How To Get a Manuscript Request in Twenty Minutes

How To Get a Manuscript Request in Twenty Minutes

How To Get A Manuscript Request in Twenty Minutes

 

Do these statements ring true for you?

  • You struggle to finish or publish your book.
  • You feel like you’ve tried everything: you’ve read the books, taken the classes, attended the workshops, read every article that exists on the internet about how to write and get published. 
  • You feel frustrated or incompetent because you haven’t been published yet.

You’re not alone, writers. I work with many writers to get past these very same issues, and today I want to share with you how I helped one of these writers finally get published.

When Barbara came to me, she had done the work–oh boy had she done the work. She even had an MFA (a Master of Fine Arts), which many writers consider to be the pinnacle of a writer’s career.

But the problem with an MFA is though the classes teach you how to write, they fail to teach you how to publish. 

In fact, one of the biggest complaints the agents I work with have about MFA writers is their manuscripts are cookie cutter. Most agents can sniff out an MFA manuscript from a mile away. They’re all the same, which doesn’t give them that edge to be publishable. 

This was Barbara’s issue: she had a great concept, but needed to break out of the MFA mold and transform her manuscript into something agents would scramble to represent. 

Barbara and I worked on revisions over the course of several months. During that time, I was in conversation with several agents about Barbara, her manuscript, and how to position her book for optimal success. 

What was incredible about working with Barbara is for the first time in her writing career, the revision process was not a stress-ridden nightmare for her, but enjoyable. Barbara and I laughed together during our meetings and enjoyed each other’s company, because she finally felt she was on the right track to publication. 

When Barbara finished revising, I sent her synopsis to an agent I work with frequently. Within 20 minutes of reading the synopsis, she asked me for a full manuscript. 

Let that sink in. 

20 minutes. 

Have you waited days, weeks, even MONTHS to hear back from an agent–only to get a “no thanks, not for me”? 

Imagine getting a yes in 20 minutes. 

Many would-be authors spin their wheels for years trying the same things over and over again, hoping for new results. Worse: they piddle their money away one workshop, one class, one MFA at a time. 

Real results ARE possible, but you’ve got to be willing to take the right steps.

I work with authors who are coachable–so eager to publish that they’re willing to put in hard work.

The authors I work with authors every day are tired of spinning their wheels, ready for real results, and ready to invest in themselves in order to get there.

I work with authors who take writing and publishing seriously without taking themselves too seriously. 

If that sounds like you, and you’re really ready, I’ve opened some spots in my calendar to talk with you about where you are, where you’d like to go, and how you can get there. Click here to choose a time to book yourself directly into my calendar, and we can hop on a call and chat.

Until next time. Happy Writing.

You Too, Can Get the Attention of a Major Literary Agent with the Right Query

You Too, Can Get the Attention of a Major Literary Agent with the Right Query

You Too Can Get the Attention of a Major Literary Agent with the Right Query

 

 I want to talk about Aaron, a fantastic writer who has done some amazing work in the Writing Gym. He has put together a 90,000 word literary fiction novel that tackles themes such as identity, achievement, attraction, and incest. 

Before joining me, Aaron completed his novel after dedicating six months to it. After completing his novel, he went into the querying process thinking, “Oh, the hard part is over. I’m just going to send out my letter. Who wouldn’t beg to read this?” 

Aaron even had a personal connection to an agent, and sent this agent his first query. The agent responded asking for the manuscript. Aaron sent it, and twenty minutes later, got rejected.

He was shocked.

In hindsight he felt foolish, but at that moment he felt his understanding of the world had completely turned on its head. He set out to research and understand what the issue was, whether it be the substance of his query, improving his network, getting in touch with agents, or figuring out how to access more resources. 

Then he found me. 

“I could tell that you care about the writers. It’s really immeasurable and hard to describe, but I felt like that was completely there. You had devised a system where you spent time working with authors, but also spent time networking with agents, which is exactly what I needed.”

Aaron and I began working together right away, and I read his manuscript. I invited him to join small group sessions to think about writing and craft, which he found helpful. 

Afterwards, we started thinking about our marketing strategies. Whom were the agents we were going after? What was it that we were going to use as the hook? How are we going to convey to them in a page that, essentially, this is a story that’s right for them? 

Aaron went into the querying process hesitantly, because of his initial experience with that one agent. He believed agents don’t reply to blind submissions or cold query submissions, because they have enough of a pipeline from their clients or other networks. 

