Querying Agents: Should you Hire an Editor First?

So you’ve completed the first draft of your novel, edited it the to best of your abilities and now you’re ready to query. Maybe you’re further along than that – perhaps the rejections have started rolling in and you’re wondering if you should hire a professional. And here is the important question: Would hiring an editor help you get representation from an agent or perhaps even lead to becoming published?

After my recent one-to-one with an editor I’ve battled with this question. Some of the advice I received resonated with my gut instinct. Great. Whilst other parts I’ve debated with my betas, toyed with changes and generally procrastinated over. Who’s opinion should I trust more, someone in the industry for 20yrs or just little, blundering novice, me.

On Friday I attended a writing conference with a fellow blogger from Uninspired Writers and we had two agents from Greene & Heaton give us their opinion on the matter. Working with any professional can be a costly matter, which may well be outside of many writers grasp.

But a far more interesting point was; agents are used to working with writers who have a rough draft, it’s their job to know how to edit a manuscript to make it shine. Provided your MS is polished to it’s best and has no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. By implementing an editor’s changes you’re effectively adding a third persons subjectivity to the mix. You may end up editing out parts that the agent would have loved and add elements they hate.

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These points aligns with previous advice I’ve heard, which is, by working with an editor before submitting your manuscript, it is no longer authentically yours. Because it has been enhanced by someone else. The agents may well assume your work is up to scratch only to discover that it is not.

I think these pose an interesting conundrum. Who amongst us wouldn’t want to jump the queue and get ahead? But is that really benefiting us in the long haul. On the other hand, having areas in our manuscript highlighted as weak by an editor, critique partner or beta, especially if we had a niggling feeling it was, can only benefit us.

Remember advice is subjective, an agents preferences is subjective, heck this blog post is subjective.

Listen to that inner voice and have faith in your journey. If you want to work with an editor, do it and learn from it. If you’re struggling with someone’s feedback, because you believe those elements are integral to your story, listen to your gut instinct and leave them in your story.

You are the master creator of your world – in fiction and reality.

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Have you heard similar advice from professionals? Or have you worked with an editor and known in your heart their changes would help or hinder your story? If so, share them with me, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
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Dear Manuscript: It’s not you. #pitchwars

I’ve been assessing my position from the query trenches with over 50 rejections. Phew! That was hard to admit. But I’m ok with that number because I’m constantly strengthening my work before sending back it in the world. Today I thought I’d share some of the reasons why manuscript gets rejected which have nothing to do with writing abilities.

Book Petals Love Writing Novel Author Lorraine Ambers

Recently I entered Pitch Wars, a competition to be mentored. On average I’m competing with 300 authors for each mentor I’ve submitted to, meaning my chances are slim. This echoes the same stakes as sending a submission to agents. Competing with hundreds of other applicants for the chance to win an agent.

Now I love twitter, it’s fast paced, honest, and has some great tips for writers. And what I love most are the amazing threads that come up offering a glimpse into the minds of mentors and agents.

One of this year’s Pitch Wars mentors is Adalyn Graces. She tweeted: ALSO, if you get 0 requests, it isn’t always because of your submission material. Some possible reasons:

-We are writing or plan to write something with a similar concept.

-The concept just isn’t right for us in that moment

– It could also be a mood thing. Or that a mentor only wanted to request 10 manuscripts out of 300. Literally there’re so many reasons. It’s never a bad idea to get more eyes on your work to see what you can strengthen, but sometimes it’s not about your material.

 

The Magicians - Quentin meme

Another Pitch Wars mentor, Kim Chance (read her interview with Ari Meghlen) tweeted: No requests in NOT an indicator of the quality of your work. There are just SO many factors that go into the decision to request or not. The talent this year is incredible and the mentors are so proud of you and your hard work.

Over at Jason Hine’s blog he sheds some light on why our stories are loved but just not enough to be chosen. For peace of mind and inspiration I suggest you take a look.

https://www.jasonhine.com/blog/2018/9/5/pitchwars-insights-reading-for-the-one

Last weekend I attended a Writers & Artist writing event, where I met the fellow blogger M.L. Davis. She’s a fantastic writer and superb beta partner. Together we absorbed the advice from  a panel of agents answering some of the elusive questions surrounding their Slush Pile and demystifying the process.

