Letters to the Editor :) Q&A

Letter
(c) Garry Wilmore, Flickr

I gathered a decent collection of questions over the last few weeks/months, and while I try to answer them individually, some questions an answers are worth posting in public for the benefit of others.

Here are a few of them.


My first book has been out for less than a month, with KDP select. (…) Supposing I have another book out in a few months, which I will, do you think it’s worth waiting until then to do the second promotion?

Definitely. A book in a series is far more popular with readers. The possibility to try the first volume of a saga is irresistible; a stand-alone book is just not rewarding enough for the effort of downloading.

Did you try to have your free promo days coincide with author interviews, or guest posts on blogs?

Not really. Unless you can secure a place on a blog with several thousand daily views, the boost from these is insignificant. You really need to reach thousands of readers; even if you gain a hundred downloads from a guest post (which I find unlikely – the conversion rate for blog posts is minimal) it’s nowhere near enough to make a difference.

How long do you stay on KDP select before the returns diminish? I’d like to leave them after six months.

I did not yet get to that point. There are millions of readers out there, and I feel I’ve only really scratched the surface.

What does diminish are returns from paid ads. The Big Four (PoI, ENT, KND and BookBub) serve an audience that is relatively big, but not infinite. Sooner or later everyone who’s subscribed to these services will have seen your ad, and then you have to come up with another way of reaching your audience.

Note that many writers have one of their books free permanently – and the popular ones keep being downloaded just as they have been on day one. So the potential for giveaways is enormous.

How did you get a review from Publisher’s Weekly? I thought they only did trad pub books. 

I’ve reached semi-finals of ABNA in 2012. A reward for that is a review from PW.

That said, PW now offers paid packages for indies in their “PW Select” program, which include an official review. They are a bit too expensive for my taste, though. If you’re interested, you can find the details here.

Did the promos and free downloads result in more reviews for your books? And did those free downloaders have good things to say, or was it, “I like romance! This isn’t romance! One star!”?

Yes and yes. I got three times as many reviews for Vol. 1 as for Vol. 2 and 3, which were never on Select, so it certainly helped. And yes, I got some bad reviews for vol. 1 from people who obviously didn’t care for the genre or the type of the story, and happened upon my book by pure accident.

I want to know who did your book covers. I love the pseudo-anime art style! I’d like to hire them for my own book covers, if possible. 

I’ve worked with three great artists so far. The covers to “The Shadow of Black Wings” and “The Warrior’s Soul” was drawn by Sakimichan. The cover to “The Islands in the Mist” (and upcoming “The Rising Tide”) was created by Sulev Daekazu, and the cover to “Dragonbone Chest” was drawn by Collette J Ellis.

I’ve just begun using Goodreads as a serious method of promoting my writing, and as a fellow writer, I was wondering if you have any advice you can provide regarding obtaining more reviews and reads?

These days there are many places where you can look for reviewers; simply Google “indie book reviews” and follow the first few links. You can also look for dedicated groups on Goodreads, like Making Connections.

Two things to keep in mind: 1) good reviewers will always be busy (booked for months ahead). Be wary of anyone who has free slots immediately (unless they’re just starting) or even solicit reviews themselves. There’s always a catch. And 2) never pay for reviews. The only acceptable fee is a free copy of your book. (unless you’re fully aware of the dodgy moral implications of the move and decide to do it anyway. Then my only advice to you is: make sure you get good value for your money).

I offer poetry collections that are available in full on Goodreads and a couple external sources, as they’re non-profit. Any tips?

I’m afraid I know next to nothing about selling poetry. I can only guess that unless you’ve won some prestigious contests and started featuring in magazines, it will be impossible to earn anything decent (and even then it will be difficult. Poetry does not sell).

As a fellow author I’d be really interested in any advice or tips you could offer. Thanks a lot and great job!

Keep reading my blog! 😉 I’ll be writing about giving good and bad advice in my next post (and a list of places where you can find good advice), so that may be useful for you.

Please let me know when “The Rising Tide” is available.

I’m aiming for an April release, but whether it will be nearer the beginning or the end of the month, I cannot say (but let’s assume the end, to be on the safe side :).

I have a query concerning formatting ebooks. When I paste in the code above the body tag as per point 3 in the first article, I get the following I/O error message: Cannot save: java.io.CharConversionException: Failed to encode the character ‘″’ (U+2033) at column 19 in line 1 with the encoding “windows-1252”. Have you any thoughts why this might be?

In JEdit, go to Utilities -> Buffer Options -> Character Encoding – Switch to UTF-8

Contact phone number. How long have you been business . Number of books you format each year. Thank you Odinhouse.

