In this excellent Writer's Market Podcast (which I just happen to co-host with my friend, Writer's Market editor Robert Lee Brewer), we interviewed popular literary agent Carly Watters. In the interview, we discussed many topics focused on writers, such as what to do when pitching an agent, what do agents do, what's the important part of platform/social media and more (you can listen to the entire interview here or here on iTunes). While there are dozens of excellent tips in the interview, which you should definitely check out, here are 5 takeaways I think are important for writers to know:
1. Never bring negativity into anything. Don't mention flaws or perceived flaws (For example, "I'm not sure if this manuscript is right for you," "This is my first time completing a manuscript," "I'm sorry for taking up your time." By writing a book you've earned a spot in a literary agent's inbox. [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!] Try to give everything a positive spin.
2. Focus on the writing and the craft and make it the best you can. You should spend at least 80% of your time writing, with the other 20% focused on building an audience online. ("I can teach platform. I can't teach writing.")
3. Engagement with your blog or social media platform is must more important than having a really large following. (It's more valuable to have people who are commenting on your work, chatting with you on Facebook or Twitter than to just have a high number of followers. People interacting are more likely to be book buyers.)
4. To get the most out of talking to an agent at a writing conference, remember to say hi and be friendly with agents during the breaks of an event. Agents human, so they like interacting with everyone without necessarily being pitched. Let agents get to know you a bit—it can only help when you go to pitch one an agent.
5. Prologues are usually unnecessary. Just start with Chapter 1. "If the information is so necessary, then don't hide it in a prologue."
If you want more great tips on what agents want and more in-depth explanations of the thoughts above, as well as advice on how to find success when entering writing competitions (not to mention some funny stories that Robert and I have in dealing with literary agents), listen to the full podcast here at WritersMarket.com or click here to listen to and subscribe on iTunes.
Plus, check out these other great interviews on the Writer's Market Podcast:
- Grants for Writers with C. Hope Clark. The founder of Funds for Writers shares advice on finding often overlooked money available for writers, tips on overcoming anxiety at conferences, and how to break into the conference circuit.
- Tax Tips for Writers with CPA Carol Topp. Learn about the best way to handle taxes, make deductions, and decide upon a business structure-for your freelance business-by listening to the advice from CPA Carol Topp.
- Building a Freelance Writing Career with Carol Tice. Super successful freelance writer Carol Tice shares her best advice for writers on how to break into new markets, make more money, and more!
- How to Start Freelance Writing with Zachary Petit. Learn tips on how to have successful interviews, make pitches, and more-from the author of The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing.
- Oprah Book Club’s First Author Gives Writing & Publishing Advice. Learn tips from someone who is both a writer and an acquisitions editor (and also the very first author chosen by Oprah for her book club).