From the Author’s Chair

September 6, 2007

Author Ed Mitchell’s newsletter #45

Filed under: Newsletter — admin @ 11:20 am

From the Author’s Chair, here is newsletter #45 describing my latest ups and downs as I struggle out of the small press arena to become a best selling fiction/thriller author. The strategy: leverage the acclaim and excellent stories of my award winning released books (GOLD LUST, GOLD RAID, & GOLD FIRE ) to influence a major movie company or large press to purchase the rights to my thriller series. The following event descriptions are not polished, just true. Feel free to forward this newsletter to your friends:

>>Highlights: Query packages, Signed an agent, Gold Fire released

05-14 Sept (Up)
With the manuscript for GOLD FIRE written, it’s time for the agent query campaign. Simultaneously going to a number of agents is the best strategy since most will not respond. Over the years I’ve collected fifteen websites that provide excellent data on agents.

US Literary Agents (Everyone) is the best one for up to date contact information and confirming who is still with an agency. Plus, the web site displays letters between agents and rejected authors sending back responses. Often the sarcastic repartee is very funny.
(http://everyonewhosanyone.com/agus1.html)

The Absolute Writers Water Cooler is excellent for gaining feedback from other authors who have or are attempting to land a specific agent.
(http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=792)

Preditors&Editors provides insight into the legitimacy of agents, number of sales, if any fees are charged, etc.
(http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/peala.htm)

I’m scouring the Internet for first-string AAR qualified agents who represent thrillers. Once I find the name of a target agent, I hunt down their address as well as research books they have represented and any information about their education, work experience, etc. I file this intelligence in my agent database. My homework generates thirty-four agents, which I’ve stacked in order of who I will mail to first through last. The early ones seem to me best suited for my story. The latter ones want an exclusive submittal, which means you can’t go to anyone else for at least a month or two.

15 Sept (Up)
After two years of writing GOLD FIRE , I’m anxious to mail query packages containing cover letter, synopsis, and sample pages. But, I bridle my eagerness and first send the package to a retired agent who reviews submittal packages. Better to have an experienced eye locate flaws before I ship anything to someone who will decide on my book career.

16 Sept (Up)
Meanwhile, two copy editors are reading galley versions of my story. It is amazing that errors are always missed until the story is printed in single-space book layout. I pester the editors to find out what they think of the story (after years of writing I have no patience). Each tells me they have had a hard time editing because they are repeatedly hooked into the story, forcing them to re-read sections they are supposed to be editing. Yeaaahhh!!! This is a good sign there is magic within the pages of GOLD FIRE .

22 Sept (Down)
Received feedback from the agent reviewing the query package. This is the first time I’ve never received comments about the sample pages from the manuscript. The agent’s critique only addresses the synopsis. She wants me to do a better job convincing her that the incidents I wove together are plausible.

I learned three lessons from the submittal review:
First, when submitting to an agent, the first page of your story is actually the first page of the synopsis.

Second, if an agent doesn’t like the synopsis, then he or she will not waste their time reading sample pages. Or, if they do read the sample pages they will arrive with a sour, skeptical attitude toward the writing.

Third, I was in too much of a hurry and didn’t devote as much time writing and polishing the synopsis as I did with the story pages.

Time to revise the synopsis to avoid making the same mistake multiple times when I ship the query packages.

25 Sept (Up)
Today I mailed my first wave of e-mail and snail-mail queries. Soon, some of the best agents in America will have the opportunity to select my incredible writing or crush my soul! Actually, what happens most often is that you never receive a response from the agent. I think this is how the God teaches male authors how women feel when guys don’t call them after the first date. I’ve never done that. Honest.

To maximize the chance of getting the query read and receiving a response, I tailor each submittal based upon the intel I’ve gathered. For e-queries, the tailoring begins with the subject line since it may be screened by an assistant for immediate deletion. I hope that “Award Winning Author - Query” will slow down any evil assistants.

I work to build a hook into the first sentence of each cover letter. Some are easy to tailor to show the agents I’m a professional who’s done his research. My best was: “Given your degree in International Relations, I believe you will appreciate my international thriller, GOLD FIRE.” In some openings I mention a request the agent made at a writers conference. I update my agent database with the hook information to later learn what works or doesn’t.

28 Sept (Up)
Received an e-mail from an agent in San Diego. She wants to read the first fifty pages of the manuscript. Yessssss, an intelligent woman! This is a good sign. I try to rein in my enthusiasm.

While awaiting replies, I decided to flip chapter 2 into the chapter 1 position. Instead of beginning with the bad guy, now I’m first presenting the good guy and gal. This way the reader decides to continue on the journey through the book because they want the good characters to survive. Now, the remaining agents to receive a query will experience a different beginning. Perhaps this reconfiguration will help land an agent?

