Everything you wanted to know about queries, epubbing, agents, platform for fiction writers, Italics, and Don Maass according to twitter.

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Hello, my name is Julie and I twitter. I have five strings of people I follow; publishing, news/political, military, ranchers/cowy people, and just interesting people.
A few days ago, and agent said, “if you begin your query letter with anything other than a description of your book, you’re wasting words.” Not long before that, an agent said to put that information at the top of the query.
I responded back to the first person. “See, this is what drives writers crazier. ; )”
In truth, as with anything query related, look at the person’s blog and website and note what their personal preferences are regarding submissions. On little things like this, there aren’t any right or wrong ways, just personal preferences.
I was going to narrate the jist of the conversation that ensued and I decided to just ask the people involved for their permission to blog the conversation so nothing was taken out of context. For those of you not familiar with twitter, the first person mentioned is the speaker. The next person is the one they are responding to and any others are being included in the conversation.
Here is the cast of characters.    
@AmpERobert: of epublisher, Ampichellis Books. 
@Kristen_Howe who is a suspense writer
@Patrick_Alan made a cameo appearance and since he’s cuter than a speckled pup and takes female harassing well, I’ve included him.

Then there’s me and my Coors Light.

@AmpERobert:  @Julie_Weathers When an author writes an agent the why part is obvious so leave that out. It’s the what part agents are interested in.
Me: @AmpERobert True, but many agents say they like the personalized aspect of the query letter
@AmpERobert:   ..what have you written?? (it’s description) fiction, non-fict, genre, word length and a one sentence hook right up front. .
@AmpERobert:   @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers Best queries follow a business letter format, or introduction, body, conclusion…
@AmpERobert:   @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers Into = Why you’re writing. Seeing the agent already knows, skip to the description of project..
@AmpERobert:   @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers The body should contain the novel overview, they one paragraph jacket blurb that you hate to write.
@AmpERobert:   @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers Conclusion. An overview, your author qualification–what you’ve published, etc.
@Kristen_Howe:  @AmpERobert @Julie_Weathers That sounds like what I’ve been doing for queries. At least I’m doing something right.
Me: @AmpERobert Thank you, I appreciate your input. Yes, I hate to write that jacket blurb.
@Kristen_Howe:  @AmpERobert @Julie_Weathers Tell me about it. I prefer that blurb than a 2-page synopsis. LOL
Me:  @AmpERobert @Kristen_Howe I was a staff writer for a horse racing mag for 17 years. That doesn’t translate well to epic fantasy credentials
@Kristen_Howe:  @AmpERobert @Julie_Weathers I wish my publication credits included short stories. But it’s just nonfiction and poetry. Small potatoes.
@AmpERobert:   @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers Used to be the only authors who needed a platform were non-fic authors. Not so anymore.
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert I know wht U mean. ive no expertise, haven’t entered in any contests, joined no organizations yet, etc. 🙁
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert I don’t know about agents, but belonging to an organization doesn’t impress me.
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert So to say you belong to RWA or ITW isn’t good?
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert I’m sure it means something to someone, but not me unless membership involves more than paying dues.
@AmpERobert:  @Julie_Weathers @Kristen_Howe. I’m not advocating joining writer’s groups, however, there are huge networking opportunities
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert That’s true. I can’t afford to join one right now. But maybe next year. It’s hard to “sell” oneself via query.
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert It is, but it’s still the truest way and there is a lot more help now than there used to be.
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert That’s true with crit partners/groups, websites and books and magazines and professional writer friends. AMEN.
@Kristen_Howe:  @AmpERobert So true. And still, it’s so hard, since the publishing word is changing. @Julie_Weathers
Me:  @AmpERobert @Kristen_Howe I’ve seen this discussion before. How does a fiction author establish a platform?
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert I belong to an excellent writer’s group, but it’s private so it wouldn’t do much to promote me.
@AmpERobert:  @Julie_Weathers @Kristen_Howe …when one belongs to groups who write what you write with memberships in the thousands–RWA, MWA SCUBI
@AmpERobert:  @Julie_Weathers A platform is simply a documented group of potential readers who might buy your book if it’s published. Do U know thousands?
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert No, I know tens of people. Thousands know me, but the horse racing crowd won’t cross over to epic fantasy.
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert O I get it now Julie. U do make a valid point. Not unless U make an epic fantasy that deals w/ horse racing.
