Get an Agent! Making the Leap to Agented Author | Kate Willis-Crowley | Skillshare

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Get an Agent! Making the Leap to Agented Author

teacher avatar Kate Willis-Crowley, Author and Illustrator

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

18 Lessons (59m)
    • 1. Get an Agent! Making the Leap to Agented Author

      1:20
    • 2. About This Class

      3:43
    • 3. Your Manuscript

      3:09
    • 4. Your Synopsis

      3:44
    • 5. Community

      4:06
    • 6. Research

      6:49
    • 7. Get Organised!

      3:43
    • 8. Query Letter: Overview

      2:15
    • 9. Query Letter: Beginning

      2:57
    • 10. Query Letter: About Your Book

      7:35
    • 11. Query Letter: About You

      4:02
    • 12. Query Letter: About Them

      1:37
    • 13. Before You Press Send

      1:45
    • 14. Pitch Wars

      1:19
    • 15. Rejection

      6:34
    • 16. Stony Silence

      1:05
    • 17. More Please

      2:16
    • 18. Final Thoughts

      1:04
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About This Class

An easy to follow step-by-step approach to getting a literary agent. Whether you write children's fiction, adult fiction, or non-fiction, this class is your guide to finding agency representation. (And *psst*...a lot of this stuff is 100% worth knowing even if you haven't quite finished writing your book yet!)

I've pooled insights from a whole load of successful authors across different genres, to give you an experienced and professional perspective on the querying* process.

*Querying is the process of approaching agents with your work (AKA your submission). All covered in the class, I promise!

I've even persuaded my wonderful agent Chloe Seager to share her thoughts on some key points, meaning - yep - INSIDER INFO!!!

You can expect to hear from these talented contributors across the course of the class:

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Here's what we'll cover:

  • Your Manuscript 
  • Finding Writing Peers
  • Researching and Selecting Agents 
  • 'Batch-Sending' (A Systematic Querying Approach)
  • Writing a Strong Query Letter
  • Understanding Types of Rejection 
  • What Happens When an Agent is Interested?

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Kate Willis-Crowley

Author and Illustrator

Teacher

I'm Kate, and I'm a children's author and illustrator. I'm also known by my pen name, INKY WILLIS, and I'm creator of the SCRIBBLE WITCH series.

I've a Fine Art degree, and a Masters in Communications Art and Design from the Royal College of Art, London, though the bulk of my experience is industry based. Clients include Puffin, Bonnier, Chicken House Books, Faber and Faber, and Hachette Children's Books.

 

I work commercially in a few different styles, using a mix of traditional media and digital. I also make art purely for my own enjoyment, and there's often an overlap between the personal and paid work. 

I've taught art techniques and approaches to classes of school children ... See full profile

