Do you speak Agent-ese?

Do you speak Agent-ese?

Do you speak Agent-ese? 

I recently had a virtual lunch via Zoom with one of the agents that I frequently speak with. I know in this day and age we’re doing a lot of digital meetings. It was funny because she was telling me about negotiating rights with another person over Zoom. It’s definitely a changing world. 

We are all dealing with the coronavirus right now. One of the positive things that we choose to see during these times is that now writers have the time to write, read, and slow down a little.

And there is light at the end of the tunnel over in the Writing Gym. The publishing business has not slowed down despite the coronavirus. 

During my meeting with the agent, we really strategized the careers of some of our writers who are in the Novel Selling U and are also on the Paths to Pulitzer. These writers have finished their novels and they’re in the submission process. They’re creating that career. 

I want to highlight one particular member: Jeanne. The agent and I were looking at her synopsis and really looking at her marketing angle. We asked each other: “Where are we going to place her novel in the market?” 

Imagine having access to an agent in the way that Writing Gym members do–an agent who can look at the whole picture and say: “All right, placement-wise, where’s the very best place for this and how can we position this so that this author is successful?” This is really huge. 

So, two good news; One, agents are still looking for quality manuscripts. Two, kudos to Jeanne and some of the other authors over in the Writing Gym for joining the Writing Gym and having created access for themselves to that kind of expertise.

Now the other thing that came up in the course of the conversation was about the way that agents are rejecting manuscripts these days and the kinds of things that they’re saying when that happens.

It is not the agent’s job to tell you what to do with your manuscript when they reject it. But they do have different ways of telling you that they’re rejecting your piece. For this particular agent that I talked to, she says: “You might want to have some more people to read your work.” That was her way of saying that your manuscript just isn’t ready yet, but she won’t really tell you everything that you have to do. Again, that is not the agents’ job. 

You might not understand this because you don’t speak Agent-ese. The thing is, I speak to agents several times a week. I’m speaking to publishers and editors several times a week so that I can read between the lines when the writers over in the Writing Gym get those rejection letters. And because of that, we can interpret the letters. 

Remember when we were all still in school and we were graded with letters, from A-F? We can try to interpret your “grade” judging by the rejection letter. Is it an A or an F? What are they really trying to say with this language that they’re using?

Especially at the Writing Gym, we have agents who have worked with us for a long time and, to be honest, 50% of the agents who I talk to are people I personally know. Because of that, we can get on the phone, call these agents up, and let them know that a manuscript has finally been revised. We can also depend on these agents to give us some meaningful feedback on the writing. This is really important.

Our Gym rats aren’t stuck trying to deal with the confusion that comes with Agent-ese, such as asking unsurely whether it’s the manuscript itself or the query letter that has led to the rejection. 

Are you getting a lot of rejections and you’re not really sure what they mean? Or are you one of those authors who starts a novel and then starts it again and then isn’t quite sure what to do with it? Or are you someone who is confused about what genre your novel falls into? Let’s talk about it and clear up the confusion. Contact me here.

Happy writing. 

Do you have what it takes to publish your novel?

Do you have what it takes to publish your novel?

Do You Have What it Takes to Publish Your Novel?

In his article None Habits of Published Authors, Stephen Blake Mettee states that the #1 habit of published authors is that “they learn what the market requires.”

“Who has time to do that?” I hear you say.

And I get it – finding time to write is hard enough, nevermind finding the time to research who’s looking for what, what agents have agency-hopped, if Agent X is still looking for the same genre they said they were looking for last week – to say nothing of figuring out the subgenres of the subgenres of the subgenres that are trending this week. Am I right?
What would life be like if you could work with someone who was speaking with those industry professionals every week to get you the latest information, someone who could support you and guide you to become a published author, to help connect you to the right kind of agents and publishers for your piece?

If that sounds good to you and you’re ready to take that leap and serious about doing what it takes to become a publishable author, let’s chat.

You can drop yourself right into my calendar here.

Building an Author Platform: Not for the Birds

Building an Author Platform: Not for the Birds

Building an Author Platform: Not for the Birds
Building a Marketing Platform: Not for the Birds

In my coaching work with writers, I’ve come to discover how much many writers detest creating their marketing platforms.