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert I draw heavily on my horse experience, but that just makes the details better. It won’t attract readers.
@AmpERobert : @Julie_Weathers @Kristin_Howe I guess all who write need to ask is themselves is what do celebrities have that I don’t? Do you know?
Me:  @AmpERobert They have a following who admire them for something they do well.
@AmpERobert:  @julie_Weathers @Kristen_Howe Name recognition is what gives celebrities their huge edge over you and I. Platform = name recognition
@AmpERobert:  @julie_Weathers @Kristen_Howe Huge platform = worldwide name recognition. Would you consider having a million followers on Twitter platform?
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert No. I know people who collect twitter followers like it’s a game. I don’t crave numbers.
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert It’s not a game to me. I just enjoying having supportive Twiends on Twitter and even on Facebook.
@AmpERobert:  @Julie_Weathers However, these celebrities get book 7 figure book deals because they have a name only. Platform gives them that edge.
Me:  @AmpERobert @Kristen_Howe I have the blog and website. I’m concentrating on turning out an intriguing book now.
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert I just have 2 blogs. Good luck Julie. I hope to read it someday. Yeah, I agree.
@Kristin_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert Good question. It reminds me of a brand too.
@AmpERobert:  @Julie_Weathers @Kristen_Howe Can you understand now that just writing isn’t important to an agent or a publisher? Return on investment is.
@Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert I think they also have to be able to produce, don’t you?
@Julie_Weathers No!! If you have the potential to reach a million readers, you can always hire someone to write the book for you.
@Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert I’m sorry, but what good does it do to be a writer if I don’t write?
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert I just use mine (blog) for updates on my writing, editing and querying process. And maybe someday, publishing.
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers Multi-national corporations MUST make a profit to stay in business. Investors don’t care if it’s art of not.
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert I understand that, but it’s hoped my product will make a profit. I need a product before I have a name.
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers Investors only care that they are making a return on investment. Publishers who pay 7 figures for books are
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers Multi-National corporations, Random House, for instance is a multi-national corporation, must make profits.
@AmpERobert:  @Juli_Weathers @Kristen_Howe. Platform is important because platform is some assurance an audience exists before $ are invested.
@AmpERobert:  @Julie_Weathers No, Julie. You need a name before you have an assured salable product. How many readers know you?
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert Unless you are a celebrity like Snookie whateverhernameis, I don’t think anyone can be assured anything.
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe Unless you are a celebrity like Snookie whateverhernameis, I don’t think anyone can be assured anything. U are now getting it.
Me:  @AmpERobert @Kristen_Howe I am not a celebrity. I’m a writer. I don’t mind promoting my book, but I do need a published book to promote.
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert You made good points Julie.
@Kristen_Howe:  @AmpERobert @Julie_Weathers I’m not a celebrity either. But U’re rt–you need an agent &/or publisher 2 get yr book in the bookshelves.
@AmpERobert:   @Kristen_Howe@Julie_Weathers When U go into a bookstore, do you roam the stacks to find a book or do you already know the author’s name?
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert I’m a browser
@AmpERobert:  @Julie_Weather @Kristen_Howe Think about it this way. In B & N there R 80,000 books, what are the odds someone will randomly find Your book?
@AmpERobert:  @Julie_Weather @Kristen_Howe Aren’t the odds 80,000 to 1 that someone might randomly find your book. As a publisher, would U want those odds
(I didn’t see this initially because my name was spelled wrong. However, I would have responded that I am usually smart enough to know what I’m interested in, so I can narrow it down to a few hundred books at most. I don’t look for non-fiction books on castle architecture in the Christian section.)
@Kristen_Howe:  @AmpERobert @Julie_Weathers I’m not sure on what my odds are. I hope the odds are better to being a best-seller and sell lots of copies.
@Kristen_Howe:  @AmpERobert I’m trying to understand a little bit better. Still new to this business.
Me:  @AmpERobert @Kristen_Howe Don Maass isn’t excited about writer’s blogs and websites because too many use them to scratch the itch to write.
@AmpERobert:  @Julie_Weathers @Kristen_Howe. Don Maass is not going to take anyone on unless he can make a buck from their work. No platform, no Don
@Kristen_Howe:  @AmpERobert @Julie_Weathers I’ve tried to get Jen Jackson from Donald Maass in September as an agent–she passed.
Me:  @AmpERobert Actually, he is talking to two of my friends who have no platforms yet. They just have very good books.
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers I’m not sure you actually need an agent unless you have something Major pubs might be interested in.
Me:  @AmpERobert I do need and want an agent and I believe I have something a major publisher might take.
@Kristen_Howe:  @AmpERobert @Julie_Weathers Chances are, you do. A lot of pubs won’t take submissions without an agent. Only some do open ones without them.
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers These days lack of platform is the reason that 99 % of first time authors don’t receive generous advances
@AmpERobert:  @Julie_Weathers He might be taking them on but that doesn’t mean they will be published or if they are, it won’t be big time.
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe Jen Jackson runs Don Maass Literary. I don’t think Don is that active anymore. Don’t know for sure tho.
(For an agent who isn’t active, he’s reading a lot of fulls and sending out revision letters. Or maybe I just belong to a really talented writing group.)
@Kristen_Howe:  @AmpERobert Oh wow that’s interesting.
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers I know all this sounds discouraging, however, there are ways to get books published and build an audience
@Kristen_Howe:  @AmpERobert @Julie_Weathers I’m all ears. I know about self-publishing and ebooks though. It’s not far from my mind though.
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers I would never suggest print self-publishing to anyone–too risky. Epublishing, if done correctly, has merit.
@Kristen_Howe:  @AmpERobert @Julie_Weathers OK I’ve heard about small pub and POD too. But I’m going to do traditional first. I’ll keep writing though.
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert I’m not in the least bit discouraged, nor am I delusional. I just believe I will be published.
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers So do I Julie. Someday. Maybe in 2011-2012. Way to go!
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert I’m w/ U Julie. We’ll fight 2 get an agent who’ll auction our book 2 a publisher. I believe that’s how it works.
(I don’t actually think many go to auction, but I missed this comment initially and I’m not an agent so I don’t know.)
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert Two editors asked for the book. It’s a start.
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers One of them is to start small and build one.as Julie said, having a book out there is key.
@Kristen_Howe:  @AmpERobert @Julie_Weathers That’s what I’m trying to do with my queries. I’m not giving up. My book or Julie’s? Or both?
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers Might I ask what it is? I might be able to offer suggestions or something.
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert “Might I ask what it is?” What are you referring to?
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert I think he meant your book and the 2 editors.
@Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert Ah, which publishers? Editors from TOR and Del Rey, though the Del Rey editor has left.
@AmpERobert:  @Julie_Weathers isn’t TOR in financial trouble? Thought they were. Del Rey would be best but Big Publisher, agent only submissions.
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers If print is all an author will consider, in my opinion they are limiting their potential. For instance.
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert You think? I agree. We’ll keep trying. As @christinadodd said, “keep walking.”
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers To find an agent might take a year, for the agent to find a publisher might take another year,
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers To get a book out from a publisher, takes another year–potentially 3 years wasted.
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert Agreed. I understand it isn’t an overnight process. (Of course, I, as the eternal optimist, would be working on other books while I was wasting these three years.)
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert I agree it’s time consuming, but I think I will get an agent and the agent will know the best way to present it.
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers To find an ebook publisher might take awhile depending on the project of course, the book comes out in months.
@Kristen_Howe:  @AmpERobert @Julie_Weathers Well at least the wait for that isn’t too long. It’s an option to consider.
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert I don’t believe it has to be either or.
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert Agreed. I understand it isn’t an overnight process.
Me:  @AmpERobert @Kristen_Howe The point is, editors have already requested the manuscript so I think I’m not totally off the mark.
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert I spoke to these editors at conferences. They read the first ten pages and asked me to submit. It’s no guarantee.
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert But the door is cracked open to hope.
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert I think that’s terrific Julie that they showed interest. It’s a stepping stone. I’ll cross my fingers for you.
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert gd 4 U. I’m doing the same, even when I entered in2 Deirde’s contest 2day. I’ll stay focused & positive.
Me:  @Kristen_Howe I’m in the middle of revisions based on an agent revision letter. I owe my first allegiance to that agent. @AmpERobert
