Thursday, December 10, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Sorry things have been a little slow here at the Murdock Editing Blog. I'm already booked for manuscript evaluations for the summer, and just starting to take queries and complete sample evals for slots in September and October.
Today (and yes it's the weekend, and yes, I "should" be taking some time off) I'm sitting out on my back porch in the middle of a spectacular summer thunderstorm working on a manuscript evaluation. Why? Because it's that good. Because I don't WANT to stop reading. Because I'm willing to bet price of this eval that if the author sticks with it, I'll be seeing some iteration of this manuscript in bookstores within the next two years. In fact, I'll lay down that bet now. May 24, 2011 - if this book hasn't sold, I'll donate my full editing fee to First Book. Check back with me and hold me to it.
Just one of those days when I truly love my job.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Next step is to write the best darn query letter and synopsis you can and make sure your first 10 pages ROCK. Then agent.
Her response (slightly edited):
It's the first 10 pages I dislike the most! The first 10 pages are taken up with detailed descriptions of the characters. I feel like they're too long, but backstory is needed.
Then those aren't your first ten pages. In about 85% of the manuscripts I evaluate, I end up suggesting that the author cut the first ten page they're currently using entirely. Sometimes it's the first 50. Sometimes the first 100. Why? Because those pages are filled with backstory and character description.
But isn't that stuff important? Yes, of course it is. It's vital that YOU know everything about the characters and their histories. But when a reader first picks up your book, that backstory is the last thing they want to know. They don't know your characters yet. They haven't become involved with them - haven't had the chance to connect with them. So why the heck do they care when they went to high school or what their parents did to screw them up? There are ways to work those details into later parts of the book if it's important (sometimes it is; sometimes it's not).
Start with story. Start with plot. Start with things happening. Make your reader WANT to know more about the characters BEFORE you tell them. It's okay to be a tease.
There's another reason those first ten pages MUST be more than description or backstory. Let's ignore the reader altogether for a moment (but just a moment!).
The first people you want to impress? Literary Agents.
To emphasize just how important those first ten pages are, let's take a little trip down my memory lane, to a time when I was the only intern/assistant at a large literary agency.
Every week, hundreds of queries land on my desk. Hundreds and hundreds. Mounds of them. We didn't accept e-mail queries back then.
We did accept the first fifteen pages in query packages, which is still fairly common.
Every-other morning I sat at my little desk in the back hallway (really) reading those queries and pages and pulling out submissions my agents might be interested in reading. Within two months I could correctly gage which ones they wanted to see and which ones they didn't about 95% of the time.
If you wanted to get to them, you had to go through me. And all you had to impress me - and stand out from, again, HUNDREDS - was a query letter (1 page) and the first ten pages of your manuscript. That's it. If you haven't made me sit up straight by the end of those pages - if I'm not thinking "I must read more! This is great! What happens next? Tell me!" then you haven't stood out from the pack, and you become one of the hundreds of authors to receive our form rejection letter every week (I HATED that part of my job - which is part of the reason why I do this).
Okay, so, let's say I loved the pages or the query and thought my agents would too. Generally, that means you're one of about a dozen per week. Now you have my recommendation scrawled across the bottom of your query, and you're on their desk. They have a million things to do every day, and will, most likely, get to your pages sometime that week. What are they going to be judging you on?
The same thing I did. The query. Your first ten pages. And that's it.
If you grabbed the agent with those first ten pages, a request came back to me, and I called you up and requested the rest of the manuscript. And yes, if that wasn't darn-near perfect and publish-ready, you'd end up getting a rejection letter anyway (with a comment or two if we'd requested a full - so at least there was that). But if those first ten pages don't do their job, you never even get to that stage.
So kill your backstory. Kill your character descriptions. Kill anything that's "tell" instead of "show." Or at least work all those things into later portions of the book.
You have ten pages to make me want more. Give me story. Give me action. Give me reaction. Give me flavor. Give me the best writing you've got.
Anything else is NOT your first ten.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
First, the rejection letter:
Thanks so such for querying us, but we are unsure that this premise would work in this tight market. All said we would encourage you to do what many of our clients have done prior and self- publish with a reputable, and recommended, publisher. This is a new age in publishing, and as evidenced time and time again, neither The New York Times bestsellers list nor major booksellers discriminate against the self published. Oftentimes, authors choose to get proactive in order to build a sales record and boost their chances of being picked up.
I would like your permission to pass along your information to someone who can help you get started on your path towards getting published. If you are ready to become proactive about your career we will let them know more details about your manuscript and how to get into contact with you. There are a lot of publishers that seem to have gotten the better of new authors, the two that we refer you to are not of that ilk, they have had a number of successes.
It's a form rejection. Sent to everyone this firm is rejecting. And they're shilling for iUniverse and AuthorHouse. Who have referral programs.
Without even getting into the EXTREME stretching of the facts that is present in this letter (I'll let Anne and Victoria handle that - go here and here for damn good posts on the subject), here is the problem with this rejection letter.
Agents have different tastes. What's right for one agent is completely wrong for another, and agents themselves will tell you that time and time again in their blogs, at conferences, and in the articles you read in publishing mags. But by sending out this rejection letter, this agency is not just saying "it's not right for us." They're saying "it's not right for traditional publishing. Go self publish."
Self publishing works great for some people (including some of my very successful clients). It's not for everyone. There are some serious problems with the way this letter is presenting the self-pub process. To quote Victoria and Anne (because I'm just that steamed):
"Also deceptive: the book claimed to be on the New York Times bestseller list is Lisa Genova's Still Alice, which is currently number 7, but debuted last week at number 5. However, although Genova originally self-pubbed through iUniverse (which is owned by AuthorHouse), her book was picked up last summer by Simon & Schuster. That's the book on the bestseller list, not the iUniverse version."
I suppose the message I'm trying to get across (other than the fact that I'm ticked - was that made clear yet?) is that if YOU get one of these letters, you should know that the self-pub suggestion has NOTHING to do with you or your manuscript. It's a form rejection, just like any other. Treat it like any other.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
Friday, April 3, 2009
- Writer Cynthia Hernandez (http://cindyzcreations.blogspot.com)
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
There are thousands of small and independent publishers out there, and new ones pop up every day. If your book isn't selling to one of the big boys - or if you don't have an agent submitting your manuscript for you - an Indie publisher may provide the perfect home for your book.
First, a clarification. The definitions of Small Press, Small Publisher, and Indie Publisher vary from person to person, and the lines between them can be blurry (we can discuss this in a later post if you'd like, but I'm not going to get into it here). For the purposes of this post, I'm lumping them all together - we're talking about any publisher that (a) allows writers to submit their own work for consideration, (b) offers royalties, and (c) does NOT charge fees.
There are a number of things you need to consider before you start looking for a small publisher, but here are the two most important:
- Do you want your book to be available in bookstores, or is having a presence on Amazon and BN.com enough for you?
- How much marketing do you expect your publisher to do for you?
Your answers to these questions will determine the type of small publisher you choose. If you are determined to get your book into bookstores across the country and have a marketing budget to work with, you need to go with an Indie that has a solid reputation and history of exceptional sales. If neither of those things are important - you just want it available online and you're willing to do all the promotion yourself - a mom-and-pop shop might just be the way to go.
Once you've started searching for an Indie publisher, you'll want to vet your choices very carefully. The quick-and-dirty method below is a great way to thin out the herd.
1. You're going to start the same way we started our agent research, by running the name of the publisher through Preditors and Editors. Any warning signs? Consider that a big giant red flag - and consider running in the opposite direction.
2. Google. The first thing you're looking for is anything with the publisher's name appearing on http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/ or the Writer Beware Blog (http://accrispin.blogspot.com/). You're also looking for Amazon links or links to authors' blogs or websites that mention the publisher - this is a great way to get a feel for the level of work they do and how well they support their authors.
3. Visit the publisher's website. We're looking for a number of things here.
First, does the site look professional? Have they invested the time and energy required to present a storefront that doesn't look shoddy or slapped together? Is the spelling and grammar correct? Poorly written copy on a PUBLISHER'S website is inexcusable. A misplaced period? Sure. It happens (even here!). More than that? Not okay.
The next thing we're looking for is a submissions policy. Some Indies are more selective than others. As a general rule, the more selective they are with manuscripts, the more likely it is that they can get your book into bookstores. Some Indies will take anyone and everyone. There's nothing wrong with that, per se, but lax policies mean they're likely putting out a great deal of slush along with a few gems, so it's unlikely their reputation with reviewers or store owners is particularly good (or existent).
While looking over the submission policy, we want to WATCH FOR FEES. If your publisher is charging you a fee for anything up front - editing, pagination, cover design, marketing, etc. - this is not a small publisher - it's a vanity press. Again - not that there's anything wrong with that (note to self: stop quoting Seinfeld; it dates you) - but a Vanity Press is a completely different creature. Look for fees on the back end too. If the publisher requires you to buy or "guarantee that you can sell" a certain number of copies, you're still essentially paying to have your own book published.
If they have contract terms listed online, read them carefully. Less than scrupulous publishers throw all kinds of weird terms into a contract. If you see anything that doesn't feel right, check with an agent or other publishing pro (feel free to e-mail me). A favorite example I came across early this year (it's been taken down since then): "The publisher may publish parts of your work online prior to our offering you a publishing contract without prior notice." Not okay.
The Two Essentials
These two steps don't quite fit the Quick-and-Dirty description, but they are absolutely essential when working with an Indie press.
(1) If it is a very small publisher with limited info available on the web, call them. Talk to someone there. Make sure the actual people on the other end are available, knowledgeable, and willing to answer all of your questions. If they don't have a copy of the contract online, ask about the general terms. Ask about marketing efforts and budgets.
(2) Order a book. Don't sign with an Indie publisher (unless they have a STELLAR reputation in the industry) without ordering one of their books first. I recommend ordering the book either through Amazon or your local bookstore - not their website - so you can get a feel for what your buyers' experience will be like. Choose something you'd like to read, obviously (no need to waste that $12!), but then take a close look at the actual product. Is the cover design professional? Are there lots of typos and errors in the text? Does the layout look good? What's the quality of the paper? Make sure you know exactly what your book will look like if you choose this particular publisher for your book.
Have tips of your own to add to the Quick-and-Dirty Method? Leave them in the comments!
Next week: a new Query Contest (!) and a Q&A post. Have a question about writing, editing, or publishing you want answered? E-mail me at editor at murdockediting dot com.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
A quick Murdock Editing business note. A few of you have been in touch recently about scheduling a manuscript evaluation, and - with a heavy heart - I've had to offer referrals to other editors in place of my own services. Why have I been so busy? I have no idea. Maybe my wonderful past clients have reached critical mass and their successes and recommendations are boosting my new client requests. Maybe I'm seeing the same query increase that many of my agent-colleagues have been writing about on their blogs lately. Or maybe Murdock Editing has finally, after many years, come of age.
Regardless, the uptick in manuscript evaluation requests means I need to rework my scheduling policies. Here is what I've come up with during the many hours I've spent in the car this past week - feel free to let me know what you think.
(UPDATE: Yes, I still love all of you; yes, I'll still answer all your questions no matter how full my list gets; and yes, I know the language is super-formal - I'll liven it up for you later!)
1. Appointments can be made up to three months in advance.
2. Once those three months are booked (as they are now), everyone else goes onto a waiting list.
3. Placement on the waiting list will be in the order in which you've placed a request for a waiting list spot - as opposed to the order in which we first begin corresponding.
4. When you ask to be placed on the waiting list, I'll give you an estimated start date for your evaluation. This is only an estimate. (This is actually why I'm changing the policy - I try to keep some slack in the schedule for last-minute projects, delays, or current-client requests - but I want to avoid bumping back months of appointments if things start to stray from the plan!)
5. If you're looking for something sooner, you should always feel free to let me know that and ask for a referral to another editor. I won't be insulted, and I'm happy to help match you with another freelancer who I think will be good for you and your book!
Monday, March 2, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
The redeemability meter often dips below zero when a character does something that's wrong and there is not sufficient explanation for their actions."
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Yeah, life sucked, all right, but not as much as it was about to. When Mr. Right Now turns out to be a creature of the near-perpetual night above the Arctic Circle, Erika gets a crash course in wildlife preservation, namely saving her own sunlight-sensitive hide. "
After months of soul searching (and sucking), she discovers that her supposed one-time indiscretion in actuality was set up by a cabal of other 'environmental' executives who have also become vampires. In order to secure her loyalty to their somewhat hypocritical stance on vegetarianism they dispatched their most romantic minion, Constantine Renwick, to seduce and contaminate her."
Friday, February 20, 2009
So, while I'm recuperating, I just want to remind you to have a little fun with your writing this weekend by participating in my purely frivolous writing contest. I'll accept entries until Tuesday and announce the winner on Wednesday.
Click here for the full post on the contest. The short version:
I want to read a query for a book in which all those Manolo Blahnik-wearing socialites turn into lusty vampires and save the polar bears from extinction.
Put your entries in the comments section - assuming I get a few (really, how could this not be the most fun writing exercise you'll do all week?) - I'll pick a favorite, and the winner gets a free query/synopsis evaluation, OR a copy of one of my clients' just-released books, paid for by me (see the sidebar for options), OR I'll preorder you a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! due out on April 15.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I know I said I'd write about three publications agents and editors read - and how reading them can help you become a better writer today - but I'm not.
Instead, I want to point you to three articles in this month's edition of a publication I read as often as possible - Poets and Writers magazine. Of all the trade pubs geared toward writers, I consider Poets and Writers to be the best for the experienced writer (or editor) when it comes to unique, valuable perspectives and advice.
This issue was particularly hard to put down - I honestly recommend you go out and buy a hard copy and read it cover-to-cover. If you don't have time for that though (lord knows I didn't!), don't miss these three:
Agents and Editors: A Q&A With Four Young Literary Agents (online)
"Aside from referrals, where are you finding writers?
LAZAR: I get most of my fiction through slush.
BARER: I found The Heretic's Daughter in the slush pile. The author had never written a novel before. She had never been in a writing class or an MFA program. She came out of nowhere. She simply had this incredible story, which is that her grandmother, nine generations back, was hanged as a witch in Salem. Just because you have that great story doesn't mean that you can necessarily tell it well, but it was an incredible book."
The Case for Contests: Why Emerging Writers Should Submit (print only)
"At a time when more and more structural barriers and layers of protection prevent obscure and emerging writers from having their work considered by major publishing houses, or published in glossy magazines, the literary competition is the unknown author's best friend."
Finding Beverly: One Writer's Unexpected Afterlife (print only)
"What motivates a writer to work on a single manuscript for sixteen years without seeking to publish it? Did it take nerves of steel or a lack of confidence to follow Beverly's course as a writer? Why do some writers treat their art as a public vocation and others reserve it for private pleasure? What is writing really for, anyway?"
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
If you're single, or if you just don't choose to celebrate Valentine's Day for one reason or another, consider getting that warm fuzzy feeling somewhere else. No, I'm not suggesting a Rom-Com marathon, several bottles of wine, and enough chocolate to keep you bouncing off the walls all weekend. Instead, consider giving what you would be spending on dinner, flowers, candy, etc. to someone who really needs it. Trust me - you'll feel the love.
My suggestion? Go here: Small Can Be Big.
A quote from the website:
"You're stuck in the rain. I hand you an umbrella. You stay dry, and I feel good about helping.
That sense of immediacy is part of what makes giving so rewarding. And it's what makes SmallCanBeBig.org unique – whether it's $3 or $300, every last penny you give goes directly to address a specific need, rent or utility bill or medical expense, so the impact of your donation is immediate – for you and for the family you're helping."
It works like this. You pick from several categories (like Going it Alone, Giving Grandkids a Chance, Escaping Domestic Violence, or Bootstrapping a Better Life). Then you click through to view specific cases - real individuals with real problems who need help. You see EXACTLY where your money is going. EXACTLY who you're helping to get through what. These days we hear sad stories about people struggling almost every single day. Small Can Be Big lets you do something about it.
Happy Valentine's Day!!!
(Small Can Be Big is a Boston-based nonprofit.)
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
- Experience/skill level/past successes (How did your editor become an editor? Who has he or she worked with?)
- Pricing structure/total cost (Make sure you're getting what you're paying for!)
- Personality (Do you click?)
- Areas of expertise (Does the editor know your genre? If your book is too close in plot to another book on the market, would the editor notice?)
- Business philosophy (Can you ask questions after the edit is complete? How accesable is the editor before/during/after the edit or eval is complete? Is this a person you can count on?)
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Just a quick bit of fun:
Five years ago, in the genre's heyday, about 85% of the manuscripts I received for evaluations landed squarely in the Chick Lit category. In the past few months, I've received an inordinate number of manuscripts about one of the following subjects:
(1) Teenagers with some sort of paranormal powers
(2) Ex-CIA operatives saving the world from big bad oil companies (or other eco-terrorists)
Both are perennial favorites, and, like everything else, they go through cycles of popularity. But that's not what this post is about.
I want to read a query for a book in which all those Manolo Blahnik-wearing socialites turn into lusty vampires and save the polar bears from extinction.
Put your entries in the comments section - assuming I get a few (really, how could this not be the most fun writing exercise you'll do all week?) - I'll pick a favorite, and the winner gets a free query/synopsis evaluation or a copy of one of my clients' just-released books, paid for by me (see the sidebar for options).
UPDATE: Third prize option: I'll preorder you a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! due out on April 15.
Those of you who stopped by yesterday will recall our dear friend "David" (that's his actual name, I'm just putting it in quotes because I don't like him). Read the post below for more background on "David."
Why do people insist on offering misinformation on subjects they know nothing about? And why do I let it bother me so much?
Today there was another LinkedIn question that caught my eye - an author looking for information on submitting an idea for a For Dummies book. For Dummies is published by John Wiley & Sons. I worked in editorial for Wiley for years, although not on the For Dummies books, so I thought, "Hey! Question I'll know the answer to!"
And there, waiting for me, was our good friend "David."
David offered the following advice (this is all paraphrased).
(1) No one in publishing is buying anything anymore. Especially not self-help books. Don't even try.
(2) The economy stinks, so books are no longer being published. Don't even try.
(3) If you do try, HIRE an agent with an NDA in place so the publishing house DOESN'T STEAL YOUR IDEA.
I tried to post my response. But, horrors - when I hit send there was an error! I tried again! Another error! I kept trying for another half hour, because I'm apparently in need of a chill pill.
So, having finally given up, my response to the poor, misinformed author is posted below. I hope, by some miracle, he finds it on the great interwebs.
"Hi [Author]. Wiley, the For Dummies publisher (and my past employer) won't generally accept unsolicited submissions. For most of the titles, the editors come up with subjects they want to market, then go out and find experts.
If you are an expert in a certain field and already have a great platform that proves you're the go-to guy for your subject, pitch the idea to an agent with great nonfiction credentials. If an agent thinks Wiley might want it, he or she should be able to get the editors to take a look. The official author guidelines are discussed in the link below.
And now, to debunk another response posted earlier:
(1) The Dummies book market is not saturated. There are, in fact, over fifty new titles being printed in this series this year alone. I'd count the 2008 titles, but it's almost lunch time, and it would take too long.
(2) Almost all publishers are still buying new books from new authors. Larger publishers don't take unsolicited manuscripts, but that has nothing to do with the economy; it's been that way for a very long time. Some small publishers still accept unsolicited manuscripts and are making no changes that indicate they will do otherwise in the future.
(3) An agent is a good idea, but mention an NDA and they will, at best, have a good laugh. This is not how publishing works. And, despite conspiracy theories, respectable publishers don't steal ideas.
Good luck [Author], and please feel free to e-mail me off-board if you have any questions.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Yes, publishers are picking up fewer new authors. Yes, publishers are spending more time on their backlists. Yes, publishing is in trouble.
However, most agents are still accepting and signing new manuscripts. Although it may be true that only 1% of writers land that coveted big-four publishing contract, [author's name redacted] could, for all we know, be in that 1% of authors who have written something that publishers and readers will love.
A few examples: Jennifer Jackson (of the Donald Maass Agency) is looking for Romance Novels. Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency is still accepting queries, and she just promoted her assistant, Sarah Megibow, to Associate Agent, which means she's just starting to build her list of writers (a great opportunity for unpublished authors). A note from Sarah's post on the agency's blog: "I love super sexy, intelligent romances." And there are plenty of others out there.
You might not be that 1%. But you won't know unless you give it a shot."
Friday, February 6, 2009
How to Find an Editor
I recommend three methods - you'll likely get the best results from using some combination of them.
1. Put up an ad. There are lots of websites where you can place an ad for an editor. Some will charge you fees; some won't. You can try getafreelancer.com, guru.com, or elance.com to name a few, but I honestly recommend you take the easy route: craigslist.org. It's free for you and your editor, and TONS of quality freelancers regularly use craigslist listings to connect with potential clients. Beware of a few things if you do place an ad:
(a) You'll get some spam. Easy to delete.
(b) You will get LOTS of responses. Use some of the tips in Part III of this series of posts for sorting through the e-mails and picking the best of the batch.