 I will concede to the fact that marketing is a lot of work, yet I have come to enjoy it. Here’s why: I’m a nester by nature and fluffing a nest for my book feels just right.

 Perhaps it is a desire to be humble that inhibits writers, who by nature tend to break from the flock and be solitary. Writing often attracts people who avoid “proud as a peacock” behavior, and prefer, instead, to let ideas incubate in solitude before a computer or notebook.

 I think part of the frustration for writers is that there’s no right way to market oneself; there is no formula.  But, come on, writers; we do that everyday when we sit down to write.  There’s no right way to do the thing we do—but there are better ways.

 Did you get discouraged the first time someone said “I don’t know what you meant in this sentence”? Of course not, or you wouldn’t have stuck in the profession long enough to read an article like this.

 We have to approach marketing with that same attitude of experimentation.  You might create a facebook ad and only get three likes out of it.  Ok, victory.  That’s three more likes.  If your goal was 30 or 300, it might feel like defeat.  So, try something else.  If your writing is worth tweeting about, you understand this as part of the writing process every day.  Give yourself permission to draft and revise your marketing plan, too.

 In this digital age we have so much free advertising available to us.  Don’t brood over your inexperience, or let a few false starts ruffle your feathers. Take a gander at other author websites, and use their platform to help you get a bird’s eye view of your own platform. Then begin to generate ideas for reaching your own audience.hTsvTGo

You never know what might come of it.  For example, a recent response to a tweet landed me an interview on Huffington Post Live.

Just persevere, spread your wings, and keep pressing on.

Here are some of my favorite tools for using social media for your platform:

Twitter: As I mentioned, you can search by #hashtags. Want to know everything people are saying about Bird Breeding? Search #BirdBreeding. But seriously, is avian proliferation that important? Here’s your Number one twitter friend: #MSWL. This simple hashtag tell you literary agents’ WISHLISTS! Search it and you’ll find up to the minute updates on which agent is looking for what, right now. Seriously cool

Facebook groups: Like to write plays? Haikus? Bird-based articles riddled with cliches? Create a facebook group and share your niche with others.

Social Jukebox: You’re a writer. As much fun as it is to procrastinate all the livelong day on social media, you’ve got writing to do. Social Jukebox is like an old-timey jukebox, except instead of playing records in random order, it sends out your tweets and posts. This one is by far my favorite tool.

Bottom line: Try something.  Don’t be afraid to flop.  Kill two birds with one stone: use the skills you learned to become a resilient writer to become a resilient marketer.

 When in doubt, wing it.

The Struggle for the RTP

The Struggle for the RTP

The Struggle for the RTP

I recently published this article to the Medium Channel I edit on the writing life.  What are your thoughts?

Want to write an article on the writing process or writing life?  Click here.

The Struggle for the RTP: When to Listen to Your Editors & When Not To

By Will Hesslink

Editor’s Note: This reflection was written by a student in the Introduction to Journalism class I teach. I thought his ideas on the struggle for the RTP or “Ready to Publish” are a universal part of the writing life. What do you think?

“I found that editing can be useful, but it can also be challenging.”

The one very important part of publishing and writing is editing. I found that editing can be useful, but it can also be challenging. We had to have different people read our articles and offer their suggestions. I know that it is important to have other people’s views and ideas in order to help make a piece more interesting.

“I found it difficult to have multiple opinions on my pieces, because each person who read it had their own ideas about how to improve it.”

However, I found it difficult to have multiple opinions on my pieces, because each person who read it had their own ideas about how to improve it. Sometimes the ideas and suggestions were not always the same. I found it hard to edit at times because I had to find a middle ground and take everyone’s ideas for making it better. I also found it hard to listen to other’s suggestions when I thought they did not really understand what I was trying to say or they wanted to change how I was presenting information.

“The …problem is picking which advice to take, and which to ignore. People have different opinions and it can be tough to choose which one fits better depending on how it flows with the rest of the article.”

Editing must be done in order to be able to publish an article or turn in any paper for school. The only problem is picking which advice to take, and which to ignore. People have different opinions and it can be tough to choose which one fits better depending on how it flows with the rest of the article. In my experience with multiple editors this semester I found out how tough it can get to juggle people’s edits while still trying to make everybody happy and have the article still flow well.

What are your tips on listening to feedback?

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