Friday, May 3, 2013

How to Prepare Your Submission to Literary Agents

I've recently came in contact with an amazing 16 year-old writer named, Lilly Maison. I found her on Jessica (another amazing writer) Brody's  blog HERE. Her super short story won 3rd place at “A Chance to Unremember” hosted by

And that's not all; Lily was recently recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing awards for one of her short stories and received a gold medal. Did I mention she's only sixteen? Wow! Ah-mazing!!

Lilly is working on editing her novel and preparing it for submission to literary agents. She asked if I had any advice for her about the process? Oh, do I?!

BTW All you seasoned writers, please feel free to direct a comment to her below. I know there are probably some things I missed. And I know a lot of you have got some great things to share.

Advice about the submission process? Hmmmmm…let's see now, before you hit the Send button make sure you've already sent your ms (manuscript) to several trusted CPs aka critique partners. Don't have any? Join a writing group. There are some free ones online such as YALITCHAT. Ask around, referrals are priceless.

The professional ones are obviously not free but well worth it as you are in the midst of seasoned writers (lots on bestselling authors too) and some even offer free classes. SCBWI,  RWA,  ACFW,  ITW to name a few popular ones.

Follow your dream agents on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Learn more about them. Sometimes they even send out tweets regarding what's on their submission wish list. You can also create a list of them on Twitter or star or group them on Facebook so they all can come up on one feed. Nobody will ever know you're stalking them

On Twitter you may list them publically or privately. All you have to do is go to the person's page and click on the person icon next to the Follow button. Click on 'Add or Remove From Lists.'

And don't forget to personalize the query. Mention one of your favorite authors they represent, if they do. Or if you follow their blog and enjoy reading, don't be shy to let them know. 

Always keep track of who you query (also the agency they work for) and the date you sent it out. When they respond, jot down the date and the status i.e. rejection or request-full/partial. I also save my sent emails of the requests I send out, organizing them in an email folder for reference. I don't know how many times I went back when in need. It really saved me.

I'm sure you know this but just in case, remember you NEVER EVER pay for an agent. Ever. Let me repeat that, you NEVER EVER PAY FOR AN AGENT OR A PUBLISHER. If they ask for any kind of reading fees or any fees at all, run the other way. This includes any editing system they feel you can benefit from. Chances are they are getting commission on your referral. Under no circumstances should you pay anything. Real publishers and real literary agents do not charge a penny.

If you can, not crucial but definitely useful, establish a platform. Get your name out there and interact. Agents and publishers like to see potential authors working hard and building a fan base. Blog, participate in social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, even Pinterest. 

If you're querying, your goal is to get published—might as well start with the platforming and building now. I've met some pretty amazing people just by interacting with them on blogs and social networks. So it really isn't just all work. It's very much worth it.

When sending out subs, query batches of maybe six to eight at a time. It's best to get feedback and see how it goes rather than ruining all your chances at once. And besides if everyone is noting the same thing, i.e. "I didn't connect with the protagonist/didn't click with the characters" or "The voice wasn't strong enough for me/GMCs weren't clear enough" maybe it's time to reevaluate their feedback. Professional criticism is gold!

Here are some of my favorite sites to research agents:
Casey McCormick and Natalie Aguirre's Literary Rambles blog


Even the best of the best have to endure those heart stinging oh, so lovely rejections. I know, I know but why? Why can't it be easy? For some a streak of luck surpasses those dagger disses. But keep in mind some of the most well-known work of all time have gotten the boot too.

And if good fortune is on your side, you might not have to endure many but for the most part rejections are definitely inevitable. It's why I created an Encouragement page. If you ever need a little pick me up click HERE. Hope it helps. But don't let it get you down. Take what you can and learn from each and every one (if it's not a form rejection) and grow, grow, grow. It does a writer's mind good.

Keep in mind each rejection is closer to that YES and THE CALL! Whoop whoop! Be like Stephen King and hang them on your wall with a railroad spike. (Or not. If you live with your mom. I'm sure she'd freak. I'm not responsible J.) He had so many but it didn't falter him. Be like Steph.

In the process don't forget patience is a virtue. Without it every writer would be shipped to the loony bin. Send your work off and dive into another project. Always strive to grow in your craft. The publishing industry is a lot like turtle racing. Most of the time, it's gonna take weeks, sometimes months depending on the agent and/or publisher.

And if they happen to ask if you have anything else, bam, now you have a great answer in return. <Why yes, I do (or will, depending on your time frame with ms) Ms. Such & Such, thank you for asking. >

Don't be shy. Leave them in a comment below!

And here's my For Writers  link for more help. Best of luck and let us all know when you get that call so we can celebrate with you!



Sheri Fredricks said...

Rockin' blog, Mart! Your submission advice, as well as your shoulder to cry on, helped me on many occasions. Best wishes to Lilly and her newfound career.

Mart Ramirez said...

Aww Big hug CP!!! Such a blessing! Ditto!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the tips and for including Literary Rambles. I'll be querying soon and probably need to get on Twitter and stalk my favorites.

Micky L. said...
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Linda Glaz said...

Wonderful post, and don't forget to add, go to the agency site and see exactly what they want in a proposal. Some agencies allow you to send props and sample chapters right away, don't miss out on that chance by only sending a query which might get rejected before you even have a chance to get them reading a sample. Great post!

Daryl Devoré said...

Fantastic blog and every word is true. New writers - follow her advice.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Good for Lilly! That is so exciting. I love seeing younger peeps chasing their dreams.

BTW - it's wonderful to see you back!

Mart Ramirez said...

@Natalie, of course. Literary Rambles rocks!

@Lilly/Michal best of luck to you! Let us know if you have any other questions.

@Linda great advice! Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. Much appreciated.

@Daryl aw Thanks!

@SA Thank you! Great to be back!!! XO!

Stina said...

Great post, Martha!!! I didn't know we could stalk agents on Twitter without them realizing we're stalking them. :D

Angela Ackerman said...

I loved querytracker when I was hunting for an agent. Their system is great for information and staying organized!

Karen Elizabeth Brown said...

I agree with you about rejection letters. I sent a story and received a point by point critique on the entire thing. At first I was crushed, but then I realized I was sitting on solid gold advice. You do grow!

Lisa Gail Green said...

I think you covered it!!! Great advice for those starting to query! Wow - I'm going to have to check her out!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I started querying last week. I only queried the agents I met at conferences or ones I have substantial online relationships with. I know the odds aren't with me for being signed that easily, but it's my starting point...