(c) You'll likely be contacted by scam publishers and predatory fake agents. More on this later, but for now, just hit delete on any e-mail response to a craigslist ad from anyone who claims to be a publisher or agent. The end.
2. Ask your writer's group (and if you don't belong to one yet, join one!). Other writers will be some of your best sources for finding a quality freelance editor. Ask around. If you don't belong to a group yet, Yahoo! has some great groups you can join. (My personal favorites include the Writing and Publishing group and the Fiction that Sells group.)
3. Google. I hesitate to recommend this one to anyone but the most committed of researchers. Searching for a good manuscript editor online takes some perseverance - most of the top results for any given search will be the large services I warn about below. That said, I recently surveyed all of the clients I've worked with in the last five years, and, to my surprise, found that more than a few said they'd found me through a google search. Now, the highest I can find my site without actually typing in "Murdock Editing" is about the 13th page in, so...grain of salt.
1. Pick the first ad that pops up. Finding the right editor takes research - trust me, it's worth your time.
2. Use a big faceless service. I'm not going to name names, but you can find some of the offenders yourself by taking a scroll through the Preditors and Editors database. Many of these larger, corporate-looking editorial services - the ones that have no actual editor name and face behind them - farm out your work to people with very little to no experience in publishing who are working for next-to-nothing and have no real investment in your success. Some hire quality editors - but it's a crapshoot - you'll have no way of knowing whether your editor is a publishing pro or a college student trying to earn a little extra beer money (not that there's anything wrong with that!).
3. Choose a "literary agent" who also charges fees for editorial work. There are many out there with a mission to educate writers about this scam - start at Preditors and Editors or Writer Beware. Basically it comes down to this - no legitimate literary agent will ever charge you for anything upfront (except maybe incidentals like printing and mailing supplies - but that's at smaller agencies and fairly rare). If an "agent" is offering to edit your work for a fee, run.
III: How to choose an editor.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
That's right, I said it. I love my authors, and, for the most part, they seem pretty fond of me. But there are always going to be writers and books I know I'm not the right editor for, and I do my best to refer those authors to other editors whose work I respect. I will always tell a writer if I don't think I'm right for the job.
What I'm looking for in an author:
- Personality. The editorial evaluation and revision process is most effective when there is a lot of back-and-forth between the editor and the author. I always try to work with authors with whom I can build a rapport, and who I honestly believe I can help.
- Commitment. I want to work with authors who really want it - publication, success, and a writing career - and who are willing to work for it. At the very least, I want to see a full first draft before I sign on for a project.
- Subject. Murder mystery? Thriller? Historical? Memoir? Chick Lit? Commercial Fiction? Young Adult? I love it and I'll take it. But there are subjects I don't usually work with, including complex Science Fiction (I don't have the background to do these justice), overly gruesome slashers (no judgement, I just don't have the stomach for it, although I can recommend several editors who do!), or ghost stories (because they freak me out).
II: Where to find the right editor for your manuscript.
III: How to choose an editor.
- (A) Maybe.
- (B) To improve your chances of getting past the slush pile.
- (C) Before you submit to agents or if you're getting nothing but rejections.
- (D) Yes, but only if you've already set yourself apart from the pack and an agent has decided she wants you as a client.
It honestly comes down to a numbers game in many cases. When your query first arrives at an agency, it's most likely one of hundreds that the agent's assistant (a job I held many years ago!) needs to process in a single week (and, more than likely, she's dealing with a backlog of several weeks). If you get beyond that stage, your partial manuscript will be among dozens that the assistant will read in a week. Only a few manuscripts make it to the agent's desk - and of those few an agent can only take on maybe one.
To land a great agent you MUST stand out from the pack and not give the agent, or the assistant, any reason to automatically toss your pages into the rejection pile.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Authors looking to hire editors, publicists, ghostwriters, web designers, and everything else in between are looking for guidance on reasonable rates. Information can be hard to find - you won't find preset rates on most independent editor sites, and the ones you do find on large corporate sites vary widely (for good reason - I'll discuss that in a later post).
The short answer, of course, is that you get what you pay for. If a site is charging you $1 per page - for anything - the quality of work will likely be as bargain basement as the price.
I can't speak for all editors; I can only speak for myself and the freelance editors in my network. My rates are based on a number of factors - length of the manuscript, how quickly you need your edit completed, the level of editing required, and complexity of the text. A manuscript written by a professional journalist is going to take me less time to copyedit than a manuscript written by someone who has no writing experience.
