Janet Sumner Johnson
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You’ve Written a Book! (what to do next)

Apr

24, 2017 |

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Books,Publishing

Recently, I’ve had several people approach me with the fabulous news that they’ve written a book (congratulations!), and they’d like to look into publishing, but they don’t know what to do next.

I’ve been working on getting published for so long, that I sometimes forget that the things I’ve learned about how to get published aren’t always obvious. With so many people asking this same question, I thought it might be helpful to share this information with all of you.

I’m going to warn you, this will be a long post, but I hope it will be helpful.

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IMG_0689So congratulations!!! You’ve written a book. The first thing you should do is celebrate. This is a huge accomplishment! Many start, but few finish. You are one of the few!

First of all, before you do anything else, you should have someone who is not family read your book and comment on it. Then you should consider those comments, make changes, and repeat the process. I would recommend sharing it with at least three people at a minimum.

Finding people can be hard, but if you’re serious about it, you should be willing to exchange manuscripts with someone else. I actually find that critiquing someone else’s work can be really helpful in showing me what kind of improvements I could make in my own work.

Also, a great place to find critique partners is the Querytracker.net forum.

There are all kinds of discussion threads, including one called “Critique Group Central.”

Do you just want to see your book in print? Do you want to share your work with family? With a broad audience? Do you want to traditionally publish? Do you want an agent or would you rather submit to publishers on your own? Do you want to self-publish? Do you want control over every aspect, or would you rather pass some things off and just work on writing?

Here are some things to consider:

Self-Publishing:

This option can get your book out there faster, but it can be a hard road, and there are steps that normally a publisher would do that you would need to take care of. For example, you would need to do things like editing and copy-editing. I would strongly recommend that you pay someone to do that for you, as outside eyes will catch things that you as the author will not.

You will need to design a cover and format the e-book (or pay someone to do it). Also, you would be in charge of all marketing to get your book known and out there. This can be really frustrating, and it can be hard to find an audience, but these are things you would be responsible for. One thing to consider is that it can cost a good chunk of money to self-publish (if you do it right), and that is not always earned back.

That said, there are many benefits to self-publishing. For example, you get a higher percentage of any sales. You have a lot more control over content, and cover, and marketing and promotions. Some people very much want that control.

To give some other perspectives, HERE is an article from Harold Underdown, who has worked in publishing a long time. He gives a lot of good information in this article.

And HERE is an article from Elana Johnson who has both traditionally and self-published.

Traditionally Publishing:

So there are two options here. One, you search for a publisher on your own. And two, you work to get an agent, who will then submit to publishing houses.

For both of these options, I highly recommend using QueryTracker.Net. You can use it to search for agents and publishers who publish your genre. Whether you are looking for an editor or agent, you will need to research each agent or publishing house and find out what they are looking for and whether or not they are open to unsolicited submission/queries. QueryTracker provides links to many of these agents and publishers so they are easy to research. Certainly, there are other places to find this information. There are yearly books published, but I have found QueryTracker works for me.

Once you’ve done your research, make a list of those editors/agents you want to submit to. Once you know who you want to submit to, you need to write what is called a query letter. A query letter is a letter asking the editor or agent if they would be interested in considering your work.

For good information on how to write one, here are some sites to check out:

HERE is Nathan Bransford’s post on writing query letters.

Rachelle Gardner breaks down what to include in a query letter HERE.

Janet Reid’s Query Shark is a place to see real-time improvement on query letters. You can see exactly what an agent is thinking as she reads a query letter. I recommend reading through the archives to get a sense of what a query letter should look like.

Finally, HERE is an example of a successful query letter received by Andrea Somberg.

Reasons to search for a publisher on your own:

You don’t have to split your earnings with anyone. Also, many people don’t want to take the extra time to find an agent. It would be faster to go straight to the source.

Reasons to find an agent first:

(Caveat, this is the option I chose, so I might be biased.)

Many publishers are only open to submissions through agents. The reason for this is because it saves them time. Agents have vetted the work, often done rounds of revisions to get the book closer to being publication-ready.

Agents also help you with contract negotiations. They know what to look for, and they will help you avoid contracts that aren’t favorable to authors. This can be a big deal. BIG DEAL. Better to have no contract than a bad one. I’ve seen it.

