Archive for the 'Getting Published' Category

Apr 26 2010

Is Writing Under a Pen-Name Right for You?

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

1. In most cases, I think that it’s probably best to ask your editor about a pseudonym after getting the offer. For one thing, it’ll reduce the chance that you make a poor first impression with a goofy-sounding pseudonym. The only time that I think that a pseudonym may be necessary prior to getting published is if the author shares a name with a celebrity. (“Who’s this guy pretending to be Steven King?”)

2. If you do use a pseudonym, please write something like “[YOUR REAL NAME], WRITING AS RODDY BARBER” on your title page. For tax reasons, the publisher has to know your real name. (Otherwise, the IRS will get surly and then everybody is screwed).

Continue Reading »

24 responses so far

Mar 22 2010

The Writing Advice I’m Reading Today

No responses yet

Mar 19 2010

How Your Novel Manuscript is Evaluated

Like many other literary agencies (and publishers, for that matter), Bookends uses reader’s reports to help agents/editors evaluate each credible proposal.  Assistants and/or interns will sift through the slush pile of unsolicited novel submissions and will pass along maybe 1% to their bosses for consideration, along with reader’s reports.

Bookends posted the guidelines for its reader’s reports, which is useful to you because it lets you know many of the criteria by which a novel proposal will be graded.

  • What was the book about?
  • Did the overall idea seem different and unique?
  • Was it a common theme, but executed in a unique way?
  • What did you think of the author’s voice?
  • Did the characters seem real and likable?
  • Was the plot seamless and did it make sense or were there a lot of holes?
  • Did the multiple plotlines blend together to create a whole book or did they seem choppy and disconnected?
  • Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

Mar 17 2010

Specificity Sells Proposals, Says Nathan Bransford

Literary agent Nathan Bransford has some great ideas about how to make book proposals more enticing by adding specificity.  If you’re trying to find a professional publisher for your novel or comic book, I would recommend checking it out.

Here’s an excerpt.

Be as specific as possible about the plot.

I get so many queries that read (literally, though this is made up for the purposes of this post) like this:

Character Name is living peacefully in Hometown. But then a life-changing event occurs that changes everything. Secrets are revealed that turn her life upside down. Character Name faces grave danger as she embarks on a quest to save her people. This novel is filled with humor and passion and suspense and romance, and there’s a shocking twist that leaves the reader breathless.

Being vague leaves an agent with so many questions: What are the secrets? What is the life-changing event? What is the danger she’s facing? What happens that is funny and suspenseful and romantic?

When all of these key details are kept hidden the query ends up sounding like… well, pretty much every novel ever written. And chances are an agent is going to move on to the next query.

No responses yet

Mar 12 2010

A ‘zine for superhero fiction!

If you’re looking for a low-stakes way to get a short story (up to 6000 words) published, This Mutant Life might be worth looking into.  You can see its submission guidelines here.  “Stories which deal with the everyday lives of people with unusual abilities or physical characteristics are ideal, and there will be a definite preference given to stories which present interesting and well defined characters and situations.”  The pay is extremely low, though.

UPDATE: A Thousand Faces is a quarterly journal that also specializes in superhero stories. You can see its submissions page here.

14 responses so far

Feb 21 2010

Kris Simon’s Top Five Suggestions Regarding Comic Book Submissions

Kris Simon is an editor at Shadowline Comics, an imprint of Image.  You can see her list of submission tips here.

1.  Follow the posted submission guidelines. When editors make these lists, this rule is almost always listed first.  YES, THE GUIDELINES APPLY TO YOU.   Not following them can only hurt your chances of getting published.

2. Don’t overthink things. At Shadowline, you only need to worry about five sample pages (inked, lettered and preferably colored), a paragraph-long synopsis and a cover. Kris doesn’t want more than that because you may need to scrap a lot more work than necessary. Notably, Shadowline doesn’t want the script and doesn’t want a page-long synopsis.