He found that while that belief may be 80% accurate, there are definitely exceptions, and he was one of them.

After working with me, he found a number of letters he sent out received same day responses asking for full manuscripts, and he got positive feedback on the content of the query itself. 

Aaron’s full manuscript requests are huge, because the typical pattern is sending the query, getting the agent’s interest, and then the agent says, “Okay, send me ten or fifty pages.” Oftentimes, the manuscript gets better as the story progresses, so getting a full manuscript request is important.

Not to mention, the content of Aaron’s work and query were both relatively polarizing, but he was met with success, even getting a response in under five minutes.

Eventually, Aaron got in contact with Jeff Kleinman over at Folio Lit, who offered to share the manuscript with his colleagues if he wasn’t interested. Since then, Aaron has been getting requests from high-quality agencies, the “Harvards” of the literary world. 

I asked Aaron what he thought about his experiences in the Writing Gym

 

“Based on my personal experience, I can’t recommend the Writing Gym enough. It was the kind of catalyst that helped me actualize the potential of my writing.” 

Well, there you have it folks. We’re so proud of Aaron here at the Writing Gym, and look forward to celebrating his future accomplishments.

I help writers transition from the art of writing into the business of publishing. If you are ready to accept the guidelines of publishing and are ready to sell your book, let’s chat.

Until next time. Happy writing.

What are Literary Agents REALLY Looking For?

What are Literary Agents REALLY Looking For?

What are Literary Agents REALLY Looking For? 

 

One of our Writing Gym Podcast guests, Jeff Kleinmann from Folio Literary Management, recently shared with us what it’s like to be an agent and some of the things that happen behind those closed doors.

Before that, we asked Jeff how and why he became a literary agent. 

“Oh, it’s a huge mistake,” Jeff joked. “My career is not normal. I’m actually practicing intellectual property law and I happened to share offices with a literary agency. I would read manuscripts for the agency, and the first one I read ended up being sold for $100,000, and then I did a seven-figure deal with the author soon after. I worked with them back and forth but received no credit, and I thought that maybe I should seriously consider pursuing this path. And that’s where I am today. ” 

Jeff doesn’t believe that there are any low moments in his work. Recently, a book he worked on was on the best-seller list for a while, a memoir he worked on received a deal to make a series with Netflix, and so on. With such great accomplishments, it’s no wonder literary agents are as respected as the authors. 

However, there’s this myth out there that agents are these stuffy people who seem to enjoy rejecting authors and their manuscripts. I know that’s not true.

So, what’s it really like to be an agent?

 “It’s totally true,” Jeff stated.

“We own the Herald Ober Associates, which is one of the longest and oldest agencies in the country. It was established in 1929 and they represented William Faulkner, Agatha Christie, Langston Hughes and so on. Back then, anytime the phone rang, agents would say the standard: Thank you for calling. We are not accepting any new submissions. There is some sort of feeling that all this agency wants to do it to stay away from writers–which was kind of cool. But I think most agents aren’t at all in that world,” Jeff explained.  

One of the problems that Jeff finds in many writers is they submit manuscripts that aren’t ready.

“We see a lot of unsolicited stuff that isn’t ready to go. And because of that, we get to be protective of our time. To prevent us from slogging through 20 manuscripts that aren’t ready yet, a lot of us put up barriers. We want to make sure the writer is ready to go–and the only way to make sure of that is if they have gone through the right channels to get their manuscript ready.” 

I asked Jeff what he is seeing in the publishing industry, and he shared an important distinction between traditional publishing and self-publishing. 

“The split between those two really is the voice,” Jeff stated. “It’s the ability of the writer to be distinctive in the way they write. If you have distinctiveness, then it seems like you’re going down the trade route–the traditional publishing route. If you are maybe less distinctive, your book might be more commercial. It’s going to be more focused on plot rather than the writing itself. These books tend to be self-published, or non-traditionally published.” 

Indeed, not everyone has to go through the traditional route. Some people may realize that self-publishing makes more sense to them than going to a big traditional publishing house. 

As a literary agent, Jeff certainly receives a lot of manuscripts and other submission materials.

What kind of elements in a submission makes him feel excited?