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Transcripts

1. Get an Agent! Making the Leap to Agented Author: Hi and welcome to Get An Agent! Making the Leap to Agent Author. I'm Kate Willis-Crowley. I also go by the pen name Inky Willis and I'm a children's writer and illustrator. With the help of literary agents, I've had many books published over the years. What I want to do in this class is to demystify the submission process to help you find the right agent for you and your writing. However, I'm not just going to be sharing my own experiences. I've asked bestselling authors across different genres for their top tips on getting a literary agent. Within this class, you're going to find invaluable insights and advice from a whole load of successful writers who not so long ago were exactly where you are now. Not only that, I've also asked my wonderful agent Chloe Seager for some insider tips and Chloe represents children's authors at one of the UK's leading literary agencies, so I'm really excited to share her thoughts with you. So if you're a writer, if you've finished your novel or if you're not quite there yet, but you want to know how this stage works, then this class is for you. 2. About This Class: About this class. So before I dive into telling you about this class, I just want to explain a few keywords in case they're unfamiliar. Genre. Are you writing historical fiction, science fiction, romance, literary fiction? That is your genre. As an aside, even if your book doesn't slide neatly into one genre, it is important to have an understanding of where approximately it sits on that genre spectrum. Manuscript. This is the piece of writing that you're submitting, whether it's a novel, a picture book story, or a non-fiction text, I'll use the word manuscript for this, and you may also come across the shorthand MS. Submission. Equally, you'll hear me talking about your submission. This literally just means the manuscript and synopsis that you've submitted, usually by email to the agents that you're querying. Next, we have synopsis. This is a one-page description of what happens in your manuscript. If you're sending in a short picture book, then, actually, I'll probably suggest you send a few picture book texts, if this is you. Then, a one-page synopsis is just overkill, a paragraph describing each picture book is absolutely fine. Query. The process of reaching out to agents through your submission is called querying. Query letter. Also referred to as the cover letter or the submission letter. This is the accompanying email that you'll send to explain and complement your submission. Phew. Hopefully, most of the terms feel familiar already, but if not now, then they certainly will by the end of the class. Why take this class? Do you even really need an agent? Well, the answer to the second question is no, not necessarily. Plenty of authors publish books without agency representation. Google, do I really need a literary agent, and you'll find endless discussion of the pros and cons, and it's not really my place to tell you which path is best for you. However, I can tell you which path has been best for me, and I would always, 100 percent, choose having an agent over going it alone. A growing majority of publishers now won't even look at submissions that arrived unsolicited, which is pretty much code for unagented. I know for a fact that having an agent has opened doors for me that I couldn't have opened on my own. Also, I know that my agent really fights to get me the best possible deals financially, so for me, having an agent is a no-brainer. Her 15 percent commission pays for itself. Now, back to that first question. Why take this class? Well, there's certainly plenty of information on this subject online. But what I've done in this class is to condense the whole process down into a step-by-step process with guidance from other published authors and my agent, so every stage is manageable. We'll look at finding a supportive writing community, we're going to look at how to research the right literary agents for you and your work. We'll take a detailed look at how to compose a really powerful cover letter, including a punchy hook. We're going to sell you and your work in the best possible light. We'll also look at your submission strategy, which is so important. Sending your manuscript in select batches to agents, and then what to do with any feedback you receive. Because if a rejection comes, then you're going to use that to turn your writing into something really irresistible. Mindset is crucial, and at the heart of that is having a really thorough and competent understanding of the process, and that's where this class comes in. There is a lot to cover, so let's get you started on your journey to becoming an agented author. 3. Your Manuscript : Your manuscript. This is the mean bit where I tell you to go and edit it again and again. In other words, getting that manuscript into absolutely perfect shape can be a really long process and only you know when it's ready to submit to literary agents. If you know your manuscript is 100 percent good to go then feel free to jump ahead to the next video. If not, don't worry, you are not alone. Plenty of writers get cold feet and start second guessing the quality of their work. So perhaps you're rereading early chapters that you loved and now the writing style seems clunky compared to your later chapters. Well, congratulations, your writing has improved, and now you are more than capable of making any changes needed to get that consistent quality throughout. If however, you are really and truly stuck, perhaps something isn't working, but you can't see the wood for the trees, and you need an outside perspective, then there are some options. Firstly, let's look at beta readers. Beta readers are early readers, usually just one or two trusted allies whose opinions you respect. Ideally, you want widely-read readers, at least in the genre that you're writing. Being a beta reader is a commitment, so don't be offended if family and friends say no thanks. In fact, it's often more productive to lean on your writing peers as beta readers. Perhaps offer a swap with someone at a similar stage as yourself writing in the same genre. You can beta read for them, they can beta read for you. It's win-win, and don't worry if you have no writing peers yet. We're going to look at building your writing community really soon. The other solution is to pay for a critique. Cornerstones offers this paid service internationally, and in the UK we've got Jericho Writers, which is also really highly regarded. There are equivalent companies all around the globe, enlisting skills of professional writers and editors to evaluate and feedback on your manuscript at varying degrees of detail depending on your budget. You can also find independent editors freelancing who will do this job for a fee. My personal feeling on this is it's something I might have considered after a couple of batches of unsuccessful submissions, as it can be quite costly. But if you're in a position to pay, and if it will give you confidence, then by all means, get your manuscript a professional nip and tuck. One last point regarding your manuscript. You may be aware at this point that most agents only ask to see the first three chapters when you initially send off your query. Word of warning, please do not be tempted to send those three beautiful chapters unless the rest of your book is totally polished too. It is so, so tempting, but hooking an agent's interest before your book is totally ready just means wasting an opportunity to show them your work in its true best light. So finish it, edit it, polish every sentence within an inch of its life, and be confident that you've done your book justice. 