Hooking an agent part II – Agent Rory Scarfe shares his top tips for perfecting that submission letter

 

Last week I shared my submission letter for The Sister (originally titled Buried Memories) in the hope it might help those putting together submission packages. If you missed it you can read it here. Today I’m joined by agent Rory Scarfe, of Furniss Lawton, with his three top tips to give your submission letter a head-start.

1) Attention to detail 

As boring as this might sound, you would be amazed at how many letters fall at the first hurdle. This doesn’t just mean spelling the agent’s name correctly (though please don’t address me as Ms Scarfe), but also showing an understanding of what the agent/agency is looking for and why you have selected them particularly. That way you come across as focussed and thoughtful, rather than scattergun in your approach.

2) Show knowledge of the market

More than ever, it is the role of the author (as well as their publisher and agent) to have a commercial instinct and a long-term publishing plan. If you can demonstrate an understanding of publishing trends and give examples of recent comparable successes that you hope to emulate then you prove yourself a potentially winning proposition. And remember, agents want to publish authors, not just books, in the longer term.

3) Have a point of difference and originality 

The great irony of publishing (and frustration) is that publishers are constantly on the look-out for something that is exactly like a recent success but also completely original and totally different. But that is not as impossible as it sounds. If you have a killer concept that can be pitched to an editor while they have a million other things to do and get their attention, even though the lunch hour beckons, then you are on to a good thing. Never let your ideas be ordinary.

The best of luck to everyone subbing.

In the next instalment agent Rowan Lawton will be giving her top tips on tightening that synopsis. 

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Hooking an agent part I – Sharing my submission letter for The Sister

Writing a book was initially a distraction from the chronic pain I was in, a hobby once I suddenly found myself with severely restricted mobility. Even now, I still remember the utter disbelief and excitement when I realised I had an actual finished novel and it was only then I started to think about putting together a submission package and sending my debut, Buried Memories (later retitled The Sister by my publishers) out into the world.

I devoured books, blogs, Googled endlessly for tips on how to write the perfect submission letter, and word by painful word, crafted my offering, almost editing it more than my manuscript. My palms were clammy as I sent off my first submissions, only to two agents at that time, and sat back to wait the alleged 6-8 weeks I’d read about. To my surprise both agents replied within a few hours, they’d loved my letter, been hooked by my elevator pitch, thought the premise was brilliant and and would start reading straight way. Do keep them informed of any offers. What happened to an 8-week wait? Cue total panic (never sub before your manuscript is ready – but that’s another story).

I’m no expert, and neither do I claim to be, but I’ve a few friends at the moment who have reached submission stage and so for them, and everyone else putting together a package, I wanted to share my letter. I do hope it’s helpful.

Next week, for Part II, I’ll be joined by fabulous literary agent, Rory Scarfe, of Furniss Lawton with his guidelines to giving your submission letter a head start.

Good luck to all those subbing!

 

Dear

I enclose the first three chapters and synopsis of my domestic noir novel, ‘BURIED MEMORIES’ a book about a grieving girl who thought there was nothing as frightening as being alone – she was wrong. The novel is complete at 80,000 words.

‘I’ve done something terrible, Grace. I hope you can forgive me.’ Grace Matthews, an anxious young woman is devastated when her best friend, Charlie, dies and feels that until she discovers the meaning behind Charlie’s last words, she cannot move forward. As Grace becomes sucked into the mystery surrounding Charlie’s family, her association with them, especially with Charlie’s sister Anna, threatens to destroy Grace’s career, relationship and ultimately, end her life. Grace’s hunt for the truth forces her to confront the childhood she desperately wanted to forget and she realises she can’t trust anyone, especially those she loves.

