Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Query done? Check. List of agents to submit to? Check...

I've accomplished the next three things on my "How to Get a Literary Agent" checklist:

1. Used to research agents and put together a list of agents who are interested in YA and open to submissions.

2. Further researched the agents who seem like they might be a good fit for what I do and selected my top twelve (couldn't narrow it down to less than that).

3. Wrote a dynamite query letter and had my critique group, SCBWI friends, and Facebook friends help me polish it until it shines!

Here's the finished query:

Dear (agent’s name goes here),

Seventeen-year-old Tracy Miller found the love of her life . . . thirty years after her own death.

Thirty years ago, Tracy was working in the House of Horrors at the Amazing Lands Theme Park when a fire broke out and quickly spread through the building. While others fled, Tracy lost her life trying in vain to save eleven-year-old Mack. Now the House of Horrors is gone, the six other ghosts who died there are gone, and only Tracy and Mack remain.

As ghosts in the park, Tracy and Mack can ride all the rides, see all the shows, smell and even taste all the food. For Mack every day is a new adventure. Tracy, however, hates the park, but unlike the other people who died in the fire with her and Mack, she can’t bring herself to go to the Light. She claims she’s sticking around for his sake, but deep down she knows it’s not true.

Then everything changes when seventeen-year-old Josh also dies in the park. At first Tracy wonders why Josh chooses to stay with them, but she soon discovers that he is in love with her. And despite her apprehensions, she finds herself falling for him too. Is their love strong enough to help Tracy overcome something that happened when she was alive, the one thing that still haunts her and stops her from going to the Light?

RIDE OF YOUR LIFE (78,000 words) won third-place in SmartWriters W.I.N. (Write It Now) Competition in 2006, which was judged by author Alex Flinn. It is a YA ghost story, similar in tone to Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones.

Editorial cartoonist, comic-strip magazine editor, arts-and-entertainment writer, and consumer columnist: I’ve been writing professionally in one form or another since 1987. My last full-time job was as the consumer columnist for The Jerusalem Post ( Most recently I wrote and edited the SCBWI Illustrator’s Market Guide. You can read more about me on my website:

As per your submission requirements, I’ve included (whatever is required for this agent and my reason for choosing this particular agent). I look forward to hearing from you!


Shevi Arnold

I have now started to print up the things I need to send, which will be personalized to explain why I've chosen to submit my novel to these agents.
Wish me luck!
PS: Someone suggested that I post my query letter on the YA Lit Chat Ning group to get help editing it. I did that, and my query received only one reply. It told me the writer would reject my query outright (without any explanation as to why), the agents on the site might be interested in it (again without any explanation as to why), and that if I wanted real advice, I should ask to be put on the "Query Kick-Around" schedule, the nearest opening for which is about a month off. In other words, the whole thing was a waste of time and an exercise in futility. I wrote a well-thought out and fair post there about my experience with the YA Lit Chat Ning group, and the moderator deleted it because they "try to keep things positive." It reminds me of that poster of the Mafia boss saying, "When I want your opinion, I'll give it to you." It's sad, really, when you consider some writers might not have the resources or the confidence I have to seek advice elsewhere. At least the YALitChats on Twitter are often interesting and informative. All this is to say, thank goodness for critique groups, the SCBWI, and Facebook friends! You've been a tremendous help. You rock!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Steps to getting a literary agent

Here's where I am on my search for a literary agent.

Steps already accomplished:
1. Wrote a dynamite outline and first few chapters of a novel
2. Got chapters critiqued by my critique group and revised accordingly
3. Took outline and chapters to conferences and got positive feedback from editors and agents
4. Submitted to a contest and won third place in the YA category--Yes!
5. Got one-on-one feedback and encouragement from an agent at a SCBWI NJ Mentoring Workshop (Those workshops are awesome!)
6. Finished writing the novel
7. Put it in the drawer for a month so I could edit it with fresh eyes one more time before sending it off (Also wrote the first draft of another dynamite book during NaNoWriMo!)
8. Gave it one last edit and made sure it's now ready to go out

Steps to accomplish now:
1. On, go through list of agents who are open to submissions and are interested in YA. Rate agents from 6-10 based on the following: how close a match their interests are to this manuscript, how open they are to other manuscripts I have, whether they've had good sales to good publishers recently (Add points to agents I like who I've met at conferences and elsewhere, as well as agents who work with writers I know.)
2. Select top 5-10 agents from my list (That's tricky with so many great agents to choose from.)
3. Write a dynamite query letter and get my critique group to help me polish it until it shines!
4. Adapt query letter for each agent on my list
5. Print up query letters, cover letters, synopses, chapters, full manuscripts--whatever each agent requests
6. Mail or email (according to each agent's guidelines) a personalized query letter or submission to each one
7. Pray!
8. Work on something else so I don't drive myself bonkers while waiting for replies
9. With each rejection letter (everyone gets rejection letters), submit to the next agent on my list and try not to sweat it
10. Don't jump on the first offer of representation. Make sure this is really the person I want to work with first
11. Read contract carefully and make sure I understand it
12. Sign contract
13. Give agent what he/she needs to get the right deal at the right house with the right editor

I'll get there one step at a time.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Agent Mary Kole is running a contest. Send the first 500 words of your MG or YA, and you could win a critique! Here's the link: