Now What? Five Things You Should Do Once You Sign with A Literary Agent by Elizabeth Toth

Aside from making an announcement on Twitter and doing revisions, there are a few other things that should be on your mind when you sign with a literary agent. In all likelihood, you’re about to launch your career as an author. It’s exciting but don’t get lost in all the confetti. Here are 5 things you should do to make sure you’re off to a great early start.

  1. Figure out your brand

What do you want to offer readers? What can they expect across every one of your novels? Can they expect an action-packed adventure or something light and whimsical? Before you create a website, newsletter, swag (someday), etc., you need to figure what your brand is.

This usually means you have to conceptualize your next novel. Does your current novel have series potential? If editors are interested enough in it, they may ask for a short pitch of your next book(s). The pitch doesn’t have to be long (a paragraph and even a sentence can work) but it’s not a bad idea to start working on it now, especially before you commit to writing it. Some people have no end of book ideas. Personally, I like to take my time brainstorming.

Different genres have different ways of doing a series. The romance genre, in particular, likes to have a new hero and heroine for each book but with some theme that links them all. If you’re not already well-versed in series in your genre, check out what’s selling well and figure out how you want yours to look.

  1. Get a website

In today’s day and age almost every author has a website. It’s an easy way for your readers to find a list of your books and connect with you. Once I got an agent, I created mine for the first time using a free service. Unless you want to, you don’t need to pay for a domain name every month either.

You’ll have no trouble finding free website providers: Weebly, Wix, Squarespace. Go with the one that you find easiest to use. Then look around to see what other author websites look like. At a minimum, you’ll want to put your bio up there, maybe a list of your works and most importantly a way to subscribe to updates or a newsletter. It doesn’t hurt to gather emails as early as you can. When your book deal comes along you might be glad you did.

Before you spend anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000+ to pay someone to design and create a website for you (on top of $5+ monthly domain name fees) see if the free options work for you first. Test out the waters while you can, preferably before your book is published when you’ll really need one!

  1. Learn a bit about how book marketing works

Even when you’re traditionally published, that doesn’t mean you’ll have lot of marketing dollars thrown your way. Unless a publisher has invested significant money in your book (aka your advance), much of the marketing is going to fall to you. It helps to prepare!

Some suggest putting aside part of your advance to use for marketing purposes. But before you commit your hard-earned money, you’ll want to learn what you can about the different marketing avenues you can take. There’s a ton! Some examples include blog tours, swag gear, conferences, signings, newsletters… All of these things can suck up a great deal of your time. You can’t expect to do all of them, so try and make note of which strategies you like best. That way you can focus on those particular ones and execute effectively when it’s time.

You don’t need to become an expert, just get familiar. Here’s a nice overview that I found helpful from author Rachel Lynn Soloman’s blog.

  1. Follow authors with books similar to yours

This is a great way to figure out: 1.) who your readers are 2.) where best to find them (Twitter? Instagram? Review blogs?) 3.) what they like. Try to see how newer sophomore-level authors do things, particularly on social media. They’ve been through their debut year already and probably know what works and what doesn’t. How do they interact with others? Which do they use most, Twitter or Instagram? Do their readers (potentially yours too) like to collect book swag, participate in giveaways, go to signings or conferences? You don’t have to copy what other authors do per se, but there is much you can learn from them.

In all likelihood, these authors are probably the ones whose books you read. Support and interact with them! Don’t forget your agent’s other clients and writers who aren’t yet published too! There’s a whole writing community out there. Social media gives you plenty of opportunities to build relationships and network with them. Take advantage!

  1. Write your next book! 

While the before mentioned tasks are important, don’t get too carried away, especially with social media. It’s easy to do! Yes, designing a gorgeous website is fun but in the end what’s going to sell to publishers and future readers is a great book. You should focus on accomplishing that above all else.

Getting a literary agent is no easy feat. It’s a major step in your career as a writer. And you deserve to celebrate. Get that photo of you signing the contract, announce it on Twitter and pop open that champagne! But even after you get an agent, even after you get a book deal, keep pushing the envelope and exploring how to be successful in your genre. There’s a lot of hard work still to be done. While it’s great to have someone in your corner, remember that much of the work will be on your shoulders. You can do it!

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth TothElizabeth Toth writes suspenseful historical fiction for young adults. She is represented by Christa Heschke of McIntosh and Otis. In addition to fiction writing, Elizabeth has delved into many other styles of writing including news, political, corporate communications, public relations and marketing. As a seasoned writer, she’s eager to help new writers navigate the publishing world through her blog and editorial services. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and daughter. Read more writing advice on her website. Follow her on Twitter: @Stoeverit


About the Series:

Now What? is a series dedicated to navigating post-query life and the agent-author relationship. Authors from every stage of their writing career have come together to tell their stories. They understand the struggles of querying and moving forward with an agent and are here to help.

New posts go live every Friday!

Previous Posts in this Series:

How To Know if An Agent is Right For you
By Ana Franco

Three Myths and Two Truths About Getting An Agent
By Tammy Oja

How To Communicate with Your Agent
By Alexandra Overy

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Now What? How To Know If An Agent Is Right For You by Ana Franco

Hello Readers & Writers,

Welcome to the third installment of the Now What? series, featuring Ana Franco who will discuss how she knew her agent was right for her and what you can keep an eye out for yourself when you have an offer of representation.


It’s true. There tons and tons of amazing literary agents out there.

So how do you know who is the perfect match for you?

It’s easy! You ask questions.

What I suggest, first and foremost, is to ask to chat with the agent’s clients. Not only those that write in your genre, but clients in general. Clients that are still revising with the agent, clients on submission, clients that have sold books before.

A Note: Always make sure to ask to read the agent’s contract before signing anything. That’s one thing my agent told me when I mentioned I’d like to notify other agents of my offer of rep. Ask to read their contracts. Always.)

After chatting with my then-future-agent’s clients, I knew there was a huge chance he was “The One.” His style of representation suited me. For example, my agent writes small edit letters, leaves comments on my manuscript, and corrects my grammar.

There are, however, different sorts of agents. Some are faster to read, some slower. Some write edit letters, some don’t.

Same with how they approach editors—some will pitch via email, some will have lunch with the editors, some will pitch only 4-6 editors at once, some 20+. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way of agenting—just what suits you. And these are all very important points to consider before accepting or declining an offer of representation.

Having all of this information as well as knowing my agent’s representation style were huge factors in helping me decide what to do, but I still wanted to think some more.

There’s something about receiving your first offer of representation that people rarely talk about, though. After you ask for the two weeks to notify other agents and think before making a decision, your emotions will be all over the place. It’s a happy moment—we all wait for it to happen—but it’s also so, so stressful.

With me, the process went like this:

  • I woke up in the middle of the night because I desperately needed to pee. When I checked my phone to see the time, I saw I had an email. And it had the words “offer of representation” in it.
  • Cue some freaking out, reading the email a million times.
  • And then I couldn’t sleep. I was awake for hours, trying to process that this was, in fact, real. I had dreamed of that moment so many times, I had to make sure.
  • When I finally felt like myself again, I emailed the agent and we set up a call.
  • I cried for hours before the call.
  • After it, I cried again.
  • And it kept going, I kept crying for days.

This is very normal, though it scared me a lot! People don’t talk about how stressful this experience is, how game changing everything about it is. I cried so, so much. For a while, I was afraid this meant I wasn’t happy. But then I realized (my therapist did, to be honest) that I was happy. But I was also a nervous wreck because this was something new, and I’m scared of changes.

But you know what happened later, when I understood what my emotions were telling me? I was happy! I was so, so happy! I’d be laughing at absolutely nothing all the time, babbling to strangers about how lucky I was feeling. See what I meant before? This messes with our emotions.

When I was finally calm, I grew anxious while I waited for other agents to read my manuscript and decide if they’d offer as well. Once again, after a lot of thinking…I realized that I was anxious because I didn’t really want other offers. Now, don’t take this the wrong way. Everyone loves multiple offers! They make us feel validated, like we’re “real writers.” And humans love to have others fighting over them. But I knew, deep down, that I wouldn’t want to accept another agent’s offer.