Continue Reading »

One response so far

Feb 15 2010

I submitted my comic book script today…

Published by under Getting Published

Rather optimistically, I will put this in the “Getting Published” category. I’ll let you know how that goes. If you’re interested, you can read the cover letter I sent below.

Continue Reading »

6 responses so far

Feb 15 2010

Amateurism is Not a Personal Failing; Stupidity Is

Prospective authors, myself included, sometimes worry about looking like idiots.

The good news is that agents and editors are very understanding of amateurishness.  After all, everybody starts out as an amateur through no fault of their own.  You’re safe as long as you’re remotely friendly and professional.  If your submission is poorly formatted, the agent or editor may even direct you to a submission guide and ask you to resubmit.

If you’re trying to get a novel or graphic novel published, follow these two steps and you won’t look like an idiot.

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

Jan 21 2010

How Long Should Your Novel Manuscript Be Before You Submit It?

The shortest, most cheesy answer is “however long it takes to tell the story.”  Unfortunately, if it takes you hundreds of thousands of words to tell the story, getting it published it will be practically impossible.

According to Chuck Sambuchino, the most publisher-friendly length for an adult novel manuscript is between 80,000-100,000 words.  Science fiction and fantasy authors usually need a bit more space for worldbuilding, so he says the ideal range for them is between 100,000-115,000 words.  However, Chuck is sort of working for the Devil, so I’d feel bad if he were my only source for this post.

Colleen Lindsay, a literary agent at FinePrint, has similar guidelines: around 100K for epic fantasy or sci-fi, 80-90K for thrillers and 80-100K for crime fiction. Also, she’s not in league with Lucifer.

Both Chuck and Colleen emphasize that there are exceptions, like first-time novelists publishing 200,000 word behemoths.  But such exceptions are extremely rare. If you try going well above or below the usual range, your writing needs to be extraordinary. I would not recommend doing so unless you are absolutely sure that your story cannot work at a more conventional range.

UPDATE: If you’re writing for a younger audience (YA, middle grade, picture books, etc), please see this.

33 responses so far

Jan 21 2010

If You Want to Get Published, Reading the Submission Guidelines is Not Optional

READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES.

Courtesy of Miss Snark.

No responses yet

Jan 18 2010

Do Comic Book Writers and Graphic Novelists Need Literary Agents? Probably Not

I haven’t come across too many comic book writers that work with literary agents. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a literary agent for your comic book.

For example, Bob Mecoy wrote me that he’s sold several projects to DC Comics as well as many more to book publishers and their affiliates (such as FirstSecond, Three Rivers, Lerner, Aladdin, and Abrams ComicArts).

So, if you’re absolutely dead-set on selling to Marvel or DC, pursuing literary representation may be a strong option.  Marvel and DC do not accept unsolicited submissions. However, if you have an experienced agent, he may be able to use his own credibility to convince them that your comic book is worth considering.

Here are some other pieces of advice from Bob.

B. MAC: What are some of the most common reasons you pass on graphic novel and/or comic book submissions?
BOB:  Poor storytelling, telling a story that I’ve seen a hundred times before, telling a story “unlike anything you’ve ever seen” which is unlike anything I’ve ever seen because of a series of arbitrary choices, lack of understanding of the market, slavish service to the perceived market, lack of originality, lack of understanding of my taste.

B. MAC: How long does it take you to reject a typical script?
BOB: It takes as long as it takes. If there seems to be something here, I research the category, the writer and/or artist and the comparables or competition before making my final decision.

2 responses so far

Jan 14 2010

Ten Traits of Successful Writers

1. Diligence.  A novel manuscript usually has 70,000+ words, most of which will be rewritten many, many times.  We’re talking about thousands of hours of work to complete a first manuscript that rarely earns much more than $5000.   (Happily, the pay tends to improve as you accumulate readers).

2. The ability to learn and improve. Look at something you wrote 2-3 years ago. You’re much better now, right? If you’ve plateaued even before getting published, you’re probably dead in the water.

3. Voice and authorial confidence. “John shot George. George fell down. John had won.” Ick.  Don’t just tell us what happened–tell us with style.

Continue Reading »

10 responses so far

Jan 13 2010

Ten Facts About Queries That Surprise Prospective Writers

A query is a page-long business letter introducing your novel or comic book proposal to an editor or agent.  Here is some advice that will help you write a convincing query.

1.  What goes with the query? A novel’s query is usually accompanied by a partial manuscript (~50 pages) and/or a 2-5 page synopsis.  If you’re writing a comic book, you’ll probably send in a cover letter– a page accompanied by some combination of the synopsis, the full script of the first issue and art samples. (Follow the submissions guidelines, obviously).  Cover letters are very similar to queries, so I’ll refer to both as queries for simplicity’s sake.

2. Your main goal is to show that your story is strong and interesting. Do NOT give them opinions like “my book is interesting!” or “everybody I know loves it!” Give them the evidence so that they will conclude the book is interesting. “I’m writing an interesting novel about a detective solving a murder case” is weak. “I’m writing about a poisoned detective that has two days to solve his own murder” is much more gripping. Likewise, if you’re writing a comedy, you need to prove yourself by making them laugh. According to literary agent Janet Reid, “if you tell me your book is a comedy, and the query letter isn’t funny or amusing, you have a big problem.”

3. Most queries include the following: an introductory paragraph/hook, a body paragraph summarizing the work in a clear and interesting way, 1-3 sentences about your writing qualifications, and contact information. Don’t worry too much about your writing qualifications. It’d be nice if you had them, but it’s not a deal-breaker for fiction writers.

Continue Reading »

7 responses so far

Jan 12 2010

What do you think about this query letter for Superhero Nation?

A query is a page-long letter used by a novelist or comic book author to interest an editor and convince him that the writing is promising enough that he should spend the time to look at the sample chapters (for a novel) or script (for a comic book). What do you think about this query letter?

Dear [EDITOR NAME],

It’s been a normal day for IRS Agent Gary Smith, besides the car-bomb.  And the US Marshals threatening to send him on a one-way trip to Alaska.  And the revelation that everybody he knows has a pretty good motive to murder him (even besides the fact that he’s an IRS agent).  His only chance of surviving with his sanity intact rests on joining a top-secret spy agency and partnering with a mutant alligator whose powers of deduction make Scooby Doo look like Batman.

Superhero Nation is a wacky mix of an office comedy and national security thriller.  I’ve enclosed the script for the first issue, five colored and lettered sample pages, and the synopsis for the five issue arc.

My main writing qualifications are that I’m a communications contractor for [AGENCY NAME] and the webmaster for a superhero writing advice website with hundreds of thousands of readers.

Thank you for your time and consideration.  I can be reached at [PHONE] or [EMAIL].

Yours,

[NAME]

8 responses so far

Jan 05 2010

Another Eight Facts About Writing That Surprise Prospective Novelists

This is the second article in a series. Please see part one here.

9.  Getting published is really, really hard. Publisher’s assistants at major publishers go through hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts a week. Out of every thousand or so manuscripts, they’ll probably send on around five to an editor for further consideration. That means PAs reject about 99.5% of manuscripts. Of the five surviving manuscripts, usually one or two will eventually be offered contracts.

 

10. Publisher’s assistants do not have the time to pore through each manuscript. They are not on your side. They have to get through hundreds of manuscripts each week and the only way to do that is to throw out manuscripts as fast as possible. Most manuscripts do not survive to page two. If something does not make sense on page one, they will throw away the manuscript long before you’ve explained what is going on. The story absolutely needs to be clear and engaging from page one.

