Tuesday, October 08, 2019

What do literary agents look for in new fiction today? Also, beware of self-publishing "clones"



“iWriterly”, Meg La Torre explains “why literary agents and editors reject a book after the first page”.


She goes over seven red flags.

First, there is no conflict on the first page (she says readers today are not as patient as to layered plots as were readers in the 80s and 90s). You need to give the reader a reason to want the protagonist to succeed.

Second, you need to show rather than tell (although there is an issue with backstories – perhaps the character has a reason to relive his own backstory).  Use strong verbs and nouns with fewer adverbs and adjectives.

Third, too much backstory early (“information dumps”)

Four, not a clear sense of place and time.

Five – the adverb and adjective problem.

Six – purposeless scenes in the beginning.

Seven – misuse of observer point of view.  Consider whether the author is an omniscient observer, or a “limited omniscient observer” with a close connection to one of the characters.

I have to admit that in my manuscript “Angel’s Brother” I have “information dumps” in chapters 2 and 3.  I think my opening (with a visit to Auschwitz) is OK.  One solution:  Have the character doing something as the second (“Randy”) or third (“Sal”) chapter starts.  For example, in Chap 2, make it more apparent (in a phone call) that Randy’s relationship with his wife is stressed (maybe by his homosexuality). In Chap 3 have Sal (maybe a future boyfriend) hacking Randy with some sort of Edward Snowden technique, then go into Sal’s own backstory for clues as to how the hacking works.  I’ll cover more of this soon on my Wordpress blogs.

She has another video on proper behavior by writers, and at the end she gives a warning about publishing scams, without naming names, and says there is a difference between self-publishing arrangements (where you pay to publish but keep the rights and should have higher royalties) and vanity publishers (where you surrender the rights).  I am not sure today who would fit her definition of vanity publisher.  She also talks a little about book series trademarks and the #cockygate problem, which I'll cover in more detail at another time. 

I wanted to provide a link to a blog post by Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware on “copycat clones” of Author Solutions, because I get calls from these companies (voicemails which I don’t answer) all the time. 

Cameron Kasky (March for our Lives) has authored a lot of interesting tweets about writing in the past few days.  Just as John Fish makes videos about reading. 

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