Lynn Wasnak has written an excellent guide geared toward freelancers for setting rates - but as an author, you can use it to estimate, compare, and understand the rates charged by freelancers you might want to hire on your way to publication.
A few examples from her guide (find the full article here):
Content editing (trade) $75 high/hour, $20 low/hour, $46 average/hour.
Copyediting $75 high/hour, $17 low/hour, $38 average/hour; $3,000 high/project, $1,000 low/project, $1,875 average/project.
Manuscript evaluation and critique $65 high/hour, $45 low/hour, $55 average/hour; $1,500 high/project, $350 low/project, $950 average/project.
Book query critique $55 high/hour, $45 low/hour, $51 average/hour; $30/page.
Book query writing $500 high/project, $120 low/project, $200 average/project.
From Wier's site:
Author Meghan Wier gives her unique perspective on coping and succeeding in an extrovert's world with the innovative Confessions of an Introvert. This honest and often hilarious portrayal of life and business through an introvert's eyes provides inspiration, tips, and motivation for breaking through and finding success.
Jam-packed with valuable insights and personal anecdotes, Confessions of an Introvert shows:
Why business networking is key to professional growth and business success
How we can have it all…just not all at the same time!
That a little "self-promotion" can make others finally realize how good you are
That being an introvert is part of who you are, but not a roadblock to success
Confessions of an Introvert is a must-read for any introvert seeking to excel in business and get the most out of life.
"...was a great read. Very entertaining. Even for a male who is gregarious, I got a lot out of it. Chock full of interesting tidbits. For anyone who is interested in networking, this is a must read!" - Laurence R. Schacht
"Meghan has learned at age 30 what took me an extra 15 years to learn. If you read her book you will cut years off the advancement of your career by avoiding mistakes you may have made" - Joanne Greene-Blose
There are a few reasons why I don't consider becoming an agent at this point in my career. I've worked at agencies in the past, and still have some contacts, but I've been out of the NYC scene long enough that I would need to join a large firm, at least at first, to get back into that game. I love working for myself and building my own business - and I have no desire to move back to NY.
And then there's the ethical no-no. I charge my clients for my editing services, of course. If I became an agent, I would have to close shop on the editing business - ethically, you simply can't run both. You can't charge the client on one end, become their agent, and charge them a percentage too. Yes, there are agents who do this, but they're not the kind of agents that you want to work with.
Finally, I don't want to be an agent at this point in my career for one VERY important reason.
I like my authors. I like working with them to shape their characters and stories. I like being able to take a manuscript that would clearly not make it out of the slush pile at a big agency, and help the author turn it into something that gets some attention. You can't always do that as an agent. Agents make money on commission, so if the book doesn't sell, they don't get paid. And in the publishing world today, that means they can only really afford to take on clients who have manuscripts that are at least 80% ready to go.
Once upon a time I worked as a literary agent's assistant. My job was to sort through all of the queries, picking out only the very best and most likely to be what my agent was looking for. I requested those few partials, then had to simply send rejection letters to the rest. It seems cruel, but that's all we could do - every day another batch of 50-100 queries arrived in the mail.
Of the partials, I was told to read the first ten to twenty pages. If the manuscript didn't grab me right from the start, another rejection letter went out.
Once we got to the full manuscript stage, I read through and completed an evaluation, then wrote an evaluation report for my agent, either recommending that he take a read through himself, or that we send out yet another rejection letter.
In the second two stages, I was already close enough to the manuscript that I could, more often than not, have told the author exactly what he was doing wrong - and exactly what he needed to do right to make his manuscript ready to sell. But by then we'd moved on to trying to find the next manuscript - the next book that might actually bring a few dollars into the firm.
And that is why I do what I do. That is why I'm not an agent. Because when a manuscript comes to my door, or an author contacts me about fixing up his or her manuscript, I don't have to turn anyone away. I don't have to send out rejection letters just so I can move on to the next big thing. I have the opportunity to sit down, read the entire manuscript, and provide the author with the tools he or she needs to realize their writing dreams. Would I make more money as an agent? Probably. But would I give up the relationships I have with my authors? Or the sense of accomplishment I get when I receive the signed early reviewer copy editions of a book that was languishing under the author's bed before I stepped in and helped guide her journey to publication?