Sunday, February 21, 2010

What's A Girl To Do?

Today editors and agents run their own blog contests for the best five-minute pitch, they want query letters without actual writing samples, and they tweet about novels they’d like to acquire. How’s a girl supposed to keep up with the fast-paced changes in the publishing market today and land an agent or book deal? And what does it say about the current state of the market?

It tells us that agents and editors are still looking for talent, but they’re looking for it in new ways, ways that save them time and paperwork. We all know they’re overworked. They’d rather download submissions onto their Kindle or Sony e-Reader than schlep that five-pound manuscript with them on the subway. Who wouldn’t? The push to go electronic makes sense. It reduces stacks of paper and helps us all “go green.” Yay! We should all cheer.

The move to e-everything adds immediacy to the process of submitting manuscripts and concepts. It speeds up the publishing “machine.” Good. Right? Hmmm. Maybe. Or is it a double-edged sword? Writers expect to hear back from editors and agents more quickly, but editors and agents want ideas that are streamlined. Professionally pitched. Thus the trend towards the book pitch.

It takes a certain skill-set to write a pitch or a professional query letter that will “win” you an editor or agent. They’re judging your best work on your ability to deliver a concept in a way that tantalizes them in a few sentences or paragraphs.

If you want to get past the gatekeeper, which now seems to be the professional pitch or query letter, you must learn a whole new set of skills. You need to teach yourself to pitch like an experienced screen writer, query with the aptitude of an expert salesman, and distill like the most proficient abstracter to turn your four-hundred-page book into a sparking synopsis.

Okay, so we’re in the business of writing. We write novels. But at the end of the day, we’re writers. We can learn to write anything. Right? Yes. Learn the new skills. Adapt.

So, what’s a girl to do when she has the pitch perfected and the killer query written? She submits. There’s no way she can be in the right place at the right time with the vast number of blogs and twitter discussions out there. Some contend it’s luck. Well, there is a bit of luck involved. Always has been in the publishing business.

However, to increase your chances for those “lucky” opportunities, a wise woman stays connected. She joins professional associations to keep her “in the know.” She becomes part of a network of other writers who are looking out for each other. You need people who are truly looking out for your good. They like you. They love your writing. They know your writing. They support you and you support them. When one of them is on a blog that is suddenly running a contest perfect for your book, they’ll let you know. And you’ll do the same.

But reading blogs is a huge time sucker when you should be writing the next Great American Novel. Yes, spending three hours a day every day on blogs and following tweets would put a serious kink in your writing lifestyle. You might never finish your next manuscript. Yet, what if you could spend ten minutes a night to advance your career and help others in your writers’ support network do the same? Wouldn’t that be worth the effort? So just do it. Book mark your favorite sites and scan them a few minutes before you head to bed each night.

Then, share any juicy tidbits you come across. Give back. If you see a contest announced or a request for a submission for Romantic Suspense, but you write Women’s Fiction, share the info with your friend who writes Romantic Suspense. A “Do Unto Others” mentality will serve you well in the long run. Who knows? One day the perfect opportunity will find its way back to your own inbox. Whether you call it the Golden Rule or Karmic Law, it’s good business.

Whether the issue is time or energy, know your limits. If you’re not good at following blogs, get to know people who are. Network, chat, talk to them about what’s hot and in demand. Or, if you’re the quiet lurker who hates big chapter meetings, but you’re great at reading blogs and following twitter discussions, befriend a more extroverted people-person who loves to work the crowded room. Together you can help each other land your next deal. And you’ll have a little fun in the process.

So what’s a girl to do? Seize the day. Carpe Diem! Start today. Don’t put off perfecting your pitch, hammering out that killer query, networking, or submitting. Add it your busy schedule. Success is made, not found by accident. Work hard, stay connected and adapt. Use all of your skills. Believe in your success and one day soon you’ll see your book in print. Don’t just dream, make it a reality. You know what to do!


  1. Hi Candy! I love this Golden Rule! Especially because the R8 are already so good at it. LOL. And you know I've got your back on Twitter. Anything I see that sounds like you, I'll pass along . . . our lucky days are right around the corner . . . so keep the faith!

  2. Thanks, Yvonne. Yes, it was easy to imagine the answer to "What's a Girl to Do?" because the Rockville8 is an awesome crit group who already practices what I'm preaching. ;)

  3. Love this Candy! It's so easy to become consumed with everything out there you lose sight of the goal in the first place - finishing the book.

    Can't wait to see your book on the shelves! Great post!

  4. Excellent post, Candy. But I'd expect no less from you! Your advice to rely on your writing community is spot on. Thank you!

  5. Great advice, Candy! You're right... we're writers. We should be happy to take on the challenge of learning new ways to write-- including the pitch and the query. That's a good way to look at it-- make it a challenge and I can be up for anything. Thank you for your advice!

  6. Great motivational post. Thanks, Candy

  7. What's a girl to do? Thank God for her peers!

    Writing is so solitary - and can become a huge sinkhole from hell when said writer tries to keep up with everything in order to "keep the dream alive." It is the connections with others - the sharing and encouraging and passing on info - that keeps me going on many a day. Thanks for your post, Candy.