 

11. SPELLING, PUNCTUATION AND GRAMMAR ARE EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.  They are the difference between conveying that “I am a polished writer that will be easy to publish” and “I am not familiar with basic writing craft.” If your writing has more than a few typos, you are dead on arrival. Even one typo per page would raise eyebrows. Remember, around 99.9% of unsolicited manuscripts get rejected. Don’t give the publisher any reason to drop the guillotine.

Continue Reading »

38 responses so far

Jan 03 2010

Nine Surprising Facts About Writing Comic Books and Graphic Novels

1. Marvel and DC Comics don’t consider unsolicited submissions. Fortunately, Optimum Wound has a useful list of publishers that do. If you’re dead-set on working with Marvel or DC, I’d recommend taking a job with them in some other capacity (such as editing, sales or marketing) and then moving laterally into writing.

2. Most publishers won’t evaluate a comic book submission unless it has ~5 illustrated sample pages. This means that a writer will usually need a professional-grade artist friend willing to work for speculative pay, a paid freelancer or the skill to illustrate his own work.  If you don’t know any artists and don’t have $500-750 for a freelancer, I’d recommend submitting to Dark Horse or another publisher that doesn’t require art samples.  However, if you can pull off a competent art sample, it will really help your submission.

3. Pretty much no one considers proposals for licensed works. Do you have an awesome idea for a Star Wars or Buffy comic?  Unfortunately, with licensed works, the publisher will almost always contact the writer it wants to work with rather than vice versa.  Additionally, when they need a writer for a major series, they will hire someone experienced and proven rather than an unpublished author.  Sorry. If you want to write for Spiderman or Batman, you need to establish yourself first.

4. Comic book companies usually buy the rights to the series and characters. In contrast, novel series are almost always creator-owned.  If you really care about maintaining ownership over your characters and stories, I’d recommend looking at Image Comics. Almost all of their series are creator-owned.

Continue Reading »

7 responses so far

Jan 02 2010

Eight Facts About Writing That Surprise Prospective Novelists

1. Even if you get published, you will get paid much, much less than you can imagine. A 75,000 word manuscript takes 2000+ hours and typically sells for around $5000. That’s not even close to minimum wage, particularly when you consider the work you put in after getting published. If you plan on eating food more expensive than Kibbles and Bits, get a day job.

 

2. Most novelists don’t get their first novels published. According to a Tobias Buckell survey, only 35% of published authors broke out with their first novel.  This shouldn’t be too surprising–look at what you were writing 2-3 years ago. You’ve gotten a lot better, right? You’ll probably feel the same way about what you’re writing now in 2-3 years. It may take a novel manuscript or two to develop professional-grade writing skills.  (Keep practicing and you’ll get there!)

 

3. Novel publishing is freakishly competitive, particularly compared to English courses. In an English class, most of the papers will get A’s and the teacher will usually explain to everybody else what they need to fix so that they will get A’s. In contrast, publishers reject over 99% of submissions and the vast majority of submissions are rejected without any specific feedback.  Thanks for submitting–we enjoyed your manuscript, but not enough to tell you what to fix.  (By the way, if the publisher does tell you what to fix, you’re almost certainly on the right track.  Publishers would probably only spend extra time to write an individualized rejection if you had potential).

Continue Reading »

26 responses so far

Nov 27 2009

Marvel and DC don’t read unsolicited scripts– who does?

Optimum Wound has a very useful list of comic book publishers that are accepting unsolicited submissionsMarvel and DC do not accept unsolicited scripts.  (If you’re dead-set on starting out with them anyway, I’d recommend getting a job with them in some other capacity, like editing or sales, and then moving laterally).

No responses yet

Nov 27 2009

Janet Reid’s Query Count

Janet Reid tallied up a day’s worth of queries.  (A query is a letter asking an agent to represent your novel). 

I’m getting impatient with writers who can’t seem to tell me what their book is about. I get lists of characters, descriptions of setting and events, but nothing about choices/conflict/decisions. 

