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Don’t let rejections get you down 🙅♀️
Today's guest is senior literary agent Alexandra Levick.
Publishing is a subjective business.
That means every author faces rejection along the way. When an agent passes on your book, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that your work is bad — it just means that it’s not the right fit for that particular agent at that particular time. Agents say “no” to manuscripts for all kinds of reasons, but the key is not to take the rejection personally. And, above all else, don’t let it keep you from writing.
Writing is a perpetual state of growth.
The most successful authors are the ones who push through rejection, confront challenges head-on, and work hard to continually improve their craft. So, don’t give up. Continue to hone your writing abilities. Strengthen your story as much as you can, and don’t let the rejections get you down.
In today’s interview, senior literary agent Alexandra Levick talks about confronting rejection (and other things that scare you), honing your craft, writing a successful query letter and getting your work ready to submit to agents.
OUR SPECIAL GUEST TODAY IS…
Senior Literary Agent
Alexandra just reopened to queries! You can submit to her via Query Tracker.
What separates a strong, successful query from one that you pass on?
In my opinion, a strong query letter sets up the character, setting, and plot effectively and thoroughly. That means we know the protagonist's want, what obstacle is in the way of that want, what action they're going to take against their obstacle in order to achieve their goal, and what is at stake for them if they don't succeed. We also need to know why THIS character; what about this person in particular ratchets up the volume on the situation they're in. And I do think it's important to remember, all an effective query letter needs to do is get someone to read the sample. That is its only goal!
What is one thing you wish emerging authors knew about the publishing industry or the traditional publishing process?
That it is a subjective business and a pass on your query or a pass later on from an editor is not someone saying your work is bad. They are simply saying this is not right for me right now. That may be because they have another similar project, or it isn't right for their tastes, or any other number of reasons, but it isn't automatically an assessment of how "good" your writing is.
What traits or qualities do you look for in a potential client?
I look for a partner who is going to be engaged with the process and is willing to learn. Writing, to me, is a perpetual state of growth and confronting things that scare you, whether that is a topic, a format, or even an age category. I look for clients who are interested in improving their craft and working with me editorially to hone their projects. Ideally, I want to continue to grow with my clients and represent them for the span of their careers!
I also love working with folks who communicate what they are feeling and ask questions. An informed author is better set up to be a successful author.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a writer who aspires to be published?
Keep writing. Don't let the noes deter you. Even if that means setting a project aside for the time being, continue to write. Continue to hone your craft. Continue to make art.
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What tips would you give authors who are trying to determine if their manuscript is agent-ready?
After you complete your manuscript, I always suggest setting it aside for a while. Let it leave your brain, and think about other creative endeavors entirely. Then, after a few weeks, come back to your project with fresh eyes. Can you clearly define the main character's want/obstacle/action against the obstacle/stakes? You'll be amazed by what you find editorially when you don't have lines of text (unconsciously) memorized. Once you've done that and edited accordingly, share with your trusted beta readers (and remember, not everyone who writes can give effective editorial feedback!). Once you've parsed through their notes to decide what resonates and made those changes, set it aside once more before you read it again. At this point, if you've taken the project as far as you can, you may be ready to test the market with some queries!