Agents act as a go-between for you and your publisher. Agents will do the hard stuff like pushing back on a cover an author doesn’t like, or dealing with problems that may come up in the editing process. Or pushing for edit notes when they are long overdue. This allows the author to maintain a more open, less tension-filled relationship with the publisher and editor which is so needed throughout the revision process.

HERE is an article on what agents do and don’t do for writers:

Honestly, I can’t imagine trying to get published without one.

The process is long and arduous to get traditionally published, and I think it’s important that people understand that up front and know what they’re getting into.

All of these options can work. It mainly depends on what your personal goals are, what you are willing to put into the process, and what you hope to get out of it.

I hope this has been helpful for you, and don’t hesitate to ask any questions in the comments.

Speak up:

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“Luck ‘O the Irish” Pitch-Fest!

Feb

08, 2013 |

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So if any of ya’ll haven’t heard, WriteOnCon is coming out of hibernation this winter to host the “Luck ‘O the Irish” pitch fest.

I happen to be a HUGE fan of these things (can’t imagine why . . .), so I jumped in with two feet and beggedapplied to be an official book blogger for the thing. Hurray! They accepted me, and now I have a shiny new badge over there on the sidebar.

So. Here are the deets:

We
here at WriteOnCon are organizing a mid-winter “Luck ‘O the Irish” pitch-fest,
where agents, book bloggers, and authors will team up to read and vote
for the best pitches of 2013.

You read that right! A pitch-fest! At WriteOnCon!

The details:
–Pitch-fest
runs from March 18-22. Authors, book bloggers, readers, and our
fabulous literary agents will be voting on the pitches. The favorites in
each category will win prizes, including some great agent feedback or
membership in the official WriteOnCon mentorship program!

–There
will only be a limited number of pitches accepted. That number is
unknown at this time, because it depends on how many agents attend.
We’re still recruiting agents and will let you know the final numbers as
soon as we do! Pitches will be selected randomly, so it doesn’t matter
what time zone you live in.

–The
agents have selected their top three genres, and pitches will ONLY be
accepted in those genres. Again, all genres are unknown at this time as
we’re still finalizing agents, but don’t worry. We will make
announcements about genres and numbers as things solidify (sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss a thing!).
At this time, we are only focusing on the children’s market, so you can
know now that this pitch-fest will focus only on middle grade and young
adult genres.

–We’re
announcing this now, before all details are finalized, because we’re
running a “perfect your pitch” workshop in February. This will take
place in the WriteOnCon forums, and will work much the same as the query
critique boards do during the annual WOC. You will post your pitch, and
your peers will critique it. We will have posts from industry
professionals on writing pitches and genre classification.

We’re
doing this for a good reason. We want your pitch to be as perfect as
possible once the submission window hits in March. We will only be
accepting your entry for the pitch-fest one time. We will not change
your genre or edit your pitch after it has been submitted. This workshop
during February is the time for you to fine-tune your pitch and get
feedback about which genre your novel really belongs in.

–Only one pitch per person. Put forth your best work.

–Pitches
should be for polished and query-ready novels only. That means if you
haven’t finished your novel yet, you shouldn’t pitch. Still revising?
Don’t pitch. The agents attending are looking for material, and when
they request, you want to be ready to send out your novel. We’re
announcing early to give you time to finish!

Dates to know:
February 18-March 10 – Forum peer pitch critiques (Carolin has the forum boards built! Check them out HERE)
March 11-13 – Submission of final pitches (this will be done through a Google form, NOT in the forum–details to come!)
March 14-17 – We build the boards in the forum (they will be hidden until March 18)
March 18-22 – Voting and commenting by literary agents, mentor authors, and book bloggers

We can’t wait to see you at the Luck o’ the Irish Pitch-Fest! Watch the WOC newsletter and site for more updates as we get closer to liftoff. Yeah, that was totally a mixed metaphor.

Hope to see you all there!

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Hacky Sack Club: Congratulations Edition

Jan

14, 2013 |

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Happy New Year! I hope you all had wonderful holidays and that your new year is already swinging in with all sorts of good things.

I know at least one person who finished the year with a super bang: Amy Sonnichsen! She was offered rep by the fabulous . . . well go read her blog and find out!

Wait!!! Don’t click over yet!