I am submitting to you because

This, my debut novel, began life as a flash fiction piece in a writing group challenge last year. I was given three words and ten minutes and the bare bones of Chapter One was born. I couldn’t sleep that night for thinking about Grace and Charlie and felt compelled to write their story. I’ve written non-fiction for various publications and websites for several years. I’ve had a column in Holistic Therapist Magazine (LJ’s Journal) since April 2012 and was a contributor to Tiny Buddha’s 365 Love Challenges (HarperOne/Harper Collins.) I attend writing workshops, evening classes and retreats whenever I can – I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning; show me a literary festival and I’m there! I’m currently working on my second novel, ‘Second-hand secrets.’

Kind regards,

 

Louise Jensen

Nailing that tricky second novel (AKA Second Book Syndrome)

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Last week I put the final touches to The Gift and sent it to my publishers for the very last time. As my finger hovered over the send button I don’t mind admitting there were tears, and I’m still not quite sure whether these were tears of relief or sorrow. I felt a certain amount of loss letting go of the characters that have been in the forefront of my mind every day for months and months. But as there were so many times during this process when I had been riddled with self-doubt, finishing was also the cause of much celebrating.

sisterSecond book syndrome is something I had read much about as I was writing my first book, The Sister, but I couldn’t quite understand it. Surely if you done it once it should get easier, not harder? As I started the submission process with The Sister I was eager to get stuck into something new. The Gift, the story of Jenna who after receiving a heart transplant begins to believe that the donor of her heart, Callie, was murdered and begins her own investigation after learning Callie’s death had been ruled accidental, had been simmering at the back of my mind for quite a long time.

It was a joy to start something fresh and when The Sister was picked up by a publisher I felt so grateful to know The Gift had a home too. All was going well until The Sister was released. I had been scared of course, waiting for the reviews, releasing a debut is daunting and I knew that if my novel wasn’t well received it would knock my confidence. To my delight the response to The Sister was phenomenal. It quickly reached number one in the Kindle chart, number one on iTunes, and was nominated for the Goodreads Awards Debut of 2016.

But the more readers contacted me to say how much they engaged with my characters, and enjoyed my story, the slower my progress got on The Gift. Did people love the characters in The Sister too much? Would The Gift be compared? Was I a one book wonder? I became plagued with self-doubt. Every morning I would open my laptop with a sinking feeling in my stomach. Could I really do this again?

My publication date was brought forward which piled on the pressure and my deadline loomed nearer and nearer. I didn’t have the luxury of taking time away from my manuscript and I questioned everything I was writing. There were many, many times I was tempted to email my publishers who had taken a chance on an unknown author, and tell them ‘I’m so sorry, but I think you’ve made a mistake offering me a contract.’

But afraid of letting people down I ploughed forwards, writing every day, using my mindfulness practice to keep the negative voices at bay they best I could. And little by little, word by word, my story took shape until it became the blend of emotion, fear, love and hope that I wanted. As Jenna found herself in danger I held my breath, and I felt her soaring highs and crushing lows as keenly as if they were my own and when the epilogue left me in floods of tears I knew I’d got it right. And at last I typed the two best words in the world, The End.

The Gift will be sent out to book reviewers next week, and will be published in a little over three weeks on 16 December, and I do hope people will fall in love with Jenna as much as I have. It is incredible to think once it seemed so out of reach to write a novel at all, let alone be published, and now I’m about to start writing book 3. Wish me luck!

You can preorder the digital version of The Gift from Amazon UK or Amazon US. The audio and paperback version will be available to order from 16/12/16.

 

From Twitter friends to lifelong friends

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img_8881Last January I was shaking with nerves as I walked into Cotes Brassiere in Covent Garden to meet up with a group of writers I only knew via Twitter (you can read about that here). What could have been an awkward meeting with these social media acquaintances was actually a fabulous lunch, and I left the restaurant that day with far more than a full stomach. I formed friendships that have deepened over the past few months. These women are not only talented writers, they too are juggling the pressures of raising a family, juggling a career, while trying to carve out precious time for working on manuscripts.

img_8880It seems incredulous that since our first encounter I have signed a book deal, published my debut novel The Sister. And I’m preparing for the publication of my second psychological thriller, The Gift, which will be released next month. Every step of the way from submissions to the edits and everything in-between, these phenomenal women have been my champions, my cheerleaders, and sometimes, my shoulders to cry on.

