How to stand out and stay sharp as an author 🏹
Today's guest is senior literary agent Natascha Morris.
Writing is a labor of love.
As an author, you will spend countless hours writing and revising your manuscript and perfecting your submission materials. After all, it takes a unique project and well-crafted, personalized query letter to catch an agent’s attention. But even after you get an offer of representation, the work doesn’t stop. The most successful authors continually work to hone their craft, often going through several additional rounds of revision before their books go out on submission.
Learning to embrace the work will set you apart and help you be successful.
All of this hard work might sound daunting, but if you can learn to embrace it, you will be more prepared for a successful career in what can be a tough industry. And while there is a little luck involved in publishing — sometimes, it comes down to finding the right agent or publisher at the right time — by continuously sharpening your skills, you’ll be ready when the right opportunity comes along.
In today’s interview, senior literary agent Natascha Morris shares the importance of continually studying the market and improving your craft if you want to stay sharp and stand out as an author.
OUR SPECIAL GUEST TODAY IS…
Senior Literary Agent at The Tobias Literary Agency
Natascha is currently looking for YA prose novels and MG and YA graphic novels. Queries can be sent to her here.
What separates a strong, successful query from one that you pass on?
The best advice I can give is to remember your query letter is the foundation that could eventually be the copy on the back of the book. So reading a lot of flap copy helps get you in that mindset. Also, a query letter is essentially a cover letter. You need to personalize it to the agent to show why you know that agent will love it. Remember that agents are readers. Not all readers will love your book, but appeal to the reader in the agent. And you do that by knowing what project the agent has represented, what their #MSWL is, even what books/shows they might have mentioned on social.
What's the biggest challenge facing debut authors today, and how do you help your clients overcome it?
This might change for every agent answering, but I think the market saturation and bookstores taking less books is a big one. To stand out, you have to really have a unique project, or something that falls in line with what people are buying. I encourage my authors to send me pitches and then from that we try to pick stronger projects. And we continually study the market: what is getting bought; what do we see missing in certain categories.
Can you share a client success story or a motivating anecdote for writers who feel may discouraged about publishing?
I have one client who was previously represented. With that agent, they put out 2 books on sub, and wrote a third that the agent wasn't fond of. Nothing seemed to stick on sub, and the client was feeling discouraged. When she signed with me, we took out that third book and sold it. Sometimes it is the alchemy of right time, right person, right circumstances. Many of my clients will tell you that.
What traits or qualities do you look for in a potential client?
I like to say "command, don't demand". So I look for clients who do the work (drafting, revising, etc.); do it well; and command attention by continuing to hone their craft. Nothing is owed in publishing, so knowing you always have to stay sharp is important. I also really love clients who are willing to try their hands at new mediums. Some of my best books came out of clients trying their hand at new things and remembering a sense of play.
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What is one piece of advice you would give to a writer who aspires to be published?
Learn to love revision. Once an agent signs you, you probably have 3 rounds of revisions (give or take), and then once you sell you are going to be revising even more. Revision is the name of the game over here.
Approximately how many queries do you receive per year, and how many of those result in an offer of representation?
Gosh, I don't know on this one. I average about 300 a month (when I am open) and I probably request about 1-2% and offer on even less. It is not that manuscripts aren't good; there are a lot of factors into why I might request and sign.
Looking forward to reading your "How to Pitch a Book" article - have been a Youtube subscriber for some time. :)