4. Your Synopsis: I recently realized I love writing synopsis and that's actually something I never thought I would say. Because writing a synopsis can be challenging, but it's also amazingly useful. It forces you to distill what's important about your writing; your working theme, your plot, your character's transformation, the elements that make your manuscript special. If something is not working in your synopsis, that's a red flag we're flicking out in another audio video I'm afraid. The good news is when your synopsis is working, when it's zippy and compelling and just expertly plotted, then you can bet your manuscript is looking pretty gorgeous too. So what exactly is a synopsis? A synopsis is a short piece of writing, roughly one typed page in a standard readable font, outlining your book. For fiction writers, a synopsis will include: your title, your name, your genre, and your pitch line. This pitch line often takes the form of a question and demonstrates the core point of the novel. For example, the start of a romantic novel synopsis might look like this. Title, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". Name, "Bea Myne". Genre: romance. Pitch line: "What if finding your feet meant losing your heart?" It doesn't have to be a question, though, so long as it neatly gets to the heart of your novel. The start of a horror synopsis might, for example, look like this. Title, "Shadow Watch". Name, "Max Gore". Genre: horror. Pitch line, "They thought the war was over, but the dead had other ideas". Alternatively, you might want to use a quote from your novel instead of a pitch line and that can work too. Again, just make sure it reflects the central purpose of your story. Once you've covered those preliminaries, it's time to describe what happens in your novel. Tell the story in broad strokes, focusing on key characters and events only. This is no place for teasers or cliff hangers. Layout your plot twists and share your ending. If you're writing for children then your synopsis will look a little different, particularly if you're a picture book writer where the word count for each picture book may well be less than 500 words, say. In this case, a paragraph for each book is absolutely fine. Also, rather than stating your genre, children's writers would instead put the children's book category and intended age range. Examples of book category are: Picture Book, Chapter Book, sometimes called "Young Fiction", Middle-Grade Novel, and Young Adult Novel. The synopsis for a non-fiction book would be different again. Non-fiction writers should ideally start with a punchy first paragraph, describing your book, to hook your readers. Then in your subsequent paragraphs try to answer the following, where relevant. Why are you the ideal person to write this book? Who is this book for? How reliable and credible is your research? What makes your book different, unique, timely? I know writing a synopsis can feel a bit overwhelming and alien at first, but it does get easier. The good news for all you synopsis writers is you've already done the really hard bit. You've written your book. You've spent days, weeks, months, sometimes years even, crafting and honing and editing. Writing a synopsis is nothing compared to that. Just a few hours of frowning and swigging tea and punching keys on your laptop. 5. Community: Community. Next, before I go any further into the querying process, I want to briefly address the very lovely subject of community. Writing and particularly querying can sometimes feel very lonely, and even the most introverted among us can benefit from some peer support from time to time. Let's look at where you might find this support. Social media. Twitter seems to be where it's at for writers. In fact, later I'll be talking about pitch wars on Twitter, which is a great way of reaching out to agents. For all its faults, Twitter is a great place to find fellow writers. Check out hashtag amwriting, hashtag amquerying, hashtag writertwitter, and you'll soon find thousands upon thousands of writers at various stages of their careers. Likewise, Facebook can be a place to find community with new groups coping up daily. Look for groups that reflect your genre and look for those in which members post daily to be sure of decent levels of interaction. Just be wary of groups where the only post you're seeing are self-promotion as they're unlikely to provide any peer support. Societies and associations. Joining a writer society or association is a great way to enter into a ready-made community of peers. As a children's writer and illustrator, I'm a paid-up member of the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, which is an international organization offering all peer support, access to courses and opportunity to network with writers and illustrators at different stages of their careers. Romance writer, Jules Wake recommends that anyone writing romance in the UK join the RNA, that's the Romantic Novelist Association. It's not just about support, sometimes the connections made within organizations can themselves lead to professional partnerships, which is exactly what happened for Jules. Having sent off her first book to her dream agent, Jules initially had a very nice rejection. She asked the agent a question if she could submit her next book the following year. Around the same time they met at an RNA party, Jules said they hit it off and the agent took her home. Jules Wake now has 14 published books, including her latest release, the Spock, published by Harper Impulse and I've attached a PDF list of all the authors and books mentioned in this class. If something catches your eye, you'll be able to find further details in the attached notes. Even if you're unable to meet up face-to-face, online networking is possible with pretty much every major organization. So as long as you're making genuine connections with people it's all going to be beneficial. There are so many organizations catering for all possible genres and a comprehensive list of the largest groups internationally can be found here, writerswrite.com/resources/org. I'm just going to leave that for a while in case you want to make a note of it. But I'll also be including it in the resources attached to this class. Another strategy which can work really well for so many aspects of being an author is to find yourself an accountability partner. Now this doesn't have to be someone writing an exactly the same genres as here. It's simply has to be someone who like you, is working step-by-step towards a goal. Someone who you can arrange to check in with daily or weekly to update on progress. As I mentioned, I write and illustrate the kids, but for a long while my accountability partner was the romantic novelist Katey Lovell, author of The Meat Cute series. I was writing my first cover [inaudible] book, while Katey was writing an awesome book called Make Do and Mend a Broken Heart. Two very different books, but we would check in daily with each other, pretty much every evening updating on how many words we've written, which was amazing for keeping a momentum going. Assuming you're in this long [inaudible] , not just looking to sell one book, then this can really be a great support. Actually, Katey was also cheering me on in the background when I was querying my current agent. Join me in my next video and we will look at researching agents. 