So I took the next logical step: I withdrew my manuscript from other agents after waiting just one week and accepted the offer from the original agent. I have a friend who once said something along the lines of “when I got my first offer, before I spoke to the agent on the phone, I knew I’d ask for two weeks if we didn’t click. But if we did, I’d ask for only one week.” Sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened if I had waited, but it doesn’t matter. Not then, and not now. Especially not now. I’ve been with my agent for a little over a year, and I know that I made the right choice. I don’t regret anything I did, and that’s how I know for sure that my agent is the right one for me. Of course, hearing the horror stories about bad agents out there makes me feel extra good about my choice.

What I hope you’ll take away from this is that asking questions is essential, but always follow your gut. And remember: each journey is different. There’s no right or wrong experience.

About Ana

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Ana Franco is represented by Chris Kepner from the Kepner Agency. Aside from reading and writing, she loves story-driven video games, Starbucks, and cats. She also firmly believes The Walking Dead and Toy Story tell the same story. Ana lives in Brazil with her family and a bunch of spoiled cats.

Twitter: @anathebookworm

Instagram: @anafrancobooks

 

 


Previous Posts in this Series:

Three Myths and Two Truths About Getting An Agent
By Tammy Oja

How To Communicate with Your Agent
By Alexandra Overy

Now What? Three Myths and Two Truths About Getting an Agent by Tammy Oja

Hello Readers & Writers,

Welcome to the second installment of the Now What? series, featuring Tammy Oja who will discuss some myths and truths about signing with an agent. This post clarifies a lot of miscommunication out there so without further ado, I hand the reigns over to Tammy:

The day I talked with my agent is seared in my mind. I knew in just a few minutes of talking to Ann (Ann Rose, of The Prospect Agency) she was the agent I wanted to sign with.  How could I know this? Because after talking to her I wanted to cancel the plans I had that night and get myself to the computer. I wanted to take everything she said to me and put it into action. Our conversation was just over an hour and in those moments, she opened my eyes to possibilities hidden in my words that I hadn’t even seen. As silly as it sounds, when we hung up I played the conversation over again in my head. I felt a burning intensity to want to make my characters rise to the potential she saw in them. And it didn’t stop there; I wanted to rise to the potential she saw in me. It is still something I strive for every day.

Getting an agent is hailed as one of the big wins for many authors. It’s something many of us have envisioned, pinned hopes on, and worked toward for years. But with that hope, sometimes you gather bits of information that aren’t true. Ironically, I didn’t hear of any of these things until I got an agent, and then it was by people ‘informing’ me of how they thought it worked. So today I’d like to talk about some of these rainbow colored myths, and some pretty awesome truths.

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Photo by João Silas on Unsplash

MYTH: Having an agent means you no longer need to edit.

Having an agent means I edit harder, and more times than I’d ever dreamed of. My agent, Ann, is an editorial agent. This means she knows how to incorporate big picture changes and line edits and has an end vision for the work before it moves on to submission. She does not do the actual editing, but she does voice exactly what needs to be done. While she’s invaluable at seeing things I can’t, it’s my work and ultimately, I am responsible for getting my story to a place where both of us are confident enough to move forward.

MYTH: Having an agent means you don’t need Beta Readers or Critique Partners (CPs) and don’t need to beta or CP for anyone else.

Beta readers and critique partners are critical for every writer. They help you see things you missed and strengthen the work before it gets to your agent. That, helps everyone. Being a beta and a CP teaches you. Looking critically at storylines, arcs, character development, and basic line edits, gives you a multitude of skills and a stronger eye for your own work. Sometimes seeing it in another person’s work makes the information click and that, is magic.

The relationship CPs have is a bond that’s hard to explain. These are the people you trust your drafts with, they’re the voice of reason when you suffer from insecurities about your work. Your CP should believe in your talent and be comfortable enough to tell you where things seem off. It is your CP that will be there when you feel like things are impossible or you get a glimmer of genius you will die if you don’t share. A critique partner is your sounding board and squeal partner, not your agent. If you don’t have a CP, get one.

