Literary Agents

Day 1: Ginger Clark on Agent Dos and Don’ts

Yes, I’m STILL on Day 1. Can you tell why I needed to recuperate when I returned? These are some of my notes from Ginger Clark’s talk. She’s a straight forward, no nonsense speaker and had some great suggestions.

She suggested thinking of your query letter as a business letter. It should have 3-4 paragraphs including setup, main characters and conflict. Send it to Ms. Clark, but don’t bother with “Dear Agent,” folks.

This was a fascinating idea I’d never considered: Email yourself your query to make sure it comes through without the odd ### mark. Those oddities can happen for a lot of different reasons and sometimes we have no control over it anymore than we can dictate how someone else’s computer works because that’s what’s causing the marks. The end user’s settings can change how they view your email. However, if you copy and paste your query from a main file (admit it, you do) you need to make sure you’re not sending hash marks instead of quotations, etc. Know that any unusual formatting such as italics, bold, etc. will disappear. If it’s imperative that the agent know those words need setting off, consider upper case. However, use it sparingly. UPPERCASE MEANS YOU’RE SHOUTING.

Always follow the directions for querying listed on the agent’s website. In Ginger’s case, she said sending your ms in the body of the email is fine and so are attachments, but I will ask you to re-read the opening sentence of this paragraph. You only have one chance to make a good first impression.

There’s a lot of hysteria in the mind of a writer when they’re submitting. The agent requested my ms! Must send it out. I’ll just finish the last chapter and hit SEND.

Thou shalt not do this. Don’t edit the last chapter and hit send unless it’s your umpteenth edit of your umpteenth rewrite. Polish. Perfect it. The agent wants to see your best work, not your fastest. To quote Ginger Clark: “Do revisions for however long it takes.”

Ginger did say she likes exclusives, which also means you should let her know if someone else has it on their desk. She recommended hiring an accountant after publication. Since I’m hopeless with  calculators, checkbooks and all things numerical, this sounds marvelous.

Once your ms has an editor’s interest, try to cc your agent and editor on your emails and I liked Ginger’s suggestion to have your agent proof your emails. I’m the Queen (or Empress) of ending great relationships through a poorly written letter. Just remember, the recipient cannot see your facial expression or body language, so be concise and take a conciliatory/”teach me” tone in letters to your professional contacts in general. (One study states that 7% of our meaning is carried by our word choice. That means your emails and letters have lost 93% of your intended meaning.) If your editor has managed to piss you off, contact your agent, not your editor!

A few last tips: Don’t spend your massive advance on self-promotion. It’s not worth the return. Don’t blog about the submission process, your impatience, etc. This is where your writing network and email come in handy. Don’t put your frustrations on a public board where agents and editors you’re submitting to can read what a whiner you are. 🙂

For my next blog: Day 2. (Ooooh!)

Crested Butte: Day One

Wow. I survived the weekend. I feel like I’ve been on a reality T.V. show. Ya know the one where they strand you in the Rockies for four days. There are four teams of writers and each team is lead by a published author, editor or agent and you ALL have to get out of the mountains without killing or pissing each other off. Seriously, though, it was an AWESOME event. Thanks so much to Theresa, Barbara and all the wonderful volunteers who make it happen every year.

I met so many great authors and Ginger Clark, agent extraordinaire. She gave me several wonderful suggestions and permission to query later on. By the way, I won second place in the competition, which was better than I’d expected, so I’m tickled pink. I hope to go back again – maybe not next year, but who knows? If I do, I’ll remember to pack more bottled water. And oxygen. My four-year old came downhill with a nosebleed. For me, it wasn’t physically hard except for the sleep deprivation. It was 2 1/2 days of non-stop learning that felt like four days. My head’s so full it will take me days just to blog about all of it, but I hope to give you briefs on each of the talks I attended. If I’m lucky, I’ll start that tomorrow. As of Tuesday night, it’s time to play Mommy/Wife and prepare a meal.

I wish it could be something like the conference’s poached salmon, but at least it won’t be marmoset on a stick. After all, we left the camera crew behind us at 9,000 feet.

The Fateful Day Has Arrived…Almost: Crested Butte Writers Conference

Okay, the truth is, I wrote this several days in advance of our departure and the “fateful day” will still be twenty four hours from when we leave. That said, it’s the week of and I’m more nervous than the last turkey in the pen on Thanksgiving morning.

My “To Do” list keeps growing, and I refuse to guess at how I’ve overshot my grocery allowance for the month. Snack foods are expensive. I need to pack most of my daughter’s wardrobe to insure against nudity. Sigh. I’m sure to forget SOMETHING, which is why I intend to take notes.


Yes. My list keeps growing because of my notes and that won’t change at the conference. Most folks take notes at conferences and I’m sure they share much of what they learn. I am an avid scrapbooker among other things and know from experience, I’ll forget much of what happens and/or is said unless I write it down. That’s why I wanted to let you all know there will be a blog fest upon my return from Crested Butte. In fact, I’ll probably write a daily journal there and post those comments if I can find an available computer. I don’t know if I’ll see any of you, but if you are coming, I hope we meet!

Addendum: Much to my shock and delight, I discovered that I DID get a pitch request from one of the attending professionals. My relief and stress levels have skyrocketed. How on earth did God make it possible for humans to experience both sensations at the same time? Well, however He did it, I want to thank Him for the opportunity. I could never have come this far without Him.

The Intimidation Factor

I just read Janet Reid’s statistics from the summer of 2009. See for yourself: I have to admit, I’m a wee bit overwhelmed by her numbers. I have to remember, finish editing, submit and write the next one.

Agent Marietta Zacker Answers Your Questions

You’ll want to scroll down through this really long blog entry, but it might be worth it to you. Especially if there’s a chance you write stories for children or young adults. The agent will respond to questions once a day through December 16th.