6. Research: Researching agents. You're going to be best served by having a list of around 10-20 chosen agents to query, and I'll soon explain why. But first, where to find those agents? The Internet is a great place to start. Search for literary agent and your genre, and within the first few pages, you're going to find tons of credible relevant agents. However, you will also find some less straightforward publishing options waiting to distract you. These are likely to be in the sponsored ads at the top of your search, and there are companies which are sometimes called vanity publishers. In other words, they're publishers who ask authors to contribute financially towards publishing costs. These days, vanity publishers present themselves increasingly like traditional publishing houses. It's not until you then make contacts that explain you need to invest too. Now if you want to publish in this way, that's okay. I just want you to go into it with eyes wide open, credible publishing houses who believe in your work and never going to ask you to invest your own money. Having an agent is a simple way to safeguard against these companies if that's not for you. Back the search engine, you've probably found a list as long as your arm of different agents. How to choose. Let's look at some things to consider when compiling your list of agents. Location. Do you want to meet your agent in person? If so, location is going to be a factor. But these days it's actually increasingly common to have an agent in a different country to your own. I know my agent, Chloe Seager, also represents a few writers in the US, whereas she's based in London. I asked Chloe about this and this is what she said. ''I don't find working with clients in the US especially different to working with clients in the UK. I feel I know my clients living in the US really well. Although of course it would be lovely to meet them in person more often.'' It's definitely something to consider. Experience is another consideration. The more experienced the agent, the better. Well, no, not necessarily. Again, it's really hard to talk in absolutes here as everyone is different. Certainly, a new agent working solo is going to have fewer contacts and less experience dealing with clients and contracts. I would be weary of anyone popping up out of nowhere calling themselves a literary agent. However, many authors find that having a relatively new agent who's working within an established agency offers the best of both worlds. The fledgling agent has energy and drive, the agency has clientele's contacts and access to industry knowledge, so it can work. That's something to think about. Linking to experience is client list. Agents who have massive client lists might not have as much time to dedicate to individual authors. Off those clients are their some big names that you recognize. Successful clients are the sign of a successful agent. Though new agents can't be expected to have the same number of make a successful clients as more long-standing agents. Also, agents without those big clients may be more driven to do the best for the clients that they do have. It's a bit of a minefield, isn't it? Sometimes all you can do is go by your gut feeling. I've mentioned search engines and we've looked at factors you might want to consider while compiling your list of agents. By this point, you might be guessing a teeny bit overwhelmed. Hanging there, there are other options. I want you to start by talking about basic, straightforward search engine searches because they're free and I like free. But there are alternatives which won't break the bank and may help you to narrow down your options. Writers in the UK and the USA might want to consider Jericho Writer's AgentMatch, which is a paid subscription service. AgentMatch is essentially a huge database of agents. You can enter your criteria and AgentMatch then make suggestions of relevant agents. I've not actively used this service to find an agent myself, but I signed up for the free trial just to check it out for this class. It seems to be a really well put together, comprehensive, user-friendly option. Yet another online option is, mswishlist.com and this won't cost you a penny. mswishlist.com lists tweets containing the #mswishlist on Twitter. The difference between these and the website and searching for the tweets directly on Twitter, is that mswishlist.com categorizes the tweets by profession of the tweeter. You can just look at the tweets relevant to you as your search. It's a fun and fascinating read and it gives these brilliant little snapshot insights into what specific agents are hoping to find in their submissions pile. But do check where agents are in the world if location is an issue for you, because they can come from all over the globe. Lastly but not least, moving away from the Internet, you may prefer to click through a directory of agents circling and highlighting and adding sticky tabs. I have to confess, I love this more physical, bookish research. In the US, the Writer's Market is a yearly guide to the publishing world. This has a ton of agent listings along with useful articles and advice. I'm in the UK so I use the Writers and Artist' Yearbook, which is also just a really well thought out through organized guide to the industry with loads of great listings. If possible, I recommend having up-to-date copy so that you can be really confident that the agents you're subbing two are still working at the agencies listed. But if your copy is a year or two out-of-date, it's not the end of the world. Just do a little bit of Internet research alongside it to double-check that the information is still up-to-date. To wrap up this video, I'm going to give you a bit of homework. I'd like you to think about all the selection criteria, the location, genre, clientele, experience, and research until you have a list of between 10 and 20 agents that you would like to work with. I mean, specific agents. If you want submit your manuscript to a large agency with lots of agents, then that's great. But read the individual agent profiles and choose the one agent that you think is the best fit for you and your work. More often than not, if the agent you write to thinks your book might be better suited to one of their colleagues, then they're going to pass it on. Please, don't made the mistake of querying more than one agent at the same agency as they won't thank you for it. Getting back to listing those agents. For the time being, a list of 10- 20 agents, however you like, digitally, on paper, whatever suits you. Then sit tight because in the next video, we'll be organizing that list into batches creating a plan of action. 7. Get Organised!: It's time to get organized. Now you have your list of agents that you mean to approach. This next stage is all about strategy. Step one is to group your agents into batches of around five, so that you can send off one batch at a time. If you're a wiz with spreadsheets, you might like to create one for this purpose. I'm personally more comfortable making notes, and I like to just use pen, paper. My notes would look something more like this. At the top, I've got batch one, and assuming I had 20 agents in my list, I'd need to organize four of these batches. If, for example, you've only got 10 agents listed, then you can choose whether you'd like to have two larger batches, or a few smaller ones. I've numbered my batch, and I've also added a small column for an expiry date. This is the date where you'd expect to have received some kind of response. Some agents would tell you how long to allow, in which case, set the expiry date according to that. Otherwise, if the agent doesn't specify, then personally I think four months is long enough to wait for a response. I would set my overexposed dates four months from the date of submission. This may seem like a really long time to wait, and it is, but keep in mind that agents receive multiple manuscripts every single day, so keeping on top of that massive submission pile is no easy job. I've listed my agents, my expiry dates, and I've left space to note down responses, and any subsequent action. We'll look at the different responses you might get later. It's not as straightforward as a yes, no. We'll also look at what to do if you get no response at all. But for now, we're focusing on getting ourselves organized and having a strategy. To make your life easier I've created this form, which you'll find as an attached PDF. It's basically identical to my notebook version, but with space for up to four batches. The reason for