I followed my agent’s blog, Adventures in Agentland, long before I knew she’d be the one!
Natalie Lakosil’s awesome site, named one of the best sites for writers by Writer’s Digest, is chuck full of helpful tips on querying, manuscript revisions, character development, and marketing. One of the main sites I revisited to understand how agents “think,” improving my chances for my book to be sold. I particularly enjoy when she quantifies her agent life by detailing how many queries she receives/respond to/request. Really helped put things in perspective.
With her permission, here is a snippet of some of her recent sage wisdom on querying:
I mentioned the five points I look for in a query; I think these are pretty universal (with the usual I-can’t-speak-for-everyone disclaimer) and I want to break these down further to help you in your process.
- Is this an area I represent?
- Is this something I think I can sell?
- Is this something I think is marketable?
- Is this an author who has the platform to go with it all?
And, most important, #5: is this well executed?
Let’s break these down.
- Is this an area I represent?
This is all about your research. Look up the agents you submit to – and not just the bios. Read #mswl, take a look at what books they’ve sold. What’s important is not just what they want – but what they have. Because an agent isn’t going to want two of the exact same (or very similar) book.
- Is this something I think I can sell? (back-market)
Or is this something that I’ve seen a million times before? Boil down your hook and take a look at what else is out there; how fresh is your idea, really? Are you introducing something new? If yes, is there a reason it hasn’t been done before? Are you banking on something you think is a hot topic? Hot topics are a flash in a pan; by the time you think it, someone else has already done it. I spoke with a client today regarding an idea about the Women’s March. Guess what? Already a bunch of books sold and lined up on it. You can always get a subscription to Publisher’s Marketplace for one month to do research – both on agents (what they’re selling to see if they’re active in your area), and for editors (to see what they’re buying, to see if there’s a saturation in your genre).
Still not sure? Well, there are a few ways you can try and get an answer. Google, for one; I looked up “can I sell a vampire book” and found a pretty relevant post to share on the topic of trends and selling the unsellable. This quick search would have told me vampires are indeed a topic that is hard to sell right now. Ask around: there are plenty of online chats with agents, events with agents, and conferences. And guess what? Ask an author who has an agent! I’ve had authors ask me questions on behalf of critique partners, and authors with agents are also batting around ideas and may have insight into what’s working. Not everyone will be open to it, but it doesn’t hurt to… Ask! It might not be what you want to hear, but maybe it will help you figure out how to (I loved this post’s title) sell the unsellable!
- Is this something I think is marketable? (front-market)
There are two layers to the strategy of what I take on: will editors bite (the “back” market), and will readers bite (the “front” market) (I promise I’m totally not trying to pun up the vampire theme…). Basically, is there a demand for this genre in the readership? Will they be totally saturated by the time this hits shelves (traditional publication cycle is 18+ months)? Is this the kind of book with a large audience, or a limited audience, in which there are already a number of books for the readership to choose from? Would this stand out – would someone pick your book over another? Why?
Read the rest on her blog, especially #5!!!!!!!
Above all, Natalie is tremendously encouraging on her blog, over email, and in person! She’s the best cheerleader to have on your team in an industry soaked with confusion, rejection, and disappointment. Always looking on the bright side, always give a 360 perspective, and always looking ahead.
I am forever grateful having her in my corner! 🙂
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