Thursday, April 03, 2008

Guest Blogger: JadenPoser pt.1

Savannah: Hey everyone, this is my friend Jaden Nation, a sickeningly talented teen writer who just got his first agent, and as such is now qualified to share with us meager underlings the secrets to his success. Be nice, no hate comments, and soak up his wisdom.

Every picture except this first one I provided, as he is boring and didn't bring his own pics. :P

My apologies to Savannah- I'm a bit late with this promised post. Man, it's been a whole month since I blogged last... hard to get back into the flow.

Recently, I finally achieved two things I've been fighting to achieve for years now. First- I got an agent. Second- I kicked my Limewire/BitTorrent habit. Granted, sobriety only lasted for five minutes, but during that time I gathered my shattered nerves and scraped together some notes that I think you'll find useful. Useful, that is, if you're interested in finding a literary agent, or if you've been looking for one and have a wall *covered* with rejection letters (I do!).

Edit: I planned on lumping this all together, but I've realized it's too much for one post. Even Postzilla would be small compared to how big this post could get. So I'm going to split it into parts. This first part will be general tips on agents.

1. First off, the basics in a nutshell:
Most of what you've been told about looking for agents is false. Honest. Don't get me wrong: you should read *everything* you can about the publishing industry, but take it all with a grain of salt. Remember the hacker's first rule of Social Engineering. If you don't remember it, here it is:

RULE ONE: People are not machines.

Caption: Robots people not are.

OK, I made that up. It's a revolutionary statement, nonetheless. It means this: no matter what you read "agents" do or "publishers" do, EVERY single agent/publisher is still a human being. And human beings are almost unpredictable. So don't take everything the books say (or I say) at face value.

2. So what is an agent?
Oh no
, you say to yourself, he thinks we're little kids. We KNOW what an agent is? No, you probably don't. An agent is not (per se) a person who manages your royalties, arranges for cocktail parties and sets up tours. At least- not yet. AT THIS POINT- an agent is the GATEKEEPER. Without him, you are NOT getting published.

OK, that's not exactly true. Paolini did it (sorry Savannah). Kaza Kingsley did it. Yes, yes, yes- but unless you can devote the IMMENSE amounts of time to marketing that these hard-working writers devoted, you will NOT be successful without an agent. Chances are you don't even really know *how* to market a book (I don't!). The point is that at this point, you NEED an agent. You should be willing to cut your ears off to get one.

Bottom Line: Agents are the ONLY way you can get in!

For the love of God, do NOT make it seem like you read Tip Number 2.
This part is hard, but it is absolutely essential. Do NOT treat agents like they are gods (though sometimes they act like Zeus or Pluto). Treat them with respect, but above all else treat yourself as if you have something they *desperately* want. This is a very delicate process. Bottom line: if you appear half-hearted or anything less than *totally* committed to your book, the agent will quickly forget about you.

Bottom Line: Treat yourself like *you* (not just your books) are Hot Property

You should know that the only way you're going to break in is with a book that is unconventional.
Do NOT query agents with a fantasy novel about a height-challenged boy hero who has to take a magic ring to burn it in Mount Boom. They've seen it and they're sick of it. In the modern market (and the market changes fast!) *all* books must have a killer twist that intrinsically sets it apart from every other manuscript out there. If your book is like the one I described... sorry, but you should write something else. I had to learn this the hard way (I spent five years on one series quite similar to that one, and I got rejected until I wrote a new series).

Bottom Line: Don't rewrite Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars, or any science fiction romances. The last might get published, but I'll find your home and burn it down.

Caption: In essence, DON'T BE LIKE THIS GUY!

5. Do NOT try and find that *perfect* agent.
There are hundreds of agents. There are *millions* of authors, and they are all querying those hundred agents at the same time as you are. If you do get an agent, chances are really stacked that it will not be the "perfect" agent that you found. Why? Because agents are people, and people are not machines. Your not-so-perfect agent may have twenty years more experience than the perfect one, and personally knows top-level editors who are looking for YOUR BOOK. But won't list this.

Bottom line: query everyone who might have the most remote interest in your genre. They will not jump on a book that they know they can't represent. If they can rep it- they'll reply quickly.

6. Simultaneous Query.
Don't listen when they say "does not accept simultaneous queries." Nothing in the world will bring you down deeper than waiting four months for a reply only to get a rejection (and you *will* be rejected). What do you do then? Get your query and snail-mail another agent? Good luck...

The books will tell you to do just that. But their method is really outdated. Remember- you have to convince agents that you (yes, *you*) are hot property. Query EVERYONE at once. Do NOT CC or BCC them, though. If you email query, send out individual queries (hint: Copy & Paste) to each agent.

The beauty of this is that you can spend a day or so emailing queries, and then sit back as rejections or requests start flowing in over the next month. Plus, if you sign a deal and a rejection from a different agent comes in, you get to experience the acute joy of rejecting *them*.

Bottom Line: Get a list of agent email addresses. Query everybody in the same day (but not necessarily at the *same time*)

7. Agents tend to respond to email queries faster than snail-mail queries.
I gave up snail-mail querying years ago. It doesn't work anymore. The only problem with e-queries, however, is that they are a LOT easier to reject than snail-mail queries. So you'd better have an amazing book, or you're no better off than before.

Bottom Line: Forget about snail-mail, no matter what the book say. Check out

Your query is everything. If you plan on following my advice and querying the Cheap Way (aka Email Queries), you're going to replace cost with quality. If you want to save money on postage, your query letter had better be AMAZING.

Bottom Line: I'll give you an example of my query letter (that sold my book) in the next part. For now, I'm off to work.



KalebDozer said...

Great, but can you tell me how to get a chinchilla?

Jaden said...

Hang your Ginger Clark reference.

- JadenPoser

Savannah said...

Jaden, that was great! You did fantastic. Looking forward to the next post.

PS: I know I totally committed one of those cardinal sins (finding the 'perfect' agent), but seriously, he seems perfect!