submitting your manuscript in batches is really simple. If multiple agents reject your novel for the same reason, for example, you're plotting needs to be tighter, or your narrative voice needs finessing, then that's the advice worth listening to before submitting to your next batch of agents. See these constructive rejections as invaluable freebies on your way to success. Psychological thriller author Amy Heydenrych submitted her manuscript in batches, and she advises, ''Be excruciatingly open to feedback.'' Amy says, ''I submitted in batches, and while I was stubborn at first, I soon began to incorporate the feedback from my rejections, even when it hurt my ego. By the time my current agents received the draft, it had gone through several more rounds of edits.'' So batch querying has its advantages. It allows you to make good use of constructive criticism, so that if batch one doesn't yield success, you can give yourself a better chance for batch two. Here's the question, who goes where? Do you put all your favorite agents into batch one hoping for immediate success, or do you save them for later, by which point your manuscript might have been nipped and tapped a bit more, making success more likely? There's no easy answer to this, I'm afraid. Personally, I would be inclined to spread my favorite agents out a bit, and try and play the odds. Once you've got your batches prepared, you're ready for my favorite stage, writing query letters. I'll see you for that in the next video. 8. Query Letter: Overview: Query letter overview. I've segmented this part of the class into a few short videos covering the core components of a good query letter. To make your life easier, I've included a query letter template and an example letter in the attached course pack. So don't worry, it's all there to recap the lessons and to help keep you on track. Now let's look at a short query letter overview. A query letter, also known as a cover or submission letter, is the email you send with your manuscript sample and synopsis. A strong query letter will be concise, considered and professional. It will show you and your work in the best possible light. Let's look at the features of an effective query letter. Brief introduction. Who are you and why are you getting in contact? Paragraph or two about your book, including your elevator pitch. Paragraph about you, including any accolades and or experience. Paragraph about them. Why this agent? Polite and professional sign off. Now you can, of course, mess with the order and structure. For example, you can talk about the agent or agency before you talk about you and your work, and you can tailor the paragraphs to fit your circumstances. But if you leave any of these elements out altogether, then you risk your query letter feeling it's missing something. The following videos are going to look at these components in more detail, and I'm so excited to share with you some key parts of a successful query letter from a really exciting new talent. Philippa East is a psychological thriller author and her novel, Little White Lies was one of the most exciting debuts of 2020. It's been brilliantly received, so if you're into psychological thrillers or crime novels in any way, then I really recommend that you give that one a try. Anyway, as you can imagine, having insight into her query letter is just amazingly fascinating. Stick around to learn how Philippa kicked off her letter with professionalism and punch, and let's get you started on writing your own. 9. Query Letter: Beginning: Query letter beginning. It's finally time to start writing that query letter, but where to begin? Well first off, begin by spelling the agent's name correctly. I know it seems really obvious, but I'm told an oddly high number of querying writers slip up on that important detail, so do double check. But beyond that, a great way to start is by explaining the purpose of the email. Let's look at author Philippa East's opening statement in her successful query letter. "Dear Sarah, I'm delighted to send you the opening chapters and synopsis of my 92,000 word novel Little White Lies, a suspenseful psychological drama about a family reunited with their missing child seven years after her abduction." Notice how Philippa get's straight to the point. She says what's attached to the email, in other words, the sample chapters and synopsis. She indicates her novel's word count, 92,000 words. She states the genre, and she explains what her novel is about. She's immediately giving pertinent details so straight away the agent knows this is a professional submission. Now that's a lot of useful, relevant information all in one sentence, and Philippa just get's straight to it with expert skill. Equally, you might choose to introduce your submission in two or three smaller sentences, which is how I began the query letter that I sent to my agent Chloe Seager. My opening was simply this: "Dear Chloe, I hope this email finds you well. I'm submitting a sample of my new children's book Notes in Class for your consideration. Please also find attached a brief synopsis." So I didn't state the word count for my book, I didn't immediately explain that it was a young fiction title, in other words, a book for 6-9-year-olds. I chose to mention those points a little later on. It's all flexible. It can be tweaked and shuffled and personalized, so it doesn't feel that you've written to a formula, though to some extent, query letters are inevitably a tiny bit formulaic. If you've already printed the example letter from the class pack, you'll see the opening sits somewhere between Philippa's and mine. It reads, "Dear George, I'm excited to share with you three chapters and a synopsis for my 80,000 word romantic novel Crazy Little Thing Called Love, and very much hope you will consider my submission for representation." The highlighted sections are the parts I've left blank on the template so that you can fill them in yourself. Of course, once you've finished filling in the template, you can rewrite it and make it totally your own so it feels much more personalized, so long as you're hitting all those key points. So your task for this lesson is nice and straightforward. You're simply going to write that first section of your query letter, either with or without the template, whichever feels more comfortable. 10. Query Letter: About Your Book: Query letter describing your book. This lesson is all about creating anticipation for your manuscript. We want agents to read your letter and already feel they have a sense of the stunning original piece of writing they're about to read in the sample and synopsis. We're going to describe your book in two distinct ways, we're going to write a paragraph describing the hook first and then the second thing we're going to do is to compare your book to relevant titles. I don't know why I keep saying you're going to do this, but don't worry, I'm going to help you. Firstly, let's focus on the hook of your book. The hook is the aspect of your book that's going to really make readers want to read it, it's what hooks their attention and the strong hook is important regardless of whether you're writing adult fiction, children's fiction or non-fiction. I'm got to ask you to describe your hook using what's known as an elevator pitch, so-called because in theory, you could start and finish this pitch within an elevator rides. An elevator pitch is essentially a short and punchy description. It will convey genre, characterization, themes, setting, tension and most importantly, what makes this book stand out and I would do this all in one potent paragraph. You may have already written your elevator pitch, but lays of writers prefer to do it later on, it's fine. Well, I'm going to do in this lesson is giving you some examples of elevator pitches, the different types of manuscript submissions. I'm going to ask you to have a go at writing your own if you haven't already done it. Examples of elevator pitches. First, I'm going to refer back to Philippa East query letter, which contains this elevator pitch. In 2001, amidst the chaos of a London Tube crush, Josie's eight-year-old cousin was abducted. The loss has haunted Jess ever since. Seven years on and miraculously Abigail has been found. Or someone has. No longer the glimmering playmate of Jess's childhood, Abigail returns a stranger: a rebellious and restless teenager, shaped by the dark influences of her abductor Cassingham. But is it Cassingham whom Jess and her family should still be most afraid of, or is it Abigail herself- a girl so damaged and elusive whom Jess should now most mistrust? Meanwhile, deep within the family lies an agonizing secret: the wounding seed of division sown before Abigail's abduction ever took place. Philippa's elevator pitch condenses all the key features of the novel, setting, character, story, all in one paragraph while also managing to deliver a sense of her writing style. Remember how I said a synopsis was all about spoilers, while the elevator pitch, at least in this case, is about mystery. Its job is to pique our interest, to make us thirsty for more, which is exactly what Philippa's elevator pitch achieves. For contrast, I'm going to share the elevator pitch for my query letter and you go to notice a massive difference in length. ''Notes in class is the first book in a quirky school-based young fiction series, told largely via notes passed in class. The cast is predominantly female, featuring two best friends and helpful, she thinks, little witch who lives in a pen pot and flies on a pencil." That's it, two sentences, but it does the job and the job in my case with slightly different, I was pitching a series idea. The setup or situation of the book was in some ways were imposed than the story itself and the setup here was, best friend plus helpful tiny which my pitch mentioned the target leadership. I did that by calling it young fiction as that caters to a specific age range and the difference between mine and Philippa's elevator pitches just really emphasize this for me, how there is no one size fits all pitch format. Philippa's pitch went right up to the 10th floor, whereas mine hopped off the elevator and the second, but they fit their respective genres and they work. A non-fiction elevator pitch is going to be very different again. If your book is non-fiction, then you'll be talking about what makes your book timely and necessary rather than describing aspects of story. I'm going to share a tightly made-up example just to illustrate what I mean by this, so get ready for my tightly imaginary non-fiction pitch and again, it's a short one. "The secrets of Snails' for the first time ever reveals the hidden genius of these off squashed creatures. The culmination of decade's of research, this concise introduction to snail intelligence is the perfect coffee-table read for the casual nature-lover." Hopefully, your hook is a bit more believable than mine. But notice that I'm covering some key points here, I named the target audience, the casual nature-lover, showing that my book is accessible and more importantly, marketable, I point out that my book is unique by highlighting that this is the first book ever to reveal snails' genus. I touched on the value that my book offers, describing it as a perfect coffee table read. Moving on, the second way I'd like you to describe your book is with comparison titles. For example, when I pitched notes in class to close eager, I described to as Tom Gates meets Daisy, which are two well-known characters from best-selling children's book series. The X meets Y description is really well-worn, but it's still incredibly useful for agents in publishes, it helps place your book within an existing market context and if your book isn't an X meets Y and that really can't be so closely compared to existing titles, then try for fans of X and Y. For fans of [inaudible] , for fans of [inaudible] for fans of [inaudible] and sex education. Did I mentioned the comparison titles don't both have to be books. If there's a hit Netflix series, the fits one of these, it is worth giving this some careful consideration. Make sure at least one of your two comparison titles is a bestseller or at least a bestseller in its field. Because, ultimately an agent may love your book, but unless they think they can sell it, they probably weren't represented. Bringing your attention back to the template query letter, see if you can now add your elevator pitch followed by your comparison titles. To demonstrate, I'm coming back to my example letter, which as I explained, is included in the attached class pack and here are my elevator pitch and comparison titles for that imaginary romantic novel of mine, Crazy Little thing called Love. "On the verge of homelessness in 1990s Middesex, fiercely independent Louise jumps at an offer of a pub job with lodgings, despite having to work alongside infuriating barman, Danny. But when the death of rocks-tar, Freddie Mercury throws their boss spiraling into depression, Louise and Danny attempt to set differences aside to save their jobs, walking a fine line between exasperation, object fury, and a far more troubling emotion." Crazy Little thing called Love, is a retro love story with a pop culture twist for fans of Josie silver's 'One Day in December' and Netflix smash 'The Holidate.' Now it's your turn, elevator pitch and comparison titles. 11. Query Letter: About You : Query letter about you. Here's a tip from Rowan Coleman, include significant details like writing prizes and if you have personal experience or expertise that relate to your pitch. Yes, it's time. Welcome to the About You Section of your Query letter, this is your chance to showcase your qualifications, your experience, your expertise, terrified yet? It's pretty normal to be nervous at this point. [inaudible] of well-established authors. Authors with years of experience and schools of best published still feel like impostors. So how's an [inaudible] and published author meant to feel when they asked to share their experience that author credentials? The good news for fiction writers is this. You can skip this section if you really want to. But my advice is, don't overthink it. If you happen to have a creative writing degree, then brilliant, or writing accolades, amazing. Of course, mention those if you have them, but equally, it's okay to mention life experiences that connect with your writing. For example, before writing notes in class, I'd worked for many years in primary schools, and that classroom experience was totally relevant to my classroom-based children's book. So if you're a florist and your book is set in a garden center then mention it. If you're a psychologist and you write twisty psychological thrillers, mention it. Don't be too quick to decide there's nothing worth saying about yourself. If you're a non-fiction writer, then the advice is a little different. Skipping this section isn't an option. Non-fiction writers need expertise. You may have the most amazing non-fiction concept in the world. But if you're not an expert in the field you are writing about, then you're probably not the best place person to bring that book to the world. So whilst non-fiction writers can definitely mention relevant life experiences, their primary goal should be persuading agents that they're the ideal person to write this book. For this reason, the About Me section is inevitably there to be much longer for non-fiction submissions. Equally, some non-fiction writers make a fair to weave the information about themselves throughout their submission letter. Do what feels most natural to you. But be sure to share any information which shows just how perfect you are for the book that you are proposing. Also, regardless of whether you write fiction or nonfiction, if you belong to a group that's underrepresented in publishing, then consider saying so. Literary agencies and publishers are taking steps towards greater diversity, whether that's racial, gender, or neurodiversity. So if you think you might be able to contribute to making the publishing well and more diverse then absolutely brilliant. So I'm going to share my example about Me paragraph from the example query letter for Crazy Little Thing Called Love, which as I said, it's not a real book. Then you'll going to have a go at writing your own About Me section for your query letter. So here's mine. I worked as a barmaid during the mid '90s and a lingering nostalgia for those years runs through Louise and Danny's story. For the past few years, I've written romantic short stories as part of a writing critique group, One of which won the annual snugly village "Prize for Prose'. 