MYTH: Having an agent means your book is as good as sold.

Agents are amazing(especially mine). She’s a superhero and I trust her with every fiber of my being, but she isn’t the secret to my book being bought and sold. A book can be incredible, and written with a golden pen that makes your words flow like they were divinely inspired, but the market is a beast that wants what it wants. I don’t feel competent enough to tell you how the process works, but there are a hundred cogs on the wheel to get a book out. An agent is a great one, but even they stand in line and hold their breath while the publishers do their thing and editors find what they like.

TRUTH: Having an agent will change everything.

When I signed with Ann I had no idea what that relationship would be like. Today, I am so grateful she is everything she was on the phone. She’s extremely gifted at seeing a million scenarios at the same time and following those threads to see which fits perfectly. Ann is someone I can reach out to, and is always on my side. She may not agree with my changes, or like an idea I come up with, but she is always supportive and willing to discuss anything with an open mind. I am no longer an individual, I am part of a partnership. It was strange at first, knowing that my creativity didn’t have the right to run amok anymore but now I can’t imagine going backward. Yes, it’s odd to hold on to a shiny idea until I speak with her first, but talking it out with someone really adds clarity. And, truthfully, it does add a little pressure having someone waiting on your work and knowing they will be looking at it critically. But right off the bat, I wanted my words to be something both her, and I, can be proud of That makes every criticism feel helpful.

TRUTH: Having an agent is a new type of professional relationship.

My agent and I have a relationship that I never dreamed was possible. I still fangirl her, but never feel awkward or nervous when I reach out to her. She is kind, approachable, professional, realistic, and above all, there. She takes the time to teach me things, and makes me feel like I am more than just one of her clients. I feel unique, important, and worth her time.That means everything to me. I feel like it is critical to say here, that your agent is a professional. Going to them when it’s appropriate as opposed to every time you question things or want advice will take your relationship further. I respect that Ann has other clients, multiple submissions to get through, and a life outside of the agent business. Knowing what really needs her attention and when I can go to a CP or friend is key to a great working relationship.

Landing an agent changed a lot of things for me. But it didn’t make writing easier or cut out the work it takes to get things right. While it gave me confidence, talking with Ann is a reminder of how much there still is to learn. Luckily, I found the perfect home for me. It came complete with  agency siblings, which is incredible. We are all on the same team, cheering each other on as we work toward our goals. Luckily, I’d venture to say that none of us got there without stumbling several times, and facing rejections. In fact, the way I got in front of Ann was through #writementor. I worked with my mentor, Candace, and together we prepared for the agent round. From there, Ann saw my work and requested to see more. It wasn’t at all how I imagined getting an agent, but everyone’s journey is unpredictable and wild, and that’s part of the mystery. The truth is, no one can tell you when it will happen for you. Chances are, you wouldn’t believe them if they did. But, if I could leave you with two pieces of advice to help you on your path they would be:

*Never give up. No matter how bad you want it, or how long it takes, never stop.

*Pick your agent wisely. They’re your partner, the person who goes to bat for you. But they are also the one that tells you to rip the words of your heart to shreds and do it over. Pick someone who makes you happy to hear that because you know they want you to hit those stars just as much as you want to hit them.

My name is Tammy Oja. I am a mom, full time RN, and writer who tries to find the beautiful parts of the dark. I am represented by Ann Rose of The Prospect Agency. Please note that everything in this guest blog is my personal view. What worked for me is my experience, and your path may differ greatly. My hope is that every author who wants an agent finds one that gives them joy and makes them feel vital. Query hard and get yourself out there, and most of all, never give up on your dreams. Thank you to Megan Manzano for allowing me to write this.  


Previous Posts in this Series:

How To Communicate with Your Agent
By Alexandra Overy

Now What? How To Communicate with your Agent by Alexandra Overy

Hello Readers & Writers,

Below will be my first post in what I hope to be a series about navigating post-query life, how to communicate with your agent, and knowing what agent works best for you. Taking over today will be Alexandra Overy who has been with her agent for two years. Read below what she has to say about communication and her tips on how to have a successful author-agent relationship.

