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Is this Agent Reputable? Do I Really Need an Agent?

21 Aug Is this agent reputable? Do I really need an agent?

This is the last post in the literary agent series, and here you can read about query letters and finding an agent if you missed them.

So first off, how do you know if an agent is reputable? There are a lot of scammers out there. Luckily for us, there are some simple things that a reputable agent will NOT do and some things that they WILL do that will tell you they’re the real deal.

A reputable agent will not:

  • Charge a reading fee: If an agent asks you for money before they’ll read your book, run! They will take your money and say no to your project, because they’re not really an agent.
  • Refer you to an editorial service that charges a fee: Some scammers will say that they love your work, but it needs a little help. If you send it to this editor and pay for them to work on your book, then the agent will represent you. Don’t fall for this! Good agents will not ask for your money at all. Basically, if the agent mentions a fee, get out of there.

A reputable agent will:

  • Earn their money by taking 10 to 20% of your book sales: Real agents will take a small percentage of everything that your book makes. This will be 10 to 15% for home sales and usually 20% for foreign sales.
  • Sometimes be a member of AAR (Association of Authors’ Representatives): This is an association that agents can join that says they’ve agreed to respect your rights. Be aware that not all good agents are a part of this, so don’t say no to them just because there’s no AAR stamp on their profile.

Now, do you really need an agent? You decide. Here’s everything an agent will do:

  • Get your book in front of publishers: Many of the best publishers won’t even look at your book unless an agent puts it in front of them. So if you want a medium to big name publisher, you need an agent.
  • Auction your book: A book auction is where your agent goes to a bunch of publishers and tries to get the best deal with the biggest advance for you. You can’t do that for yourself. Plus, your agent will already have contacts in the publishing business that you don’t have.
  • Negotiate for your sub rights: Agents will battle with the publisher to get you the best contract, retaining as many of your sub rights as possible. Sub rights can make you a lot of money! These are film, audio, sometimes even foreign sales.
  • Keep track of the publishing process: Your agent will follow up on payments and bug publishers until the money comes in. They will keep track of key dates, make marketing plans with you and your editor, and basically mediate between you and the publisher in your interest. This is huge!

If that hasn’t convinced you, I seriously don’t know what will. Agents are awesome. Next week, on to a new topic!


Where Can I Find an Agent? Is this Agent Right for Me?

14 Aug Where can i find an agent? How do I know if this agent is right for me?

Tough questions. Let’s look at the answers!

So, first off, where can you find an agent? These are three fantastic resources.

  • Literary Agent Undercover: This link will take you a list of the top fifty agencies. Once you’ve got the perfect query, start at number one. You never know if you’re going to be accepted or rejected unless you try!
  • Agent Query: This is sort of like an agent search engine. You type in your genre and a number of other factors and it will give you a huge list of agents that fit your needs who are looking for new clients.
  • Writer’s Conferences: These places are crawling with agents! Attend as many as you can, and have a short spiel about your book prepared. You’ve already written your query, so just put it into spoken form, and keep it short. If the agent is interested, they’ll ask you to send them more. When send your stuff, be sure to mention that they met you and requested your work. Goodbye, slush pile!

Once you get that magical call from an agent who wants to represent you, how do you decide that they are really the right one for you? It’s soooo tempting to just say yes, but there are some big, red warning signs you should watch out for. A bad agent is worse than no agent at all.

  • Warning Sign #1: Your personalities clash. Talk to them over the phone and get to know them a little. Do they seem like someone you could work with long term?
  • Warning Sign #2: The agent is a noob. New agents will have a teeny tiny client list and next to zero experience. Don’t say yes to them. They do not have the connections you need to succeed at publishing.
  • Warning Sign #3: The agent has a bajillion clients. They like your work, so they’ll say yes just so they can stick it on their shelf and come back to it when they have time.
  • Warning Sign #4: Do they have a plan for submitting your book to publishers? If the answer is vague or just a flat out no, a red flag should be waving in your brain.

What resources have you used to find agents? What other questions can you think of to ask when an agent offers representation?

How to Write a Kick-Butt Query Letter

7 Aug how to write a query letter

Ok, guys. Here’s how the next few weeks are going to go.

Today we’re talking about query letters – that was the most popular question from the agent poll. (If you didn’t get a chance to put in your two cents, now is the time!) Next week we’ll talk about where to find an agent and how to know if an agent is right for you. Then we’ll touch on how to tell if an agent is reputable and whether you really need an agent.

Alrighty! Let’s get on to query letters.

A query letter has to tell an agent in three paragraphs what your story is about, and it’s got to blow their mind. Here’s how to do that.

Part One: the Opening

Start with “Dear ‘agent’s name’”. It’s tempting to send out a mass email to tons of agents, but agents like to know that you want them. (It is ok to send out query letters to multiple agents – just don’t do it in the same email. I know, I know. It’s a pain.)

