Tag Archives: agent

How to find comparable titles for your story…..

Now that I am trying to figure out how
to capture the attention of a literary
agent for The Alligator Purse, I am learning a lot about the whole query/submission process.

One of the things I keep hearing over and over is that writers must be able to compare their story to another book that has done well in the same genre.

This proves that writers understand the market they are writing for and that they understand their genre. Kinda important stuff.

My first inclination was to pick Jeannette Wall’s wonderful story The Glass Castle. The main problem with that would be that the Glass Castle is a memoir. My story is fiction. Ahem.

Thank goodness someone explained to me that is a super huge no-no. I would have looked like a baffoon.

But then who? A friend mine suggested I look at Anna Quindlen’s work. I nearly fell over. But okay. Then I thought really, I am supposed to claim that I am as fabulous as say Anna Quindlen?

Well, probably not.

Actually…
absolutely not.

But what writers should be able to say is that “audiences who love the Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards would also be interested in The Alligator Purse.”

See how’s that’s different? I might not be as amazing as Kim Edwards but we at least appeal to the same readers.

But that’s tricky too because the Memory Keeper’s Daughter was wildly popular. Heck, they even made a movie out of the story.

So, a lot of other writers might be comparing their writing to Kim Edwards.

And, agents might be thinking, “Oh sure, your writing is just like Kim Edwards. You gotta bridge to go with that manuscript?”

I have been told (by someone who would really know) that audiences who buy Pieces of My Sister’s Life by Elizabeth Joy Arnold would very likely be interested in The Alligator Purse.

So, yea for me, someone who reads a lot knew a great example for my story.

The question I can see floating in your thought bubble right now is “Yeah, good for you, but what about me? How do I find titles to compare my story too?”

I’m so glad you asked that.

You read a lot of books in your genre.

Now your thought bubble is screaming, “How do I know what books? There are so many out there?”

Another good question dear thought bubble.

Check out the website called All Readers.

You can put in selection criteria that will narrow suggestions to a manageable number.

And now you are wondering why I am so so smart. Ha. I have an answer for that too. I am taking a class from Caitlin Alexander thru Media Bistro. She was an editor at Random House for over a decade so she knows a little somthin, somthin.

And then I can only say good luck – it ain’t easy. But it is critical.

Haiku Contest – a followup……

Some time ago, many of you voted for me – thank you again – and I won Rachelle Gardner’s Haiku contest which earned me a free 30-minute consult and review of my first five pages with a real-live literary agent at Books & Such.

The only thing was, uhm, I didn’t really have five whole pages written. Yet, that is. Ooopps.

image from clipart.com

When I won the contest, I shot off an email explaining the “project” that I had in my mind to Rachelle. I had planned to share my blog about living in India with her with the hope of eventually turning that blog into a memoir about personal growth and gratitude.

Her response?

“Remember, you get 5 pages and 30 minutes. Be very careful with what you send me.”

Fair enough.

The truth is/was that, while I have a boat load of material written about India and I believe that a lot of it is pretty good, writing about India isn’t that appealing to me right now.

I was fortunate enough to have one of my stories about India published on Robert Lee Brewer’s blog in the Life Changing Moments Series. The story was longish, so he split it into two parts. I was thrilled. I was going to appear twice on his blog. Yeah!

Part I got positive feedback and quite a few people clicked over to my blog after reading the first entry. That was really great.

Part II – not so much.

Part II got zero comments.

Part I was all about the adventure – fun with girlfriends, pretty jewelry, temples, and laughter. Part II was about how I saw myself as an indulgent tourist in a world where so many suffered.

It was heavy on the heavy.

And, after Rachelle’s caution, I thought, “yea, maybe people just don’t want to hear it.”

After that revelation, along with some encouragement from my writers group, I decided it might be time to actually take on writing a novel.

I asked Rachelle for some extra time and began writing The Alligator Purse.

Last week, I met with Rachelle on Skype. It was an exciting experience. And, I was nervous as hell.

But I learned A LOT.

I had never met with an agent before – a fact that I am sure was crystal clear to her. And I am so glad that first agent meeting is behind me.It was like going to the principal’s office.Only worse, really. It was like being called to the principal and being asked to explain how the world began and why it mattered. All while wearing your grandmother’s underwear on your head.

A large part of the problem was that my manuscript is not finished. Heck, it’s barely started – I am in the middle of Chapter 4. So, when she asked me the plot, I stammered.

