Tuesday, September 28, 2010

All About Agents

This past Sunday, Judy Emery and I participated in downtown Toronto's Word on the Street. The event was well-attended and definitely worth the drive to Toronto. Booksellers, authors, agents, newspapers and other media set up tents and kiosks on Queen's Park. It was a bit overwhelming, but we managed to attend a variety of workshops and presentations.

Today, I will share with you some of the insights gained from the workshop: Why Do I Need An Agent?

Literary agent Helen Heller does not mince words. After 20+ years of experience as an editor and agent of commercial and literary fiction in England and Canada, she can truthfully say she has seen and heard it all.

Here are some of her tips...
  • If you are a celebrity or writing a tell-all about a celebrity, you can approach a publisher. If not, you need an agent.
  • Email submissions are preferred. Snail mail submissions usually end up in slush piles.
  • When sending a query letter, do not be overly familiar. Address the letter to Ms Heller not Helen.
  • A well-written query letter will produce results. Create a query letter that is sharp, current and attractive.
  • Do not start your query with the following expressions: "What if," "Suppose," or "Imagine." It is not the agent's job to imagine your scenario.
  • Ms Heller receives 60-70 queries a day. She looks at all of them and responds only to those that catch her attention.
  • Beware of agents who ask for fees or charge hourly rates for editing. No reputable agent will take fees for literary services.
  • Visit the agent's website and look at books he/she has represented. Use agents who have sold to publishers you recognize.
Written by Joanne Guidoccio

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Celebrated Writers in Stratford

During the month of August, Judy Emery and I participated in Stratford's Celebrated Writers Series. Along with over 200+ fans and wannabe writers, we gathered to listen and learn from three master wordsmiths: Louise Penny, Giles Blunt and Germaine Greer.

We learned that...
  • Louise Penny was advised not to set her books in Canada. Agents and publishers believed that no one would be interested in reading books based in Quebec. She stuck to her guns and her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache books have found a world-wide audience.
  • Giles Blunt set his John Cardinal novels in the small town of Algonquin Bay, which is North Bay very thinly disguised.
  • Louise Penny writes a minimum of 1000 words a day. When asked about inspiration, she commented that she would have major problems if she waited for the muse to strike.
  • Giles Blunt works from 9 to 3 each day and outlines all his novels. Although he knows the ending before he starts to write, he will often make changes.
  • Germaine Greer made fantastic use of very few primary materials--church and public records, deeds, wills--to recreate the life of Ann Hathaway in Shakespeare's Wife. She provided us with an interesting, informative and somewhat provocative lecture. Unlike the other two writers, she chose not to read from her novels. She considers readings to be "an insult to the audience."
Written by Joanne Guidoccio