Monday, October 24, 2011

Readings and Supplementary Materials for Seminar 4

For this seminar, you'll be writing both a query letter (to either an agent or a press) and an anthology proposal. You will receive a template for an anthology proposal in email, but for the sample agent query, I want you to visit the site I've linked to below this paragraph. It's an excellent site full of resources to the publishing industry. Their instructions for how to write an agent query are industry standard: paragraph by paragraph. The only thing I'd like to caution you about is that I think a good query letter is a short query letter. Try not to linger on in any of the paragraphs you have to write based on this formula. When I wrote my first query letter, it was actually one paragraph long, not like the template presented on this site, and it got my first agent's attention immediately. That said, that one paragraph I wrote did include all of the points this template advises must be covered. Instead of giving all of those points fully fleshed out paragraphs, I gave each of them a couple of sentences. Three, tops. My reasoning for this was that agents are receiving numerous queries every single day, and on top of that, they're reading not only their clients' manuscripts but also potential clients' manuscripts. And then, also, going round to meetings with editors, attempting to sell their stock. Take all that into account when you envision your audience in this letter. They are busy, somewhat bedraggled, and want you to get to the point.

Agent Query: How to Write a Query

Remember to read the entire page, and follow some of the links its provides to successful query letters. Familiarize yourself with others that worked in the same way you've familiarized yourself with your chosen genres for writing.

Again, expect an email with a template for an anthology proposal. Study it, then create your own. Anthologies are wonderful things. As an anthology editor, you get to play at being a DJ: "You've got to hear this song or this band," translates into, "You've got to read this story, or this writer." You get to be the tastemaker, you get to set the tone. It's like creating a menu for the evening at a fancy restaurant. What stories will work in compliment to one another? What order should they be read in? You'll need palette cleansers to avoid the dulling of the senses. But above all, you need a theme or a concept that collects these stories or poems or articles in a way that makes a reader think, "That sounds interesting." It shouldn't just be an anthology of stuff you like. It has to have definition. You can sell an anthology to a publisher on the idea alone, but it's even better if you can ask writers you know (preferably those with some reputation) if they would contribute to your anthology prior to having made the sale. You can include their names in the proposal as writers who will write for the book, and that can bolster your ability to sell an anthology if you've got several "big names" to agree to write for it.

Bring any questions about the publishing industry and the process of selling, editing, and publishing books to this seminar.