If you’d like to be a part of this series, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Now, onto Alexandra:

Signing with an agent is a huge milestone for any writer, but once you’re past the initial flurry of offers, contracts, and announcements it can be a bit intimidating. It’s this whole new step in the process, and authors aren’t often guided on what to expect after querying. One of the hardest—and most important—aspects of the author-agent relationship is communication. Without it, your agent won’t know what you’re thinking and vice versa which can lead to all kinds of problems.

But when you’ve just signed with an agent for the first time, this can be quite nerve-wracking. You’ve just spent all this time trying to get an agent and now there’s a whole set of new rules and expectations to figure out. It’s also a massive shift in the power dynamic, going from hoping that an agent will even notice you to having one on your side. This can be hard to navigate, especially shifting from the querying mentality of not wanting to bother your agent, to realising there are actually things you need to talk to your agent about.

Next month I’ll have been with my agent for two years, and we’ve definitely now found a good pattern of communication that works for us both. But it took some work to make sure of that—mostly on my side, as I’m not always good at speaking my mind on things (I’m English and an introverted writer, it’s not a great combination!). A good example of this is when we were working on a manuscript sample and I got some edits back from my agent which didn’t resonate with me. A lot of it was good, and I saw where she was coming from, but one thing in particular didn’t fit with the vision I had for this story.

For some people, that might not be an issue. You just talk it out and move on. But I didn’t feel confident enough in myself to explain the problem and I worried my agent would get mad or not want to work with me any more (it’s an irrational writer fear, but a surprisingly common one!). So instead of talking to my agent and working it out together, I went into my writer cave and did my edits. All except the one that didn’t resonate with me.

When I sent the manuscript back to my agent, her first question was (of course): why didn’t you change this thing? Since I hadn’t commented on it before—or even mentioned it to her—she assumed we were on the same page, which I imagine made it confusing when she got the manuscript back without that change.

So we planned a phone call and I wrote down what I had to say in advance (I find this helps if you’re phone-averse like me!) and we talked it out. Of course, once my agent understood, she was on board and came up with ideas so that we could make it work while staying true to my vision. None of which we could do when I just hid from the problem by not talking about it.

Since then, I’ve been much better about being open when I have a problem, but it’s still something I have to work on and push myself with. It was a bump in our relationship, but an important one as I think we have much stronger communication now because of it.

I thought I’d add some general tips here for people who’ve recently signed with their agent or find communication with them difficult! I’m writing from the author side of things, but these are issues I’ve seen myself (or my friends) have trouble with:

  • After you first sign your contract, talk to your agent about their preferred communication method. Are they better over email? Do they prefer a quick phone call? Whatever works best for them (and you) will help you both get the most from your interactions.
  • When you have a concern, don’t just sit on it and hope it’ll go away. I know it’s tempting just to ignore a problem and hope it’ll work out on its own, but in almost every situation, talking it through will help. On the flipside, don’t send your agent every small worry that comes up—but if there’s something that’s really bothering you, your agent will almost always have an answer that will set your mind at ease.
  • Remember your agent has other clients. I say this in the nicest way possible: your agent has a lot of other things to deal with and you are not their only client. It’s easy to overthink when your agent doesn’t reply to an email immediately or hasn’t sent you their edit letter yet (I’m definitely guilty of this!), but I promise your agent doesn’t hate you and isn’t trying to find the best way to fire you. They’re just human, and they have other things going on as well. Which brings us to…
  • Agents are human too. When you’re querying, agents can feel like these far off mystical beings that you can only reach with the right answer to an ancient riddle, but it’s important to remember that they’re human too. Once you sign with an agent, it’s even more important to keep that in mind. Agents will have bad days, they’ll have weeks where everything goes wrong, and you can’t expect them to be infallible. They do amazing, super-human feats, but at the end of the day they’re just the same as you.
  • Communication is a good indicator if things are going wrong. If you’re finding that you aren’t able to talk to your agent, or they go long periods without replying or they’re not really hearing what you’re saying, it can be a red flag that things aren’t working out between the two of you. Like any relationship, sometimes it doesn’t work out (not necessarily through fault on either side). If you feel like communication is failing, set up a call to talk about it. If things still aren’t working out, it might be a sign that this agent isn’t for you.

