Thanks to all who participated!
Stay tuned MONDAY for the SYNOPSIS contest details and check back on TUESDAY for the No Form Rejection Contest stats! Again, no queries will be posted on this blog - just some general stats, like how many entries Joanna received, how many she requested material from, etc.
Enjoy the weekend!
Thanks to all who participated!
*****The contest is now CLOSED! Please do not e-mail anymore submissions. Thanks to all who participated, and stay tuned for a Tuesday update!******
Tired of form rejections? Want to know why your query didn't land you with a partial request? Want to query an awesome agent?
Check it out guys! The lovely Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation is my first guest blogger and has one amazing opportunity for you!
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A lot of people ask "why in the world do I need a synopsis, and how the heck do I write one?"
I can't speak for everyone, but in my experience a synopsis is requested to show the agent you have a clear, thought out plan for the entire manuscript, start to finish. I can actually tell, based on the synopsis, when someone has sent me a manuscript that isn't finished, because certain parts are clearer and more concise than others. In short, you should have a completed manuscript before querying and this helps us know you've done so. Sometimes if I'm reading the sample pages and I feel the writing is strong but the storyline is a little slow, I'll take a look at the synopsis to see what the overall feel is. Does it look like there's too much fluff? Does anything exciting happen? Is the overall plot all over the place? Does the writer have a grasp on what the climatic scene is or did they just leave it out completely? (believe it or not, this does happen)
There are so many ways to write a synopsis, so I can't really sit here and say "tada! Here's the fool-proof formula." So what I will do is break it down by length and then give you some bullet points that should be followed.
Different agents ask for different lengths of synopses. These are the two basic ones I've seen requested:
One to Two pages: Grab a book you like and read the back cover copy (or the inside flaps if it's a hard cover - whichever). Use that as a guide, except be sure to tack on the ending. Don't waste time on minor characters, sub plots, etc. One pagers are tricky, but it can be done, regardless of how long/short your book is.
Three to Five pages: I really think these are more difficult, because most people put in too much fluff and not enough about the main plot. But this is your chance to show us how your characters go through their journey, how they accomplish their tasks/obstacles in the storyline, what they do to get themselves out of the situation, etc as opposed to just a brief overview. It's important to really include the beginning, middle and end of your manuscript.
Whether you start with an outline, a chapter-by-chapter description and then shorten it, or just wing it - there's so many ways to do it - choose a method you feel comfortable with. I've known authors who even write main characters on sticky notes and major plot points on sticky notes and then place them all out on a table. Then they go and take out what they think is fluff. Everyone has a method that works for them - trick is figuring out which method works for you.
Tips to follow, regardless of length:
- Be sure to hit only the major points: major characters, major plot points, the hook, and definitely the ending.
- Be sure to double space, unless otherwise asked. Also ensure that it's Times New Roman, size 12 font (again, unless otherwise asked).
- Even if your manuscript is in first person, do not write your synopsis in first person. It should be in third person. It's like a query - first person is creepy and weird.
- Don't end the synopsis with "..." I see this so many times, and I think what most writers fail to understand is that you are supposed to reveal the ending in the synopsis. That's why an agent asks for it.
- Don't give just a paragraph teaser. That's the information that goes in your query.
- Don't give a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. If an agent wanted that, they would ask for it by name.
- Don't give a shortened version of the manuscript. I've received this before, which is why I'm now specific with my "3-5 page synopsis" request. The whole "here's 10 pages" doesn't work for me.
- What do you do if a synopsis is requested but the agent doesn't specify the length? I'd shoot for two or three pages - definitely not five. You can also check out sites like Query Tracker and Absolute Write and see if people have posted how long their synopses were when they sent them.
Bottom Line: Embrace the synopsis. You may not love it, but it's a fact of life in the publishing world. When you're published (I like to be optimistic and say "when"), you're agent will ask for a synopsis of book 2, whether it's the second book in a series or the next stand-alone book you write. We need that information to give to editors in case they ask for it, and guess what - we're not writing it for you.
Stay tuned for Monday's contest announcement!
"Lovers" will get me a 17+ rating.....I think...
So today I read a query about two 13 yr old lovers torn apart by war. I wasn't sure about the term "lovers" to describe two 13 yr olds - I mean, come on. They're 13. I Tweeted about it and got plenty of "EWW" responses, but as one Twitter follower (@KristaAshe) said, "I'd be suprised they had the depth at that age to consider themselves 'lovers' rather than 'hook ups' or 'hitting it.'"
Then @KD_Miller stated, "I'm a little late on this, but I absolutely buy the idea. Why not? Emotions are so concentrated at that age...I think it's possible for that to be the right word, depending on the characters. Your average 13 yo, maybe not. But written . .. with an eye to beauty and magic and tragedy, sure. I don't automatically assume "lover" means sex."
Someone brought up the question of "Which time period?" I don't think it matters which time period the manuscript takes place. We, as a society, have been accustomed to certain things, one which entails the fact that a child having a marriage, let alone a lover, at the age of 13 is inappropriate. While I won't say it can "never" work, I will say that (as @EditorStet put it), there is a certain "ick" factor to it.
Yea, it worked for Shakespeare, but again that was another time. Plus as so many Twitter followers pointed out, Juliet was a bit...immature (I'm really not going to delve into that).
