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

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

Before joining me, Aaron had completed his novel, which he had dedicated six months to. 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?” 

He even had a personal connection to one 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 that his understanding of the world had completely turned on its head. So he set out to research to try 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 strategy—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 that agents don’t reply to blind submissions or cold query submissions, because they have enough of a pipeline from their clients or had 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 that a number of letters he had sent out received same day responses asking for full manuscripts, and he got positive feedback on the content of the query itself. 

Aaron getting full manuscript requests is huge because the typical pattern is that you send the query, the agent’s interested and say “okay, send me ten or fifty pages.” Oftentimes, the manuscript gets better as the story progresses, so getting a full manuscript request is important.

This is especially great because the content of his work and query were both relatively polarizing, but he was met with success, having even gotten a response in under five minutes.

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

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.

Does this sound like you? Well, I help writers to transition from the art of writing into the business of publishing. This is what I do to help people publish and get the representation they need. If you are ready to accept what the guidelines are and are ready to sell your book, let’s chat.

Until next time. Happy writing.

How To Overcome Self Doubt and Get Published

How To Overcome Self Doubt and Get Published

How to Overcome Self Doubt and Get Published

Hey there writers and muse daters. Today I want to talk about an extraordinary Writing Gym member, Lauren.

I met Lauren at a writing conference. She had been working on a novel for years, but kept getting caught up in destructive circles of doubt that prevented her from ever finishing. At times, these negative feelings were so overwhelming, just sitting down at the keyboard felt impossible. 

Weeks would go by where Lauren didn’t touch her writing at all. “I was afraid of my own writing at times,” she told me. “I felt like I was walking down a dark hallway without a flashlight. I had this story that I wanted to tell really, really badly, but I didn’t know how to do it. And I was scared of doing it wrong.”

Like many serious writers, Lauren was determined to overcome this fear so she could pursue her writing career. She tried various DIY solutions; she read what felt like a zillion articles and books on writing, and even tried a different writing program, but nothing seemed to be getting to the core of the problem. All she was getting was conflicting feedback which only left her more confused.

As you can imagine, this only led to more negative emotions, which only inhibited her writing even further.

“I was worrying myself to death, I was really getting in my own way and getting really frustrated.”

Lauren and I touched base a few times in the years after that conference. Every time we did, she would tell me about her latest effort–a writing class, a book on writing, another writing conference. Each time, she hoped she had finally found a solution to her writing problems. Yet months later, on our next call, Lauren was still stuck.

All that changed when Lauren decided to enroll in the Writing Gym. She began working her way through our instructive modules, which armed her with a new arsenal of writing techniques. She met weekly with our personal trainer, Gretchen, who helped Lauren to restructure her mental approach towards writing. I met with her weekly, took a close look at her writing and gave her personalized feedback.

But that wasn’t the only support she got. The weekly salons in the Writing Gym “transformed my writing,” Lauren says. Salon is a weekly writing workshop we hold among our Gym Rats, in which we spend an hour writing together in a supportive, fun, productive environment. Using neuroscientific principles, this activity rewires the brain to overcome the inner critic, and fall into creative flow.

Lauren summarized the value of her experience in the Writing Gym:

“The Writing Gym provides authors with knowledgeable, insider industry information, knowledgeable feedback and a true understanding of how the writing process works so that you can be your best writer.”

This robust combination of encouragement and the means to discover HER best writer was the secret to Lauren’s final breakthrough. She quickly transformed from a reluctant, self-doubting writer to a prolific and confident author.

She told me after just a few months:

“I didn’t realize the Writing Gym was going to so thoroughly revolutionize the way that I write. I don’t want to say that I didn’t love writing already, but the Writing Gym has made it so much more enjoyable to write. I didn’t expect that. I thought that writing is always scary and it’s always going to be scary. I had no idea that the Writing Gym would help me to get really, truly excited about writing again.” 

Lauren’s new attitude and approach to writing brought quick success. With her true creativity unlocked, she began to produce original, inspired work, and publishers took notice. Here are the results she began to see:

  • Lauren had a short story published in an anthology just months after joining the Writing Gym.
  • Lauren won a writing contest and her story is now featured on Alexa device.

Like many writers, Lauren had always had talent and originality, it was just buried under her own limiting beliefs. Tragically, however, most of these writers don’t take the steps Lauren did to shed these beliefs and unlock their greatest writer. Neither themselves, nor the world ever gets to witness their full creative potential.

Lauren says her only regret is not joining the Writing Gym sooner.

“If there was a way for me to tiptoe back in time, to when I met you two years ago, I would show myself the reel of all the needless trouble I put myself through. That’s what it was–two years of pointless turmoil when what I really needed was already right there. I just didn’t realize it. I wish I could condense the two years between then and now.”