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers Do either of you know that you can self-publish free on Amazon and B and N? Just wondering.
@Kristen_Howe:  @AmpERobert @Julie_Weathers I’ve heard about Createspace from some people. I rather not self-publish either.
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert Yes, and no thanks.
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers Yes, I know. Like most authors I talk 2 these days U have 2 have a book in your hand. Oh well, what can I say.
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert That isn’t the point. The point is, no offense, many of the self-pubbed books are not very good.
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert If I had an agent who said epub was the way to go, then go for it. I haven’t heard that yet.
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert For now, it’s just finish these revisions and send back to agent and take the next step.
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers Think you’ll find that the publishing atmosphere is not what it was even a year ago. Huge loses on fiction.
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe @Julie_Weathers Major bookstores in trouble, book sales down, large returns 2 publisher, many agents & editors leaving the biz
@Kristen_Howe:  @AmpERobert @Julie_Weathers I know that abt a year ago, I lost my local B&N, perhaps due 2 the epub business. I know Borders was in trouble.
Me:  @AmpERobert @Kristen_Howe You’re a very positive person. If I weren’t drinking, I might get depressed.
@AmpERobert:  @Julie_Weathers I think the word is candid and yes, I’ve been accused of being too truthful (candid) at times.
Me: @AmpERobert I have no problem with truth, thank heavens. My critters are pretty blunt with their comments.
Me:  @AmpERobert @Kristen_Howe Do y’all mind if I blog about this conversation?
@AmpERobert:  @Julie_Weathers Not at all. Please do. In fact there’s a huge amount of material you can use as reference at
Wylie-Merrick Literary Agency
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert Go for it Julie. I don’t mind. It’s interesting.
@Patrick_Alan: Make sure you include me! RT @Julie_Weathers: @AmpERobert @Kristen_Howe Do y’all mind if I blog about this conversation?
Me:  @Patrick_Alan Oh, sweet cheeks. I include you in everything. My you were interesting last night in that dream. @AmpERobert @Kristen_Howe
@AmpERobert:  @Julie_Weathers You’re a very positive person. If I weren’t drinking, I might get depressed. I’m much less positive when I’m drinking LOL
Me:  @AmpERobert Naw, I’m a pretty optimistic person most of the time. I didn’t start out my day picking up body parts, so it’s a good day.
Me:  @AmpERobert Ah, @AgentRobert‘s agency.
Me:  @AmpERobert Out of curiosity, why don’t you want underlines in your submissions? @Kristen_Howe
@Kristen_Howe: @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert Underlines? You mean for italics? I’m lost here. 😕
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert I’m doing revisions, since I thought it wasn’t ready, & have gotten not much luck, (other than 6 bites 4 it).
Me:  @Kristen_Howe If he/she rejects it finally, I will look elsewhere. @AmpERobert
@Kristen_Howe:  @Julie_Weathers @AmpERobert That’s how you should do it Julie. If you get a pass or no response, move on and send out “revenge queries.”
Me:  @Kristen_Howe If he/she rejects it finally, I will look elsewhere
Me:  @AmpERobert @Kristen_Howe Ah, if this agent passes it will be because the agent doesn’t think it’s right. That’s just the way it works.
@AmpERobert:  @Julie_Weathers Underlining, italicizing; bolding, that sort of thing is using a crutch. It’s amateurish and editors don’t like to see it.
Me:  @Kristen_Howe @AmpERobert Oops, I’m an amateur.
@Kristen_Howe:  @AmpERobert I see. I don’t bold mine much. I do italicize mine though for internal thoughts or foreign words. Hope I did it right.
@AmpERobert:  @Julie_Weathers @Kristen_Howe Yes that’s me– some person as AgentRobert. I recently left the agency & took new job. Sorry I thought U knew
  
Me:  @AmpERobert Nope, I stopped following you after you called me a liar.
(I was excluded from the conversation after that. I was sad. I think I drank another beer.)
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe Underlines and/or Italicized text or bold text. These R all used 2 emphasize action, surprise, horror, interior monologue, ect
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe Foreign words I’d agree with. I’m still pondering interior monologue tho. I believe a reader can figure it out without help
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe I know the main reason I don’t like italics is because when I’m getting a novel ready to publish italics mean extra work 4 me.
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe When setting up a work, all that stuff disappears and has to be styled separately. I think the same is try with print too.
@AmpERobert:  @Kristen_Howe Possibly why editors don’t like it too. Just saying. But it’s also a crutch that writers don’t need. Make your writing do it
@AmpERobert:  Shhh! Don’t tell anyone–but Ampichellis Ebooks is looking for queries and submissions. Mysteries and suspense.
(This surprised me greatly. Well, maybe not.)

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Tara Parker

    Interesting, Julie. I’ll comment in more detail privately.

    Thanks for posting this!

  2. Julie Weathers

    Yeah, it was an interesting conversation. It really should be read with common sense.

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