Archive | February 2013

Literary Agents give Advice on Writing Synopses

Over the years that I’ve been writing, I’ve come across a few posts from agents detailing what a synopsis is, what they expect from it, etc. I thought I would share these posts with you.

  • Nathan Bransford used to be a literary agent. Now he’s an author. This is a very helpful post when you’re writing a synopsis. You can find it here.
  • BookEnds, LLc- This is the MOST helpful post about writing a synopsis I’ve found. It gives explicit details on what you need to do with a synopsis and what the agent is looking for. You can find it here
  • Miss Snark (who’s an anonymous literary agent) gives a good description of why an agent asks for a synopsis. Find it here.
  • Carly Watters is a Canadian literary agent. She has lots of good info on here blog. Here is post with a few tips about writing a synopsis.
  • Chuck Sambuchino is actually an editor. Here is an example of a synopsis that he wrote.

I hope some of these are helpful! What resources do you consult when it’s time to write your synopsis?

Interview with literary agent Dawn Frederick of Red Sofa Literary

Today, we have an interview with Dawn Frederick, literary agent and pitch judge for WriteOnCon’s Pitch-Fest! WriteOnCon will be open to submissions March 10th. To find out more, please visit their website. To find out what Dawn will be looking for, read our interview!

Welcome, Dawn! And thanks for being here!

 

Me: How did you become an agent?

Dawn: I had moved to Minneapolis after earning a M.S. in Information Sciences. While very much appreciating and enjoying my position with a local publisher, I still yearned to participate in the publishing process differently.  Upon researching the role of literary agents, a friend informed me he knew Laurie Harper of Sebastian Literary Agency.  He introduced us, and here I’m today.  I call it fate, best decision ever made.

Me: What will you be looking for when reading pitches for WriteOnCon’s Pitch-Fest?

Dawn: I’m always in search of new, fresh ideas.  Any book idea needs to be something I will connect with, due to my representative categories or appreciation of particular topics and/or themes.

 

Me: What are you looking for right now in non-fiction submissions and not getting? And on the flip side, what are you getting too much of?

Dawn: What I’m especially wishing to see:  fresh ideas for MG & YA fiction and nonfiction, pop culture.

What I’m getting too much of:  werewolf & mermaid queries, memoirs (I do not represent them), nonfiction books without an author platform to match.

 

Me: What are three things that elicit automatic rejections from you when reading the first 50 pages of a manuscript?

Dawn:

1.            The book doesn’t fall within my representative categories

2.            Bad grammar and overuse of pronouns (too many I, me, you, my, your, etc.)

3.            If the pacing is off, there’s a good chance I’ll lose interest immediately .

 

Me: What is the best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?

Dawn: Nothing happens overnight.  To commit to the path of getting published, I highly recommend that one fully participates in all the steps – as it’s to his/her benefit.  Take the necessary time to fine-tune the story, build a strong network of writers to partner with along the way, and be prepared for the process to move at a slow pace (finding ways to deal with the antsy energy that will inevitably occur).   Submit your best work, and if that means it takes longer, that’s okay.  Any agent is going to prefer to see a writer’s best work.

 

Me: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?

Dawn: Yes, and once the idea is ready, it’s fine to begin the submission process.  No need for an exclusive submission with Red Sofa Literary (as is the same with many literary agencies)

Dawn@RedSofaLiterary.com is the best way to send queries.

Interview with Jennifer Flannery of Flannery Literary

Today, we have an interview with Jennifer Flannery, literary agent and pitch judge for WriteOnCon’s Pitch-Fest! WriteOnCon will be open to submissions March 10th. To find out more, please visit their website. To find out what Jennifer will be looking for, read our interview!

Welcome, Jennifer! And thanks for being here!

 

Me: How did you become an agent?