I started at 10 pm with 68 queries. 

  • Query letter missing too much plot: 21
  • Not enticing: 12
  • Nothing fresh or original: 8
  • Not right for me but someone else will snag happily: 6
  • Writer clearly uninformed about genre or category s/he intends to write in: 3.  (B. Mac adds: a common mistake here is using the phrase “fiction novel.”  Novels are ALWAYS fiction, so “fiction novel” makes the author sound uninformed). 
  • No platform (non-fiction queries only): 2.  (A platform is a tool used to market a book or author.  For example, this website.  They’re only required for nonfiction authors). 
  • Just plain old bad writing: 4
  • I don’t think I can sell books in this category: 4
  • Overwritten (probably should be included in bad writing): 1
  • Unable to suspend disbelief (also bad writing): 1
  • Writer is a crackpot: 2.  (Dammit!  I wish I had known that this was a disqualifier before I started writing). 
  • Topics I really loathe: 2
  • Queries set aside to read more closely: 2

A parting thought for you:  decisions and conflicts are the intersection of character and plot.  Don’t neglect them!

2 responses so far

Nov 26 2009

What every novelist should know about the publishing industry

This Thanksgiving, I am very grateful for Seth Godin’s advice for authors and Mark Hurst’s secrets of publishing.  These aren’t designed with comic book writers in mind, but a lot of the information is useful for them as well.  (If you’re interested in writing comic books, please read my comment below— I picked out a few details that I think are particularly useful for the comic book industry). 

(Also, outside of the realm of publishing, I’m also very grateful for Air Force Materiel Command in particular, because logistics is never as sexy as dropping the bombs but at least as important).

One response so far

Nov 22 2009

What goes into a comic book submission?

Short answer: usually some combination of…

  1. Script of the first issue.
  2. Synopsis of the larger work (either the first issue, arc or series as a whole).
  3. Sample pages inked, colored and lettered.

For a more detailed look at these three items, I’ll focus on Dark Horse specifically because I think DH is pretty standard.  But always check the publisher’s submissions page.  For example, Dark Horse’s submissions page is here and Image’s is here.

Continue Reading »

5 responses so far

Nov 15 2009

How to Communicate with Agents and Editors

When you’re ready to submit your novel or comic book to an agent or publisher, these tips will help you make the sell.

1.  The only goal of your submission is to convince a publishing professional that your novel or comic book is likely to sell thousands of copies. Nothing else matters.

2.  Follow the instructions on their website. Most agents and publishers will have submissions pages that lay out what they want to see.  In most cases, it’s best to provide just what’s on the list and nothing else.  (Exception: if you’re submitting a comic book script, consider submitting some inked or colored pages even if they aren’t required– these pages will help the editor decide very quickly whether your proposal is serious).

3.  Check your spelling, punctuation and grammar. Trying to impress a publishing professional without clean writing is like trying to run a filthy restaurant.  It really doesn’t matter how good the cooking is–customers will run out screaming anyway.  Proofread or perish.  Not many publishing professionals would bet tens of thousands of dollars on an unpolished writer.

Continue Reading »

13 responses so far

Nov 09 2009

Making the Sell: A Few Tips on Submitting a Comic Book Script

1.  READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. The instructions take precedence over everything else. If you fail to meet the guidelines provided by the comic book publisher on its submissions page, you are dead on arrival.  For example, you can see Dark Horse’s submissions guidelines here and Image’s here.  (By the way, Marvel and DC don’t accept unsolicited submissions– either they call you because they’re impressed by what you have already published, or you start working for them in some other capacity and move laterally)

Continue Reading »

9 responses so far

Oct 23 2009

EA’s Best Advice

I find Editorial Ass to be very informative. She’s a “recovering publishing assistant.”  Heh. 

2 responses so far

Oct 18 2009

What happens when you get published?

Redlines and Deadlines describes what happens when an unpublished novelist sign the dotted line.  The work is just beginning… but, then again, so is the pay!

