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To write a query letter or to write a proposal?


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I just sent off my first drafts to a few beta readers. 

 

An editor friend of mine suggested I work on writing a proposal. When I looked up mock proposals, my head went spinning.

 

Another published friend said she didn't do a proposal, just a query letter when she got an agent through PitMad.

 

What are your experiences in getting published?

 

Should I get an agent if I am not sure I can commit to all the advertising or self-promotion? Do I still need a book proposal? What happened to just writing stories?

 

If an agent is the way to go, where do I start looking for an agent in the fantasy genre (with a Christian worldview leaning)?

 

Too many things to consider. SIGH

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2 minutes ago, E.T. Newman said:

Should I get an agent if I am not sure I can commit to all the advertising or self-promotion?

 

Ummm...if you self-publish, do you not plan to market? No matter which way you choose, you still have a lot of marketing to do.

 

2 minutes ago, E.T. Newman said:

What happened to just writing stories?

 

LOL And here you thought that was all there was to it! So sorry to burst your bubble, but writing is a mere portion of getting published. Don't forget to scan the writing forum for all the topics you need to read for help. 😃

 

 

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13 minutes ago, E.T. Newman said:

Should I get an agent if I am not sure I can commit to all the advertising or self-promotion?

This is exactly why I haven't gone the agent route so far. Like Lynn said you'll be doing marketing and promotion no matter what, but with self-publishing you get to decide when, where, how much, etc. An agent will have a list of expectations about platform and availability that you may not be willing to meet just yet. 

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Each publisher has their own submission requirements. Some require that you go through an agent. Those that take unsolicited works may require a query letter first. others take proposals. From publishers & agents I've met at writer's conferences, pretty much the first thing they look at (after your very basic summary of the book...) is your marketing plan. If it doesn't pass muster, it's not likely that the rest will get read. This means that if you're going the conventional publishing route, you'll need to commit to all the self promotion. One agent i spoke to complained that one of his clients had their contract cancelled during prepublication, because they weren't doing enough in their platform to promote their work.

 

The world has changed. With so much free stuff on the internet, so many alternative distractions for entertainment, and so many other ways to learn, the publishing industry is under siege, and publishers are vanishing as those that remain consolidate. They no longer have the budgets to promote the books they sell, and that burden falls increasingly to the authors.

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51 minutes ago, E.T. Newman said:

I just sent off my first drafts to a few beta readers. 

 

An editor friend of mine suggested I work on writing a proposal. When I looked up mock proposals, my head went spinning.

 

Another published friend said she didn't do a proposal, just a query letter when she got an agent through PitMad.

 

What are your experiences in getting published?

 

Should I get an agent if I am not sure I can commit to all the advertising or self-promotion? Do I still need a book proposal? What happened to just writing stories?

 

If an agent is the way to go, where do I start looking for an agent in the fantasy genre (with a Christian worldview leaning)?

 

Too many things to consider. SIGH

 

I've been going down this same path for the last three months.

 

You will find very few agents looking for Fantasy with a Christian worldview.  Word Wise Media is one.    Steve Laube is another.  There's Julie Gwinn at the Seymore (?) Agency.  Golden Harvest is another agency.

 

Likewise, you will find very few publishers that will be receptive to Fantasy that has a Christian focus.  Most Christian publishers either want non-fiction, or want non-Fantasy fiction (literary, romance, and so on).

 

There are lots of non-Christian (secular) agents out there.  My suspicion is that the non-Christian publishers will pass on your book given any overt Christian themes it may have.  However, if you are a Person of Color, they might overlook the themes.  The current business environment also holds sway here.  I've had a couple of them get back with me, and say that they have stopped taking on new clients due to COVID-19.  It is a matter of doing an Internet search, going through the list of literary agencies, and finding agents that are looking for Fantasy books (know your sub-genres, however).  Compile a list, send out queries, and wait...a long time for them to get back with you (if they ever do).

 

If you decide to not go with an agent, it's just as grim.  Large publishers, and many indie publishers, will not pick up your manuscript unless you have an agent.  Of those publishers who do accepts direct submissions, you will find that they adhere to the same criteria as many of the secular agents.

 

There are indie publishers, some of whom will take un-agented submissions.  The more I go through the list of indie publishers, I'm finding that quite a few of them are not accepting submissions, many of them citing a business slowdown due to COVID-19.

 

As for what they are looking for, there are two types of submissions: a query and a proposal.  You do a query for fiction, and a proposal for non-fiction.  Sometimes the language gets a little confused, but for fiction you'll be doing a query.  Queries have two basic flavors: e-mail to the agent or going through a query system.

 

Most agents will have you query via e-mail.  You'll need a cover letter, a 1 or 2 page synopsis of your book, and they'll ask you to include sample pages from your book.  Usually the agent will request anywhere from the first 5 to 50 pages of your book, though some will ask you to just submit sample chapters.  So, my suggestion is to make the first 50 pages super polished.  You will usually submit these in the body of an e-mail - no attachments (there are some exceptions to this).

 

Your query should have the following items: the title of your book, a brief description of the story, a pitch, your bio, your contact information, a rough word-count of your book, what kind of book it is, the audience for the book (young adult, middle grade, storybook, adult fiction), and the other books you could compare it to.  Oh, and this all has to fit in one printed page.  If you start dipping halfway into a second page, you need to scale back your query.