Jennifer: I’d been an English and Journalism major in college, and was collecting internships after I graduated. I was not at all sure what I wanted to do. I was offered an internship at a literary agency and was hired as a receptionist/office scut puppy the next day. Looking back and although I didn’t think it at the time, I can see now that it was a genuinely amazing experience; I couldn’t have asked for a better baptism by fire to the ins and outs of publishing and agenting. Then, because I’m Super Smart, I took a demotion and a paycut to move to New York and work as an editorial assistant in a publishing house. Then, because I’m Super Lucky, I was offered the chance to start my own agency. I did, hoping to last six months. I still feel that way, but it’s been 41 six month chunks of time since that moment and I try not to plan/worry/obsess much further ahead than that.

 

Me: What will you be looking for when you read pitches for WriteOnCon’s Pitch-Fest?

Jennifer: Someone who puts words together in a way that makes me keep reading. I’m always looking for that voice and style that touch me, rather than storyline or genre. If you can tell a story, I’m happy. For instance, I know NOTHING about evolution or science, but I think Stephen Jay Gould is one of the finest writers ever and he always makes it worth my while to read what he wrote.

 

Me: What are you looking for right now in fiction submissions and not getting? Are there any subjects or genres that are near and dear to your heart? And on the flip side, what are you getting too much of?

Jennifer: I’m looking for that elusive voice. I’ll read anything if the storytelling captures my heart.  I am, I will admit, tired of post-apocalyptic survival stories or love stories between innocents and other-worldly creatures.

 

Me: What are three things that elicit automatic rejections from you when reading the first 50 pages of a manuscript?

Jennifer: A cliche, a misspelled word, or a verb that’s been misused (a face cannot squirm, and ‘she veered them into the room’ should be ‘she steered them into the room’ or ‘she veered into the room’).

 

Me: What is the best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?

Jennifer: Don’t follow what’s already been done or what is currently popular. I lived through the Goosebumps, Harry Potter, the Twilight Series, and Hunger Games and have read enough derivatives of pre-existing stories as I ever want to in my whole entire life.

 

Me: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?

Jennifer: Yes! I can’t take much on at the moment but I am always looking. I like snail mail queries with SASEs to 1140 Wickfield Court, Naperville, IL60563 or emails queries to Jennifer@FlanneryLiterary.com

Interview with Jordy Albert of The Booker Albert Literary Agency.

Today, we’ll be interviewing literary agent Jordy Albert of The Booker Albert Literary Agency.  The agency is founded by Jordy Albert and Brittany Booker, former agents of the Corvisiero Literary Agency.  Welcome, Jordy!

Me: How did you become an agent?

Jordy: I had mentioned to a writer friend that I was interested in becoming an agent, and she told me about Marisa Corvisiero’s blog. I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask a few questions, so I emailed her. She emailed me back asking if I’d like to help her read and go through submissions, and of course I said yes!

Me: What are three things that elicit automatic rejections from you when reading the first 50 pages of a manuscript?

Jordy:

  1. Weak character/setting development.
  2. Plot is slow to be revealed, or to confusing/not clear.
  3. Too wordy or too much imagery/description.

Me: What are you looking for right now in fiction submissions and not getting?

Jordy: I’m looking for contemporary or historical romance, and YA that is heavy on romance, and sci-fi/fantasy. I’m also looking for New Adult. Stories featuring travel, competitions, or time travel.

Me: Are there any subjects or genres that are near and dear to your heart?

Jordy: Romance (I love Karen Marie Moning, Kresley Cole, Gena Showalter, J R Ward, Sabrina Jeffries, Teresa Medeiros, and Gaelen Foley-to name a few).

Me: And on the flip side, what are you getting too much of?

Jordy: I’m getting a fair number of suspense/mystery/thrillers, which I’m really not looking for right now. I’ve also received a number of submissions that have a similar theme where the character discovers they have a power/or can shape shift. Which is okay, but it’s a well-known and well-used plot, so it would be cool to see a really unique spin.

Me: What is one thing about you that a writer would be surprised to learn?

Jordy: I LOVE community theatre!

Me: Best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?