Then in a sentence or two tell them the title, genre, and word count of your novel, and let them know that the complete manuscript is available. These are all things they’ll want to know before they even consider your story.

Part Two: the Meat

Time to sum up your book. You will not be able to tell them everything about your story, so focus in on what makes it unique and interesting. Try writing three or four summaries, each highlighting a different aspect of your novel, and see which one works best.

Leave them hanging. A query letter is not a synopsis, so you don’t necessarily have to tell them the end. Make them want to read more.

Write your summary in present tense, third person. DON’T deviate from this, no matter how much you want to. Agents are used to reading query letters in this format.

Keep the number of characters and new names you introduce to a minimum, 3 to 4, never over that. Let’s not confuse the agent.

Use an appropriate tone for your genre. Show them that you know how to write! Your query should use a voice like the tone of your book. If you’re worried about this with the present tense, third person thing, write your query letter in first person in the voice of one of your characters. Then go back and switch all the pronouns and things so that it’s in third person.

Part Three: the Ending

Now you’ve just got to tell the agent of any writing experience you have. I know this is tough, especially for first-time authors. Keep in mind that this section doesn’t have to be long or impressive. Your story is the most important factor in catching an agent’s attention.

Highlight any writing education you have. Got a writing degree? If not, I’m sure you’ve taken some writing classes. You can also mention any other education you’ve got that will pertain to your story. You have a character who’s a doctor, and you’ve got a PhD? Add that. If not, leave it out! They won’t care what education you have if it doesn’t have to do with your story.

Talk about any contests you’ve won and any previous publications you’ve had. Have you published a short story? Have you self-published?

To close, say why you think this agent would be a good fit for your story. Mention that you’ve looked at their site and know that they are looking for books in your genre.

Last, thank them for their time.

This is a little scary for me, but below is my query letter that I’m sending out to agents right now. Take a look at it. See how I’ve put these things into practice. Please comment with your suggestions!

Dear (Agent’s Name),

Bonded is a YA Sci-Fi, complete at 52,000 words. The full manuscript is available upon request.

Shalayn and Heem were born Bonded, linked telepathically, something that’s never happened before. No one can figure out why.

They’re going to the school where people learn to make the Bond, since they want to get better at using it. The only thing is, normally people make the Bond when they graduate, where they choose their Bonding partner and… marry them.

Heem and Shalayn aren’t married, of course, but when everyone else who’s Bonded is married… it’s not exactly easy for them to make friends.

Shalayn doesn’t know if she has to marry Heem or what. Plus, there’s this really cute guy in one of her classes.

Sometimes Shalayn wonders if she might be more popular… more accepted… if it wasn’t for Heem. She feels terrible for thinking that, and she has to keep those thoughts buried down deep so they never slip through the Bond.

What would Heem think if he knew Shalayn had a crush on another guy?

And then there’s Enemar Melevrin. He’s not Bonded, but he can do everything someone who’s Bonded can and more. He can take over people’s minds and turn them to his side or stop their heart. And he just escaped from prison.

Enemar hates the Bonding school, and he’s going to try to get revenge. When Enemar finds out that Shalayn and Heem are Bonded at such a young age, he begins to wonder if they might be the only ones powerful enough to stop him.

They are his next targets.

I took a writing course from Brandon Sanderson, #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author, who critiqued parts of Bonded. He loved the voice and the characters, and I hope you enjoy them, too. Bonded is a stand-alone novel but has series potential.

I feel that Bonded would fit well with you since you like YA and science fiction. Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.


Jessica Flory

Everything You Wanted to Know About Agents

31 Jul

Lately I’ve been trying to find an agent, and, man, it’s hard! There are so many things to think about, so many things to research. I’ve been doing a TON of work to figure this out, and I want to make things easier for you.

That’s why I’m going to be writing a series of posts all about helping you find an agent.

So, I want to know where you’re at. What questions do you have that you’re dying to have answered? Do me this favor, and make it easier for me to help you!

Tell me which of the questions below you most need answered.


Please, comment below if you have any other questions or suggestions. Thanks for your help, everyone!

How to Ruin Your Novel

26 Jun

Don’t Have a Plan

If you’re in the business of ruining your novel and you have a plan, scrap it. Start from scratch. Write whatever comes to your mind, as it comes to your mind. If you like to write this way anyway, be sure to never think ahead. DO NOT figure out how your novel is going to end before you get there.

No plans. Got it?

If you are a writer who will die without an outline, no worries, you can still ruin your novel. Just use the first outline that pops into your head. Don’t revise it. Don’t optimize it.

Don’t Get Feedback

If you’re trying to ruin your story, feedback is the last thing you want. Once you finish your novel, don’t send it out to friends and family. Don’t join a critique group. Just read through it once and send it off to agents.

