Can U Smell What I’m Cookin’??

*glances around* Don’t tell my agent okay, ya’ll?

I LOVE the smell of fresh WIP bubbling in the oatmeal pot! I hate worldbuilding. HATE IT. *Cries*
Okay I don’t HATE it but … we have a sort of co-dependant, one-sided, love/hate relationship. I need it but I don’t necessarily want it. And if I write anything that remotely hints at paranormal, I don’t get much writing done until the world has solidified (the plot…the world…it goes together). Be right back…I need vodka. So the writing is slow but at least I’ve gotten some writing done in the last two days. Love holiday weekends, hate the running (though I am happy to see family since we don’t get together often enough). I could get the living and dining room painted but for Thursday.

Anyway, better late (or early depending on how you look at it) then never..I’ve got some Dear Gentle Writer Q’s for you:

Dear Gentle Writer…Can you recommend some good websites to find basic info for us newbie writers? Things like manuscript formatting, how to write a query or synopsis, where to find submission guidelines, etc.? I’d be eternally grateful! There’s not a lot of time between job, family and writing to Google my way around the writing universe.

Lisa in WY

Dear Lisa Writer…Bar none, the best synopsis breakdown I’ve ever read, is done by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner-there’s even a section on writing query letters. Tricks of the Trade

Holly Lisle has some info up on formatting your manuscript: HERE. For the record, I don’t use 1.5 in margins. I use 1 in. margins (w/ 1.25 on the left and right) and I use Georgia 13 font. It’s easily readable and at 25 lines per page, comes out to about 250 words so my MS Word count and my estimated count are usually pretty close. A word of caution, if you are using Word, I advocate setting up your format first and turning OFF the Widows and Orphans because it screws everything up (Format | Paragraph | Line and Page Breaks | Uncheck Widows/Orphans and save a few braincells in the process).

Submission guidelines for epublishers are going to vary, so your best bet is to check individual websites. I know of no website that lists guidelines for all publishers–and keep in mind that most NY pubs only take agented submissions (Dorchester and Kensington seem to be the exceptions).

I checked out agents reputations and sent out queries to my top five. Then it occurred to me I hadn’t thought beyond this point. Help! What are some things should I ask an agent, if I get a call or e-mail regarding representation? Things that would help me make a decision about representation. I don’t want to come off looking like the unprepared and ignorant writer I really am at this moment. LOL!

Dana in Cali

Dear Dana Writer….this could be an entire blog post all by itself!
Some basics though:
1. Do they use a formal contract and will they send you a copy?
2. If they work on a handshake, what happens if things don’t work out? If you don’t feel comfortable asking this question, the SOP is to give them 30 days notice in writing.
3. What’s their standard percentage on a sale? (15% for domestic and 20% on foreign rights sold seems to be industry standard)
4. Do they have an idea of where to send your work? They don’t have to tell you where but if they’re really enthusiastic, they’re probably already thinking of editors to pitch it to.
5. How hands on are they? Do they work a lot via email or snail mail (yes some agents still use good old fashioned snail mail)?

And once the conversation is over, tell them you’ll get back to them. There’s no need to agree on the spot–especially if other agents are also looking at your work. IMO You need to take the time to see what else is out there before you commit.

Here’s a good article with some questions you can ask, but (IMO) you should already have an idea of what they’ve recently sold (either from their website or Publisher’s Marketplace). You might also check out Noah Lukeman’s Ask a Literary Agent.

All that said, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself too. Namely, what do YOU want in an agent? Do you want an agent who is very hands on? Do you want to be notified every time your agent receives a rejection? Are you prepared for the expense of mailing multiple copies of your manuscript if the agent wants you to? (I once had to send a former agent five copies of a mss.)? Do you want your agent to edit you? Do you want an agent who is kind of like a friend as well as a business partner or do you want an agent who is strictly a business partner? Do you know where you (ideally) want to be in five or ten or fifteen years? Do you want to write in one genre only or multiple genres? These are some things you need to make sure you share with the agent(s) you speak to so that you’re both clear up front about what you want. If your agent doesn’t know what your goals are, they can’t help you get achieve them.

I know writers who are on their fourth or fifth agent and I know writers who have been with the same agent for twenty-five years. Sometimes our needs and desires change…and your mileage may vary.

So dear gentle readers, anyone have anything to add?