Jordy: Make sure your voice stands out. After reading so many submissions, they all start to sound similar. For example, when I read a YA submission, there is often a mention of cliques and social structure, which I totally understand, but it all begins to sound the same. I would suggest asking yourself how does this information relate/fit into the story? Does it? Does it help move the plot forward or provide motivation?

Me: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?

Jordy: Yes! We are open to submissions. Please send a query, brief synopsis, and the first 10 pages (copy/pasted into email) to jordy@thebookeralbertagency.com.

Writing a Synopsis: Dos and Don’ts

Writing a synopsis can be tricky. Most writers do not enjoy doing it. Here is a list of dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you slog through your synopsis.

DO NOT:

  • Do not write it in the form of a list, like an outline. A synopsis is NOT an outline!
  • Do not include a detailed breakdown of each chapter.
  • Do not include every scene in your story.
  • Do not include most (if any) of the subplots.
  • Do not include minor characters.
  • DO NOT include dialogue.
  • Do not write it in anything other then third person, present tense, even if your book is written differently.
  • Do not ramble. Give the agent or editor what they ask for, whether it’s a one sentence synopsis (yes, they ask for this!), a one paragraph synopsis, a one or two page synopsis, or the “long synopsis”, which is generally three to five pages (double spaced) or one page for every 25 of your novel.

DO:

  • DO write a summary of your novel, in narrative form. (It’s basically a dry story, with NO dialogue. Occasionally, people will include a few lines of dialogue, but it’s really better to avoid this.)
  • Do state the premise of your novel.
  • Do tell your ending. DO NOT leave it out, thinking that you will hook the agent by doing so. They ask for a synopsis so that they can see if you know how to plot. If you leave it out, they will only be irritated with you.
  • Do make sure you cover the high points of your plot in the synopsis.
  • Do remember that a synopsis is a sales tool and try to make it as exciting as you can.
  • Do try to show your characters’ emotions and motivations for their actions.
  • Do introduce you main character first.
  • Do include age and gender if it isn’t obvious.
  • Do give a sense of time-period, setting, and mood (Serious, funny, snarky, etc.).

Interview with literary agent Margaret Bail of Andrea Hurst & Associates Literary Management.

We have our next literary agent visiting today, so if you’re looking for an agent, get ready! Please welcome Margaret Bail, Agent at Andrea Hurst & Associates Literary Management! Thanks for being here today, Margaret!

 

Me: How did you become an agent?

Margaret:  Like most agents I’m a total bookworm. I love to read, and I also write fiction. One day on FB I saw a call for interns at a literary agency and thought it might a cool thing to do, so I applied. It was months later when they finally interviewed me, and then hired me. It was just a temporary position, but I’d caught the bug, so I started shopping around for another agency where I could apprentice, and that’s when I found Andrea Hurst Agency.

 

Me: What are three things that elicit automatic rejections from you when reading the first 50 pages of a manuscript?

Margaret:  I’m willing to give everyone a chance, so I won’t say that anything elicits automatic rejection, but there are some things that are bothersome, and avoiding them will make me more likely to keep reading. First, and this isn’t story related, but it really irritates me when authors don’t follow directions and submit based on the website guidelines.

As far as story is concerned, I’ve got a few pet peeves: first of all, I really hate prologues because 99% of the time they’re unecessary and just muddy up the actual story. Secondly, I don’t like it when characters wake up in the first scene of the story. It’s just so cliché (unless the character wakes up in midair falling to earth without a parachute. One of the few wake-up beginning scenes, IMO, is The Bourne Identity). I want to read something fresh and different. In fact, I really prefer action at the beginning, and then work in backstory as the story progresses. Finally, if you send me a genre I don’t represent, I will reject it outright (e.g., YA, literary fiction, religious fiction).

 

Me: What are you looking for right now in fiction submissions and not getting? Are there any subjects or genres that are near and dear to your heart? And on the flip side, what are you getting too much of?