About 80% of the queries/ cover letters end up straight in the bin. Simply because the writer hasn’t taken the time to do their homework. So be sure to address the letter to the correct agent and make sure they represent your genre.

Sometimes the concept or voice is too familiar to them. Perhaps they’re already working with someone who’s wrote something similar. Maybe the planets aren’t aligned or they woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Every agent, publisher or mentor is just a person with individual likes, dislikes and ideas.

Keep writing. Don’t stop believing in yourself and chase your dreams. I have faith in you.

Author Lorraine Ambers - YA fantasy romance writer

What are your thoughts on receiving rejections? And dare you admit to how many you’ve had. I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2018.
Creating a Logline for a Novel, The Perfect Pitch

Query writing tips

I’ve been stuck in the query trenches for a long time. I’m determined to be represented by an agent and my perseverance has taken me on quite a journey. My next step is to submit to American agents. I’m finding this process similar yet different. Let me explain.

Unlike British agents who ask for a synopsis of one page. Agents in America tend to allow 3-5 pages. Meaning on top of revealing the plot, character arcs can be shown. Read my post How to Write a Synopsis for more details.

paper pen writing novel author fantasy Lorraine Ambers

Agents in America will only ask for a partial or full manuscript based on the query. Some agents ask for the first five pages of your novel, perhaps the first chapter – but no more. It’s a great way to ensure that writers utilise every word in a concise and intriguing way.

The query pitch has a slightly different format too. Over at Query Shark, hundreds of queries are critiqued by willing participants. The agent’s comments are brutal but honest. By reading through examples you can learn the best way to introduce your main character, how to reveal the stakes and let the reader  care. Of course, it goes without saying, a great hook is universal. And knowing your premise is the first place to start.

I highly recommend my fellow writers to take a look. Even if you’re planning to self-publish, the tips are helpful for blurbs too – the writing on the back cover of a novel that entices readers to by your book.

Happy writing fellow authors.

Remember, for dreams to work – you must too.

Author Lorraine Ambers - YA fantasy romance writer

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Discovering my story’s premise

Every story has a beating heat. And though every story has been written before, it has not been written by you. Therefore, each story takes on a unique premise. Now I’ve hear this a million times, but honestly I’ve only just grasped the concept. The importance of hooking readers with the premise, by either immediately revealing it or by sowing the seeds throughout the opening pages. Allowing the premises butterfly effect to ripple through your story.

If you like, it’s the first building block of your story. I thought I knew my story. I thought I’d nailed my hook. I was wrong.

YA fantasy romance Author Lorraine Ambers Desk

If you’re struggling to identify your premise, then read this great post on: How to Find Exactly the Right Story Hook by Helping Writers Become Authors. It’s written eloquently with great examples. Honestly K.M Weiland is my go to bible for writing tips.

I didn’t know this until I sent my submission package to a literary agent to be critiqued. A service Writers & Artists provide. I’d come to a dead end with my first MS. It has been rejected by 30 agents with no feedback. It was either shelve it and focus on my second novel, or give it one last attempt. And I’m not a quitter.

Debut Novel NA fantasy Author Lorraine Ambers Beta Reader

So I took a bold move and opened myself up to feedback from Sallyanne Sweeney from MMB Creative. She taught me a valuable lesson about the first few chapters. I hadn’t introduced the premise. I hadn’t introduced my hook. Therefore, I hadn’t rewarded my readers with the foreshadowed inciting moment. Which also came in too late, chapters 4 and 5. Huge mistake!

I had opened with a fast paced scene believing that was the premise. Wrong. It was simply the first domino effect of my story. Then my story floundered to world build, without teasing the reader with my premise. Therefore the story lacked enough tension to drive the plot forward to the all-important inciting moment. The protagonists call to adventure.

Now, I knew what was coming… but my readers had no clue…. worse still, they might have given up and put the book down.

