Web Resources

Here are a number of sites mentioned in the panel--and a few thrown in that you should know about.

Publisher's Marketplace--a pay-access site, but an incredible resource. Apparently (and this may be new), one can post a query and hope agents will respond. (If anyone knows how to find this on the site, please comment and let me know!) Agents use the Deals page to see what works have recently sold, and for (approximately--it's all in euphemisms) how much.

Nielsen Book Scan--a service that's so expensive, only major houses use it. Some say that it's 90% accurate, some say much less (as it ignores many academic and small press sales). A tool for finding approximate sales of books.

Everyone Who's Anyone--a database of editor and agent contact info. Remember what I said about contacting these folks--each company has an email formula; all you need is a name and a bit of Googling. If you're really stuck, call the main line for the house and ask for the email address of any person--and, from that, find the formula. Please note that calling is not recommended.

Preditors & Editors--a site that lists known scam agencies. If you're worried, look up the name of your agent here first. But note that this is rare, and most of the time, these people can be spotted easily by their reading fees. Note that a good agent will not charge more than his or her percentage (15% is the industry standard) and maybe for international calls, giant mailings, etc.

Here are a few more you should know:

The Elements of Style--correct use of language is always appreciated. This is a handy search tool for any questions you may have.

Query Letter Prep--one of many good pages on writing your letter, including a strong sample, whose format you can use.

Word Web--A downloadable tool for finding the appropriate word. I haven't used it, my a friend tells me it's like a thesaurus and dictionary in one.

The New York Times--set yourself up some alerts with keywords similar to your work. Then, when you are ready to query, mention something like, "The New York Times did a piece on [your topic] last week..." to prove your relevance.

Same with Time Out New York and New York Magazine. Agents read them looking for ideas--you should, too.

Until next time...

On Emailing Cerberus

I admit it, I'm impatient. When I say yes to a query, as much as I pride myself on being a rather mature twenty-something, I often have to steel myself against the, But but but I want it NOW! impulse.

That's right. My interest in your work peaks when I see a query and say yes to it. This feeling slowly dissipates over the next few days, depending on if you're polite enough to send a note to thank me for requesting it. (It's always a bit worrisome when I don't hear from an author after requesting work--are they out of the country? Do they already have representation? Did I make a horrific spelling mistake in asking for their work?)

For this reason, it's always best to get back within a day or two, acknowledge the request (usually an email), and tell me how long I must wait patiently.

There are times when I've asked for a proposal and chapters, and don't receive them until a month or so after my initial request. At this time, two hundred or so queries later, I may not remember the project or why I requested it. If your proposal comes complete with clip art and mini gifts (I've received chicklets gum with Chick Lit, tea with Buddhist works, and chocolates with a proposal on chocolate--only the latter was deemed acceptable, or eaten, as it was sealed), it may go to the bottom of the pile.

And if you think we're reading work in the order it comes in...that's hardly the case.

A few tips to increase the chances of your reader moves it to the top of his or her pile:

  • Include your original query, and a print-out of the email requesting it.
  • Don't resort to clip art, wild fonts, gifts, or crazy bindings. Print the thing out, hold it together with a binder clip or a rubber band, and send.
  • Priority mail is my favorite, as the post office never loses it--and it's fast and relatively inexpensive.
  • I'm not a fan of UPS. So often there's no one to sign for it (since they have an amazing talent for delivering during lunch hour) and the package is held hostage by one of the other offices in the building. Bad bad bad.
  • Don't demand that the assistant send you an email upon receipt. We simply don't have time. (Though if you do get such a note, it's a very good sign.) If you're really that worried, ask for a signature or send Fed Ex (who, for whatever reason, usually manage to come by when we're here).
  • Try to get your proposal or partial to me within a week. Two, tops. Yes, it helps if you've written it before you query.
And a few tips on formatting your proposal or partial:

  • PLEASE double-space. Seriously.
  • Use a normal font: Times, Garamond, Arial. Don't use Courier, or we'll wonder if you're writing everything on a typewriter. Quaint, but it doesn't speak well of your likeliness to be up on current trends. Tiny fonts do not a happy reader make. My eyes are bad enough as it is. Stick to size 12.
  • Look up the best methods of formatting your proposal. (I'll write more on this soon.) But the information is available if you Google.
  • Number your pages, and put your name and email somewhere on each. Do this in Microsoft Word by going View --> Header and Footer and then typing in the dashed boxes that appear. Yes, there are occasional accidents involving multiple unbound proposals avalanching to the floor at one time.
More soon...

The title refers to Barbara's comment, referring to us as literary Cerberuses. Very clever, methinks.

Future Posts

A partial list of posts to come:
  • The Web sites mentioned in our panel
  • My favorite first sentences from query letters
  • Favorite queries that got a Yes--with, of course, author permission
  • A discussion on my favorite query letter format
  • An extensive "Do" and "Do Not" list for querying and interacting with gatekeepers, including timelines for agencies, when it's okay to follow up, etc.
  • Proposal pointers
  • The pie chart from our panel
  • Advice for writers, by genre (advice for cookbook authors is, quite naturally, rather different from that for YAL authors)
  • News about our authors
  • Especially entertaining author mistakes
  • Author resources, as I hear of them
  • Musings on the day-to-day life of a literary gatekeeper
  • Author questions which, I hope, you'll send in!

I've turned on comments, if you would like to leave your opinion about what you'd like to see first--or if you have any requests. Just click the link below that, as I'm typing this, says 0 Comments. The number will, I hope, increase throughout the day.

Hope all of you are well and enjoyed the rest of your weekend.