Because you don’t want to miss this. Some of you may recall that the
fabulous Amy did a little video for me when I signed with Agent
Fabulous. I’m ashamed it has taken me so long, but I couldn’t let this
go without returning the favor with a Hacky Sack Club video of my own.

Hope you enjoyed, and Congratulations, Amy! So excited for you. 🙂

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18 comments

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Feeling Lucky

Nov

26, 2012 |

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To state the obvious, I didn’t post last Monday. What with the Thanksgiving frenzy that starts at least a week before the actual day, it just didn’t happen.

We had family coming to celebrate the holiday with us, so that meant it was finally time to shrug off my writer’s mantra (being: Write first, clean later). Yeah, that was a good thing. My floor even got mopped. Laaaaa! (*read that: heavenly choir bursts into song*)

Anyway, they came and we talked, watched movies, played games, made a farce of going outside (with the freezing wind), and ate WAY too much—turkey, stuffing, cheese, gravy, potatoes, pies (and I know some of you are thinking that the cheese doesn’t really fit on that list, but let’s just say you don’t know my husband and his brother!). In short it was wonderful.

And I was feeling all kinds of grateful for everything in my life. Just like the license plate I saw:

MI LUCKY

In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot about this, lately. I do feel lucky. Lucky to have a hard-working husband who loves me. Lucky to have 3 beautiful kids who are still happy to hold my hand and give me hugs. Lucky to have wonderful extended family including in-laws I love. Lucky to have a job I can do from home. Lucky to have writing in my life. Lucky to have an agent. Lucky to have so many friends scattered all over the world (many of whom I’ve never met . . . and uh, yeah, that would be all of you guys!). Lucky.

The thing is, my life is not perfect. In fact, far from it. I have struggles and hardships. Bad things happen to me and to people I love all too often (and uh, read that as understatement). I worry that I make wrong decisions (and I’m not talking the red-shirt/blue-shirt kind). I worry that I don’t do enough for others. I worry that I don’t keep in touch with my friends and family enough. And on and on.

But I still feel lucky.

Because I think “luck” (or perhaps a better word is “blessings”) is there for the finding. Even in the hard stuff. It’s just a matter of looking.

What do you guys think?

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9 comments

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How I Got My Agent

Oct

15, 2012 |

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First of all, thank you to everyone who stopped by to wish me congratulations last week! It’s such a great feeling having so many supportive friends. 🙂 I’m still working through the comments, but I might be slow. So in the mean time, know that every comment was VERY appreciated!

Anyhoo, last week you got the short version of my news, so today, for those who like this sort of thing (I always do), I give you the long version. I totally understand if you skim. Because it’s long. Especially for me!

Many moons ago, when I was but a wee lass, I wrote a book. It was amazing. A best seller. Humorous. Touching. Emotional. Gripping from page one. (Okay, I’m lying. It was TERRIBLE. But that’s how I felt about it.)

I queried precisely one agent. And I got precisely one partial request . . . and then an exceedingly kind rejection. And I KNEW. I put that book on a shelf and moved on to the next book.

The next book took me . . . um, A LOT of years to write. Because by golly, I was going to get it right this time! I entered one pitch contest, and got one full request (I know! Crazy, right?). And then I got the rejection. And I KNEW. This book was not ready. I tried to fix this one, but just never felt ready to let it go. So I moved on to the next book.

Except, really, I moved back to the previous book. I re-read it. Groaned at how awful it was. But I saw the spark in my characters. I replotted. Made my darling husband talk plot points on date night. Carried a notebook with me everywhere so I could write in every spare minute. But before I was done, I sent the first ten pages to be critiqued by an agent at a conference.

And people, you are going to laugh, but I got a full request! So I worked even harder and finished the first draft (I use the term loosely). I edited it, polished it, and finally sent it off (Jan. 2011). And then . . .? Nothing. So I took a deep breath and began querying in March. Slowly. V-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y. And I got some requests, but one by one, they all came back as rejections.

Something had to be done. Come October 2011, I battled in an online auction for an editor critique. I paid my money, and got some fabulous advice. But alas, it meant major revisions. So I dug in, and by February 2012, I was raring to go again. So I sent off ten more queries, and got a couple of requests. I even e-mailed some agents who had rejected the full, and they all agreed to look at it again. I was feeling good!