This is in no way an exhaustive list, but just some things to think about that I’ve found help me. The most important thing is to remember that your agent is on your side and they want you to succeed just as much as you do!

About Alexandra

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Alexandra Overy is a YA fantasy writer from London. She enjoys writing about fantastical food, soft boys, and murderous princesses. Alexandra currently lives in Los Angeles where she’s completing her MFA in screenwriting at UCLA. When she’s not working on a new manuscript or procrastinating doing homework, she can either be found obsessing over Netflix shows, or eating all the ice cream she can.

Website: www.alexandraovery.com

Twitter: @alexandraovery

Instagram: @AllyWritesAndStuff

Be sure to follow Alexandra on all of her social media platforms and stay tuned for more posts in my new series, Now What?

Xx
Megan

Breaking Down the Dreaded Query and Synopsis

Hello Readers & Writers,

Having been exposed to hundreds of queries over my publishing career, I thought I’d make a guide for writers on how to tackle your query letter and synopsis. Writing a book is a huge accomplishment and often, breaking that book down into little pieces for agents can be difficult. You want to strike a balance between hooking the agent, delivering key points, and not going overboard with information.

Let’s start with the query letter.

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I like to think of the query as having all of the shorthand information an agent needs to assess if your story is the right fit for them and if it matches up with industry standards. This should be no more than 1 page, single-spaced. 

Your query should address the agent – not dear agent or dear person (yes, I’ve seen it). If you’re querying them via a contest or conference, add a line about that in the beginning. If you’re querying via QueryManager, there is a section that allows you to add in how you were referred to the agency or agent.

So how do you start your query?  

Note: The query doesn’t have to follow this exact order. You can start with comps, introduce the story basics first, etc. This is mainly to ensure you have all of your necessary info included.

Introduce your main character (MC) immediately by answering the following questions:

  • Who are they?
  • What makes them unique or sets them up for what’s about to happen?
  • What do they want? What’s driving them forward before the inciting incident (what begins the plot/change in your MC’s life?)

If you have multiple point of views (POVs), you can answer these questions for each – though several POVs could get a bit tricky. You could also weave together how these POVs will relate to one another. If you have multiple POVs, where one is the main POV and others are sprinkled in, it may be best to focus on the main perspective.

Once you’ve established who your MC is and what they want, bring in the inciting incident. How does the beginning of your plot impede on their life and their desires?Explain briefly how your MC handles this change. Does it lead to a journey? Do they have to confront their beliefs? Are they fighting someone/something?

To close the part of the query that discusses your story, leave us with your stakes. It can follow a format like this: If your MC doesn’t do (blank), then (blank) will happen or they’ll have to choose between (blank). This leaves a question in an agent’s mind and ideally hooks them into reading.

💡 Important Tip: Never give away your ending in the query. That is for the synopsis and the synopsis only. The story section of your query should end on the stakes!

After you’ve tackled the above, the query should then handle the technical features of  your story such as:

  • Word Count
  • Genre/Audience
  • Comp Titles
  • Any other info about your story agents should know. (Multi-pov, perhaps a unique narrative structure, is it #OwnVoices, etc.)

Round out your query with a small paragraph about yourself. Who you are, maybe a fun hobby, any writing credentials. (It’s totally okay if you don’t have the latter). And then you’re done!

💡 Important Tip: Keep your bio short and sweet. While it’s nice to know about you, the main focus of your query should be your story. 

Query done. Now, how do I handle a synopsis?

The synopsis is meant to be a concise outline of your plot, hitting all the necessary key points of your story from beginning to end. This can be daunting no matter the size of your book.

Synopses should generally be 1-2 pages, single-spaced. Some agents will have a page minimum/maximum requirement so make sure to check submission guidelines when querying.

