Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Submissions: Package Yourself!

People often ask me why I still attend a number of conferences every year, and how I find the time to do it. Finding the time is the difficult part for me, every time I leave the office and home for a number of days it feels like it all goes to hell in a hand-basket. The why part of this question, however, is the easy part.
I attend conferences for the same many reasons why I offer workshops and do live chats on a regular basis, and why I founded the LitPow Writer's Network Group... its because I enjoy it. I find meeting authors to be very fruitful. These types of interactions give me the unique opportunity to help and and nurture authors, many of whom later become wiser, more knowledgeable and skilled clients. It also allows me to develop relationships with writers that I enjoy working with, and it gives me a chance to get to know them before they actually become clients.
I often say that taking on a client in this business is a lot like choosing a winner on American Idol. Each meeting, interaction and step in the submission process is an episode in the competition. When we find someone who writes well, most agents will also look for the whole package. Can the person write? Are they creative? Do they have more books in them? Are they articulate and presentable? Are they industry and technology savvy? Will they work hard to build a platform or following and push their sales? Are they a good fit for the agency and good to work with? Etc. 
And yes, even though the work always speaks for itself,  to be very successful in the publishing business seasoned agents and publishers will often look for authors that offer the whole package.  It is therefore imperative that as an author you work on all of these things that would make you more marketable, while you continue to hone your craft and prepare yourself to present it all in that neat little package all wrapped up with a bright red ribbon.
This is in no way intended to discourage any author who may be insecure about any of their attributes. I am not sharing these words with you to tell you that you will not succeed if you are not hot stuff. I'm posting this to tell authors what to be prepared for, and to reiterate the importance of paying special attention to how you present, or 'Package,' yourself when you submit your work to be considered for representation or for acquisition by a publisher. 
What I'm saying is that with the proper presentation of yourself and your work, your chances of getting the call and a publishing contract will increase exponentially. 
The proverbial package is comprised of you and your work. These are the things that you are 'selling' when you pitch to an agent or editor. The literal package, however, is made up of the things that you will submit in paper (or electronically) for consideration- query letter, synopsis or proposal, and your manuscript.
Query letters, as short as they are, are considered to be the key to the doorway. Your letter must always be professional, concise, catchy, contain all of the information that is needed by the reviewer to assess your work, and present you in the best light as the foundation of that project. If the foundation is week, anything that is added on top will be more likely to crumble. So when you're preparing your Query, be sure to think about the things mentioned above that agents and editors are looking for, and try to give them what they are looking for. 
Once you've done your best with your letter (and manuscript), I strongly recommend that you have your peers or a consultant critique it and give you constructive criticism. It's always a good idea to participate in workshops, do your research, and to go to conferences to help you prepare. 
A literary consultant or coach will also help you prepare your package - or should we say to package yourself, before you are ready to send things out. A good consultant will also be able to help you with the actual novel, from editing to classifying it, to telling you whom to pitch it to and how. Be sure to research anyone you find before you hire them and ask for recommendations when applicable. 

Next month, my Literary Powerhouse Consulting (LitPow) partner, Jo Ann Kairys and I are offering a full day workshop called UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL. During this exclusive workshop we will be helping a handful of authors with their submission packages, pitch preparation, marketing know-how, etc. LitPow, Writer's Digest and other great companies offer many terrific workshops that are awesomely helpful and usually fun. 
These types of workshops and attending conferences are instrumental to helping authors prepare themselves and their work for success, and often facilitate introductions to agents and publishers that you would otherwise not have access to. So find a conference or a workshop near you (or online) to help you get ready for submissions and on your way to success.
Happy Packaging! And Happy Autumn!
~Marisa