Margaret:  I really like romance, all subgenres except religious/inspirational. I get a lot of romance submissions, but romance is surprisingly difficult to write well, so the more I get, the more likely I am to glean some really good stories from the inbox.  I’d love to see some historical romance that isn’t Regency…let’s find some new, fresh historical eras to write about because, really, people fell in love all throughout history, not just in the Regency period.  I’d also like to see more time travel romance, because who among us hasn’t daydreamed about finding ourselves in a different place and time?

I also really like thrillers.

As far as what do I get too much of? I get a lot of fantasy, and although I like fantasy, I’m really, really picky about what I like. I don’t particularly care for Tolkien-style fantasy with wizards, sorcerers, elves, trolls, etc.  My all time favorite books are Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, so I guess I really like dark, gritty, alternate worlds.

 

Me: What is one thing about you that a writer would be surprised to learn?

Margaret:  It’s probably not surprising to learn that in addition to agenting, I also write novels. But it might surprise some people to learn that I’ve written stage plays, as well, some of which have been produced in North Dakota (where I live) but some have also been produced in New York City (waaaay off Broadway).

 

Me: Best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?

Margaret:

  1. Follow directions before submitting. I know I said that already, but it can’t be reiterated enough.
  2. Before submitting your manuscript to an agent I would suggest polishing your manuscript, making use of beta readers, joining critique groups, and/or using the services of a professional editor.
  3. Oh, and if you get rejected by an agent…be professional about it. If you send me a childish ranting e-mail calling me names and claiming that it’s ‘my loss,’ etc, it’s not going to make me change my mind. In fact, it’s only going to make me glad I won’t be working with you.

 

Me: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?

Margaret:  Check out my submission requirements on our website:

http://www.andreahurst.com/literary-management/about/margaret-bail/

I’m not terribly active in social media, but I do put in appearances now and then:

https://twitter.com/MKDB

http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3585181-mkdbail

 

Want to pitch your book to 12 of the best literary agents?

WriteOnCon’s Mid-Winter Pitch-Fest will be open to submissions on March 10th. Right now, they are looking for pitches in these genres:

MG/YA contemporary
New Adult
YA girl-centric
Historical MG/YA
Humorous MG/YA
Gothic MG/YA
MG/YA Thrillers
MG/YA Fantasy
YA Horror
YA Science Fiction
YA Suspense
Literary MG
YA Magic Realism
MG Mysteries

The agents are:

Alyssa Eisner-Henkin, Trident Literary
Amy Tipton, Signature Literary
Brielle Johnson, Writer’s House
Dawn Frederick, Red Sofa Literary
Eddie Schneider, JABberwocky Literary
Jason Yarn, Paradigm Literary
Jennifer Flannery, Flannery Literary
Kathleen Rushall, Marsal Lyon Literary
Logan Garrison, The Gennert Company
Mollie Glick, Foundry Media
Peter Knapp, Park Literary
Sara Crowe, Harvey Klinger

Each of the 12 agents will be reading and commenting on 25 pitches. And guess what? I’ve got at least one of the agents lined up for an interview! You’ll only be able to read it here! 🙂 So if you’re interesting in finding out what the agents will be looking for, stay tuned!

The pitch critique board is already open, so if you want some feedback on your pitch before submitting, you should head on over to their forums.

You can find out more about WriteOnCon here.

You can find the Pitch-Fest forums here.

 

Weekend Writing Challenge: eight sentences.

For Weekend Writing Warriors (WeWriWa) this Sunday, I’m posting the first 8 sentences from my novel, Drive Back the Darkness. You can find more info on WeWriWa here: http://www.wewriwa.com/

DriveBacktheDarkness_AmyMNewman_200x300

 

Two weeks ago

Something was wrong. The tingle at the base of Ellie’s spine told her so, long before she heard the sound of footsteps on the cement behind her. The bright fall sunshine crackled with danger. Something was very, very wrong.

Ellie’s hands began to shake. She wrapped them around the straps of her backpack and walked a little faster. Her home was only a few blocks away. She could make it a few blocks, couldn’t she?