No responses yet

Oct 10 2009

15 Questions with Bob Heske

Bob Heske is a screenwriter and an award-winning comic creator. Under his “Heske Horror” shingle, Bob produced a critically acclaimed indie horror series called COLD BLOODED CHILLERS and a “best of” CBC anthology coined BONE CHILLER which won a Bronze medal at the 2009 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Bob’s vampire graphic novel, THE NIGHT PROJECTIONIST, is being published by Studio 407 with film rights optioned by Myriad Pictures. 

Aside from being a horror writer, Bob has a funny side having written contest-winning short and feature film scripts. His comedy LOVE STUPID, an independent movie, will wrap by Summer 2010. Bob also writes the “Indie Creator” column for Invest Comics.

In our recent interview, here’s what Bob had to say…

SN: What are some effective and cheap ways to promote an independently published comic book?

HESKE:  The cheapest and easiest way is to set up a free Partners account at MyEbook.com and create an e-preview book. My 4 e-previews for my Cold Blooded Chillers issues 1,2, and 3 and Bone Chiller anthology have had over 500,000 hits in 9 months.

Another way is to comb through the bulletins at comicspace.com and read all the ones with “Read my interview/review with XYZ website” — then contact those websites directly to see if they would be interested in reading YOUR book or doing an interview (sometimes you’ll strike gold and get both!).

Continue Reading »

One response so far

Oct 10 2009

The “Rules” of Writing

Hello!  Here are some tips about how to apply writing advice in a logical and productive manner.  (Trust, but verify!)

1.  Any “rule” of writing can be broken. Writing advice can be very helpful, but almost every writing tip ever given has been broken by at least one published work.  In particular, authors with a history of success get more leeway to publish whatever they want because their editors trust them and can give them the benefit of the doubt.

2.  However, it may not help you that another author could publish a book that did something otherwise hard-to-publish. For example, I’d generally recommend against using a character name in a title– most character names aren’t very interesting to prospective readers.  However, some authors (including JK Rowling) have gotten such books published anyway.  The main question is whether you can pull it off.  If you’re an unknown author with no audience that’s submitting to a publishing house that rejects 99.9% of unsolicited manuscripts, you’re facing a brutal decision-making process.  The publisher’s assistant sends only ~5 manuscripts out of every 1000 to her boss for consideration.  She is looking for any reason to eliminate your manuscript.  A bad title may be sufficient.  🙁

3.  The publisher’s assistant does not have a rulebook in front of her listing which sorts of manuscripts have to be rejected. “Oh, this manuscript has a character name in the title, so I have to reject it.”  Obviously not.  So think less about the advice (don’t use a character’s name!) and more about the goal (write a gripping title).  For example, an unsolicited manuscript named Tom Smith is probably dead on arrival.  But Barbara Bloodbath would probably warrant further attention.  Even though it uses a character name, it sounds really interesting.

When I offer advice, I don’t want the reader to think that “trying X cannot work,” but rather that “if you want to try X, make sure that it does work by avoiding problems Y and Z.”  For example, Barbara Bloodbath tells us enough about the character and plot to interest prospective readers. Tom Smith does not. There are very few stylistic choices that cannot work under any circumstances.

4.  Think critically before acting on any writing advice. For example, there may be logical reasons advice may not apply to your situation.  Perhaps you’re in a genre where editors will accept a particular type of writing?  Perhaps the market is changing or has changed to accept the type of writing in question?  Perhaps the advice is missing the point.  For example, “a lot of editors complain about manuscripts that have too many adverbs, so you should not use adverbs!”  Unless the logic behind the advice strikes you as sound–could you imagine an editor really tossing your manuscript because it had adverbs?– I would recommend disregarding it or at least investigating further.