As lovely as my friends and family are, sometimes it takes another writer to fully understand the soaring highs and crushing lows of being an author, and having the support of other writers, offering to support other writers, has kept me grounded and given me the confidence to complete my second book.img_8879

For years I dreamed about the day I might hold my paperback in my hand and although that was certainly a high point of this year, the best bit of becoming an author without a doubt have been the people I have met, both online and off-line. Readers and writers, all united by our love of stories.

And I am incredibly grateful to call this amazing group of ladies my friends; Jane Isaac, Lucille Grant, Karen Coles, Tina Death, Ruby Speechley, Fiona Mitchell, Debra Brown, Jo Hogan, Kerry Fisher.img_8875

 

I never thought I’d see my book in print in English and now…

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I am so excited to share the Hungarian covers for my first two novels, ‘The Sister’ and the forthcoming ‘The Gift’.

Ten months ago, being published seemed such an unachievable dream and yet not one I was quite ready to let go of, picking myself up after each rejection and trying again. Having my debut published earlier this year was phenomenal, but even then it never occurred to me that my story might one day be translated into different languages.

The rights to my first two novels have now been sold to several territories and I can’t wait to see the different covers. Hungary have chosen to use the same artwork as the UK versions.

I am so glad I never gave up. As C.S. Lewis said ‘You are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.’

A day in the life of…Book Publicist Kim Nash

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Kim Nash – aka Kim the Bookworm – is Publicity and Social Media Manager for fast growing publishers, Bookouture, a fairy godmother to the authors she represents, book blogger and all round Wonder Woman. On top of her daily commitments, Kim has just completed her annual charity walk for The Hibbs Lupus trust, with her son Ollie. So what does a book publicist do all day? Let’s find out…

 

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I get up early, to try and squeeze in some work and social media activity before my 8 year old (Ollie) wakes up. We’re all early birds at Bookouture so from around 6am we’re checking Amazon rankings and sharing the news on our internal system.  Then I do the school run and get back to my desk.

Each day is different and I love that. Some days I have skype calls with my authors, some days I have to contact loads of press, some days I’ll be parceling books up to send out to press contacts, some days I’ll be contacting reviewers etc, organizing blog tours, organizing features and question and answer sessions.  There are days when we have cover reveals and NetGalley uploads to do and publicise so I have to prepare for those and then get chatting about in on social media so people know what to expect and when.

If I remember to eat during the day, I grab something quick and work through till it’s time to pick Ollie up from school or after school club. He normally sits at my desk with me and does his homework while I carry on and do a bit more work or if the weather is nice he makes me go outside and play football (he’s football mad!) He’s golden though and puts up with his mom working and constantly on the phone and only tells me off occasionally!

Then we cook tea together and settle down for the evening, me normally with my phone in my hand tweeting or facebooking one handed while watching a film before we settle down for bed with a story. Then I either get back to work after he’s in bed, or that’s my reading time.  I’m not a big TV watcher so am not one for sitting watching the soaps.  I find them a total waste of time and I have the attention span of Dory anyway!

I’m also an independent consultant for a skincare, make-up and health and well-being business too so I normally squeeze in a bit of contacting people about that, or watching podcasts or soundcloud audios and training for that, when Ollie is in bed.

I run a book club locally, so make sure that everyone knows about that and organise our guest authors. And I organise author and blogger meet ups in both London and Birmingham, so am busy with sorting stuff out for those too! All great fun though and keeps me busy and out of mischief.

 

Thanks so much for sharing Kim. You can listen to Kim speak more about her day on her Thankbookfor podcast and hear her unique way for teaching her son his left and right here, and find Kim’s blog here.