If you resonate with Lauren’s story, if you know that you possess deep creative potential, we can help you bring it to the surface. But a word of caution: this is only for serious writers, writers who are tired of solutions that don’t get them where they want to be, and are ready NOW for change. To go through the Writing Gym process, you need to be ready and determined to publish your work.

If that sounds like you, book a call with our team so we can talk about how to unleash your best writer, and help you to reach–finally– your publishing goals.

Until next time. Happy writing.

 
Want to Get Published? Get an Agent? Here’s How.

Want to Get Published? Get an Agent? Here’s How.

Want to Get Published? Get an Agent? Here’s How.

Hey there writers and muse daters. I’m super excited to be here today with one of our members from the Writing Gym. You’ve seen her before and we’re really happy to welcome back Jeanne.

Recently, as a result of her hard work through the Writing Gym, Jeanne has received two full manuscript requests, from two of the top agencies including an undisclosed Hollywood opportunity. 

Today, I’ll be sharing some of Jeanne’s advice and her experience in the Writing Gym, and how the Writing Gym helped her (and could help you) achieve the author lifestyle. 

Jeanne told us the Writing Gym helped her in the following ways: 

1. Help that was tailored to Jeanne’s specific needs

Jeanne came in as a script writer, and her producer had challenged her to novelize one of her scripts. She said “script writing and prose writing are two very different things, with script being very visual.” 

Jeanne already had a script ready, but she had been struggling with editing that script. Despite going to many different editors to get help with her writing, no one really knew exactly how to help. Eventually, someone pointed her to me. 

“You were able to tell me how my thinking was in line with novel writing, and what I needed to do to change the way I looked at novel writing.” 

No matter where you are in the writing process, whether you have a work in progress, finished a manuscript, or want to begin a new work, the Writing Gym is here to help.

2. Revising to publishable 

After meeting with me, Jeanne entered the Writing Gym to polish her script. She entered the reading period, where I take your script and read it front to back. 

“You had read my script, dissected it, figured out what my strengths and weaknesses were, and then we started working one on one together. We did some overall work first, and then we started line by line, page by page, till we got to where the document should be.”

Through the Writing Gym, you can accelerate your progress, and get to the front of the line because your work has already gone through the editing process. 

Afterwards, Jeanne entered the Publishing Bootcamp in the Publishing Mastermind program, where I taught her skills on how to pitch her novel and how to write a bang-up query. She began getting responses. 

Here at Date with the Muse, we have programs for people at any stage of their journey to help them achieve the author lifestyle.

3. The Writing Gym community

Another thing Jeanne loves about the Writing Gym is the community we offer. 

Inevitably, writing comes with rejections. But here at the Writing Gym, we celebrate rejections together. Jeanne says that one of the nice things about dealing with the rejection in the Writing Gym is you’re not the only one who’s sending out queries, you’re not the only one who’s going through the process.

“Having a group of people to work with, sometimes feels like a competition. Like, ‘How many people got the most rejection letters today?’ We joke about these things and it helps to take the sting out of our own personal rejections.”

“Especially because you know your fellow Writing Gym members are so talented, so it really helps to know you’re going through the same things as other very good writers.”

Writing is seen as this solitary journey, but it doesn’t have to be. The Writing Gym offers the community to show that you’re not in this alone.

 Jeanne went from struggling with revising her work as a scriptwriter, to landing two major deals after she began working with the Writing Gym.

No matter where you are in your writing journey, the Writing Gym has different options to help you get to publication. 

 If anything here resonates with you, I’d be happy to chat with you. 

Until next time, happy writing.

Journey to Publishing: Celebrating Barbara

Journey to Publishing: Celebrating Barbara

Journey to Publishing: Celebrating Barbara

Hey there writers and muse daters!

Today I’m really excited for two things: to celebrate Barbara’s success in her publishing career, and to give you some insider information on what it really looks like once you get that publishing contract.

Barbara and I met at the Writer’s Digest Conference in 2017, and that’s when she decided to start investing in herself as a fiction writer. Barbara had gotten her MFA in 2002, and went directly into teaching and became a freelance writer on the side. 

She had always wanted to become an author, but with life being so busy, 16 years had passed with Barbara putting her fiction writing dreams on the back burner. After meeting me, she decided to invest in herself and joined the Writing Gym, where she turned her MFA thesis into a novel.

We began working together in spring of ‘18, and had the manuscript ready by the following summer/early fall. We began querying, reaching out to agents, and then Covid happened, and the publishing industry slowed down significantly.

