post on Janet Reid’s blog about Twitter pitch events.  In her post, Reid discusses the fact that she was out with a group of agents.  One of them mentioned contacting an author whose manuscript she had only to discover that said author had some interest from editors based on a Twitter Pitch.   Based on said interest, she had sent them the manuscript.  All agents present sighed deeply.

What the heck?  Do they expect us to sit on our duffs while we wait for one of them to snatch up our manuscript?

Sadly enough, that about sums it up.  If you are submitting your work to agents, they would very much prefer that you not also submit it to editors.  Why?  Because if you sent it to Betty Boop, senior editor at Lotsa Books, and she turns it down, the agent cannot then send it to Mata Hari, editorial director at that same publisher.  Never mind that this agent knows for a fact that Ms. Hari has been looking for just this sort of manuscript all along and that Ms. Boop is more interested in author/illustrators than authors.  It just doesn’t matter.  By sending in your own manuscript, you’ve crossed this publisher off the list.

Does this mean that I’m not sending any of my work to publishers at this time?

Most of what I send out isn’t the sort of thing an agent is going to represent anyway.  I’m submitting more to magazines right now but also doing work for hire.  If I see a publisher that is beyond perfect and it is a smaller niche publisher that is open to slush submissions anyway, then I might send it in.

And, on that note, I need to get my work out to another two or three agents.  If for no other reason — I’m getting sick of not submitting to editors.


March 27, 2017

The Nonfiction Proposal: Or Rebooting My Agent Search

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:14 am
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At this point all of my agent queries are dead in the water.  I’m going to have to wait until I finish the book that I’m working on before I can get any more queries out there.

No, I’m not procrastinating.  The first batch of agents didn’t want proposals.  They just wanted a query letter and X number of pages.  I was kind of surprised since I thought most agents want proposals but I wasn’t going to argue.  After all, I had rewritten the manuscript for an editor who wanted to see it.

Apparently, wanting a proposal is still the norm at least for about 2/3 of the agents I’ve researched.  It is apparently just a coincidence that none of these agents were in batch 1.  So what goes into a proposal?

Overview: This section includes the specs (title, word count and hook), short description of the subject, target market (reader age range), and why the book is necessary.

Markets:  Who will buy your book. Include stats. My current book deals with a STEM topic so I will mention that.

Promotion:  How to get your book into the hands of those would-be readers.

Competing Books:  Other books on your topic published in the last 5 years.  How does your book differ?

About the Author:  Why are you the ideal author for this book?  

Outline: List your chapters and summarize each.  In my Abdo outlines, a chapter is 12 lines max.

Sample Chapters: What I’ve seen listed most often is 3 chapters of the finished book. 

The entirely may be 15 or more pages long but the bulk of that consists of the outline and the sample chapters.  The rest should be detailed but fairly brief. For a more detailed look at what goes into a proposal, see my post from yesterday on the Muffin.

Don’t let a missing proposal keep you from sending out your work!


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