Uh… I’m sorry, do we know each other? Also, my name is not Odinhouse…

Agent’s feedback

I’ve received feedback for the entire manuscript from one of the agents. Yay! She didn’t think it right for her. Boo! But she loved the language and world-building – double yay, considering I’m writing in my second language.

The plot is too slow, not suspenseful enough, too many characters. These are all valid points, I guess. I’m still waiting for four more feedbacks – two beta readers, one paid editor and PW’s review for ABNA. I expect them to be on similar topics, really. By the end of this month I should have a lot to think about for the next redraft.

 -*-

I’m slightly losing track of my rejections. One from Marsh Agency, one more from Marjacq.

More Rejections


Only twothree more rejections lately:


27.02 – Conville & Walsh (snail mail)


They say they ‘read it with interest’ and ‘enjoyed it’ but it’s not for them.

27.02 – Toby Eades Associates (nicest letter so far)

Thank you for writing to us about your work and apologies for the delay in getting back to you.
Although it promises to make for an enjoyable read, unfortunately we do not feel that it is quite right for our agency, but we wish you every success in finding representation elsewhere.

(There’s a blurb in there somewhere, if I were feeling naughty 😉

22.02 – Laura Dail Literary Agency

Please forgive this impersonal note but the high volume of correspondence makes it difficult for us to respond to you personally. Thank you for your query. Unfortunately it doesn’t match what we are looking for at this time. We hope other agents feel differently.


And the reward for the rudest agency goes to…

Anubis LLA.

Just a scribbled ‘Not for us’ on the margin of the cover letter.

The hell…?

If you can’t be bothered so much, why do you insist on snail-mail submissions? Those things cost money, you know.

*

Only one other rejection this week, from Kirsten Wolf of Wolf Literary Services. Standard rejection, but much nicer in tone than most.

Rejections summary 1

11.02 – London Independent Books (s-mail)

We regret, however, that they did not quite ‘click’ with us and it is for this reason that we are returning them to you as we do not like to take on material which we cannot sell with total enthusiasm.

11.02 – Felicity Blunt, Curtis Brown (s-mail)

Although the premise of the story is interesting, I unfortunately did not connect to writing itself the way I would need in order to take it on today’s tough fiction marketplace.

09.02 – Nelson Agency

Thank you so much for sending the Nelson Literary Agency your query. We’d like to apologize for the impersonal nature of this standard rejection letter. On average, we receive about 100 email query letters a day and despite that, we do read each and every query letter carefully. Unfortunately, this project is not right for us. Because this business is so subjective and opinions vary widely, we recommend that you pursue other agents. After all, it just takes one “yes” to find the right match.

07.02 – Frances Collin

Thank you for your query. Unfortunately we do not think the project is right for us.

We receive so many queries that it is not possible to reply in detail on an individual basis. We appreciate your writing and wish you success in your publishing career.

06.02 – Barry Goldblatt

Thank you for your query. Unfortunately, your manuscript doesn’t sound like something that’s right for us. We wish you the best of success in placing your work elsewhere

31.01 – Donald Maas

As to your material I’m afraid I will be passing — I’m just not enthusiastic enough about the concept of your story to feel that I’d be the right agent for the project. I realize it is difficult to judge your potential from a query; nevertheless please know that I give serious attention to every letter, outline, and writing sample I
receive.

30.01 – Marjacq

Thank you for your submission to Marjacq Scripts.
Unfortunately, we did not feel that the agency could place this successfully on your behalf.
May we wish you the best of luck in your search for representation.

30.01 – Robert Kirby

Many thanks for your email. Robert is currently focussing on nonfiction projects so is not taking on any fiction.

Sending queries, day 3

I found a couple more US agents that accept e-mails and seem worthwhile, so here they go.
I don’t hold much hope for any of these, as most of them require just a pitching letter, which I’m not that good at writing.

1. Scott Hofman at Folio Literary Agency

Commercial fiction offering. Query letter sent via form.

2. Frances Collin

Fantasy offering. Query letter.

3. Russel Galen at Scovil, Galen & Ghosh

Fantasy offering. Query letter.

4. Ethan Ellenberg Agency

Fantasy offering. Query letter, synopsis and first three chapters in the body of the mail.


5. Barry Goldblatt Literary

Fantasy offering. Query letter, synopsis and first five pages in the body of the mail.


6. Nelson Literary Agency

Fantasy offering. Query letter.

7. Nicole LaBombard at Rees Agency

Fantasy offering. Query letter and first ten pages in the body of the mail.


