Saturday, October 11, 2014

Top 5 Things I Learned from Guide to Literary Agents 2015

          I was so excited when this puppy landed in my mailbox a couple weeks ago and eagerly sat down with my highlighter. Sure, you can (and should) research agents online, using websites like QueryTracker, Literary Rambles, and many others (see Links to Helpful Blogs and Other Webby Stuff). But this book is a handy all-in-one-spot information goldmine on all literary agents, children's and otherwise. 

           It also has several helpful articles about all things "books": writing, revising, querying, assessing agents, you name it. Here, I'll list the top 5 things I learned from this awesome guide (besides, of course, everything about potential agents)!

5. "Think of your query as the first and most important page of your manuscript" (p. 76). I don't think I really realized how important a well-written query is until recently. It matters! Many agents don't even make it past your query letter, so no matter how awesome your manuscript is, your query has to be just as good, if not better. 

4. Read, read, read! I already knew this one, but it never hurts to be reminded. Become an expert in your genre. Specifically, "know what's already out there, and make sure your novel stands apart" (p. 56)

3. Don't query every agent you love at first. Start with no more than ten, and if you receive 0-1 requests for more, you know your query has a problem. Get feedback from critique partners or online forums, rewrite your query, and try another round of queries. 

2. In the chapter entitled "8 Ways to Write a Great Chapter One": End the first chapter with some closure. "Because it is Chapter One, your readers will trust that the closure will turn out to be deliciously false." (p. 65). This is a good one for me, because I am a HUGE fan of cliffhangers at the end of chapters. 

1. A wonderful tool for honing your writing craft: Find a book or author you admire, perhaps one that's in the same genre as your WIP (work-in-progress), and type a passage/chapter yourself, word for word. Doing this helps unlock the mysteries of well-written literature (p. 89). I can't wait to sit down and try this with Lois Lowry's The Giver, my all-time favorite children's middle grade book!

Thanks to editor Chuck Sambuchino and all the contributors of The Guide to Literary Agents 2015!

Have you read it too? Share something new you learned by leaving a comment!