Writer’s 101: An Anonymous Romance Editor Spills On How To Get Your Manuscript Picked Up!
For all of our newbie author friends out there, we decided to get inside the mind of a book editor. We wanted to the editor to feel free to be candid, and they agreed to do so anonymously. This editor hails from a major Silicon Valley based literary agency, and she tells us how to get the manuscript pitch right!
If there’s a candid question you’d like answered, let us know on Twitter (@onfrolic) by tweeting us with the hashtag #WritersRoundtable
Frolic: Tell us about your role, please.
I represent debut and established authors of adult and children's literature. Categories I rep include fantasy, science fiction, romance, and thrillers.
Frolic: How many romance queries every week? Do you get back to each one? What percentage do you take?
This is difficult to answer because I receive queries from several genres at a time. I get back to each with a request to see the full, a rejection of the query, a rejection of the submission after I've read it, or an offer of representation. Clearly, it can take more time than any expectant author wants to hear. I'm reading manuscripts that run anywhere from 40,000 words to 140,000 words (or more in rare cases). Imagine trying to read a 140k book. It can't be done in a day or two when you also have other obligations to your role as an agent. I think that's frustrating for anyone waiting to hear from an agent as well as the agent who must figure out how to read so many potentially amazing books in a manageable way.
Frolic: (Assuming you have input everything correctly) Your manuscript will definitely end up in the trash if you make this unforgivable error?
Sadly, there isn't one error. In my experience, the excitement for pitching an agent and landing a book deal can mean the manuscript isn't actually ready to be queried. It's unforgivable not to polish the draft by editing and incorporating feedback from beta readers. As soon as I see several paragraphs loaded with errors and poor word choice, I stop reading and reject the manuscript. If a writer doesn't care enough to check grammar, punctuation, plot and story points, then I don't have the time to read it.
Frolic: Can you describe one (irl) great synopsis and one terrible synopsis (not specifics that are identifiable at all, but more general can be structure or any reason)
I don't spend time on the synopsis unless I've read the first 20 pages and have requested the full. I'll take a look because I'm curious (and impatient) to see where the story will go. I remember a terrible synopsis that dragged on and on, detailing what seemed to be every scene in the book. That was painful and I gave up reading it. I also recall a synopsis that stuck to the main plot points and summarized those in a way that left me ready to sink into the whole novel. The difference between those examples is the successful one provided a clean, forward-moving summary of the whole book. I saw the conflicts and tension between characters, understood what was at stake, and saw how satisfying the resolution would be. That's what you want a synopsis to do.
Frolic: What is a theme that makes you roll your eyes or feels fully played out?
I'm bored with protagonists who learn they are the long-lost daughter or son of a royal family. They suddenly have superpowers or worldly intelligence beyond their years (especially talking about YA here) that will save their kingdom or the world. Instead of the world or universe at stake, I'd like to read the more personal tales about uniting families or friendships. You know, an epic feel on a personal scale.
Frolic: What's too raunchy for you (if anything) and do you pass it on to someone else?
My personal reading tastes don't limit heat level or even gore, if we're talking horror. I've read very raunchy romances that balance a great story with unforgettable love scenes. Erotica without an interesting story is boring to me.
Frolic: What can an inspiring author do to stand out?
An aspiring writer needs to show professionalism at all times. Show an agent that they are serious about the craft and the business. I want writers seeking careers in publishing and not writers who threw some words on a page to see what happens. Get to know the agent through their preferred social media. For example, Twitter is an easy way to show shared interests with an agent. Retweet those funny memes or tag them in appropriate messages if the agent has shown an interest (i.e. the agent is a foodie, animal lover, geek, etc.).