“There are three elements that I look for. The first, and most important, is the writing. Every word in the query should sound mastered, should feel smooth and distinctive. Authentic. The second is premise. What is it about the book that would make me want to pick it up and read it? The third is credentials. Is the author speaking regularly? Are they a part of a literary community? Do they have an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) from a prestigious program? These are things that make me think they are serious writers.” 

What about things that don’t impress agents like him? 

“I used to read query letters with my daughter,” Jeff started. “When she was just four years old, I would read these letters to her like a bedtime story. When the letter is boring, she’d ask me to go to the next one. And, you know, having a four-year old judge a query letter is really useful. If I’m not interested or enthusiastic about it, then I just go to the next one.”

It’s definitely important for a writer to catch the attention of an agent with their query letter. If they don’t feel interested, they will go through them quickly and find other things to do. I always tell my writers that they have 30 seconds maximum to impress an agent. 

“Things like misplaced apostrophes,” Jeff continued, “passive voice, try-hard language, clumsiness of language–all these sorts of things end it for me. Before submitting query materials, authors should proofread their submissions.” 

It may seem unfair, a misused comma having the final say in the agent’s interest on your manuscript, but it “says to me that the author didn’t proofread their submission well enough,” Jeff finished. 

It’s one of these things that make agents seem very unapproachable, but I asked Jeff what it was he wished that writers knew about agents. 

“We almost see ourselves as the front-liners. Before your book gets to the publishing house, we really try to get the book in its strongest shape. But sometimes, we deal with authors who want to do their own thing. In reality, we want an author who would listen to us. And so, the question is: do you actually really want to hear somebody else’s opinion and are you actually going to make the changes?” 

Jeff was working with a writer whose book he loved so much, he read it twice. But he noticed that the writer seemed to be writing two completely different books. 

“I told him that he has to change the last part to fit the first part, or the other way around. The first part was just wonderful, but it didn’t fit the second part. He didn’t want to change anything. Maybe the second half of the book is the book he really wanted to write. But in order for the whole book to make sense, both parts have to make sense first.” 

What about for unpublished writers–what kind of thing should they know before sending anything to an agent?

In my line of work I see many aspiring writers send in materials that are half-cooked, not yet ready. And thank goodness they come to me for help, because I help them cook it. Jeff agreed. 

“I would encourage aspiring writers to have other people read their book. I would really make sure, from page one, that everything is clear–that there is something at stake and that the action is absolutely driving the story on the character’s desires.” 

Finally, I asked Jeff one tip he would give to aspiring authors.

“Ask somebody you trust, someone who reads a lot, to read your book. If your mom is a very gifted reader, ask her. Have them cut any words from the page they feel is unnecessary and pay them money. Real money. It is scary, but if you don’t want to pay up you have to make sure that your book is really tight, that it has narrative movement, before you have a different pair of eyes look at it.”

Thank you for your time Jeff. 

How to Land your Ideal Literary Agent with Jeanne Covert

How to Land your Ideal Literary Agent with Jeanne Covert

How to Land your Ideal Literary Agent with Jeanne Covert

Jeanne Covert, a screenwriter and a member of the Writing Gym, came to us with a finished novel–a script that she novelized–after hearing conflicting information from different editors. 

Jeanne Covert

“A lot of the information they were giving me conflicted with a lot of things we do in film, especially when it came to the suspense and the pace. I was used to a very, very fast pace.”     

I took a brief look at her manuscript and, in her words, told her what exactly she was doing wrong and how to correct the situation. 

“And [coming to Annalisa] was the very best decision I’ve ever made. After working with [her], I saw what the editors were trying to tell me, but they didn’t know how to tell me because they didn’t understand screenwriting. But [Annalisa] did. It was eye opening the way she explained how elements in screenwriting translates over to the manuscript.” 

And [coming to Annalisa] was the very best decision I’ve ever made. 

Before the Writing Gym, Jeanne experienced a lot of frustration from the conflicting messages she received from different editors. But with the Writing Gym, she experiences a change. 

“Now I feel like I know what I’m doing. I feel like I understand the craft.” 

As a screenwriter, Jeanne worked more with the visuals. She enjoyed the pace, the action, and the internal development of her characters involved in films and writing for film. But at the Writing Gym, she also developed a love for writing novels.

“Now, I’m beginning to grow in love with the words, not just the visuals.” 

She’s also noticed an improvement in her screenwriting and marketing materials for a film. “No matter what kind of writing I’m doing, I can tell there’s been a huge increase in my skill.” 