If they happen to give you some feedback, don’t listen to it.

Do Write With Flowery Prose

Short, concise writing will be good for your novel. You should fill your sentences and paragraphs with fluff. Put in as many adjectives (better yet, adverbs) as you can manage. The more, the better.

Flowery, fat prose will do many things to ruin your novel. It will slow your pacing to a crawl. The more random junk your characters say, the less real they will sound. Your novel will be waaaay longer than it should be. Fluffy prose only has benefits as far as we’re concerned.

Do Take Long Breaks

Yeah, every writer needs breaks, but yours should be super long. I’m talking months or years. This way, when you come back to your novel, you won’t really remember what you’ve been writing, and your work will turn out disjointed. Perfect.

Writing is hard, after all. Taking long breaks will be better for your health.

Working hard on your novel only leads to publication. If you want to ruin your novel, take breaks often and make them as long as you can.

If you happen to be one of those crazy people who actually want to write a best-selling novel, just do the opposite of everything above. It’ll work.

Can you think of any other ways to ruin your novel? I’m always looking for ideas.

Michael Jordan’s Guide to Writing a Book

19 Jun

Okay, MJ wasn’t a writer, but he was an expert at what he did. And, surprisingly, a closer look at his basketball skills can teach you a lot about writing a good book.

It’s Okay to Fail

Did you know that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team?

I know, huge surprise! But he got passed it. He moved on, learned from his mistakes, and kept trying. Even when he was in the NBA, he still had failures. Twice he played a game where he only scored two points!

Did you know that JK Rowling collected eleven rejections before Harry Potter was published? That Kathryn Stockett received over forty before The Help was accepted? Getting rejections is part of writing.

And it’s totally okay. Getting rejected doesn’t mean you’re not a good writer.

Don’t ever stop trying, and you will publish.

Get the Basics Down First

Michael Jordan didn’t start off by doing crazy dunks and alley oops. He practiced dribbling. Then shooting.

Writing is just like this. You can’t begin by trying to nail the intricacies of subplot and prose unless you have a solid foundation of plot, setting, and character. Make sure you have hammered solid your understanding of the basics before you begin working on the flourishes.

Learn the Nuance of Your Craft

I know I just said to make sure you have the basics, but every player in the NBA knows how to make a basket. Being strong in the details, that was what made Jordan truly great.

So, once you have the basics down, be sure to learn the nuances of writing. Soak in all the advice you can. Every bit of information you gain and integrate into your work will get you closer to publishing. And when you are published, it’s the deeper craft of your story that will set you apart.

Anyone can write a story. (Just how many boy-goes-to-wizard-school novels are out there?) It’s how you write it that will make you great.

So, any MJ fans?

How to Get Published

22 May

Want to be a story writer? To get on the path to publication, you’ll need to know a few things.

Know that Writers Write

You’ll have to put in a lot of time. I mean a lot. Malcolm Gladwell said that you have to work at something for 10,000 hours to become an expert, and writing is not an exception. If you love it, it’s all worth it.

Writing professionally is about having good habits. Set a writing schedule for yourself, and stick to it. Whatever amount of time you can put in during the day, do it consistently. You will see improvement.

Brandon Sanderson is a great example of this. (He’s my favorite author. I took a class from him – that’s right, it was awesome! – and I will definitely be referring to him throughout this blog.) Sanderson wrote 13 novels before he published one. 13 novels!

Was it magical novel number 13 that he published? Nope. It was his 6th.

Sanderson didn’t write one novel and spend years trying to promote it. While trying to publish, he kept writing and writing and writing.

Know Why You Want it and How Badly

I’m working on being a writer because I’d never be happy doing anything else.

I tried doing cancer research (yeah, I know Science is the opposite of English), but I was always wishing that I was writing.

If writing is just a hobby for you, that’s all right. Just know what you want. If you want to write for 15 minutes a day and chug along to get that novel done, that’s great. Set that goal and stick to it.

If you want to become a full-time writer, you need to act like it now. Set aside as much time as you can for writing time.

Do something to remind yourself of how much you want to publish. Find writing quotes to inspire you, visualize yourself achieving your goal. Put a reminder on your computer desktop or on your fridge, somewhere where you’ll see it every day.

Writing takes work. You need something to remind yourself how much you love it. Speaking of which…

Know that Writing is Hard

But know that it’s worth it. Every bit of it. Every word you write will make you a better writer. Don’t ever give up.

Not to brag or anything, but I’ve learned a ton about story writing – from Brandon Sanderson, from other writing classes, from reading a lot about it. I want to share that knowledge. I want to make your life as a writer easier.

I want to help you publish.

If this is your goal, subscribe. Every post in your inbox will make your story better.

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