Between Tweeted responses of "they're too young to have sex" to "but they love each other! Why not?" I think the bottom line is how one interprets the word "lover."
Chew on that....
Interpreting words brings me to the next point: Everyone interprets everything differently based on their own education, upbringing, beliefs and even how they read things (raise your hand if you're guilty of skimming through some pages in a book to get to a certain point, flip back, and realize you totally missed or misinterpreted a particular situation). Author Kirsten Hubbard wrote an interesting post on Why the Word 'Edgy" Has Lost Its Meaning . In it, she discusses how 'edgy' can range based on "what you've seen. Who you know. What you've experienced in real life. But most of all, it's relative to what you've already read." Like Kirsten says, if you jump from Meg Cabot to Melissa Marr, you might find Ms. Marr to be edgy. However if you go from Marr to Ellen Hopkins, you're gonna find Marr to be pretty tame.
Bottom line, per Kirsten: It doesn't mean we should stop pushing boundaries. We should. Just come up with a different way to describe it, since so many people take "edgy" to mean different things.
Chew on that, too...
In light of all the "what's appropriate" talk, I then ran into this link: Common Sense? The Message is Being Lost. So Barnes & Noble has teamed up with a group called Common Sense Media, whose goal is to "improve the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology."
AKA - they see something "inappropriate" and slap a rating on it.
I won't go into the long information rant, because I think the link provides one heck of a good overview; however, I will ask your thoughts on this: Do you think these new ratings on BN.com will affect authors' book sales?
Three random thoughts....somehow connected, though not exactly...but it was more interesting for me than writing about the Google Book Settlement lecture I attended last night :)
So the lovely Robin over on Twitter asked if I could discuss how social networking led to my being an agent today. So here it is...
Reading has always been my passion, and I knew that I wanted to do something publishing related. Exactly what in publishing was the question. I worked with a variety of small magazine publishers as editorial assistant, online editor, Interactive Marketer, writer, designer etc. I also worked as a professional resume/cover letter critiquer (yup), a skill that is always handy, and did some freelance web design work to help promote local bands in Florida.
When the magazine industry started to fold, I moved toward teaching and absolutely loved it. The students were amazing and I really had fun teaching English (both American and British Literature), TV Production, Yearbook, Web Design, Applied Computers, and Microcomputer Applications. On top of all that I was assistant coach for the girls' basketball team, Student Government adviser, Literary Magazine adviser, and even helped out with the swim team for a year.
Yea, I was busy. But I loved every second of it.
Eventually I knew it was time to move on and toward my goal of working within the publishing industry. So I did what *most* people do when they're at a loss: I sat down and typed in those ever-so-helpful, what-did-I-ever-do-before-it words: Google.com and I punched in something along the lines of "publishing process" or "how to get published." I figured I should know the process before applying for anything.
Out of ALL the web sites out there, this little site was the first one to pop up at the time: The Swivet. I poked around and learned so much about publishing! I never even knew agents existed - especially such honest, 'here's the good, the bad and the ugly for you' blogs written by agents. And after reading Colleen Lindsay's blog, I was linked to Janet Reid's blog, and then just kept on going. I couldn't believe there was an entire community of people who were not only so phenomenally outgoing and hilarious, but who loved to read...and read...and read!
I wanted to know more about agents and publishing and applied for jobs like crazy. But I couldn't find jobs in agenting, just with large publishers. So I decided to apply for internships, one of which I knew had to be in the same offices as Colleen and Janet - since they're basically amazing :)
Long (long) story short: I landed two internships. One with Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation (who share the same office with Fine Print) and one with Caren Johnson Literary Agency. I really cannot express how much I learned by interning with both agencies. Everyone from Joanna and Nancy to Suzie (who is also a former teacher, which is great since I can relate) to Caren and Elana were just so encouraging. I learned a lot. After a while, I was even more certain than ever before that this is what I wanted to do. Interning lead to experience, which helped boost up my resume, which eventually lead to my being an assistant with Lowenstein Associates. I was promoted to Foreign Rights Manager and then to Associate Agent with my own list of YA clients.
Some have said that with my vast background in a variety of careers* may seem odd, but I see it as experience that has helped bring me to where I am today. Without teaching, I wouldn't be able to speak in front of a crowd of people with confidence. I probably wouldn't be as insanely organized as I am now. Without working in the magazine industry first, I wouldn't have the skills to utilize marketing and online/visual applications in a way that will help my clients promote their books and create a brand for themselves.
So there's how I landed my current position...because of social networking, more specifically blogs and Twitter :) And I really thank EVERYONE (::cough::Elana, Caren, Colleen, Suzie, Jo, and Barbara ::cough::) who have helped me get to where I am today.
*I was going to do some random facts at the end of this, but I'm saving those for an interview I think I may be doing in the upcoming weeks. So check it out then.
So for your laughing pleasure, here's a "How Not to Query" video created by the lovely Kirsten Hubbard of YA Highway. I was sucked into it (after a long round of 'all the cool agents are doing it!') and....well...sometimes you just can't NO to some people like Jo and Suz....and Michelle...and Kody and Kaitlin....
Excuse me while I dive under my bed....
P.S. If you can't tell...I'm not big on being on camera...lol