Thursday, 5 May 2016

Can a writer get an agent through pitching queries?

Can a writer get an agent through pitching via their submission guidelines?

No not that sort of pitch
The first question I ask myself is, can I even get an agent submitting to them through the slush pile? There’s growing evidence that pitching to agents at writer’s conventions is the only way to go. Personal contact is key to securing an agent, but since I live in Australia and I’m not heading to New York in the near future, submitting via the agent’s submissions inbox is the only way I can do this. And I have to believe that it’s possible, otherwise why would agents even have a submissions page?

My husband is a fisherman, and there’s a saying he tells his clients. You’ll catch more fish with more lures in the water. And he’s right. When I first began pitching to agents, I had written one novel. So everything hinged on landing a publishing deal with one novel. I was lucky in that The Bird With The Broken Wing was accepted by a publisher after 18 pitches to a mixture of agents and publishers. It was accepted by a small press publisher, Etopia Press, and to me it was the biggest deal of my lifetime. We all start somewhere and this was my start. I pitched my second YA  novel Feedback straight to Etopia Press and they accepted it. They passed on my third YA novel Little Red Gem, and this book was the one I submitted to over 100 agents and it was not picked up by anyone.

Lesson 1 learned from this pitch. You can’t sell ice to an igloo. I was pitching this as paranormal romance and the editors were sick of PNR.

Lesson 2 learned from this pitch. I didn’t know my genre.

Still the wrong type of pitcher

It can’t be paranormal romance because the chick didn’t end up with the guy, she rebuffed him. It’s technically fantasy/magical realism but I hadn’t heard of that genre. Currently there are many publishes and agents seeking magical realism so I will begin pitching Little Red Gem as this genre, but then I love the book and the cover so much that I’m still considering keeping this self published. I gotta say, it’s nice to have the choice.

Not long after I self published Little Red Gem, Etopia Press dropped their YA range so the rights for two YA novels reverted back to me. Now I had three YA titles to pitch, but I decided to go with self publishing them all so I could focus on writing for adults.

What’s the difference for me with pitching at them moment? For a start, I have one adult sci-fi novel currently being pitched to agents, with a few requests for full manuscripts and partials. And I’m a few weeks off finishing a different stand alone book that I will pitch to these very same agents. Because this book is a very similar genre, I’ve already done the ground work of establishing who I can submit queries to. And since I’ve been able to generate some interest already, and I’ve introduced myself, it should look good on my part that I’m able to provide a second book rather quickly. And I can also still pitch my three YA novels if I come across a publisher or agent who is interested. So that’s five lures I’ll have in the water to (hopefully) attract a big fish.

April's efforts to pitch of my sci-fi apocalyptic series were once again worthwhile, even though unsuccessful. I've submitted to 39 agents, received 6 nos, and one request for a partial. So off went 50 pages to this agent. I’ve got my fingers crossed that he likes enough to request the entire manuscript. I’m still submitting via the submissions guidelines. I have to believe I can be successful this way.
Still the wrong type of pitcher. No wonder I'm getting stuck.

Overall, I believe an agent is the way for me to go with my current books. They are for broad markets and agents can provide access to publishers with a far greater reach than I can muster up. Agents are also far quicker at saying no than publishers. Yet, here are two important tips for anyone venturing down the same road as me.

Important tip 1 - Do not use the agent as your critique buddy. Only submit the work you think is at its final stage.

I submitted my sci-fi apocalyptic novel to the first round of agents believing the book was finished. It was not (though in my defence I thought it was), and I had to do major reworks when I received critique from an agent. It’s mortifying to have an agent give you critique. This should have been done earlier. There is no second bite of the cherry. I can’t resubmit the same book, but that’s okay, a different book is almost ready to go. I’m applying that old saying, I’ll catch more fish with more lures in the water. And since I’ve done all the ground work already, I can’t wait to get this manuscript finished and pitched to these agents.

Important tip 2 – if you are going to submit to agents and publishers, always submit to agents first.

Often, agents will pitch to the same publishers as you have already done, and if a publishers says no to you, they’re not going to say yes to an agent. Never. You should be aiming to widen the net, not closing it up. So exhaust all agent queries before submitting to publishers.

As they say, it takes only one agent and/or publisher. And that’s all I want. One agent and/or publisher. I’m not begging, but really I am.

I’d love to hear your story of landing an agent and/or publisher. Have you got any tips or advice to share?

Here's a look at the two pitching sessions for the same novel. The original version and the reworked version.

Original manuscript (pitched June 2015)

Query 46
No 23
Partial 1
Full 1
No reply 22
critique  1

Reworked manuscript (pitched April 2016)

Query 39
No 6
Partial 1
Full 0
No reply 0
critique  0

Friday, 15 April 2016

Why are dystopian books so popular?

