Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Tips from the Slush Pile"

By Bonnie Harris

Awhile ago, I subscribed to the Nelson Literary Agency's Newsletter. (I would highly recommend hoping over to their website and signing up for their newsletter.) They've consisted of advice from Kristin Nelson about writing trends and such, along with thought from agents on her staff. I've found it very helpful information and it helps me to stay "in the know" as I navigate the publishing world.

In December's newsletter, Anita Mumm (who is coming to our ANWA Conference in February in Phoenix, AZ) wrote a fantastic note on "Smart Persistence." It gave me good insight on whether or not it is proper to re-query an agent and if so, when it's appropriate. Here's what she had to say . . . Enjoy!

TIPS FROM THE SLUSHPILE by Anita Mumm Anita Mumm
Writer's Toolbox: Smart Persistence 
One of the most common pieces of advice aspiring writers receive is “don’t take no for an answer.”
We all know that rejection is part of life as a writer, and that tenacity is perhaps the most important quality you can possess. But when doors close in your face, is it okay to knock again? And what steps should you take before doing so?
Unless agents specify that they do not take resubmissions, it is perfectly okay try again. In fact, NLA has signed several clients that at first were not the right fit.
One was Gail Carriger, author of the sexy steampunk PARASOL PROTECTORATEseries, which now includes three NYT bestsellers. Gail first queried Kristin with a young adult novel that she turned. Four years later, remembering the great editorial notes Kristin gave, Gail requeried, Kristin fell in love with the project, and the rest is history.
Then there’s Marie Lu, whose phenomenal YA dystopian novel LEGEND hit shelves November 29. Marie approached Kristin at Pikes Peak Writers Conference several years ago, but didn't quite win her over. When Marie came back with a whole new project, Kristin offered representation, but ultimately couldn't sell it. So what did Marie do? She dusted herself off, wrote another book. . . and watched the series sell in a major auction. A film deal with CBS films and the producers of Twilight was not far behind. That's the power of persistence!
Things to consider before resubmitting:
1.  Have you done a SERIOUS rewrite? This is tough to hear, but if your query is getting no attention, or if agents are requesting, then rejecting, your sample or full, there’s probably more to fix than commas and typos. Take it back to your critique group or editor and ask them to take no prisoners! If you see patterns in their advice and you can live with the changes, make them. Regardless, spend months—not days or weeks—working as hard on this new draft as you did on the first. Agents are skeptical when they see rewrite queries almost immediately—how different could this new draft be?
2.  Did agents give positive feedback? If an agent says she’d love to see future work from you, she means it—there’s way too much coming through the slushpile for agents to say that lightly. Any advice about things to work on should also be seen as encouragement. Just be sure that if you resubmit to that agency, that particular advice figures into your revision. You don’t need to agree with every agent, but you do want to have the same vision as the one who signs you.
3.  Don't be a spammer! There’s a big difference between asking an agent to take another look—and becoming “that writer.” The one who sends the same infernal query letter every day/week/month, wondering how agents just keep missing it. See number 1—time to go back to the drawing board! Then resubmit your query (once) and wait for a response. If you get another rejection, third time is probably not a charm—cut your losses and look for agents who might be a better fit.
Resources for obtaining feedback before resubmitting your work: Allows writers to submit (for a nominal fee) samples for readers to rate. Lists quality freelance editors and editing companies; also notes those that are NOT recommended.

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