 

Hope you enjoyed it! If you want to read more, you can find my novel at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Tips for writing a synopsis.

Here’s what I know about writing a synopsis. I HATE it. I mean it. There is very little I hate in this world. I am extremely easy-going and have been called happy-go-lucky by many people, but I truly hate writing a synopsis of my own work. Other people’s work is no problem. I think it’s like that for a lot of writers. We’re too close to our own work to see it clearly.

Anyway, I tried something new with my latest manuscript. I started the way I always do, a scene by scene synopsis (15 pages, single spaced!!) Then, I made a one page list of all the points I thought were important to include, WITHOUT looking at the scene by scene. Then I wrote my synopsis from that list, NOT the scene by scene. That made it 7 pages single spaced. Then I had my sister (thank you, sister!!!!) cut it down for me. She cut it to four pages single spaced (at one AM in the morning no less!) This made it seven pages long, double spaced, which is really to long for a query letter, but oh well. It’s tight and interesting, and I really don’t think I could cut it anymore. My plot is kind of intricate. I will say this though, every other synopsis I’ve ever sent out has been no more then two pages double spaced. In fact, some places (like Harlequin) don’t want a synopsis over that, so you really, really need to try to get it cut down.

I really liked this way of doing it. It was much easier than my normal way which is to take the scene by scene and cut. How do you do your synopses?

The actual query letter that landed me my agent.

Okay. I know you’ve all been waiting for this. This is the ACTUAL query letter I sent to Brianne Johnson of Writers House. She requested a partial based on this, then a full. Then, she passed my manuscript on to Michele Rubin of Writers House, who ended up signing me! I’ve deleted personal information and a few names, but otherwise, it is untouched.

May 29th, 2012

Dear Ms. Brianne Johnson,

I am seeking representation for my dark, contemporary YA novel, BELOW THE SURFACE. I chose to submit to you because in your Publisher’s Marketplace page you said you were looking for “beautiful, literary works that explore the coming-of-age theme.” I feel my novel embodies that description and may be a good fit for your list.

For Sammi Colton (16), going to high school in Portside, a small town on the shores of Lake Superior, is comparable to a painting by one of the old masters; dark, grim, and completely depressing. When her father leaves her family for his pregnant girlfriend, Sammi loses her creative spirit, her ability to paint, and her sense of self. Soon, an unlikely friendship develops with Kayla Ryan (16) who is the complete opposite of Sammi’s own dark personality. Under Kayla’s direction, Sammi takes on a new identity, complete with a set of pom-poms, parties with the popular kids, and a romance with Kayla’s brother, Austin (17). This new persona is a façade, spread over her like a suffocating, thick layer of paint, and Sammi soon realizes she must find the courage to scrape it away and discover who she truly is before she loses herself forever.

BELOW THE SURFACE is a 73,000 word contemporary YA novel that deals with the loss of Sammi’s father, the loss of her identity, and the loss of her whole world as Sammi tries to make herself into someone else, someone her father can love. In the end, Sammi must make a choice; do you change who you are for love, or do you learn to love yourself? I feel it would appeal to readers who loved Sarah Dessen’s LOCK AND KEY, Jandy Nelson’s THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE, as well as Stephanie Perkins’ ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS.

I have been writing for twelve years and have written several novels. My YA fantasy, DRIVE BACK THE DARKNESS, is scheduled to be published in September. I am currently working on a revise and resubmit request I received from a publisher for one of my romance novels. I have also developed a following through my blog, which details my daily life as a wife, mother, and aspiring writer. I have completed three years of my Bachelor’s Degree in creative writing. I have also worked with a critique group for five years, and worked with published author and University of ****** professor, ****** *****. Thank you for taking the time to consider my work. Upon your request, I would be happy to send you a partial or complete manuscript. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Amy M. Newman

Mailing address

Email

Phone number

http://www.theliterarymom.wordpress.com

Enc: first five pages