💡 Important Tip: Include your ending in the synopsis unless an agent says otherwise!

It’s harder to nail the synopsis down into a formula as every story has a different plot/structure. However, what I often hear is the struggle to have a synopsis fit into its desired length. If you find you’re having trouble – which is very common – here are some ways to shorten your synopsis.

  • Cut physical details of a character. Unless they influence a major turning point or event, an agent doesn’t need to know what your characters look like. Save that for the story.
  • Remove mentions of minor characters. If they aren’t a big player of your story, they don’t need to be in your synopsis. Focus on big picture characters and points.
  • You don’t need a huge elaboration on the history between characters. Say two characters went through a bad breakup. You don’t need to give us a play by play. Rather, say “X and X had a bad breakup because of X. Their relationship now is bad.”Being as concise as possible is key. You want to get to your plot as quickly as you can without having pages of exposition.
  • Don’t explain themes or the logic behind your story. The synopsis is strictly for your plot and what happens.
  • Don’t make your synopsis sound like a grocery list. X did this, then this. It’ll lose one’s attention quick. Write well and with purpose.
  • Don’t tell us how your world came to be from start to finish. This too is better left for your story.  You can definitely frame the world to explain certain challenges your main character will face, but we don’t need the entire lore.
  • Be careful of overwhelming your synopsis with subplots. Focus on the main plot that demonstrates the change and growth of your main character(s). Too many plots will cause an agent to lose their grasp on your story.
  • As with anything you write, keep an eye out for filler words like “just, that, very” etc. These are unnecessary 95% of the time and can be cut to better help flow. You’d be surprised how much space you get in a word document when these are eliminated.

Final Thoughts

Writing a query and synopsis will always take work and extra sets of eyes to look it over. But it can be done and will have to be done for every story you write as long as you’re looking for an agent.

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If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I’ll try to answer as many as I can.

Xx
Megan

Familial Bond, Death Note, and An A+ Typo: Q&A with Joan He

Hello Readers & Writers,

Today I’ll be featuring Joan He and her novel Descendant of the Crane releasing in April 2019 from Albert Whitman Company. I’ve had the pleasure of reading an ARC of this book and oh my goodness, the writing and world-building alone are enough to draw anyone in.

But since not everyone has read it, here’s a synopsis!

36430989Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, dreaming of an unremarkable life. But when her beloved father is found dead, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of a surprisingly unstable kingdom. What’s more, Hesina believes that her father was murdered—and that the killer is someone close to her.

Hesina’s court is packed full of dissemblers and deceivers eager to use the king’s death for political gain, each as plausibly guilty as the next. Her advisers would like her to blame the neighboring kingdom of Kendi’a, whose ruler has been mustering for war. Determined to find her father’s actual killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by
death, since magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of Yan at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

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  1. I want to say thank you so much for joining me on the blog, Joan. I’m super excited for Descendant of the Crane! What’s going through your head now that it’s 2019 and your book will be out in April?

Joan: Thank you so much for having me Megan! I really can’t believe it’s already 2019. Funny thing is that even though DESCENDANT comes out this year, it already feels like a book of the past. So much time has passed between idea conception and sale, and per industry standards, 1-2 years have also passed from the sale to release. In this time I’ve written three other projects, sold another book, and am currently focused on the newest work in progress. Looping back around to DESCENDANT promo has required some mental gymnastics.

  1. What advice do you have for querying writers and writers on sub?

Joan: My previous answer probably gives it away, but seriously, write the next thing. Every book opens up new opportunities. Just because a something “fails” at a particular moment in time doesn’t mean it can’t come off the shelf eventually. Just look at Marie Lu’s KINGDOM OF BACK—it was her first book on submission to editors but not the first to sell. The success of LEGEND, which did go on to sell, opened that door back up for her and now KINGDOM is coming out in 2019.

  1. Do you remember a funny typo that you can share with us?

Joan: So there’s a murder investigation at the heart of my book, and as a result there are a lot of court and trial scenes. In fact the justice system used to contain three kinds of trials: Trial by Blood, Trial by Fate, and Trial by Wits. During a rewrite I condensed all of the trials into one, but missed Trial of Spit. Now you just get plain old “trail of spit.”