11 Oct (Down)
An agent responded! But, she didn’t believe terrorists would negotiate. $%%#!!!%&*!!

Apparently, the agent doesn’t know that the IRA terrorist organization in Ireland fought its religious enemies and the British for decades, beginning in late-1970. There, the IRA did exactly what I portray in my thriller. They formed a political arm and negotiated while fighting. Similarly, nuclear-armed North Korea and soon-to-be-nuclear-armed Iran negotiate monthly with the U.N. as well as the U.S. Should I expect an agent to know recent and current political history?

Back to revising the synopsis. This time I more clearly explain how a nuclear-armed Muslim terrorist cell could effectively blackmail nations for concessions while politically separating the U.S. from it’s allies, while simultaneously moving forward to nuke American cities. Let’s hope for better responses from the next agents I contact.

12 Oct (Up)
Received an e-mail from an agent saying, “Ed, I am going to pass, although I am sure I will regret it. It appears you are very serious about your craft and related expertise.” He recommends contacting an agent associate of his. Yeah! Apparently, the improved query package does have merit.

Again I Google for agent information. The first file that appears provides the recommended agent’s e-mail and snail-mail contact information. Yes, he handles thrillers! Next I research the authors he represents by reading praise for their books. By typing into the Google search box “Author’s name”+ praise I quickly learn the types of books the agent has sold. This allows me to develop an opening hook:

“Thomas X. Hammes in THE SLING AND THE STONE wrote about the West failing to understand and prepare for guerrilla and insurgent warfare in the 21st century. My international thriller,GOLD FIRE, presents such a scenario. What if America were forced to negotiate with a nuclear-armed al-Qaida?”

I also develop the ending kiss on the cover letter where I praise the agent to leave him feeling good about the query:

“You have a history of discovering innovative authors. I hope I’m one of them and look forward to your decision to read a larger sample of my manuscript.”

Here we go again.

12 Oct (two Up’s)
Yahoo!!! Today I received a letter from the agent in San Diego requesting the complete manuscript. She loves me! Well, maybe not but it seems that my writing keeps interesting her. She’ll now verify whether I can carry the good writing through to the end of the book. I’ll have the manuscript in the mail and on her doorstep in two days.

Also received my first-ever royalty check for an electronic book sale. Cool! I’m sneaking up on Clancy, and he doesn’t know it.

23 Oct (Neutral)
All thirty-four query packages are mailed. If I am rejected by all of those agents I still have three that only accept “exclusive” queries. The computer age aids in quickly contacting agents. This can lead to mass rejections. But hey, I’m a guy. I’m used to it.

28 Oct (Down)
One snail-mail query sent out on the 23 October traveled from California to New York City. Today I received a rejection for it with a 26th October postmark on the envelope. Which means, the day it arrived in New York it was immediately rejected. I doubt the package moved past the receiving counter. Despite the Internet intel that agent must not be accepting any new authors or non-referred authors.

10 Nov (Down)
Bad news again — another rejection letter arrived. Some good news though. She wrote: “GOLD FIRE has much to recommend it. The techno-military elements of the novel are impressive and the story concept is compelling.” Yeah!!! I can write thrillers! “Nonetheless, I will not be able to offer representation. I have reservations about using a main character, Senator Nolen Martin, given the less than salutary opinion the American public has for its political representatives.”

Despite this rejection I like this agent. She took time to explain why she felt she could not sell the book to a publisher. A good-guy politician — yeah, I know it’s a stretch. But it is a fresh approach to write about a politician who actually wants to benefit American families, not merely line his pockets with money.

15 Nov (Up)
The agent in San Diego loves me!!!! She said my writing is “excellent”. This brilliant woman has a track record of selling American thrillers in Hong Kong and recognizes that both Americans and three billion Chinese will love my writing. Just because one of the evil ones in GOLD FIRE is a mainland Chinese guy doesn’t seem to bother her. Yahooo!!!

Now I must decide, will I sign with her? Should I wait to hear from other agents I submitted to or take the first hit on my lure? Let’s see: brilliant agent – lost in fog agents … brilliant – lost … brilliant – lost. Yes, I’ll sign with her.

18 Nov (Up)
Time to review the Author-Agent Agreement. I requested some tighter wording regarding rights. I do not sign away movie, TV, & video rights. Seems a bit early for that. Plus, I have already assigned the short-run printing rights to my current publisher. The agent finds no problem with the wording I suggest.

Now that I’ve signed with an agent, I feel obligated to provide her as much ammunition as I can to make her sales job easier. I send her contact information for an associate editor at Avalon, a subsidiary of a big New York publisher, who requested to see GOLD FIRE whenever it was ready.