But when those rejections came, I was crushed. CRUSHED. I came to the only conclusion I could. My book was not ready. Irrational, I know, but there we have it. I stopped querying last April.

So I threw my heart into my next book which I am absolutely in love with. And this time I was feeling it. This was going to be THE book. My breakthrough.

Halfway through draft two of THE book, I got an email from a former CP telling me how she had given her novel one last shot and actually gotten an agent. I was so happy for her, and so humbled. Deep down, I knew I hadn’t really given my previous book a chance. So I told myself: “One last hurrah. And then I can’t say I didn’t try.”

Right about this same time Brenda Drake was starting Pitch Madness. 300 entries. 60 finalists. 9 agents.

I entered, and was lucky enough to be pulled from the slush by Dee and chosen as a finalist by Erica Chapman.

Now see, I had read all the agent bios. One had already rejected this ms, and 3 or so didn’t do Middle Grade. Of the remaining 5, based on interests, I thought I’d probably get one request. Two if I were particularly lucky.

That week I bit my nails (which I DON’T do), followed the #pitchmadness twitter conversation religiously, and tried my best to sleep at night. And of course I told myself, “It’s not like anything’s going to come of this. Even if I do get a request.”

Yeah. Pessimist, much?

The day arrived. With shaking hands I went to twitter for the announcement of which agent won each entry. But my entry didn’t come up. They skipped right past my number. I felt sick. But wasn’t it just the inevitable? No interest. More of the same.

Dejected, I went to my entry just to make it real, and my jaw dropped to the floor to find that SIX of the nine agents had expressed interest! SIX!!! Including the one who had previously rejected it. And including an agent I KNEW didn’t rep middle grade. There had been a tie, which is why my entry hadn’t been announced.

I was agog. I must have stared at that screen for a full minute with my mouth still hanging open.

Anyway, to bring this epically long post to an end, I ended up with three requests in addition to the winner. One of those being the agent who had previously rejected this book.

So when I received an e-mail from the said agent a mere six days later, I assumed she had finally realized her mistake.

I could not have been more wrong. She wanted to talk representation!

I know!

We had a wonderful telephone conversation in which she told me what she loved about my ms (among other things), and though I tried to keep an open mind for the other agents still reading, I knew I wanted to work with her. And if you haven’t guessed by now, yes, this was Victoria Marini. SHE WAS THE AGENT WHO HAD REJECTED THIS VERY SAME BOOK! Form rejection of the query, no less.

I tell you this because I had written her off. She hadn’t like it. So even though I’d done a major revision, I had no plans to re-query her.

Mistake.

Writing a book is a bold endeavor. It takes hard work, patience, and lots of courage. And querying is no different. Be bold! Be brave! BE BRAVER THAN ME. Don’t be afraid of a ‘no’ . . . or even a second ‘no’.

And there I shall end, but for those who like stats, here are mine. I’ve combined contest requests with queries, just to make it less convoluted:

Time spent querying: 9 months actively (over span of 1.5 years)
Total queries sent: 63 (fyi, I only sent 55 queries, the rest were requests from contests)
Query Rejections: 28
Non-responders: 20
Partial requests:  8
Full requests: 9
Offers of Representation: 1

It just takes one, right? Don’t give up. And BE BOLD!

Speak up:

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My Big News!!

Oct

08, 2012 |

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Yes!!! This is THAT big news: I. Have. An. Agent! *insert cheesy grin and maybe a squee or two*

I know! Cool, right?

And do you know how hard it was not to say anything last week?!! Well I assure you, it was hard.

So who is this agent you ask? The wonderfully fabulous Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents, Inc.

She read my manuscript in one sitting guys. And when she e-mailed me, she used words like “wonderful,” “marketable,” and “fabulous.” I’ve read others’ experiences so many times, and wondered if an agent could ever really love my little book enough to offer representation. Seriously, I am all agog at the fantastickness of it.

I have a whole long “How I Got My Agent” post written out in my head with all kinds of thanks involved which I’m sure will be coming shortly, not to mention a celebration of some sort, but for now I give you the mandatory ‘I’m-signing-my-contract’ picture. (And yes, my desk is always that clean. Why do you ask?) 

So what is your good news, today?

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