As far as I can tell, this is a pretty good bang-for-your-back. Jeanne fell in love with writing and experienced a huge increase in skill and confidence. Besides these other accomplishments, we are celebrating two very exciting things for Jeanne. 

First, I just got off a meeting with her top-pick agent, who requested a script from her. 

“There was a manuscript request involved, which was extremely exciting to me because he is closed to queries at this point in time. So, even though he would be my top-pick agent, he’s not accepting unsolicited queries. It was off-limits until [Annalisa] was able to talk to him.”

Second, Jeanne received another manuscript request from a different agent–from a top agency, William Morris

“Because William Morris represents more media than just a novel writing,” Jeanne started, “I wanted them to represent me. I thought they would be a good fit for me. And it’s very exciting for me because you usually have to be recommended to that agency in order to get an agent to read your manuscript.” 

How does it feel to get two manuscript requests from two top agencies? 

“It is absolutely very, very exciting because as a scriptwriter and as a reader for a producer, I read a lot of scripts. I know what it’s like to be inundated with submissions. It’s exciting for me to have the scripts requested because that means it’s not just in that pile that piles up on their digital desk. I’m very excited that at the same time it’s like, is this really happening?”

It is exciting, indeed, and such a huge accomplishment. We asked Jeanne if she had any word of advice for the people at our Facebook group, Write to Publish

“There’s so much I’ve learned. But one of the things that I really value that we do in the Writing Gym is how we work on our mindset. What many people may not know is that I have a dissociative identity disorder. And so one of the things that I have been working on for years is rewiring my brain. The way that the Writing Gym is conducted and the way that Annalisa works with us helps with that. We are constantly doing things to rewire our brains so that we’re more creative.” 

“I’ve been doing all of these things for years, so it’s not like they were new to me, but all of a sudden I’m doing this with a group of people and we’re kind of all in the same place and we’re all supporting each other and we’re all doing these things. I was shooting light years ahead on my mind work. And I just, I can’t express how wonderful that is. ”

It is so great to hear that Jeanne found this kind of value in the work we do at the Writing Gym.

What she would say to anyone thinking of joining our Writing Gym?

“I would say join,” she stated. “A lot of people don’t realize it takes a lot of work and effort to be at the professional level.” And she’s right. Even people who have master’s degrees are not at the level where they can be professionally published. “You don’t necessarily have to have a degree, but you have to have the knowledge. And this is one of the things I really discovered with the Writing Gym.” 

“If I was going to spend the money getting my MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) or spend the money on the Writing Gym, there is no question that I’d put that MFA money into the Writing Gym. The MFA may or may not get you where you want to be. But the Writing Gym, the work we do in the Writing Gym, gets us to where we want to be.” 

“I’ve had other writing coaches in screenwriting and whatever, but [Annalisa] bats for us harder, stronger, more than any other writing coach I have ever worked with.”

Thank you Jeanne for your kind words and for celebrating with us. 

Until next time, happy writing. 

Celebrating the Power of Revision

Celebrating the Power of Revision

 Celebrating the Power of Revision

I want to celebrate Emily and her writing journey. She is one of our writers from the Writing Gym program, currently writing a novel set in ancient Egypt during the New Kingdom period. 

“I’m an elementary school teacher and I had this vision two years ago to write a novel set in ancient Egypt, because I studied and taught the theme,” Emily states. “I have a real story to tell about the artist’s life in Egypt. What it’s like working on the temples, working on tombs and more. It was a very respected lifestyle, and quite high up on the caste system in the dictatorship in Egypt.” 

Tackling middle-grade historical fiction is no small undertaking. So, kudos Emily. 

I met Emily at a local bookstore where I was running a class with some local writers.

“I was pretty much surprised, myself, that I went to your class,” Emily says in hindsight, “I really enjoyed it. It was at that point where I was trying to work up the courage to take writing more seriously. I immediately thought: ‘That’s someone who I could actually work with.’”

Emily, before we met, had already written and finished her longer story. She revised it a couple times but “it was in this sort of a standstill.” She wasn’t ready to submit and knew that she needed professional help with the submission process. 

“That’s what I thought it was kind of going for, but then when I talked with Annalisa, and being able to revise it and learn about writing has been the gift. She made that really clear when she described what the Publishing Mastermind was. That maybe the end result is getting published. But throughout it all you’re going to learn a lot. That’s what I’m celebrating.”