I've just returned from grocery shopping. There were two little mishaps - I parked the car, got out, realized I'd left my cash at home. Then after I'd gone home and gotten the cash walked up to the supermarket I found there was not a single shopping trolley. Aside from these two little mishaps, the grocery shopping experience was uneventful. I found many items marked down on sale that I could freeze for another day. Stocked up on loads of goodies for the pantry. All in all, an uneventful, same old, everyday occurrence that millions of us take for granted.

I paid $150 for food that will be eaten in a week, perhaps scorned at, critiqued, not eaten, devoured hungrily, most importantly, taken for granted that all this will happen again next week. No wonder I see food shopping as pointless and boring. And if I find it boring and pointless, I'm sure there are other who do too.

We no longer have to fight or hunt for our food. All the tribal, primal, animalistic components have been cauterized, homogenized, and organized. No wonder dystopian novels are so popular. Characters have to fight for food, there's often the kill or be killed mentality, pushing others aside for the last scraps of food and water. Humanity is stripped away and we have to fight to keep it. In the modern world, there is no need to fight.

Just to treat you to the types of books I'm talking about there is a fantastic site called The Best Sci Fi Books. I recently found this post from September 2014 highlighting 96 Dystopian Science Fiction Books that are all on my must read list. I've read a few, and I must say I love dystopian worlds. And I think I know why. Our blessed lives lack the life or death challenges, they lack the hunt, the hunger, the fight for survival.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying I want world war to break out and coupons to become a way of life. I don't want to fear for my life as I make a cup of tea. Nor do I want to eat stale crackers and spoiled food.

But our love of dystopian fiction makes me wonder that perhaps we humans like the idea of chaos in our lives, to remind us that while we have evolved, we are still of flesh and blood.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Book covers and genres

I should be an analyst because I love to see changes in the market place. One change I've noticed recently is the humble book cover. I'm talking about YA book covers at the moment. They are starting to become a little more contemporary.

Three years ago all the YA covers featured girls in gowns. Seriously, ever second book had a girl in a gown. I even wrote an article about it and the article appeared in the NSW Writers Centre member magazine.

This was around the same time I was submitted Little Red Gem to agents and publishers. It's a paranormal story because it features magic, astral projection, and ghosts, but it kept getting rejected because, and I quote, "editors are suffering from paranormal fatigue". So I self published the book because I believe it is a damned good story. And readers agreed.

The point is, publishers and agents at the time wanted contemporary books. And rightly so. A market  clogged with one genre is like only having one type of food to eat. Readers need variety. But I wasn't about to go "contemporizing" all my novels. And as a side note, guess what agents are asking for now? Not just paranormal but a nice mix of both contemporary and genre fiction.

Anyway, it's a few years later and I'm trawling through online sites and I notice a new set of book covers. They look very much like contemporary books. But here's the interesting bit. A lot of these books are still paranormal because the characters are dead or they're living inside people's dreams or there are ghosts - all the elements that make it paranormal. But look at the difference in covers.

There are still books with covers that clearly define the genre, yet from a quick look a lot of these titles were dystopian or sci-fi. It seems indeed, that we are not meant to judge a book by its cover. Because it seems that the book cover is a judge of what the current marketing trend is. Interesting.

I've spent the past few months updating my book covers and it seems that if contemporary covers are the norm then I may have to update them further. What do you think? Do these covers work?

So what do you think? Should books reflect the content or the market trend? I'd love to hear your thoughts. And have you read any books that the cover was a disaster but the content was awesome?

Monday, 28 March 2016

Pitching to agents and publishers

One thing I love about writing is that I'm always learning new information. Not just research about water recycling systems or how aquaponics works to feed the characters in my underground city.

Every day I learn something new about the publishing industry. And today I'm sharing what I've learned this week with other writers.

Manuscript Wish List is a website where agents and publishers list what they're looking for right now. This is like the best thing I've discovered for a while.

You can access it here

It's easy to use, select whether you're looking for genres or publishers or agents. There you'll find requests for manuscripts such as YA, MG, sci-fi, romance. It's a great resource to fast track the blanket query process.

Good luck!
D L Richardson

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Giveaway - YA spy adventure novel Feedback

Yikes, there is only 11 days left to enter the Giveaway. Hosted by D L Richardson and Night Owl Reviews. Have you entered yet. 1 Print Copy up for grabs.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Science fiction predicts...

It started out as a discussion group on Amazon. "Who likes Apocalyptic fiction and why?" I asked this question and received so many great recommendations for books to read. Why did I ask this question in the first place? Because I'm writing two different sci-fi apocalyptic novels at the moment, and I really wanted to know that I had an audience. A writer's worst nightmare is to write a book that nobody wants to read. Yet, often its a case of nobody being able to find your book in the highway jam that is the internet.


Everyone will tell you that word of mouth is still the best way to sell a book. The industry is clogged with books. Just like the highway, the jam is full of good cars and bad cars, and the online book industry is the same. Asking a question like "Who likes Apocalyptic fiction and why?" on an Amazon discussion group was the best way for me to get a list of books to purchase. This is the word of mouth that advertisers talk about.