 

There are some agents that will have you fill out a form - usually a Word document - and submit that as an attachment.  That's rather rare.

 

The second type of query uses a query system.  They ask for the same basic information that I detailed in the query letter.  So the work you did on the query letter is still useful.

 

Lastly, some agents (and a couple of publishers) will ask for a marketing plan.  You will be expected to help market your book.  So, make sure you have something drawn up for that as well.

 

Publishers sometimes ask for sample chapters, or may ask for the full manuscript.

 

As for my experiences?  I've been whining about that here for the last several months, so I'll pass on that additional info.

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47 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

You'll have to do a blog (which you will probably want to do anyway), Facebook (again, which you'll probably do anyway), and it will be a breeze.

It may be that easy for some agents, but I've also seen hard requirements on numbers of online followers and participating in live events... I watched a friend last year spend almost every weekend travelling to events as required by her agent and publisher. 

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1 hour ago, Wes B said:

They no longer have the budgets to promote the books they sell, and that burden falls increasingly to the authors.

And this is the other half of the story. It's getting harder and harder to see where the benefit is in signing on with a publisher that will accept a new, unknown author. The author still ends up being responsible for all the promotion. 

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@lynnmosher I went through your list, because a bunch of them I looked through, or submitted to already.

 

The Steve Laube Agency - accepts Fantasy fiction.

 

Books & Such  - accepts Fantasy fiction.

 

Joyce Hart, Jim Hart, others -  - accepts Fantasy fiction (I think).

 

Bruce Barbour - looks to do only non-fiction.
 

Chip MacGregor, Amanda Luedeke - Not accepting fiction submissions.

 

Kimberly Shumate - I can't even find where to submit.  🙂


Christian Literary Agency - requires you use a set of guidelines that cost $297.00.  Now I know why they're not on my list.

 

Both Books and Such and the Hart Agency require that you provide a marketing plan, or provide numbers for your social media platform (number of followers).

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47 minutes ago, lynnmosher said:

Yikes! I had no idea. That's awful! Boo! Hiss! 😬

 

Yeah.  I looked both websites up and down, and was scratching my head wondering where the thumbnail sketch for the guidelines were.

 

I think that at one point, they were free.  Then they got put behind a paywall, and the LA never bothered to update their website.

 

Plus, once you visit the website, you'll see quickly that Christian Literary Agency has issues.  Their website comes up with a bunch of errors, and it's been like that for months.

 

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On 12/2/2020 at 4:31 PM, E.T. Newman said:

When I looked up mock proposals, my head went spinning.

Yes, that does tend to happen.

On 12/2/2020 at 4:55 PM, Wes B said:

Each publisher has their own submission requirements. Some require that you go through an agent. Those that take unsolicited works may require a query letter first. others take proposals

 

Correct. Read them carefully and then DO AS THEY SAY. Don't just send off what you use for everyone. Publishers and agents are very picky.

On 12/2/2020 at 6:07 PM, Jeff Potts said:

If you decide to not go with an agent, it's just as grim.  Large publishers, and many indie publishers, will not pick up your manuscript unless you have an agent.  Of those publishers who do accepts direct submissions, you will find that they adhere to the same criteria as many of the secular agents.

 

 

 

Very true. It's tough out there.

 

I would suggest working on your synopsis (if it is a fiction story/novel) and work out the following which many agents/publisher seem to want these days

 

1. What is your genre?

2. Who do you write like - identify three book published in the last 5yrs of their.

3. who is your audience and how do you see your work being promoted/sold.

 

Sounding like a marketing plan - yep - they want you to do the groundwork for them . Bless them they - after all it only THEIR job to sell you isn't it?

 

Yes, I am being ironic. Basically unless you are committed to getting published via trad means, go self-publishing. It is quicker, probably far more enjoyable and you will get higher royalties.  

 

If you decide to stay on the trad publishing path be prepared for a long, long slog.

And on that happy note - I will go back to the Writers and Artists Yearbook for GB.

 

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2 hours ago, Shamrock said:

I would suggest working on your synopsis (if it is a fiction story/novel) and work out the following which many agents/publisher seem to want these days

 

1. What is your genre?

2. Who do you write like - identify three book published in the last 5yrs of their.

3. who is your audience and how do you see your work being promoted/sold.

 

Sounding like a marketing plan - yep - they want you to do the groundwork for them . Bless them they - after all it only THEIR job to sell you isn't it?

 

 

We mustn't forget that they take a real risk with every book they take on. Publishers & agents I've spoken to at writers' conferences have said things to the effect that maybe 1 in 3 of the books they take on will make enough money to be worthwhile, and it's the income from the high performers that they count on to make up for any losses incurred by the other 2 out of 3. Then, they also have to pay their own salaries and turn some vague approximation of a profit...

 

The costs of producing a good, professional-looking book are significant, they pay all the costs up front, and they can only afford so many mistakes. Each time their judgement in taking on a book falters this year, they take one step closer to being bought out by a competitor, next year. I would not work in that industry for any amount of money. It looks too much like the people who were manufacturing photographic film, back when digital cameras were becoming popular...

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