  1. Describe your book in three words.

Joan: Ruling really sucks.

  1. Which character of yours do you think you’d best get along with?

Joan: Literally anyone but Hesina. Having a Caiyan would be nice—someone to manage your life for you and make sure you get to everything on time.

  1. What character from any fictional universe would you like to spend the day with?

Joan: L from the anime Death Note.

  1. Talk about a major theme that you explore in your book.

Joan: On the surface, the book explores themes of justice, truth, and morality. But at its core, it explores the idea of familial love. Guardian figures obviously want to spare their loved ones all and any pain themselves have experienced. But everyone’s life is a journey of ups and downs, and sometimes giving your loved one the freedom to err and undergo hardship is the best thing that you can do for them…though some characters inDESCENDANT would beg to differ :’)

  1. Did you always want to write for teens?

Joan: Yes! I actually got into writing longer pieces of fiction by writing Spirited Away fanfiction. Movie-watchers will know that the main character, Chihiro, is middle-grade aged, but in my fanfic I automatically found myself aging her up to a teen. I was barely a teen myself at this point, but I was eager to get there! Then, once I got there…I suspect I never left. DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE was actually the last book I wrote while I was truly young-adult aged teen, and I tweet about how that shaped the development of the character arc here: https://twitter.com/joanhewrites/status/1106257066430218240

  1. Is there a fun fact you can share about Descendant of the Crane?

Joan: The body count was a lot higher in previous drafts 😀


About the Author

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  • I’m horrible at bios so let’s do a fact list instead:
  • As a second-generation Chinese American, I was raised on a diet of Chinese cartoons and dramas. Journey to the West was basically my Sponge Bob.
  • I’m a recent grad of the University of Pennsylvania, where I majored in Psychology and minored in East Asian Language and Cultures.
  • Cats and wombats for life.
  • The weirder the story, the better.
  • I should really be sponsored by Starbucks.
  • I am represented by John Cusick of Folio Lit.

Website / Twitter


Descendant of the Crane will wreck you emotionally, but leave you craving more. Preorder this amazing book and support Joan and her books to come.

Xx
Megan

Once & Future: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I am beyond thrilled to review Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy due out March 26th, 2019 from Little Brown. I was sent an ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest feedback. As always, there will be no spoilers.

The book follows Ari who after crash landing on old planet Earth finds a sword. Removing the sword triggers the rebirth of Merlin – ie King Arthur’s guide and mentor – who has been aging backwards and is now a teenager. Merlin’s goal is to keep Arthur alive while Ari’s goal is to overthrow a galactic company and find her moms. Despite having a rough start, Merlin and Ari come together for a mission way bigger than themselves. They however can’t do it without help from an amazing cast of friends.

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Upon hearing about this book, I immediately wanted to read it. Not only does it offer a sci-fi twist to the tale of King Arthur, but was promised to be an inclusive queer story. I can say the authors completely delivered on the wide representation of narratives. We have not only a pansexual MC, but a nonbinary character using they/them pronouns, gay rep, and on page f/f and m/m romance. The authors never once shy away from having these characters out in the open and it’s beyond refreshing to see in a sci-fi world.

On top of this, there’s important discussion around capitalism, government, the link between power and influence, immigration, non nuclear family structures, rebellion, and how blood doesn’t always make a family. As Ari and Merlin dive further into taking down Mercer – an organization that controls and creates everything for all planets – readers gain a sense of the struggles with revolution. How do you fight back against who provides for you? How do you fight back despite consequences? Who do you choose when you feel that you’re alone? Capetta and McCarthy force readers to question their place.

While in places, I felt I had to reread to properly grasp some plot twists, I loved the approach and honest commentary about societal issues. I loved the diversity of the cast and how their sexuality wasn’t a big deal. It was just a part of who they were. There’s so much in Once & Future to dive into and I urge you to pick it up for not just a great story, but to open up necessary discussion.

This gets 4/5 swords from me!

xx
Megan