Friday, August 20, 2010

Jill Alexander & Michael Bourret - Your Manuscript is Ready, But Are You?

Jill S. Alexander
Michael Bourret Literary Agent: Dystel & Goderich Literary Management

These are my notes from Jill S. Alexander & Michael Bourret's workshop at the SCBWI LA Summer Conference, 2010.

In 2008 at the NY SCBWI Conference, Jill was reading her work during a group critique session. Agent Michael Bourret was sitting in on the group. He laughed out aloud at Jill's story. Aaron Hartzler predicted he would want to represent her. They did in fact exchange contact details there. Although it didn't happen on-the-spot, this is where the relationship began.

There are things you can do to ready yourself for the time when an editor or agent contacts you. The transition from writer to author happens quickly. Agents often forget that writers don't know the steps.

Develop a web presence in some way. Facebook/web/blog. When people type your name into Google they find your hub. Update at least twice a week. People need a reason to come back. People want to find out news about you. Librarians need to contact you. Web presence not only about marketing – also a way to contact you.

Jill: I can't imagine doing this without an agent.

Your office hours. How many hours will you dedicated to facebook etc. Be prepared with a routine. Set up a calendar for school visits etc. Think of writing as a business.

The real work happens after the manuscript is sold. Think about your answers to some questions people might ask you about your story. Learn a lot about your book and yourself.

Bigger things
Overarching letter – 'big picture' letter from the editor of the changes suggested
Sentence / paragraph level – notes written on manuscript

Smaller things
Copy edits - review the copy edit symbols; there are many.

You will read your manuscript another 8-12 times. Distance yourself from it. You must be able to leave things behind.

Consider making a list of alternative titles for your book.

ARC – stands for Advanced Reading Copy. These are bound books that go to librarians, reviewers. First signing opportunity.
ARCs are expensive to produce. Talk with your editor about who they will go to. Supplies are limited. They are precious.

People may then ask you “What's next?”, referring to 'career-long', not just 'next book'. Consider this.

It's important to share what you are doing with your editor/agent. Timing is important (eg. Interviews etc). Agents are paid for you to bother them – don't be shy.

Have school presentation things in mind. SCBWI shout outs important.

Don't give away your three free copies.

You don't need to feel obliged to visit for free (schools etc). However, if you want to say “I am willing to waive the fee”, this is your prerogative. Your time is valuable.

Protect your creative think time. This is different to your writing time. It could be during your driving time. Set some office hours.

Publication date – this may be a major date to you, but emotionally be preprared that others will not care. Beware of the disappointment after the date has come and gone. Like boxing day – it's all over quickly.

Balance your family and writing commitments.

Secure a domain name. Your blog can showcase some of your writing.

If the teachers don't support you at your school talk (leave you to 'look after the class' etc.) let your agent and publisher know right away.

Some people have something else ready straight away, some people find it harder.

How do you know you will get along with your agent? Find somebody who represents the kinds of books you love. Someone who loves your voice. They light up when you talk about your book.

There are no good and bad agents, just good and bad matches.

Find an AGENT before you sign things over to editors.

If you have interest from an editor, it may make the agent move faster.

It takes more than 500 words for an agent to offer representation.

If someone doesn't seem enthusiastic about your work, they won't be enthusiastic when trying to sell it.

No comments: