Celebrating a Win, If Just for Today – The Road to Self-Publishing

This article is part of my ongoing Wannabe Pride Self-Publishing blog series in preparation for publishing my novel, QUEEN HENRY, in July of 2014. Proceeds from this novel will go to the Harvey Milk Foundation. My author page is www.facebook.com/lindafausnet

 

20 Weeks Until Publication 

 

FreeClipart_Fireworks_01

Well, I’ve just finished yet another FDFN of another novel – my fourth. FDFN stands for Final Draft For Now because I really don’t believe in final drafts.  The “for now” means that you really never stop rewriting a novel until it’s either published and too late to change anything or you decide to shelve the novel forever.  FDFN means the novel has been critiqued by others and rewritten over and over to the point where it is as good as I can possibly make it. The next step is send query letters to literary agents and publishers to see if anyone will bite. Typically, a handful of literary agents will request a few sample chapters. Most of the time, they will reject the novel at that point, though some might request to read the rest of the novel first. If I’m lucky, the agents who ultimately reject the book will give me some kind of critique, some kind of reason why they are passing on the project. That’s where the “for now” part of the final draft comes in. If an agent or publisher gives me some helpful pointers on what they found lacking, I can then open up the novel and do some more rewrites.

Now that I’m starting my own self-publishing business, most of my books don’t have to end at that point. I plan to still run all my books through the traditional publishing route, pile up the rejections, and then go publish the book myself. I know that sound like a negative attitude, but to quote Dr. Phil, “this ain’t my first rodeo”. I know how this story is likely to end, at least with traditional publishers and agents. I’ve been told numerous times, by both movie producers and literary agents, that my writing is good. Very good, in fact. They just don’t think my particular projects will sell. Yeah. That’s code for – we think your work is good, but we don’t think you’re going to be a blockbuster, breakout author, so we’re gonna pass. That’s the way traditional publishing works – there is very little room for midlist authors whose books might sell, but won’t sell as much as J.K. Rowling or Nora Roberts. For most of my books, I’ll go the query route first because I really don’t have much to lose, except for some time and a small amount of postage money. So, I figure, why not query on the off chance that I’ll get an agent this time? Then I’ll just go an publish the book myself.

Not this time, though.

As I mentioned in earlier blogs, my current novel is for middle-graders aged 9-12. It would be nearly impossible to market it as a self-published book. Unfortunately, that means that this book’s life will end after the query process if nobody bites.  Which brings me to the point of this article.

It’s very important to me to celebrate the completion of the Final Draft For Now. It’s a big deal, at least to me. There are thousands of people, maybe more, who say they want to write a book but relatively few actually do. I actually do it. I finish what I start, even though it’s not always easy. I write when I feel like it and I write when I don’t. I believe it’s very important to take a little time to celebrate the accomplishment of completing another book before the world steps in and tears it apart. Right now, the book is finished and nobody knows what will happen next. Most likely and despite any praise it might get from agents and publishers, it will be mostly rejection that lies ahead. That’s later. Right now, I finished another book and I believe that it’s good.

That means It’s Time for Peach Schnapps and Drag Queens, my traditional way of celebrating when I complete an FDFN . I learned the hard way not to send a single query letter out before I do my celebrating. In this digital age, it’s possible to get a rejection letter in under five minutes. QUEEN HENRY was rejected a LOT (everybody said the book would not sell because it’s gay-themed) before I got the chance to celebrate the fact that I finished it, and I swore I would never let that happen again. It’s very important to take a couple of hours just to celebrate before the world gets in the way.

So this Friday night you know where I’ll be and what I’ll be drinking.

Cheers!

–          Linda Fausnet

Publishing and Love: It’s all About Who You Get Into Bed With

Today, Wannabe Pride welcomes guest blogger, Isobel Irons! Isobel is an indie film director and TV producer with a serious writing addiction. Her debut novel of contemporary romantic suspense, WAKE FOR ME, is available now on Amazon.com. To find out more, please visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

IsobelIrons

I recently read a post on Penelope Trunk’s blog about how the biggest decision people can make that will impact their career is who they marry. (Note: Penelope is not only one of many inspirations for an upcoming character, she’s also one of my favorite bloggers because she tells it EXACTLY like it is, at least according to her.)