I know how I want the story to go  and I actually have most of it plotted out – however, I have never really articulated or defended it.

No time like the present, huh?

The truth of the matter is that if you are going to ask an agent to represent your story – you better be able to articulate and defend/explain it. You should also probably have a good handle on the storyline.

Yes, that probably would have been fabulous to realize before hand.

You also need to really understand these terms:

Theme – the impact of the story or what the message of the book is. Some examples of theme are: racism, family secrets, unrequited love, etc. The theme is what people will talk about when the book is back on the shelf. It is why the reader will care.

Plot – the major events in the story. It is how you tell the readers why they should care. It’s what happens to whom.

I wasn’t sure that I should tell the whole story to Rachelle.Maybe she should be surprised along the way.

Rookie Mistake.

She wanted to know the details. She said you keep secrets on a book jacket but not in a query.

As you have very likely gathered, I made a lot of mistakes in that meeting. But all to my benefit. I learned so much.

And eventually, quite accidentally, I explained my plot and defined my theme.

Rachelle was quite generous and spent nearly a full hour with me. At the end of our conversation, she answered a slew of questions – including some on the synopsis I am writing for another agent.

I don’t feel like I was a total failure. Rachelle had a lot of nice things to say about my writing and my voice and she has no doubt that I will write a novel and that it will be good. Realistically, it was highly unlikely that Rachelle was going to ask to be my agent – at least not in the light of day, when I wasn’t dreaming it  – so I really had nothing to lose in our interaction. It was a teachable moment for me.

So, learn from my mistakes, dear blog reader. Wait until you are ready to query. My best advice would be to at least have a synopsis written before you contact anyone. That way you will have articulated the plot on paper and will have thought it out thoroughly. And do not wear your grandmother’s underwear on your head.

Oh yea, and practice answering your skype call at least 6 times. Because apparently 5 practice tries might not be enough. And you might leave an agent, who is willing to donate an hour of her time to your unfinished manuscript, waiting.  For at least 10 minutes. Of course, I would never do that – I just want to caution you against the possibility of it all.

And none of this is to say at all that I regret entering that contest. It was an amazing experience.

First of all I won. So there. (and if you voted for me – thank you again)

Second of all, it got me moving on writing an actual novel and I am thrilled about that!

And, finally, when I am ready, I will start querying but I will have done (all of ) my homework first. 😎

PS. I just found another great website – Novel Writing Help.

When panic is a good thing………

Apparently we will be talking about the big “S” word next – synopsis – because a real-live literary agent just asked me for one for The Alligator Purse. Yikes.

So I am a little panicked – but I am also all sorts of motivated.

That’s good, right?

This is where you nod your head wildly in agreement. Thanks.

When I got the email, I waited an entire 15 seconds before writing back (didn’t want to seem desperate), politely thanked her for her interest, and asked if I could have a little time to write, uhm I mean, tweak it. That was on the outside. On the inside, I felt like this poor woman.

Sadly, I am minus the adorable shoes and the cute up-do. Yes, I might really be screwed. 😎

I wanted to scream – “that is amazing – but are you serious?” And then, “what exactly do you mean by that?”

So I am guessing that writing and submitting a synopsis might be a tad of problem if you have not finished your book yet – but maybe it won’t be – we shall definitely see.

Here is what I know so far…

If you want to write and submit your work, you will definitely want to consider investing in the Writers Market. It’s basically a listing of who is buying, what they are buying, and how they want it served up on the page. If you are thinking “that would save me a heck of a lot of time,” you’d be absolutely correct.

But the Writers Market also has helpful articles and a glossary of literary terms. So I went to my literature bible and looked up synopsis. I kind of thought I knew what it meant – but this might be a big deal so I wanted to be sure.

According to WM, a synopsis is “a brief summary of a story, novel, or play. As part of a book proposal, it is a comprehensive summary condensed in a page or page and a half, single-spaced.”

That is what I thought. But it kinda, sorta sounds like you need an ending. Dear heavens. Now what?

Well, Rachelle Gardner is a literary agent with Books & Such and she wrote this post about crafting a pitch. It covers 11 essential questions that should be answered when an author is trying to sell her book.

Then, I found this…The Novel Synopsis at Fiction Writers. Whew. I have also heard that you do not want to give away the ending of the book.

I don’t know if it addresses everything, but this is where I am going to start.

Right now.

So, bye bye.

And, yes, I will post my synopsis when I am done. Just promise not to laugh at it.

I mean it, Pinky Swear it .