20-21 Nov (Up and Down)
My short-run publisher, Jack, told me that the first edition of GOLD FIRE was due into his warehouse and to start selling. The next day I receive another rejection from an agent. The agent explained that she did not think she could sell publishers at this time on a story about America being threatened by terrorists. Very helpful of the agent to take the time to write the letter. I understand why she turned me down.

24-26 Nov (Up)
I’m working long hours throughout the holiday weekend notifying buyers of the first two books in the series, that GOLD FIRE is available. Lots of e-mail chatter back and forth. Plus, I’m busy updating the website and ordering postcards to mail to past buyer who don’t have e-mail addresses. All the work is time consuming, but it is satisfying to see the sales figures rise. Jack just says “keep selling” and “sleep is overrated”. He won’t smile until he sees breakeven, when his financial commitment is covered. Typical publisher.

27 Nov (Down)
One more rejection from an agent I’ve been working to land for several years. A form letter saying: “We receive 1,000 queries a year. We only accept 100.” You didn’t make the top 10%. You suck, Mitchell! Go away. Okay it wasn’t quite that direct. But that was the message. No indication whether the book concept was saleable or not.

08 Dec (Neutral)
My agent (nice sound to that phrase) completed her pre-submittal review of my manuscript before packaging it to deliver to publishers. She did not identify any content changes, just format changes. It is a strange fact that all fiction books are printed right and left justified. But the same publishers require the author submit in left justified format. This forces a downstream reformatting. Seems counter productive in today’s electronic world, but I comply.

In case my agent meets an editor at a publishing house who is not aware of current or past political history, I send her newspaper clippings of articles reporting al-Qaida wanting to negotiate, the U.S. rejecting negotiation, and some terrorist experts claiming al-Qaida is just posturing. Gee, nearly identical to GOLD FIRE scenes. The second article reports the one-vote advantage that Democrats hold over the Republicans to select which party will control the U.S. Senate in 2007 and 08. Again, a story line close to what I present in my thriller. Now, which agent said those aspects of my story were not plausible?

12 Dec (Down & Up)
This morning I received an e-mail rejection from the William Morris agency. At least I know they read the package because I requested e-mail response in lieu of a ¢39 snail-mail. “You’ve put a lot of work into the book but we’re not enthusiastic enough about it.” Not an enjoyable way to start my day with the largest agency in the U.S. passing on my work. However, the sting from the rejection is washed away a few hours later when a fan calls to purchase the 2nd & 3rd book in my series. She told me “Your first book was the best book I’ve ever read, and I read everyone.” Eat dirt William Morris!

Actually, I’ve done well with my agent campaign. I’ve landed an agent plus received a number of replies from agents when it is a drain on their time and cash to write to a rejected author. Those correspondences show that I was nearly accepted by several agents who recognize that downstream I may send them a book proposal that they think would be easier to sell.

And the adventure continues …

——————————————
Please pass this newsletter on to your friends and colleagues. Tell anyone wanting to receive this newsletter to just e-mail me at ed@BooksByMitchell.com. However, if this letter is a bother in your hectic lives just reply back that you want to be deleted (or unsubscribe) and I’ll immediately drop you from my list.
——————————————
P.S. If you want to purchase an autographed copy of any of my books, click here:

http://www.booksbymitchell.com/books.htm

Ed Mitchell,
Charter Founding Member of the International Thriller Writers Organization and Author of:

GOLD LUST
>> Winner: National Publishers Award for BEST NEW FICTION
in the USA & Canada from a small press
>> Regional Winner: San Francisco Bay Area Independent
Publishers award for BEST MYSTERY THRILLER

GOLD RAID
>> Regional Winner: Sacramento Publisher & Authors Fiction
Award for BEST ACTION BOOK.
>> Regional Winner: San Francisco Bay Area Independent
Publishers award for BEST ACTION-ADVENTURE-THRILLER

GOLD FIRE
>> International Thriller released November 2006

Read Ch-1 of past and soon to be released books
at http://www.booksbymitchell.com
& sign up for the author’s humorous newsletter

Consultant to emerging authors
http://www.booksbymitchell.com/consulting.htm

17595 Vierra Canyon Road, #407, Salinas CA 93907
E-mail ed@booksbymitchell.com
831-663-1021 Fax 831-663-5629

Available thrillers:
Gold Rush 2000 ISBN: 0-9668447-34
Gold Lust ISBN: 0-9668447-77
Gold Raid ISBN: 0-9668447-93
Gold Raid ISBN: 978-0-9668447-26

Copyright Dec 2006

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