Because I am so fond of likening publishing to dating, (something you’ll soon find out, for…reasons) this article seemed like it was telling the story of my life. Except, instead of applying it to my real life husband, I applied what she was saying to the people I’ve “married” (i.e. partnered with, in various forms) throughout my career, on the pathway to becoming an author. And guess what? The rules are still 100% true.

“If you marry a breadwinner who expects their career to come first, then things will probably only work if you can support that. Even if you have a career of your own.” – Penelope Trunk

Let’s say you have a friend who is also trying to publish their work. This could be someone you met on the internet and began a relationship with based on your shared experiences, or it could be a real life friend. After a while, you think it’s a good idea to take your relationship to the next level. One of you starts by giving the other a sample of your work, and suddenly your acquaintance is your beta reader. Or maybe you take things a step further and become CPs, or “critique partners.”

Everything seems to be going well, for a while, and you’re so happy to have finally found someone you trust enough to share your goals and worries with, and your rough drafts. Until…something happens. And it will happen. That’s just statistics. One day, one of you will inevitably become more successful than the other. It might be because one of you is more talented than the other, or one of you wants it just a little bit more. Or maybe one of you will give up and simply quit writing. It doesn’t really matter how, because it will happen. And when it does, you’ll have to figure out what is more important: your relationship, or your writing career.

I’m sure we would all like to think that we’re altruistic enough, or secure enough, to not begrudge our friends the success they deserve. And when you’re still in the honeymoon phase, it seems like nothing will ever be more important than the things you share. But history has taught us otherwise, and if you think the divorce rate is bad, try asking a bestselling author how many of their writer friends stuck with them all the way through the journey.

“If you marry someone who is terrible at earning money, or someone who is good at earning money but doesn’t want to, then you will have to take responsibility for earning the money. In each of these cases, your career decisions are largely determined by who you choose as your mate.” – Penelope Trunk

Mate, agent, editor. They’re all in the same category when it comes to publishing. If beta readers and critique partners are the people you date, professional publishing types are the marrying kind. Is it because they’re more trustworthy or respectable, and therefore make better long-term partners? Not necessarily. It’s because there are contracts involved. An agency contract or a publishing deal is like a prenuptial agreement. Great if you’re the one being protected, if you’re the one with the assets. Not so great if you’re the one whose potential future career is on the line.

Maybe you think you have one of those fairy tale, too good to be true relationships, like Westley and Buttercup from William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. (BTW, have you ever actually read that book? Because there’s a little known epilogue about what happens after they finally get together, and it’s actually pretty shocking how condescending Westley becomes toward Buttercup at the end. Sorry if I crushed someone’s childhood just now.) No matter who you are, even if you have the perfect marriage, things are going to change. Launching your first book is like having a kid. Contracts are all hunky-dory in theory, but what happens when actual money gets involved? What happens when your book doesn’t sell, or maybe it sells better than either you or your partner ever dreamed? Success complicates things even more than failure does, in most respects. Can you honestly say that won’t take a toll on your relationship?

“It’s true that who you marry is your most important career decision. But it’s also your most important financial decision, your most important parenting decision, and on and on. No one ever says that they knew what they were getting when they picked their spouseTwenty years down the line, everyone is surprised.

So the choice is impossible to perfect because the information you have about your options is so poor. People change, and people don’t know who they are so they can’t disclose who they are. And life before kids does not resemble life with kids, so how do you even know how the person will react when the kids come? It’s hubris to say this does not apply to you.” – Penelope Trunk

If you think about it, the publisher/author relationship is the ultimate example of a “classic” marriage. The publisher is the Don Draper-style bread winner, who promises to love (when it’s convenient for him), honor (unless someone better comes along) and obey (hahahaha, not) his wife, or in other words, the author. In return, the author promises to do everything that the publisher asks of him/her, including producing creative content on demand and marketing him/herself whenever the publisher decides that parading their author around at the company Christmas party (or whatever) is beneficial to the publisher’s image and financial goals.

At this point, I realize a lot of you are thinking I’m coming from a jaded, feministic and/or “traditional pub”-hating place. But I assure you, I’m only using these oversimplified (and yes, okay, kind of pejorative) examples to illustrate the fact that publishing IS A BUSINESS. Agents, editors and publishers are business people. They’re not in it because they love you–no matter what they tend to blog. They’re in it to make money, and support themselves. If they don’t make more from you as an author than they invest in you, that’s bad business. Once you understand how the balance of power works, you can expect that a publisher will always act in their own best interest.

