Friday, December 30, 2011

"I'm not shooting myself in the foot, but I'm still missing the bullseye!"

A plaintive wail from the comment column of my recent post on shooting yourself in the foot:

I can't tell you how often I do not make any of the mistakes listed here, or on other agent's websites. I think I'm taking exquisite care and considering every nuance and detail. And I still can't get a full request. 



Here's where you might want to invest some of your hard earned cash in a writing conference or writing class. It's time to get some help on what's not working. There are a lot of good conferences every year. I'll be at Grub Street's Muse in Marketplace in Boston on May 5 but they offer classes and workshops throughout the year.  Many agents list their upcoming conferences on their websites. PennWriters has an outstanding annual conference, as does Rocky Mountain Writers


Look for a conference that gives you a chance to get your work looked at by agents and editors NOT just writers.  Writers can help you with writing, structure, and pacing but agents and editors are the ones to ask about why your work isn't getting past the slush pile.

17 comments:

C.A. Marshall said...

If you can't afford a trip to a conference, I do query critiques via email for just $35. I'm an agent intern and freelance YA editor with lots of experience :) if you're interested, check out EditorCassandra.com :)

Susan said...

I'll be going to the Muse conference this year too - my first conference of this kind - and I'm hoping to book a couple of slots in the manuscript mart to get agents to look at my query, etc. The book is a bit weird, in a good way, I hope, and I'll be interested to see if they think I'm emphasizing the right things.

Nice to know you'll be there. Are you doing a presentation/class of any kind?

Jane | @janelebak said...

In the "totally free" column, the forums at QueryTracker.net will often be able to suss out where a query is falling flat.

http://querytracker.net/forum/index.php

ilyakogan said...

My fear is that the esteemed author writes his quite possibly most fabulous novels in the same quite frankly overwrought clunky style. :)

Let's have a contest on who can revise this sentence.

Every time I read my prose, all I see is flaws. I'm not going to pretend that my version is better but here is my attempt:

"I don't make mistakes listed here, or on other agent's websites. I try to take great care and consider every detail and still I haven't gotten any requests for full manuscripts."

Joelle said...

I think one thing that really helped me when writing my query is I had writers who had NOT read my manuscript (i.e. my critique group) read the query. My critique group mentally filled in a lot of blanks, but someone unfamiliar with the story was able to tell me, "I have no idea what this sentence means." and "I am/am not hooked." It made all the difference.

Fiona Paul said...

I don't know if the writer in question writes for kids or adults, but for kidlit you can go to the boards at http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php where people live to critique queries for free. Maybe absolutewrite.com has something similar for adult writers?

@ilya I'd go with:

"Dude. I bust my ass to make sure everything is perfect, but still no one wants to read my stuff. WTF?"

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

As a committee chair for this year's Pennwriters Conference, I'd like to thank you for the props, Janet. And to say we'll miss you terribly. Hope you'll come back to us soon!

angelhorn.com said...

Maybe the premise is no good? Or maybe the writing is no good? Either way, it sounds like it might be time to move onto the next project.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Another free option is Absolute Write's Query Letter Hell. You need a set number of posts on the forum (50) before you can get query help, but it's a great resource. I know they helped me greatly when I was wading into the whole query-writing quagmire.

j. a. kazimer said...

I sold my first novel at the 2010 Rocky Mountain Writers conference in a two book deal.

I can't agree enough about the possibility of exposure from a conference, but a good tip is, you need to do more than just pitch to an editor/agent. If possible pay additional monies to workshop your novel with the agent/editor, so they get a chance to 'see' your work or at least the first 20 pages.

This upcoming Rocky Mountain Writers conference looks great so far. It's worth every penny for networking with other writers, agents and editors, as well as learning our craft.

Adam Heine said...

There are also places online you can (occasionally) get an agent to look at your query, as well as a number of experienced writers. Both Authoress Anon and Krista V, for example, run a Secret Agent contest almost every month.

But also (and this is tough to understand, but it's true) that while shooting yourself in the foot is a guaranteed no, NOT shooting yourself in the foot does not guarantee a yes. Agents still have things to consider like the genre, the writing, the market, and whether or not it sounds like a good story.

Amy said...

I second Josin's suggestions regarding Absolute Write. Do be warned that wherever you go in tyhis business, even if you are talented, there is plenty of rejection. Learning to suss out what is constructive about the rejection (and learn what's not personal) is extremely important.

If anyone takes the advice given and goes to conferences or takes a query or writing to these other resources, always bear in mind that the proper response to any help given is, "Thanks."

Deblit said...

I had the same problem. I solved it by having my brother who had read the book tell me what he would say to someone at a party to convince them to read it.

I got a request for full on my very next query.

All of the other suggestions are great too, by the way.

Eileen said...

I attended the Surrey International Writers Conference for a few years before I sold and found some of the workshops to be hugely helpful. You can also sit across from an agent or editor and pitch and their reaction can sometimes tell you where you need to beef up your query or at least give you feedback on why they are interested or not.

Kate said...

Janet, do you have an opinion on the Writers Digest Conference? It's going to be in NYC this month.

Janet Reid said...

The Writers Digest Conference is a huge event. There's not a lot of time to get one on one with agents or editors. There's a pitch slam which gives you about 3 minutes, and there are panels on craft and trade. It's a day long conference in NYC so it's expensive and short.

Kate said...

Thanks Janet.