Once Emily and I started digging into her manuscript, her energy was so high with so much to celebrate. I asked her what that moment was like. 

“During that writing period, I used it to understand techniques and learn other techniques, experiment with other techniques, know what’s out there, know others who I might have overlooked, and read some different styles of writing within my genre.

“It made me rethink my story and how my characters needed to be doing more, speaking more, and interacting more. Sometimes, it’s those character moments where one character is thinking one thing and the other character is also thinking something, but they’re both saying something out loud. That has a whole other form of communication you can do in writing, but you can’t really do it in other forms of storytelling.” 

Emily also thinks that the inspiration that our Writing Gym community brings makes the experience so much more powerful.

“It’s really confidence-building. It makes me like writing more.” 

One takeaway that stands out to her as a bigger celebration than others is that confidence-building:

“Now I have the confidence to know that I can write a longer piece and have other projects as well.”

“Be alert and take risks. Know that there is potential out there.”

So, what is the Writing Gym? Why should you care about this? 

“Annalisa Parent is an incredibly professional who leads this inquiry-based study that is the Writing Gym. You, as the guide, ask the right questions to make you grow on your own.” 

Thank you so much, Emily. We appreciate you at the Writing Gym. 

Top Author Tips to Get that Novel You Wrote in a Month to PUBLISHABLE

Top Author Tips to Get that Novel You Wrote in a Month to PUBLISHABLE

Top Author Tips to Get that Novel You Wrote in a Month to PUBLISHABLE

 

While we are all at home, doing our part to flatten the curve, our Writing Gym members are taking advantage of this quarantine time to work on their writings. One of our amazing Writing Gym members, O’Dell Isaac, is at the Revision phase of our program. 

Currently, he is working on a detective story in which the main character is helping the Health Department find a person who is HIV positive. During his search, he finds himself in the middle of craziness as he works to solve his case. 

I reached out to O’Dell when I saw his post on our Writing Gym page on Facebook, celebrating his completion of a 50,000 word novel for NaNoWriMo. I congratulated him on his achievement and then asked him: “What’s your next step?” 

“I actually didn’t know what to say,” O’Dell states, “I was too busy doing my victory dance to actually think about what I can do next. I realized that what I was celebrating was not something I was comfortable giving to an agent.” 

“It’s one thing to want something, but it’s another to have a concrete plan with steps to take and here, we’re talking about my publishing career,” O’Dell insightfully states. We talked in hindsight of our first telephone call. From there, I asked him to send me the first 20 pages of his manuscript. I called him back, had a longer conversation with him, and he finally joined the Writing Gym. 

“I didn’t really have any idea what I was getting into. I was nervous but excited too,” O’Dell continues, “because I was taking a step that I had never taken before. I didn’t know what was out there, but I figured it was going to represent forward motion. It was going to take me further than I had been in this process.” 

O’Dell credits the Writing Gym for its accountability aspect:

“Someone is getting you to work out the tools that you have and develop new ones that you may not have had before. Someone comments on your results and looks at your writing and sees the maturation, the progress.” 

O’Dell states that he has come such a long way in his writing, that when he opened his manuscript again it seemed to him like someone else had written it.

“I’ve come so much further that it almost looked like it had been written by someone else, but the encouraging part of that is that I’ve become a much stronger writer.” 

The most important and beneficial thing O’Dell learned with us is to believe in himself. “Self-belief is something I never really had before. But now, I know that I have the tools that work best for me and my genre. It’s just a matter of knowing how to apply those tools.” 

We love analogies here at the Writing Gym, and I especially love what O’Dell states about the toolbox. There are a lot of programs out there that, in the context of the toolbox analogy, would come up to a broken door that you’re trying to fix and replace your hammer with a screwdriver or a wrench or something else. Then, you’d have to figure out how to use that tool instead of the one that you are familiar with. Now, you’re stuck with a tool you have no experience with.

At the Writing Gym, we open your kit and we take note of what works and what doesn’t work for you personally and move forward with that knowledge. 

Indeed, the Writing Gym wants our writers to improve and to succeed. We want to point writers at the right direction and help them achieve their writing and publishing dreams. 

We are so happy that we have O’Dell in our Writing Gym membership. We are proud of all his achievements and we hope that you, too, can take advantage of your time inside your home to write and write and write. 

Stay safe and happy writing.

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