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' is my first full length novel. Okay, so none of that was true. It's just an example. I really just wanted to demonstrate the way experience doesn't necessarily have to be flash in order to be relevant. Now it's your turn to write the About Me section for your letter. I'll join you in the next video where you may be relieved to hear that the focus is shifting from you to the agent. See you there. 12. Query Letter: About Them: Query letter. About them. This section is all about letting the agent know why they are the chosen one. If you want them to invest time and energy reading your submission, then you need to demonstrate that you're invested in them as an agent and that you've really spent that time choosing them specifically. Author Phaedra Patrick says do your work about the agency and approach specific agents by name, mentioning other authors they represent, so they know you're keen and focused. I know you've done the research, you've even organized your agents into batches. Now it's time to let them know why them, and further to that why you and them? Why will you two be a great match together? This doesn't have to be a lengthy paragraph and it doesn't have to be gushy, heartfelt, but professional is the combination I'd go for. For my example letter, I've written the following, "I read on your agency profile that you're looking for quirky romance novels, so I very much hope you enjoy mine, and furthermore, that you'll consider finding a place for me on your client list, alongside the brilliant Ricky Writersly and Mavis Doodles, whose novels are lining my bookshelves." Again, just an example, whereas your about them section is obviously going to refer to real clients and will specify what it was that genuinely drew you to the agent that you're addressing. 13. Before You Press Send: Before you press send. You are so close to sending off that first batch of query emails. Before you do, here's a brief checklist, and again, this is available in the attached class notes. One: attachments match agent's submission guidelines. Most agents ask for three sample chapters plus synopsis, but occasionally they might ask for perhaps the first 5,000 words instead. So double-check submissions guidelines for each agent that you're querying. Two: email's title matches agent's submission guidelines. Often agents will specify what they want to go in the email title box, for example, submission, then your name, or submission, then your book title, so just check that out before sending. Make it specific to each agent. Three: query letter is confident and professional. Children's author Hannah Gold says never be apologetic or passive or come across unsure of yourself. I really believe if you show confidence, not arrogance, in your book first, then it acts as a magnet to get other people to have confidence in it too. Don't wait for someone to tell you it's good. In other words, back yourself first. Ditch any comments that might have slipped in about how much your aunt or your next door neighbor loved your book. Those kinds of statements do no-one any favors. You know it's good. You wouldn't be querying otherwise. Four: email and all attachments have been checked for errors. Proofreading is an absolute must if you want to make a good first impression. Tiny typos will likely be forgiven, but a general high standard of literacy is just expected. Checklist complete, amazing. You're ready to send your first batch. 14. Pitch Wars: Pitch Wars. I just want to touch upon this unique Twitter-based way of pitching to agents. This is currently just for writers of fiction, young adult, and middle-grade novelists, but if you fall into one of those categories then it's something well worth considering. This is how it works in a nutshell. Writers familiarize themselves with the expert mentors on pitchwars.org. They choose four to submit their work to. Each mentor chooses a mentee, and if you're lucky enough to get chosen, then your mentor will help you then finesse that submission ready to submit to agents. It's like a submission before a submission. Your mentor will also help you prepare a 280-character pitch tweet for hashtag, PitchMad. PitchMad events happen quarterly, and the dates can be found on pitchwars.org. This is an opportunity to gauge agent interest before submitting. Basically, writers post their pitch tweets with the Pitch Wars hashtag, and agents express their interest by liking the tweets. It's a great way to connect with agents, and it is well worth exploring. Check check out pitchwars.org if you think this could be an avenue worth exploring for your work. 15. Rejection : Rejection, how miserable am I? You've only just sent off your first batch of submissions and I'm already predicting rejection. Thing is rejection is part and parcel of being a writer. It's the most likely outcome that's why we're sending in batches. Remember, the good news is, as author of Young Adult Fiction, Lydia Ruffles said, so perfectly, "You only need one yes." Most highly successful authors have experienced rejection somewhere along the lines, it's part of the job. I mean a yes comes along those rejections would just be old news, but as rejection comes in lots of shapes and sizes, I thought I could dedicate some time to the various rejection you might receive. First off, let's look at some straightforward rejections starting with, "It's not quite there yet." Often agents would turn down submissions on the grounds that substantial work is still needed to that manuscript. "It's not quite there yet" rejections aren't always right of course, tastes are subjective. But if you've had a run of these rejections, then chances are your manuscript could benefit from another edit. Sorry. If at this point you can see exactly what needs fixing then that's brilliant get it fixed, and then you're ready to submit your improved manuscript to agent batch number 2. But if you're confused about where the work needs to be done, then this might be a time to consider a paper critique service or to really chat with your Beta readers about what needs work. "It's not quite there yet" rejections of obsessing for obvious reasons. If you've worked hard in your manuscript, how can it not be ready? But you only get to be a debut author once so make that first book one you can be proud of knowing you did everything possible to polish it within an inch of its life. Another classic straightforward rejection is, I'm not sure how to place it. Books which fall between genres or which don't have an immediately obvious audience can fall prey to this rejection. An agent's job is effectively to sell books to publishers and publishers want books with clear sales potential. The upshot of this is agents searching for books which are new and fresh, but not so new and fresh that there's no sales precedent. This is where those comparison titles can really help you. Well-chosen comparison titles can help show that your book might be marketed for success in a similar line to those other comparison titles. Another