Monday, August 20, 2012

Lessons from Write On Con

The past week and a half, I attended the virtual Write On Con online. For those who did not know what it is, it's an online writer's conference, it was in a way like a virtual one for those who couldn't afford to travel to another town for those conferences. During the conference there were agents, authors and editors talking about book publishing and establishing author platforms and in the forums some agents and editors were requesting manuscripts through the forums, and there were some things I wanted to share.

1. More than one POV
The agents and editors said they don't mind more than one POV but they want the voices to be different. They also recommended that if you want to write novels with multiple POVs good examples of published novels using that technique is Jodi Picoult's novels and Pretty Little Liars Series by Sara Sheppard. All of Jodi Picoult's novels deal with 5-7 different POVs and she is a New York Times best selling author for multiple years and her novels have received many awards. The Pretty Little Liars Series by Sara Sheppard deals with 4 POVs, but what makes them different is the personalities and characterization are so strong and different, it's clear to tell which character is talking when you read a new chapter.

2. Editing
Agents and editors said their pet-peeve is when they make suggestions for revisions on the manuscripts and they get the manuscript back in two days and nothing was changed, or not enough effort was put into the editing. Another suggestion they made is for an author who is querying to agents or editors for the first time is to hire an editor for the manuscript before sending it to submissions or to the agent because bad grammar will sometimes make them think the author took no pride in self editing their manuscript (and it can never hurt to have an extra set of eyes look at your story,and get the manuscript into tip top shape before sending it out).

3. Author Platform
Most agents said using a blog as a great way to author platform; blog about books you are reading, what you're using to research agents, outlining, writing, editing, NaNoWriMo, querying etc., but one of their pet peeves is when the author doesn't even bother to blog on it for weeks or months. If you're going to use a blog as your temporary website at least blog once a week. Another one they talked about was social networks. How people put in their queries "I have 30,000 followers on twitter". An agent Scott Waxman mentioned how he does not understand why querying authors think it's important to have thousands of followers on twitter, and he said to be honest it does not matter to agents how many followers you have on twitter. 100, 20, 2000 followers agents only care about one thing; representing a good book with good writing that will sell. An editor also recommended to stop obsessing on getting thousands of followers.

4. Querying
This to me had to have been the most helpful when I was watching the live feed mostly because I am in the process of querying agents as I'm sure other authors are doing and well.  During the live feed, the agents and editors who were listing their pet peeves really told me "this is what you should not do in a query letter." A lot of agents gave their pet peeves with query letters:

*writers putting threats into the query

*seeing authors sent out one mass email and you can see all the other agents email's in the letter. Instant deletion and displays the author is unprofessional

*comparing their work to other branded authors "This is like Stephen King but much better"

*no personalizing the letter when submitting to the main line

*addressing the letter as "Dear Agent" instead of putting the agents name showing they are sending the letter specifically to that agent ex. "Dear Ms. Smith"

  • Again, personalizing the query letter is important and falls under the definition of researching the agent specific taste when querying. There are some agents who prefer for the queries to be personalized and some who prefer for the queries to jump right into the pitch.

Ex: Into Pitch

Dear Ms. Reamer,
For as long as the underworld has existed there was a prophecy of a girl who would destroy all evil that walked the night known as the slayer.

Ex: Personalized

Dear Ms. Reamer,
I am a big fan of your client Stephenie Meyer and I thought you would be interested in my manuscript Poison.


Dear Ms. Reamer,
I read the most enchanting book called Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia. When I looked on the author's website and and saw that you represented the book I thought you might be interested in my manuscript Bewitched, targeted at the young adult audience completed at 75,000 words.

Here is the personalized example from debut author Heather Anastasiu of her query with a Personalization.

Dear Mr. Olsen,
I read an ARC of Andrea Cremer’s Nightshade and saw on her website that you represent her. I think you might like The Beautiful Anomaly, my 78,000-word romantic dystopia targeted to the young adult market. This novel imagines a future in which world peace is finally achieved, but at a terrible price—by enslaving most of the global population through emotion-deadening bionic hardware.

* authors not following the guidelines as stated in their submission guidelines and putting the sample pages as an attachment as opposed to the pasting it into the body of the email (please note; not all agents check their spam box)

*not putting the in the subject line "Query: Title of Book" (Doing that in the email is important. An agent who checks their spam box will see that the subject says "query" and your wonderful submission won't get lost in all the other spam).

*word counts that exceed over the normal amount for a book "My books is completed over 100,000 words" (this makes agents cringe)

*Not researching the agent enough to see what they like and what they don't represent (One agent's blog specifically said she does not like books with damsel in distress, yet, she kept getting all these submissions and the characters were a damsel in distress. Another agent on her profile on the agency website says, 'NO wolves, no vampires, no angels' and people were still sending queries dealing with those supernatural creatures after her profile specifically says not to send her manuscripts dealing with those elements).

Another thing most agents pointed out in the video conferences was that these are the things they read in query letters that get an instant rejection;

      "This is the second book in a self published series, and I'm hoping you can get it published"

      "I have over 60,000 followers on twitter"

      "My father and my cousin read this book and they loved it and think it will be the next      

      "This book is the New Twilight, Harry Potter, etc."

      "My friends loved this book and say I'm the next J.K. Rowling"

      "My books is completed over 100,000 words" (this makes agents cringe and most editors              cringe)

Putting that into the query letter or you will get deleted and that is the end of that potential business relationship. I'm hoping you will find some of the things I learned during that conference very helpful, I found some very useful, a bit like the do's and don'ts of querying. Hope some of these lessons help you in your process of querying. Happy Writing!


  1. Happy Writing to you too. Thanks for sharing what you learned...great stuff!

  2. Hi Vanessa!

    Great post.

    I've always wondered how agents/editors felt about multiple POVs.

    As for saying my work is like (insert well-known author name)...I wouldn't dare!

  3. I would think that it depends on the genre as far as word counts go. 100,000 words is not that much for SciFi or Fantasy. Plus many agents say don't worry about word counts--write until the story is done. What say ye?--Sharon

    1. Thank you for your comment. Of course, after the stories undo rounds of edits, the story will extend. When I went to Veronica Roth's books signing, she said when Divergent was complete it was 55,000 words, then once she did edits and copyedits, it was well over 100,000 words. It depends on the author but that is how many felt. Thanks for the comment.