Once I discovered my premise, the revisions came easily. And now the antagonist, the conflict and goal are easily identified within the first few paragraphs. And my story is much stronger for it.

Thanks for reading and best of luck with your WIP. Remember, failure is proof that you’re trying. Don’t ever be afraid to grow and learn. 🙂

Author Lorraine Ambers - YA fantasy romance writer

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Why rejection is important?

Writers need to deal with rejection. The industry we work in is subjective and competitive. Striving for greatness comes at a cost, usually to our pride.

Recognition is important for everyone. Unfortunately artists tend to get the least amount, unless you’ve made it to the top. I haven’t I’m still way down in the trenches, striving for that elusive goal of being appreciated for my craft.

desk writing novel author Lorraine Ambers

I submitted my debut novel to ten agents. At the time my writing was the best I could achieve. So I sent my book baby off and used my excited/ anxious energy into creating the second in the series. Four months later, that driving force of anticipation had manifested into book two of The Shadow Knight Series. Amazing.

When all of the submissions came back with a polite ‘Not what we’re looking for.’ or ‘We don’t think your material is the right fit for us.’ I took a look at my submission package.

I was surprised to find my writing had improved. I cringed at my old material. The rejections morphed with my inner critical voice and attacked. We’ve all been there and it’s brutal. Rejection hurts. We get stressed out, upset and frustrated. That’s a useful tool.

writer worry rejection author Lorraine Ambers

This is where rejection can actually be useful. The driving force behind the hurt and disappointment allows us to re-evaluate and try again.

Remember: Successful people have made it because they didn’t give up.

Fear not, with the right mind-set and some initiative and introspect we can turn things around. By taking control of the situation, we can turn that negativity into something positive. Next time we’ll do better, or learn to be better. This isn’t the end of the road, it’s a bump in the path.

To paraphrase Samuel Beckett: fail again, fail better.

I revised the first 10,000 words, three more times. I’m confident that at this moment in time I have done my best. Who knows, maybe after revising book two, I’ll realise that I’ve grown some more. That can only be a good thing.

Conquer fear Author Lorraine Ambers

Keep going. Have faith and above all else believe in yourself.

Have you learnt any valuable lessons from rejection? If so, tell me about them. We’re all in this together and I’d love to hear from you.

Author Lorraine Ambers YA fantasy romance

© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2016.
water sunset beach fantasy writer Lorraine Ambers

Look how far you’ve come

 

love pen book tea - Author Lorraine Ambers fantasy writer

Four months ago I finished my first novel and submitted my book baby to a select few literary agencies. It’s equally exciting and nerve wrecking. Patience is proving not to be my strong suit, especially when I’m awaiting a reply from an agent who has blogged that it will take her a lot longer if she’s torn on a MS.

While part of me pats my shoulder for at least hooking an agent, the other half is wondering if my submission ever made it to her slush pile. As I’m not planning on embarrassing myself by asking for confirmation, I’ll have to hang tight.

During these months I’ve busied my obsessional brain by starting book two of the Shadow Knight Series. I’ve almost finished! I know how I’m going to tie up the two remaining subplots to conclude this novel, but my writings floundering. I’m dragging out scenes and adding pointless interactions with characters. I know why, fear, I never planned on finishing the novel so fast.

Book Petals Love Writing Novel Author Lorraine Ambers

I heard a great mantra today, ‘Look how far you’ve come and not how far you have to go.’ It put my author career into perspective. Three years ago I joined a creative writing class to discover my sense of self. Six months later I discovered my niche and started a rough draft of my first novel.

During the past two years I’ve designed my brand, built my platform and as of a year ago launched my blog. Thank you to my 400 followers; you’ve been a constant source of encouragement and kindness.

Most of us writers have family and work commitments that need to be juggled. Looking at the bigger picture, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come in a short amount of time.

So take a look at your own journey and congratulate yourself on your hard work and dedication. You deserve it.

Drop me a message; tell me about your progress. We’re all on this journey together and I love hearing from you.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers & http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2016
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