straightforward rejecting comes when it becomes too close to something an agent already represents. Sunday Times bestselling Crime Writer Katerina Diamond says, "I think the best advice I ever got was not to take rejection personally. There may be a million reasons why your book has been rejected, that have nothing to do with the quality of your book. They don't publish your genre. They're publishing something too similar or have done recently, they have too many similar authors on their books, etc. If you believe in your book, then send it to someone else, rinse and repeat." My final straightforward rejection is, I didn't love it enough. The I didn't love it enough rejection is a hard one. Agents have to really believe in the books they push forward and tastes are just so subjective. If an agent likes your book, but it doesn't get that special feeling, then don't be downhearted. Those rejections are pretty simple to understand. But sometimes rejections are just a bit more complex. To the no but rejections, let's start with, "No, but do you have anything else?" Novelists are unlikely to have a second novel up there on the shelf ready to go. But this could be your cue to ask if an agent would be happy to see future submissions from you these contacts are worth having. Children's authors are much more likely to have other ideas on the go. For children's writers, this no has potential to become a yes. Enter into a professional dialogue and see where it goes. Another common no, but rejection is, "No, but would you like to resubmit once you've made some changes?" If an agent thinks that your book would be a more attractive, more mocked were proposed or if taken in a different direction, they may suggest significant edits and ask you to resubmit to them. If you feel that those edits would benefit your book, then this could be a great route forward. On the downside, this can be a lot of work for free without any guarantee of success at the end. However, unless the agent is actively invested in the editing process, then my feeling here, is it's absolutely nothing to stop you subbing to batch number 2 agents while also editing for that agent. One very important point before we move on, please don't argue. Again, I attached it to my agent Chloe Seager about this and she's given some really useful insights. Chloe says, "It occasionally happens that an author argues with our rejection, either by trying to convince us to sign them, or huffily declaring that they will prove us wrong elsewhere. It can get quite aggressive. Thankfully, this doesn't happen too often. Of course, all agents have passed on submissions that go on to find representation and deals. It's highly subjective and so much to do with taste. But when an author argues with me, all it does is prove to me that if the book ends up being successful, I probably wouldn't have had a great working relationship with them anyway, which is so important." Crime Writer Jenny O'Brien has something to say about this too. Jenny adds, "The agents and publishing houses talk to each other and it's a fluid profession with agents and editors moving between employers freely. Being respectful is a must. Your reputation will go before you. On the outside, the publishing world seems vast when the truth, it's very small." Professionalism at all times, I should add here that there were also occasionally rejections which are totally unfathomable. Sometimes it happens. My advice is that if you get one of these lean on your writing community, this is why it's so important to find writing peers who can relate to what you're going through to share the pain and frustration and onwards and upwards. The final word on rejections from YA Author Lydia Ruffles. Lydia says, "Don't be thrown off if your peers are querying faster and getting lots of offers, take your time and make sure your yes is the right one for you and your writing." 16. Stony Silence: Stony silence. So you've sent off your first batch. You may have had some rejections, you may have had some interest. But what happens if you get nothing, no response? It's time to check those expiry dates. Have they been and gone? Okay. Then it's time for a gentle reminder. "Dear Sue, I hope this email finds you well. Back in April, I submitted a sample of my romantic novel, Crazy Little Thing Called Love for your consideration. I'm wondering if you've received this and whether you've had opportunity to read. All best wishes," etc., etc. Something along these lines is totally acceptable. Sometimes emails get lost or forgotten so a gentle prod is fine, though this kind of prod email might just not be your style. Personally, I'm a little wary of agents who don't respond within a reasonable time-frame. It could be a one off, but it could also be a sign that the agent isn't as communicative as others might be. 17. More Please: More, please. Now for a much more positive video. Rejections are part of writer life, but let's put those aside for now. This video is all about what happens when you've successfully hooked an agent's interest. When an agent likes your submission and is considering making an offer of representation, they will most likely ask to read the full manuscript. Because yours will be totally edited and ready to go, you'll be able to email that straight away. This can be nerve-racking. There are no guarantees, but instead of just sitting back and waiting for the verdict, you can use this to your advantage. Novelist Charlotte Levin says, "My biggest advice would be to use other interest. If you've got interests, don't just see if they are going for it. Use the interest of that agent to contact other agents and mention you've got the interest." This can help move the process along. Equally, if a second agent asks to read your full manuscript, then by all means keep agent number one in the loop. Now of course, every querying author wants an agent to get back to them saying, "I read your full manuscript in a weekend and I loved it." This or something similar may well happen, but if it doesn't happen straight away, if you don't get that immediate win, then please know that you've achieved something amazing already by getting this far. Keep going, and the next agent that asks to see your full manuscript may be the one to offer you representation. So let's look at how that offer would materialize. You've sent your full manuscript to an agent, they've written back telling you it's sublime. The next step is a real-time conversation, either face-to-face in person or via Zoom or even a phone call. This the chance for you both to assess whether you could work together and whether your thoughts for the book are aligned. There's still a chance at this stage that the agent might ask you to make further edits before they commit to representing you and your book. There's also a strong chance that the meeting will end with an offer of representation. If this happens, congratulations, you've worked so hard and you really deserve this. 18. Final Thoughts: Final thoughts. The querying process can be frustrating, exhilarating, exhausting, elating, a massive emotional roller coaster to write. Some authors may find themselves in the enviable position of choosing from multiple offers of representation. But it's not unusual to spend months, sometimes years querying agents. Please don't be down heartened if this doesn't happen for you right away. If you believe in your book, then keep on pushing for ways. Finally, a big thank you for taking part in this Skillshare class. I hope you found it useful. Don't forget, there were the class notes attached, including the example letters and the templates. If you'd like to come find me on social media, then I'm on Instagram and Twitter as @inky_willis. If you'd like to be notified for my future classes, then just remember to press the fellow, and I look forward to being a part of your creative journey. Good luck with your submissions.