Which, in a way, is actually super refreshing. Liberating, even. Because if you go into any kind of publishing relationship, knowing full well that the other person will only support you as far as it benefits them, the whole process becomes a lot less complicated. It’s not love, it’s not marriage. It’s not even a meaningful connection. It’s just sex–I mean, business.

Publishing. It’s publishing.

 

By Isobel Irons

Filmmaker, Professional, Hipster, Publishing Badass

http://isobelirons.com

@IsobelIrons

On Finding the Energy to Deal with Traditional Publishing

This article is part of my ongoing Wannabe Pride Self-Publishing blog series in preparation for publishing my novel, QUEEN HENRY, in July of 2014. Proceeds from this novel will go to the Harvey Milk Foundation.

34 Weeks Until Publication

Right now I’m wrapping up the final query letters to agents and publishers for my middle grade novel, RAIN ON THE WATER, and I’m about to start rewrites on another middle grade novel in January. Of course, I’m still working on getting my novel, QUEEN HENRY, ready to self-publish in July. Though I know it’s possible to self-publish middle grade novels, it seems to me that it would be extremely difficult to market to nine-to-twelve-year-old kids online. Yes, I’m sure there are nine-year-olds are Twitter, but they shouldn’t be! Essentially, I feel like it’s traditional publishing or bust when it comes to my middle grade stories.

It’s amazing to me how different my experiences are with self-publishing vs traditional publishing. When I’m working on my self-publishing project, I feel excited and invigorated. I feel like everything I read, everything I learn, everything I write, everything I DO goes toward the final product. With traditional publishing, I often feel depressed, even hopeless sometimes. So little is up to me with that process. I work extremely hard, but I always hit a huge wall that separates me from the Traditional Publishing World. I’m not allowed in there. That wall is guarded by Agents and Publishers who keep telling me, no matter how hard I try, I do not have permission to enter. For the most part, they’re nice, reasonable, professional people who are not out to get me. It’s just that there are hundreds of thousands of us writers, like peasants, who are begging to get past that wall and they have to tell most of us NO. That’s just the way it is. It’s not personal. They don’t even know who we are. We’re just faceless peasants trying to get in. They don’t even look at us, so they’ll never really know how good or bad we are. We’re just bodies in a crowd.

In the Guide to Literary Agents, there are hundreds of literary agents listed. Out of those hundreds and hundreds PLUS the huge listing of agents listed online at the Association of Author’s Representatives, I found exactly 87 agents who were willing to consider new, unpublished writers and who happened to be interested in my genre. So I queried those 87 agents. Of those 87 agents, 5 of them requested to read a full or partial manuscript. Four of those agents rejected the story kindly and actually had some good things to say about it. In a particularly heartbreaking gesture, one agent said she wanted to represent me and then changed her mind…

It took weeks to pore over all those agent lists. You can’t just go by what’s in the book. You have to go look up the agency online and see what their submission guidelines are and if they are still looking for work in your genre. It’s very frustrating to find an agency that is actually seeking books in my specific genre, only to go online and find out that their policy is to only consider people who are referred by a published author or if they’ve met you personally at a conference. To me, this policy is infuriatingly unfair. Remember the image of peasants trying to get past the huge wall? That’s what it’s like to go to a writing conference. I’ve only been to a few conferences, and I’ve left each one in tears. I found the whole experience frustrating, demeaning, and demoralizing, not to mention it cost me a lot of money that I simply do not have to spare. One conference actually had a session on “How to Make the Most of Your Relationship with Your Agent”. I’m sure the select few who are lucky enough to get an agent might need this session, but for me it felt like a painful slap in the face. That’s like going to a matchmaking conference and having a session for brides on “Planning Your Wedding”.

Now I’m sure there are a lot of warm, wonderful literary agents out there, but I will never forget a comment I overheard from a speaker at a conference. She said “I like doing these things, but you always wind up with a whole line of people who want to talk to you.” I will never forget how small and insignificant that comment made me feel. I didn’t bother to hang around to speak to her. She may be one of the ones whose submission guidelines say you must have met her personally to submit, yet she doesn’t want to talk to you at a conference.

And I don’t care how much social networking you do, most writers DO NOT know traditionally published authors personally. Their virtual peasant line is probably longer than the one for Agents and Publishers. Even the kindest authors do not have time to get to know a bunch of wannabe writers, let alone will they vouch for them. And why should they?

Even when you do find an Agent who is willing to read a query letter from someone she doesn’t know, the odds are still pretty infinitesimal that she will be interested enough in the story to actually take the time to read it. This is totally understandable, but discouraging nonetheless. They may get hundreds of queries every day and they’re looking for a reason to get your query out of their inbox. Wouldn’t you?

If you think getting an Agent is impossible, the odds get worse when you try to approach a Publisher. I pored though all 230 pages of publishers listed in the 2014 Writer’s Market to find publishers in my genre who were willing to review manuscripts of unagented writers.

I found thirteen.

There are thirteen small publishers who will consider my book even though I don’t have an agent.

Several of the listings who refuse to consider me actually state “We suggest you find a literary agent to represent you.” Like I hadn’t thought of that and already been through hell and back trying. That’s like telling someone who lost their job “We suggest you go out and win the lottery”. Sometimes I feel like lottery odds are better than winning the publishing game. I really do.

Of those thirteen listings, two of them require an exclusive of three months. Meaning if I submit my manuscript to them, I’m not allowed to send it anywhere for three months. At that rate, I could submit to four publishers a year. One publisher stated that they required a three-month exclusive “For obvious reasons”. Yes, it’s obvious that you want the odds weighted squarely in your favor and you don’t mind tying the writer’s hands for three months. PASS. Yes, even we peasant writers have a choice when submitting and I’m not wasting my time on YOU.

So. You can see where the feelings of hopelessness come from. You can’t help asking yourself – What’s the point?

I’m wrapping up queries on RAIN ON THE WATER now, so the agony is almost over for this story. But what about the one I’m supposed to start working on in January? I’ve finished the first draft, but of course there’s a lot more work to be done on that one. I’m finding it very hard to summon the energy to start the whole process over again. I can’t help but think that the only thing the future holds for the next novel is more frustration, rejection, and hopelessness. You try to be optimistic, but the harsh truth is that hard work and perseverance really might not be enough, no matter what it says on that inspirational meme.

A wonderful agent recently wrote an article essentially stating that fact. You can have a great query AND a great book and STILL get rejected. Repeatedly, and maybe forever. WHY YOU’RE GETTING REJECTIONS.

I know I’ve painted a rather negative picture of Agents and Publishers here, but the truth is that I’ve encountered a lot of kindhearted professionals in this business. Traditional Publishers really aren’t out to get you. It’s just a numbers game that even really good writers have a very small chance of winning. It’s NOT just about talent. It’s talent and hard work, but it’s also about luck, who you happen to know, and who has enough money to attend lots of writer conferences.

So why try?

It’s getting harder and harder for me to answer that question, especially with the advent of self-publishing. Still, if I want to write middle grade, its keep trying to scale the Agent/Publisher wall or quit altogether. So for this next novel, it’s going to be Traditional Publishing or nothing.

Want to lay odds on which one will happen?

Why am I doing this again?

That’s a hard question to answer right at this moment. But I’m betting that when I open up that first draft I wrote, read it, and start walking in the footsteps of my characters again, I’m going to remember all the reasons why I do this.

-Linda Fausnet

On Writing and Waiting…The Road to Self-Publishing

This article is part of my ongoing Wannabe Pride Self-Publishing blog series in preparation for publishing my novel, QUEEN HENRY, in July of 2014. Proceeds from this novel will go to the Harvey Milk Foundation.

35 Weeks Until Publication 

Right now, I’m kind of in a weird in-between kind of waiting period. My self-published book, QUEEN HENRY, won’t be published until July of 2014. I’ve commissioned a cover and have completed about 98% of the editing. I’ve sent out lots of letters and emails to LGBT organizations and celebrity activists in the hopes of getting endorsements for my novel. That part of the project involves an awful lot of waiting. Those people are very busy, and even getting a flat “No” from them takes time. I can’t complete the book and send it for formatting until I’ve waited long enough to see if anyone will actually provide an endorsement. After all, those endorsements would need to be included as part of the book.

After the first of the year, I plan on going back to work on one of my (still untitled!!) middle grade novels. I wrote the first draft over the summer and haven’t looked it since. That’s probably a good thing. It helps you be more objective when you take some time away from a project before looking at it again.

I also just finished a batch of query letters for my middle grade novel, RAIN ON THE WATER, which involves even more waiting. Most literary agents say they will try to respond within 6-8 weeks. That is, if they decide to respond at all.

When I’m working on a book, I tend to really eat, breathe, and sleep the story. I go for daily walks and listen to whatever soundtrack of songs I’ve found that match my story and my characters. On my commute to and from work and even in the shower, my mind is always spinning with story ideas, lines, character quirks,and so forth. Right now, since I’m in between projects, I’m feeling a little lost. Believe me, I still have plenty of work to do and I’m definitely doing it. I’m researching publishers to query for RAIN ON THE WATER for when my waiting period on agents is up (many agents won’t want to represent you if you’ve already queried publishers and been turned down. That’s why I approach agents first). I have lots of reading to do for my self-publishing project and I still have so much to learn about the process. Then there is all the social networking to keep up with.

 I’m super busy and I love it, but right now it’s more research, reading, and learning as opposed to creative stuff. I’m just missing the writing part of writing right now! With the holidays coming up, it just makes sense to wait until the new year to start on rewrites. In the meantime, I’m doing what any good writer should do when preparing to write (or rewrite) a story. I’m reading as many books as possible in my genre to see what’s out there, what my competition is, and what works and what doesn’t. I’m also reading some craft books on writing fiction. This is the nitty gritty, nuts and bolts part of writing. I’ve been doing this for 19 years and, believe me, I still have a lot to learn. This is the non-exciting, unglamorous part of writing, but it’s what makes you the best you can be at your craft.

So there it is. Back to waiting. I just read a wonderful quote that reminded me to be patient.

“Outlast those who are lucky and outwork those who are lazy.” – Jeff Goins

–          Linda Fausnet

So Here’s What Happened This Week (May 10, 2013)

 

Walkens

 

What I Did: Wrote 3000 words on the new novel! Sent out requested chapters of another novel to another agent! Not a bad week…

What I Read:WE KILLED: The Rise of Women in American Comedy by Yael Kohen

Cool Links I Found:

The Writer As Stowaway

Writing is the Easy Part

Readers Owe Writers Exactly Zip Zero Nada

The Admonition of Ass in Chair or How Writing is Actually Work

 

– Linda Fausnet

Things I Need to Vent About Right Now…

Anyone who follows my Facebook and/or Twitter feed knows that I keep a running tally of the rejections I receive for my current novel. Right now I am querying literary agents (that is, sending out a query letter detailing the novel and asking them to read it). 

As of this writing, it’s  Agents: 22 Me: 0.

There are several reasons that I post publicly about my rejections. One, I have lots of writer, actor, and standup comic friends that are right there in the trenches with me. They know what it’s like to get kicked to the ground – repeatedly. Relentlessly. I post my rejections as a reminder to them that whatever they’re going through, they’re not alone.  Two, I post my rejections because I’m proud of every damn last one of them. Every one of them means I TRIED. Third, I’m even more proud of the fact that even if I get ten rejections in one day, I’ll be up at 5am the next day sending out more queries and working on my next novel. That’s what true Wannabes do. We don’t take no for a final answer. Ever.

Okay. All that being said, here’s what’s pissing me off about agents and querying right now:

  1. Conventional wisdom says you must research each and every agency carefully before you query. Read up on all the agents, Google their names, find interviews with them, find something, ANYTHING you have in common with them, and personalize the letter as much as you can. I’ve tried this tack, and I hereby call Shenanigans.  My advice, based on extensive experience in the field of rejections, is that ALL that matters is the quality of your query and whether or not the agent is interested in your idea – and your writing – enough to ask to read some or all of the full manuscript. Even though agents themselves claim they like to see personalized letters, I find that spending a lot of time personalizing the letter is a waste of time. The reality is that agents don’t really seem to care how long it took you to research him/her. They reject you just as fast- and usually with a standard, NON personalized query –  as if you sent them a form query (that being said, ALWAYS read the agents descriptions of what kind of material they represent, address your query to an individual name, and CAREFULLY read and follow any stated submission guidelines. To do otherwise is amateurish and wastes everyone’s time).
  2. Many agents work by referral only or only through people they have met in person at conferences. That’s great – IF you can afford to go a conference. I am currently unemployed and, even before that, was struggling greatly financially. Conferences are not an option right now. Poor people can’t afford that luxury, and it’s not fair to count us out because of it.
  3. Just like most nice, cute guys are married and/or gay, many of the “good” agents are closed to queries. I cannot TELL you how many times I have found an agent who represents just my kind of quirky novel (as opposed to heavier literary fiction), only to find that they are closed to queries. Or work only by referral. Or only with people they’ve met at conferences. Or are married. Or gay. Which would actually be perfect for the gay romance I’m currently shopping…
  4. More “conventional query wisdom” says to only send maybe 1-2 queries a week and see what happens. Seeing as many agents specifically state that you can expect to hear back from them in 2-4 weeks, perhaps by the year 3000 I can hope to have an agent. This is particularly ludicrous when you consider that agents reject 99% of the queries they are sent. My advice is to query early and often. The rejections will flood in quickly – often barely giving you time to mentally recover from the last one – but at least you are making some progress. Every NO brings you closer to a YES. Right?!