8. John Silbersack at Trident Media Group

Fantasy offering. Query letter and a brief synopsis.

Sending queries, day 2

Summary of the snail-mail queries sent:

1. Anubis Literary Agency

Fantasy offering. Query letter, brief synopsis and three chapters, sent to submissions department.

2. Artellus Literary Agency

Fantasy offering. Query letter, synopsis and three chapters, sent to submissions department.

3. London Independent Books

Commercial fiction offering. Query letter, brief synopsis and two chapters, sent to Ms Carolyn Whitaker.

4. Conville & Walsh

Commercial fiction offering. Query letter, synopsis and three chapters, sent to submissions department.

5. David Higham

Commercial fiction offering. Query letter, synopsis and three chapters, sent to submissions department.

6. Dorian Literary Agency

Fantasy offering. Query letter, brief synopsis and three chapters, sent to submissions department.

7. Ms Felicity Brown, Curtis Brown

Young adult offering. Query letter, synopsis and three chapters.

8. Mic Cheetham

Fantasy offering. Query letter, synopsis and three chapters, sent to submissions department.

9. Watson Little

Commercial fiction offering. Query letter, synopsis and three chapters, sent to Ms. Sallyanne Sweeney.

10. Writers House (USA)

Young adult offering. Query letter and brief synopsis.

***
Got one more rejection e-mail – from Donald Maas Agency. Too bad, I was hoping they’d show some interest given their usual offering.

First rejections

Well, that was fast! Why can’t all agencies switch to e-mail submissions, again?

Robert Kirby’s assistant said he doesn’t do fiction anymore. Too bad, I liked Kirby’s set of clients.

Marjacq managed to assess my query in half a day and deem it unsuitable. Fair enough, they only had one young adult fantasy book on the clients list, and it doesn’t seem to sell well.

Sending queries, day 1

Today I’m starting sending out the queries. First on the list are the e-mail ones, starting with the UK-based agents.

1. AP Watt agency
 A commercial fiction offering. Query letter and synopsis sent to Mr Jon Elek

2. Ariella Feiner of United Agents

A young adult offering. Query letter, synopsis and 10,000 words excerpt.

3. Darley Anderson

A young adult offering. Query letter, brief synopsis and three chapters, sent to Ms Madeleine Buston

4. Greene & Heaton

A young adult offering. Query letter, synopsis and three chapters, sent to submissions department

5. Anthony Harwood

A commercial fiction offering. Query letter mentioning Alison Goodman, sent to submissions department

6. John Jarrold

A fantasy offering. Query letter mentioning Temeraire and Havemercy and 6 chapters.

7. Marjacq agency

A commercial fiction offering. Query letter, synopsis and three chapters, sent to Mr Philip Patterson

8. Marsh agency

A commercial fiction offering. Query letter, synopsis and three chapters, sent to Ms Hannah Ferguson via online form.

9. MBA agency

A fantasy offering. Query letter, synopsis and three chapters, sent to submissions department

10. Robert Kirby of United Agents

A commercial fiction offering. Query letter, synopsis and three chapters. Note: Kirby is Rob Brydon’s agent. Use it somehow? 😉

11. Rogers, Coleridge & White

A young adult offering. Query letter, synopsis and three chapters, sent to Claire Wilson

12. Toby Eady Associates

A commercial fiction offering. Query letter, synopsis and three chapters, sent to submissions department

13. Wade & Doherty

A fantasy offering. Query letter mentioning David Gemmell, synopsis and 10,000 words excerpt sent to Ms Broo Doherty

Next are US-based agencies accepting e-mail:

1. Inkwell Management

A commercial fiction offering. Query letter and two chapters in the body of e-mail sent to submissions department

2. Jill Grinberg

A young adult offering. Query letter mentioning Westerfeld and Goodman, and 50 pages excerpt

3. Laura Dail agency

A young adult offering. Query letter, brief synopsis and 5 page excerpt sent to submissions department

4. Maas Agency

A fantasy offering. Query letter, brief synopsis and 5 page excerpt in the body of e-mail sent to Ms Jennifer Jackson

5. Matt Bialer

A fantasy offering. Query letter, bio, synopsis and three chapters.

6. Kristen Wolf agency

A commercial fiction offering. Query letter and three chapters sent to Kristen Wolf

Phew. That’s a lot of work. Over the week I’ll be sending out the snail-mails – 10 agents altogether.

Edit: 7. Scott Hoffman of Folio Lit

A fantasy offering. Query letter sent via website form.