Despite setbacks, Barbara kept querying and had a breakthrough when she pitched her novel to PitMad. A week later, she got a tweet from an editor from a publishing house called Literary Wanderlust, indicating interest in her manuscript. Months later, she got a contract.

Barbara began reaching out to other writers to make sure everything was on the up and up, got encouragement, and advice from me and eventually, signed the contract!

 

I asked Barbara, what were some of the questions she had at that point of receiving a contract. She told me there were a lot of terms in the contract that she wished she had a better understanding of, and that basically you have to see what rights the publisher will have over not only your book, but over you as a writer.

Barbara asked to renegotiate the contract, regarding her movie rights, and decided to keep her movie rights! She also asked about royalties, but in the end Barbara knew this wasn’t going to be the book she quit her day job over. She decided to take the plunge and sign, because she wanted to open up new doors for herself by getting published.

For Barbara, there were no red flags, and she went with her gut. She got her contract checked by an attorney, and feels confident moving forward. Her advice is: read the fine print, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and if it feels right for you, you should do it. 

Another question I had for Barbara was, what did she learn about publishing a book that maybe she didn’t know beforehand?

Barbara told me that one of the things she did know was that unless you’re getting some 6 figure, 7 figure deal, which happens rarely, that there was going to be a lot of groundwork for her in terms of marketing and getting into bookstores, especially during Covid. 

She also told me that books aren’t waiting in a big warehouse like they used to be. It’s very much print-on-demand. At the same time, publishing is very slow, it’s not something where you hit send and it’s published. As of now she’s in the editing process, and her book won’t be out until the fall. 

Finally, I asked Barbara, what the impact of the Writing Gym was on her, and how it helped her move toward publication.

“[The Writing Gym] made me believe that I could be a novelist, and actually complete a book which I hadn’t done in the past.” The Writing Gym helped Barbara get her writing confidence back, and provide her with a community full of fellow writers.

 

One of our goals in the Writing Gym is to create the author lifestyle, and that means different things for different people. Most people want to publish as much as they can. What about Barbara.

Well, Barbara is planning to come out with book number two, tentatively titled “Good Breeding.” We’re so excited to follow her on her journey as a writer! 

 

It was so amazing to watch Barbara on her journey, seeing her grow as a writer, watching her embrace her fiction and really become a novelist. Her novel is hilarious and I can’t wait for people to read it. 

If this sounds like something you would be interested in as well, I’d love to chat with you. 

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? 

Welcome back writers and muse daters. Today’s Writing Gym Podcast guest is Jeff Kleinmann from Folio Literary Management. He shared with us what it’s like to really be an agent and some of the things that really happen behind those closed doors. But 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. Just recently, a book he worked on was on the best-seller list for a while, a memoir had received a deal to make a series with Netflix, and so on. Such great accomplishments and no wonder that literary agents are as respected as the author. 

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.

“So, 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 that they submit their manuscript that just 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 would put up barriers. We want to make sure that 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 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 really 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. 

The Curtain Pulled Back: What Publishing House Editors Say about Your Next Book

The Curtain Pulled Back: What Publishing House Editors Say about Your Next Book

The Curtain Pulled Back: What Publishing House Editors Say about Your Next Book

Every November is National Novel Writing Month. Tens of thousands of writers bang out a novel in a month and they think, “Great! I’m done! Now, I can get it published!”

But even if you’ve managed to crank out a great story in just thirty days, getting published is far from a done deal. Publishers are looking for work that meets a certain standard; they are looking at books on multiple levels, with an eye toward how it can be successful and how they can move a book out into the marketplace. There are lots of quality issues to deal with, so publishers and editors can get a little persnickety.

Here’s what New York Times bestselling author Mike Bender has to say about the subject:

“They’re seeing the bigger picture,” Mike says. “They know exactly what’s out there, and they know what the trends are. They know the books in their own library that are being published.”

When Mike sent his second manuscript to his editor, she thought it was a great story, but she also remembered what made Mike’s first book so successful.

“She took me back to the first book and said, ‘Well, what I really loved in that book is that there was an educational aspect to it. Like, you were teaching the kids about this concept’,” Mike says.

“So I had to rethink the way I was writing the book,” he says, “and the manuscript we ended up writing was (geared more toward) teaching it to the kids. There had to be an educational aspect to this book for libraries to want to pick it up in schools. And that’s not something, as a writer, I was thinking about. I was just thinking about story.”

That’s the kind of thing we’re doing over in the Writing Gym. We take good writing and not only help you make it better, but we work with you to make sure your novel meets industry standards.

If you’re serious about getting your work published, I’d love to chat with you. You can book yourself into my calendar, and we can talk about where you are, where you’d like to go, and how you can get there.

Until next time, Happy Writing!

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