Day 1: Ginger Clark on Agent Dos and Don’ts

Yes, I’m STILL on Day 1. Can you tell why I needed to recuperate when I returned? These are some of my notes from Ginger Clark’s talk. She’s a straight forward, no nonsense speaker and had some great suggestions.

She suggested thinking of your query letter as a business letter. It should have 3-4 paragraphs including setup, main characters and conflict. Send it to Ms. Clark, but don’t bother with “Dear Agent,” folks.

This was a fascinating idea I’d never considered: Email yourself your query to make sure it comes through without the odd ### mark. Those oddities can happen for a lot of different reasons and sometimes we have no control over it anymore than we can dictate how someone else’s computer works because that’s what’s causing the marks. The end user’s settings can change how they view your email. However, if you copy and paste your query from a main file (admit it, you do) you need to make sure you’re not sending hash marks instead of quotations, etc. Know that any unusual formatting such as italics, bold, etc. will disappear. If it’s imperative that the agent know those words need setting off, consider upper case. However, use it sparingly. UPPERCASE MEANS YOU’RE SHOUTING.

Always follow the directions for querying listed on the agent’s website. In Ginger’s case, she said sending your ms in the body of the email is fine and so are attachments, but I will ask you to re-read the opening sentence of this paragraph. You only have one chance to make a good first impression.

There’s a lot of hysteria in the mind of a writer when they’re submitting. The agent requested my ms! Must send it out. I’ll just finish the last chapter and hit SEND.

Thou shalt not do this. Don’t edit the last chapter and hit send unless it’s your umpteenth edit of your umpteenth rewrite. Polish. Perfect it. The agent wants to see your best work, not your fastest. To quote Ginger Clark: “Do revisions for however long it takes.”

Ginger did say she likes exclusives, which also means you should let her know if someone else has it on their desk. She recommended hiring an accountant after publication. Since I’m hopeless with  calculators, checkbooks and all things numerical, this sounds marvelous.

Once your ms has an editor’s interest, try to cc your agent and editor on your emails and I liked Ginger’s suggestion to have your agent proof your emails. I’m the Queen (or Empress) of ending great relationships through a poorly written letter. Just remember, the recipient cannot see your facial expression or body language, so be concise and take a conciliatory/”teach me” tone in letters to your professional contacts in general. (One study states that 7% of our meaning is carried by our word choice. That means your emails and letters have lost 93% of your intended meaning.) If your editor has managed to piss you off, contact your agent, not your editor!

A few last tips: Don’t spend your massive advance on self-promotion. It’s not worth the return. Don’t blog about the submission process, your impatience, etc. This is where your writing network and email come in handy. Don’t put your frustrations on a public board where agents and editors you’re submitting to can read what a whiner you are. 🙂

For my next blog: Day 2. (Ooooh!)

9 Responses to “Day 1: Ginger Clark on Agent Dos and Don’ts”

  1. Lola Sharp says:

    All good common sense tips.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Victoria Dixon says:

    You're right. They are good, common sense tips, yet agents everywhere say they receive mass emails addressed to "Dear Agent/Editor" and other faux pas. Do these "writers" not listen and/or do their research? It's frustrating because they make things worse for everyone else.

  3. catwoods says:

    These were great tips. I find the "don't use your advance on self-promotion" tip interesting however. I thought it would be a good use of that money.

    Maybe it just means we need to be savvier about how we spend our time and efforts.

    Thanks for the recap. I can't wait to hear more.

  4. Rachna Chhabria says:

    Victoria, thanks for these wonderful tips. I like the "don't use your advance on self-promotion" tip a lot. We writers have a tendency to do that.

  5. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks for commenting, Cat and Rachna. I don't think she was saying don't spend any of your advance, but just not to blow all of it. And to be circumspect with where you spend it. Don't bother with ads as they don't pay back enough, that sort of thing.

  6. Natalie Aguirre says:

    Great advice. I read an agent spotlight on Ginger Clark recently. She sounds like a fabulous agent.

    And thanks for checking out my guest blog post.

  7. Victoria Dixon says:

    No, problem, Natalie. It was a great interview. I'm just sorry I was so late getting there!

    Ginger doesn't strike me as a chatty-kathy sort of individual, which suits me. She netted stuff out in a succinct, un-jargoned language. I think Ginger would be a fabulous agent to anyone lucky enough to catch and keep her interest. I just hope I can. ;/ I hope to submit before the end of this week. (There went the last fingernail.)

  8. lishacauthen says:

    DON'T blow your advance on promotion? I would love to hear more about that. We're told so much that marketing is up to the author…how do we do that without a wad of cash? Maybe the size of the wad is in the eye of the…ew. I'm making myself slightly nauseous.

  9. Victoria Dixon says:

    That's SO unusual for you, Lisha! LOL

    Ok. Maybe it is unusual. It's the rest of group you usually get. ;D She wanted folks to realize that blowing the entire wad on advertisements, book tours and the stereotypical marketing ploys of days gone by are no longer cost effective. If they wever were. With the internet available now, you can do a free book tour by blog hopping, so why wouldn't you? I think that was the sort of inventive marketing she'd encourage folks to use and spend the money on updating the twenty year-old-computer that still runs on DOS. ;D

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