Okay, so let’s be fair. Many agents aren’t evil. In fact, I’d venture to say that most of them are actually pretty cool. Here’s some nice things I can say about them:

  1. The rejections I have gotten are actually very nice. Even the form letters are quite kind. Some of them pretty much come right out and say I know that I am ripping out your heart, crushing your dreams, and spitting on your soul but I’m actually not thrilled about it. Most of the letters contain some kind of variation on “remember, publishing is very subjective, and just because this isn’t my thing doesn’t mean somebody else won’t go nuts over it.”
  2. Many agents are just too damn busy to respond and, believe it or not, writers like me totally get that. Sometimes no answer at all is actually a NO. Though I prefer to get some kind of response, I understand that agents get hundreds of queries a week and, believe it or not, they have other things they have to do in addition to responding to wannabe writers.
  3. Ummm, I’m sure there’s more than two nice things about agents, but right now that’s all I got. Maybe if I could get an agent to represent me, I could think of some more…

What about you? What do you need to vent about this week?

Query Letters for Screenplays and Novels

There are some basic similarities in writing queries for screenplays and novels, but there are also some fundamental differences. You need to figure out who to query and how to tailor your query letter for a literary agent, Hollywood agent, producer, or publisher.

Literary Agents: A literary agent, or perhaps an assistant, generally reads every query that arrives in their mailbox or inbox.

Find Agents here  

Hollywood Agents: If your hair catches fire, a Hollywood agent will not pour their Evian water on your head without first checking your pockets to see if you already have a screenplay deal on the table. That may be a slight exaggeration. Slight. Hollywood agents are, as a rule, not interested in new writers. Even if they will consider newbies, they are usually referred by other industry professionals who can vouch for them.

 Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) Agent List  Good luck….

You cannot get a producer to read your screenplay without an agent and you cannot get an agent unless you have signed a deal with a producer. That’s the conventional, “Catch 22” mentality in Hollywood. Except it’s not entirely true. 

Hollywood Producers – You *can* get a producer to read your screenplay. It’s just a lot harder when you don’t have a Hollywood agent to submit your work on your behalf. If you write a well-composed query letter that clearly outlines the script you are trying to sell, you may get a producer, or an assistant, to read your screenplay. Please do not delude yourself into thinking you can get Jerry Bruckheimer or Steven Spielberg to read your script. Be reasonable. Send only to producers who are willing to read unsolicited queries or at least do not have a stated policy of no unsolicited queries. I’ve gotten two of my screenplays optioned this way.

Book Publishers – For your novel, you can try to send query letters to publishing companies directly but it is likely a waste of time. If you go to their website for their submission policy (and shame, shame, on you if don’t do this first!) you can find out whether or not the publisher is willing to look at material from unagented writers. More and more, publishers have stopped accepting unsolicited submissions and instead will work only through trusted agents. Your querying time is likely much better spent trying to land an agent than going to the publisher directly.

**As a general rule – If you’re shopping a screenplay, query producers. If you’re shopping a novel or nonfiction book, query literary agents.**

Tips for Queries for Both Screenplays and Novels

* Get to the main idea of your story quickly. You can even dive right into it in the first paragraph before you introduce yourself. You are trying to convince the reader that your story will SELL. Grab their interest right away. Describe in clear, powerful language who your main characters are and what they are battling. What do they want? What is the story about? Where is the conflict?

