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Publishers Weekly

Pay Attention to Signing Windows (Day 19)

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This rule probably applies generally to other agents, but very specifically to me. I sign people in spurts. And these signing sprees usually occur during conference weeks and the two weeks following a conference. So, you could set your watch by my signing tendencies.

I’m not saying this is the only time I sign people, I’m saying that if you look back over four years, then most of the clients I have signed have happened very near to these mini windows of time. If I’m looking to sign 2 or 3 new people, then I will often hold off on the queries in my inbox and compare them to the people I meet face-to-face at the conference I’m going to.

On average I go to 6-8 conferences a year, which means that every 60-90 days I head out to a writer’s conference. In between, I’m doing paperwork and all kinds of things for my existing clients. But, when I gear up for a conference, I get into signing mode.

I evaluate my list and see if I have any room for new clients, and look at what those holes look like. We don’t sign competing projects, so I evaluate my list for what projects I’m interested in representing and what I “don’t have.” If you are searching for an agent, you might talk with some of their clients. Do they do this too? Maybe it’s just me. Either way, pay attention to signing windows if you want a better chance at snagging an agent.

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This series is part of the #Write31Days challenge. To read all the posts in this series click here.

 

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Be Proactive About Growing Your Platform (Day 14)

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I can hear you all sighing from here. Behold, I’ve said it—the dreaded “P” word—PLATFORM. Wipe the sweat from your brow, and the frown from your face, this is the only thing you can do:

Be proactive about growing your platform. 

It’s true that I need authors to have a solid platform in order to sell them to publishers. Platform size does affect your ability to get a good book deal, but it’s not the only determining factor. Great writing, how unique your book idea is, your voice/style, are also extremely important. On this side of the table, I have seen authors with various size platforms get quality book deals. Yes, the big platform writers get larger advances, but I’ve sold a few people with little to no platform to their name. Now, when I’ve sold someone with a “small” platform in the past, it was because their story was not small. Sometimes, BIG story can get away with SMALL platform. Big stories are often related to how “unique” your story is. I mentioned Anna a few days ago. How many people have 50 brothers and sisters and ran away from a polygamist cult at age 13? Not many. This is what I call big story.

As an agent, of course it’s nice to find the writer who has it all: large platform, amazing story, and superior writing. But, these combinations can be rare. If you don’t have a huge platform, then I need you to be teachable and strategic with the platform you have. I can teach people how to grow their platforms. When I find authors who are constantly tweaking and trying new things to build their readership, that is a sign of someone who will have a long career. Because honestly, being proactive, is all you can do. You can’t make yourself go viral or we all would. You can simply keep writing content and keep moving forward. So, quit beating yourself up over the “P” word, learn your craft, be proactive, and eventually an agent will notice your hard work.

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This series is part of the #Write31Days challenge. To read all the posts in this series click here.

 

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Hook Me In the First Sentence
(Day 4)

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This post may induce severe writer hysteria, which could include the consumption of large amounts of coffee, chocolate, and the burning of first chapters. Read at your own risk. When I first became an agent, I remember being stunned when I heard that an editor could read the first page of a writer’s work and know…after one page…whether or not their project had the “it” factor. Boy, that was terrifying. I mean what if the entire book is awesome, but they are not strong with openings? Totally possible. What if they are tedious plotters and the book takes 50 pages to start gaining momentum? Also fair. The “one page”  decision was enough to put my heart in my feet. After all, I’m a writer too. I’ve got bad habits that have to be worked and re-worked. I get it—this writing thing is hard.

But, I’ve been an agent for almost four years now, and I can sometimes tell by the first sentence if your book has the “it” factor. Clearly, we read further than the first sentence, and there are many times that the first sentence does not pop on the page, yet we still sign those writers. Usually though— by the end of the first page for sure—I can tell if the manuscript is worth signing. Sometimes it’s hard to put into words what these “it” factors are: they are word choice, they are timing, they are character qualities that hit the page that make editors and agents go…”Ahhh…this is it.”

My theory is that most writers have their hook buried in chapter two or three, so I always try to take that into account. But, the writer that works to get that first sentence right (your first sentence is your first impression), is usually the writer that has worked to get their entire manuscript perfected. Some first sentences that I have enjoyed recently include:

“Why would a man he never knew build him a home on one of the most spectacular beaches on the West Coast?” Rooms by James L. Rubart

The hook for me there? The “man he never knew.”

“At ten o’clock on a moonless September evening, Chris Schneider slipped toward a long abandoned building on the Eastern outskirts of Berlin, his mind whirling with dark images and old vows.” Private Berlin by James Patterson

The hook here? “old vows”

“An ancient mystery that holds the secret of America’s future.” The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn

The hook here? Okay..the whole thing, but particularly these words: mystery, secret, etc..

“I’m going to need a hug before I get started.” Women are Scary by Melanie Dale

The hook here? The author’s personality. I want to be her friend after that statement, and of course—give her a hug.

First sentences matter.

First paragraphs matter.

First pages matter.

First chapters matter. 

Your ability to give me a quality opening, to hook me, tells me a lot about you as a writer. It’s the doorway into your story world, so don’t waste it, or some agents and editors may not make it past the threshold.

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This series is part of the #Write31Days challenge. To read all the posts in this series click here.

 

 

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(Day 4)

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