5. If you want to try something unconventional– something that does not get published often–I would recommend caution.  For example, I can’t think of too many published adult novels with talking animals or 5+ main characters.  I would extrapolate that one is a gross mismatch for an adult audience and the other would probably suffer from massive character-development problems.  (Ahem– developing 5+ characters in a single novel is hard).  If you’re dead-set on doing something unconventional, I would recommend thinking long and hard about what it adds to the story.  If your rationale is something like “it would be neat to try this” or “I couldn’t tell this story any other way,” I would highly recommend going back to the drawing board.

9 responses so far

Oct 01 2009

More Tips on Writing Two-Sentence Synopses

Synopses that are just a sentence or two long are intensely useful because 1) they’re often required as part of the query process and 2) they convey a lot of information in very little time.  The editor or agent reading your manuscript has a thousand other manuscripts in his pile and you have maybe a minute or two to impress him before he tosses you.  The synopsis is your best opportunity to do so.

Here are a few tips about how to write an extremely short synopsis.

1. It’s usually more effective to refer to characters by their profession and/or key traits rather than by name. Calling him a “neurotic detective” tells us more about the character than calling him Adrian Monk. Unless the name adds something critical, I’d recommend leaving it out. (For example, if you’re writing about a real person, you obviously need to name him).

Continue Reading »

23 responses so far

Jul 02 2009

Which comparable works make for the best references?

When you do a proposal, publishers may ask you for a comparable works section.  Your goal is to come up with similar works that have sold well, so that the publisher can visualize why your book will sell well.  Here are some tips to help you pick references that will go farther in the publisher’s office.

 

1.  If at all possible, focus on bestsellers. Publishers care much more about finding the next Harry Potter or Spiderman than the next John Banks. In general, publishers will only pick up a project if they think it will sell well, and the most persuasive evidence is that similar works have sold very well.

 

2.  Please use titles that have sold well recently. Contemporary references are usually more convincing because they suggest where the market is now.  Additionally, a twenty-something publisher’s assistant is more likely to be familiar with a recent title.

 

3.  Please pick comparable works that have a similar target audience to yours. If the audience isn’t similar, the work probably isn’t all that comparable to yours.

 

4.  Make sure that the works are well-tailored to the publisher. In particular, I’d recommend focusing on works that have a style similar to what they’re already publishing.  Also, if at all possible, focus on works that are in the same medium (novels, comic books, manga, nonfiction, etc). In particular, I recommend staying away from TV shows and movies because they have a very different business model than novels and comic books do.

 

5.  Don’t pick a work unless you’re certain you understand why it was successful. For example, don’t try to sell an action-packed book about an inordinately powerful superhero by claiming that “it worked for Dr. Manhattan in The Watchmen.”  That is a horrible misreading of the series.  Over the course of twelve issues, Dr. Manhattan has two fight scenes that span a total of perhaps four pages.  If you cite works you aren’t really familiar with, you might come off looking like an idiot.

5.1. Don’t cite a work unless you’ve read it.  

5.2. Read successful works that are similar to yours.  

 

6. If your work has any plot elements that are hard to market, make sure you find some bestsellers that have handled similar concepts. For example, if you’re dead-set on selling a book about a retarded protagonist, explain why the success of a book like Flowers for Algernon (or something more recent) suggests that your book will be successful.

No responses yet

Jun 27 2009

Thanks, Evil Editor!

Evil Editor reviewed my query letter for Don’t Forget the Death Ray!, a guidebook about how to write superhero stories. Although he and his readers mostly panned it, I found their comments very helpful and informative. It’s really important for prospective writers to have thick skin, so I’d like you to know what kind of feedback I’m getting.

  • “You may not have meant it this way, but you managed to insult professional writers while talking down to teens.”
  • “This is a bad query letter… Now you show a great facility with language in this letter. Obviously your writing ability is there; but you need to consider the subtext of what you are saying just a teensy bit when you read what you wrote.”
  • Continue Reading »

19 responses so far

« Prev - Next »