It was as if readers of this particular genre were all standing around a virtual water cooler and telling everyone in the group which books had kept them up the night before.

You can start a discussion group by visiting Amazon

Disclosure: I am not endorsing Amazon in any way, I just found this method really easy and interactive and honest because it's against the rules to advertise your own book, and so many other platforms seem to be ShoveABookCoverInMyFaceAndSellSellSell.


Now, to the name of this post. One common theme about apocalyptic fiction is that science fiction predicts a future. It may not be THE future but it could be A future. To me, the entire premise of science fiction is to analyse the world as it stands now, look for patterns of change to create a better world, and write about the consequence if one of those points that could be changed, isn't.

Books I've recently read:

"A Canticle For Leibowitz" by Walter M Miller Jnr. Wow. I'm so glad this book was recommended to me because I would never have chosen it otherwise. Truly enjoyed this masterpiece. 5 stars.

"2312" by Kim Stanley Robinson. I enjoyed it, it was well written, and the science was fantastic, but not overall a Wow book. 3.5 stars.

Movies I've recently watched:

Interstellar - Stars Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway. The story of a world undergoing desertification. It's a real scenario. It could be what happened to Mars. The ending is unusual, but without this ending it would be the typical Hollywood trope of man saves the planet. 4 stars.

The Road - based on the book by Cormac McCarthy and starring Viggo Mortenson of Lord Of The Rings. The future is horrible in this scenario. Yet again, I can't help feeling that it's a possible future for mankind.

Here is a brief look at what science fiction has predicted over the decades in the movies.

1950s - attacks from Mars
The Flying Saucer, The Day The Earth Stood Still, It Came From Outer Space, Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman

1960s - mutations and deep space exploration
The Day Of The Triffids, The Amphibian Man, The Damned, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Wasp Woman

1970s - androids, first contact with extra terrestrials, post apocalyptic worlds
Logan's Run, The Andromeda Strain, The Omega Man, Westworld, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

1980s - the future and space wars
The Terminator, Back To The Future, Mad Max, The Running Man, The Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek movies, Flash Gordon, Escape From New York

1990s - saving the world, finding new worlds, ending the world, creating new worlds
Captain America, Robocop, Stargate, 12 Monkeys, Independence Day, Waterworld, Jurassic Park, Gattaca, The Matrix

2000s - biblical apocalypse, medical disaster apocalypse, rise of the superhero, moral issues
The 6th Day, 28 Days Later, Resident Evil, Hulk, Spiderman, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, The Road, Avatar, I Am Legend, I Robot, A.I

2010s - remakes, seriously, this is the decade of remakes and rehashes
The Thing, Dredd, Total Recall, Man Of Steel, Captain America, Rise Of The Planet Of the Apes, TMNT, Mad Max Fury Road

I hope things change because remakes are all well and good, but it's lazy.

In summary, the two sci-fi novels that I'm writing are taking a look at the world as it stands now and speculating on what might happen if the current trend continues. I hope to have some news for you soon on when these books will be ready to read.

Until then, enjoy reading and watching your sci-fi.


Friday, 19 February 2016

Head hopping in fiction and reasons why I don't like it

I'm often given pieces of writing to critique. And one of my big bears is head hopping. I don't see this is first person point of view, but I sometimes see it in 3rd person point of view. I must point out that head hopping it isn't wrong or right. It's a personal preference. But here's why I don't like it.

Head hopping from one character to another in the same scene is telling the reader what they need to know. Marge is doing this. James is angry with Marge doing that. Marge knows that James is angry. James knows that Marge knows that James is angry.

For me, there is mystery and suspense in what I don't know. Plotting, scheming, agonising over choices...these things can't take place if we are head hopping from one character to another and we know everything that is going on. Marge is doing this. She suspects James is angry but she keeps doing this. Is she teasing him? Testing him? Trying to destroy him?

Knowing everything that's happening is great for a project team building a house. But we aren't building a house. We're weaving and crafting a story, keeping the reader on the edge of their seats, hooking them in, tugging at their heartstrings, making them jump in surprise or cry out in anger.

If a scene is totally kept in one character's point of view, then everything we see is through their eyes and everything they think is their thoughts. We can get deep into the emotions, the motives, the past pain, the future hope or lack of it.

I recently read a great reasoning for head hopping in romance novels - that the relationship is the focus, not the hero or the heroine. That may be so. But isn't romance the biggest mystery of them all. Another reasoning for head hopping reason is that it's the whole point of writing in 3rd person, to expose the reader to other viewpoints. They are both valid arguments. Like I said, it isn't wrong or right, but I will continue to keep my points of view compartmentalized by chapters.

What do you think of head hopping in fiction? Like it? Dislike it? Indifferent to it? I'd love to hear you thoughts, but only one at a time LOL.