One of the many enjoyable aspects of working with the New Jersey Authors Network, is you you get to meet some cool writers who are willing to share some of their knowledge and experience online and in person. One such lady is Caitlen Rubino-Bradway.
When she's not busy writing, Caitlen works for a New York literary agency. Today, she's been kind enough to stop by and pass on five handy writing tips she picked up as a result.
Five Writer Tips I Learned While Working At A Literary Agency
by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
1) Research your agent thoroughly.
Okay, let’s start with the bad news: I reject about 95% of the submissions I read. And the overwhelming No.1 Reason is that the material isn’t right for our company. For example, the agency I work for now only handles non-fiction (with a very small amount of children’s fiction). You can find out this out simply by Googling us. But every week we receive at least a dozen submissions for romance novels, hard-boiled mysteries, epic civil-war dramas.
Yes, research can be long and boring, but it’s worth it. After all, your relationship with your agent is ideally going to be a long one, over a number of books. It’s important that you find someone you can work with and talk to, and someone who understands your stories and what you’re trying to do. So you should put as much work into finding an agent as you did writing the book.
2) Make your submission look as professional as possible.
You know what they say about first impressions…. Well your submission is your first impression. So obey submission guidelines. Make sure everything is spelled correctly. Address your query to a specific agent. Personalize your query letter. And under no circumstances should you ever send a ‘Dear Agent’ form letter, with twenty different emails in the address bar. I worked at an agency with a flat policy of deleting those query letters unread. After all, if you don’t care what agent you’re sending your book to, why should we?
3) The agent you contact is not reading your submission.
The person reading your submission is the college intern, or the assistant, or the office manager, or whoever is at the bottom of the agency totem pole. Not that it’s an unwanted job — I knew a lot of agents who wished they could go through the slush pile. But literary agents have very little time to read submissions. They’re too busy working on their current projects — getting them in shape to submit to editors, negotiating contracts, or working with editors to get things ready for publication. This is a good thing! When you sign with an agent, you want them working on your project, not going through the mail. The interns (and assistants) act as a filter and time-saver. Remember that 95% I mentioned? It’s the intern’s job to weed those out.
4) Don’t be a diva.
Trust me, I know what it’s like to slave over a manuscript, to put your heart into every page, and then have to hand it over to someone and wait for them to pull it to pieces…and do it in their own sweet time. But I also know what it’s like to have a beautifully written project and see it fall apart before it can even get near publication because we had to deal with an author’s emotional state before we could get them to work. So, please — Be open to suggestions. Respond to emails promptly. Be polite. If your submission is rejected, don’t send back an angry email about how we’ve made a horrible mistake and when you’re rich and famous we’ll be sorry. (Yes, I have seriously gotten those.)
And, continuing on that theme…
5) Take edits in the spirit they’re given.
I’ve spoken to a lot of authors who tell me they could never let an editor tell them that they had to change their story, after they’ve worked on it and sweated over it for so long. I can understand that. I never like getting edits. Part of me always hopes that when I turn in a story, it’ll be rose-petals and rainbows and my editor will tell me everything’s perfect. But I know it’s not. It can’t be. I’m only one person, and sometimes I get too wrapped up in the details and I can’t see the big picture. So, at the same time, I love getting edits, because I know that no matter what I hear back, it’s going to make the story better.
And that’s what it’s about. The story.
Caitlen Rubino-Bradway has worked at three different literary agencies, and is currently a junior agent at the LKG Agency in New York City. She is the author of Ordinary Magic, a middle-grade fantasy, and Lady Vernon and Her Daughter, which she co-wrote with her mother, Jane. You can find Caitlen on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CaitlenRubinoBradway or Twitter at @Cate_RB.