* Query only one project at a time. If you’ve written other books or screenplays, you can mention them in your brief bio paragraph but don’t talk them up here. You’re trying to sell your current project.

* Just describe the story itself, don’t praise it. You may think your story is “hilarious, entertaining, action-packed, or a tearjerker,” but that’s up to the reader to decide. If it’s not clear from your brief synopsis that your novel or screenplay is a comedy or a heavy drama, your query letter – or worse, your story – is not ready for submission.

* Include a brief biography of yourself. If you’ve won writing awards or placed in contests, mention those accomplishments here. If you are a professional writer as a day job (journalist, copywriter, technical writer), then say so. Don’t sweat it if you don’t have any writing credentials yet. If your story grabs the reader’s interest, you will get a request to read your manuscript or screenplay. If you have experience or a special background that qualifies you to write this particular story, describe it. If you wrote a story about World War II, then it’s relevant to explain that your grandparents were concentration camp survivors. If you’re an attorney and you’ve written a legal thriller, it can only help to mention your day job.

 Tips for Book  Queries

Write a professional query letter that shows that you take your career seriously. Unless they have specifically stated that they do not accept unsolicited query letters or will only consider submissions by referral only, they will read your query letter. No need to dress it up to grab their attention. Make your story grab their attention. 

* You can be creative, within reason. Some choose to write some or all of the query letter in their character’s voice. Do this only if you can do this effectively. 

* If you’re querying about a novel, include the word count.

 * You can mention whether or not a completed manuscript is ready for review. If it’s a nonfiction book, normally you prepare only a proposal and not the whole book. For a novel, you should have a complete manuscript ready to go.

 How To Write a Query Letter (advice from Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner)

Query Dos and Don’ts  

Query Rant  

Some suggest you just ignore all the rules  

Tips for Screenplay Queries

* Write a logline. This is usually a one or two sentence description of your story. The logline is in addition to the brief synopsis of your story that you will include (just like in a fiction query).

* Be creative. Unlike literary agents, Hollywood agents and producers don’t necessarily read query letters. You need to make your letter stand out. If you’re marketing a comedy, feel free to make your query letter humorous. I put warning labels on the outside of my query letter and I submit a pre-rejected postcard where people can circle the reason they’re brushing me off (and a place where they can circle YES, I want to read your screenplay). Several producers told me it was the best query they’d ever received.  Another producer called me to request the screenplay instead of sending back my rejection postcard because she thought it was clever and wanted to keep it! It’s tough out there in Hollywood – you’re at the bottom of the barrel if you don’t live in L.A. like me and don’t know anyone out there. You’ve got to work to be noticed. But it can be done. Show off your writing ability any way you can.

* Be original, but not gimmicky. Using colored paper, drawings, writing your query letter in crayon just for funsies is amateur and foolish.

How To Write a Screenplay Query that Will Make Producers Drool

Query Letter Catastrophes 

For both novel and screenplay query letters, it all really comes down to the story. If your story is compelling and fresh with characters an audience can really care about, people will want to read it. As you review your query letter, ask yourself – can I sell this story? That’s exactly what any producer, publisher, or agent will be thinking. Make sure the answer is YES.

Why You Didn’t Get the Part

Many thanks to Aaron Marcus, premier acting and commercial modeling career coach for providing today’s blog entry! He is the author of How To Become a Successful Commercial Model and creator of the Becoming a Successful Actor & Commercial Model Workshop.

Some actors/models blame their agent when work is slow. I want to share an experience I just had with an agent (about a potential job) that will be helpful to you.

I received a phone call from an agent wanting to know if I could work as an extra on a TV spot. Because it was a Union job, and shooting all night, I could earn about $300. I wanted the job. I called the agent the next day to see if I got the booking, and she told me the client decided to cast someone else.

There are so many factors that go into getting cast, and tons of reasons why you might not get chosen. For instance: you might be too beautiful, and would not look like you would be married to the husband who has already been cast. Maybe you look like the director’s ex-wife, and he doesn’t want to be reminded of a bad experience. Perhaps you do not look like you belong in the family with the mom and dad who have already been cast – you could be too tall or short, and not match up well with other family members. It is possible your look is so strong that you would stand out too much, and people would not focus on the product.

The point is, you can only ask your agent to submit you for projects. Sometimes, there are many other people who have to decide who is going to get cast. The fact of the matter is, your agent has nothing to do with the final decision.