The Author's Checklist
eBook - ePub

The Author's Checklist

An Agent's Guide to Developing and Editing Your Manuscript

Elizabeth K. Kracht

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eBook - ePub

The Author's Checklist

An Agent's Guide to Developing and Editing Your Manuscript

Elizabeth K. Kracht

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About This Book

An Indispensable Guide for All Writers in All Genres The bad news: even really good manuscripts have weak spots that are enough to garner rejections from agents and publishers. The good news: most of these problems are easy to fix — once the writer sees and understands them. After several years of evaluating manuscripts, literary agent Elizabeth Kracht noticed that many submissions had similar problems, so she began to make a list of the pitfalls. The Author's Checklist offers her short, easy-to-implement bites of advice, illustrated by inspiring — and cautionary — real-world examples. Most aspiring authors yearn for a friend in book publishing. The Author's Checklist is just that.

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Year
2020
ISBN
9781608686636
A-to-Z LIST
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Acknowledgments
The acknowledgment section of a book can be found in either the front or back matter and is the author’s opportunity to thank people who have helped and supported the author in writing and producing the book. Though acknowledgments are often not finalized until a book is ready for typesetting, they shouldn’t be forgotten or written in haste. Make a list of people who should be thanked and group them. Typically authors thank friends, family, colleagues, their agent, editors, readers of drafts, and others. Give yourself a limit of one or two double-spaced pages and look at the acknowledgments written by some of your favorite authors for examples of different approaches.
The acknowledgment section of a book comparable to yours (see “Comparable Titles”) is also a great resource for finding names of agents and editors who may be interested in your work. One of the first things my boss likes to do when published copies arrive at the agency is flip to the acknowledgments.
Checklist
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Have you made a list of the people you need to thank for supporting your work?
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Have you researched who your favorite authors thank in their books and whether they inject personality into their acknowledgments?
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Have you made a list of agents or editors your favorite authors thank, whom your work might be a good fit for?
Agency Guidelines
Every literary agency and publishing house has different guidelines for authors submitting work for consideration. For example, one agency may use an automated form that allows you to upload your first ten pages with a query letter and a one-page synopsis, whereas another agency may ask for your first fifty pages as a Word document along with your query and a two-page synopsis. It’s crucial to follow these guidelines to the letter, because submissions that fail to do so are often rejected out of hand.
Look for the agency’s guidelines on their website. Tailor your submission materials to every agent individually (and approach only one agent per agency).
At most agencies, unsolicited submissions are first read by an intern or reader rather than by an agent. Often these readers are highly educated English majors seeking to enter the publishing industry. Such readers can be less tolerant of mistakes such as typographical errors and failure to follow submission guidelines. (See “Proofreading,” “Query Letter,” and “Synopsis.”)
Checklist
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Have you submitted your work to an agency and agent that represent your genre?
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Have you addressed the agent personally, in both email address and query salutation?
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Have you followed instructions to the letter on what to submit and how to upload your submission materials?
Appendixes
Located in the back matter of a book, an appendix is a place for supplementary material. For example, in this book, I’m using appendixes to provide examples of query letters and a synopsis. Though they are more commonly used in nonfiction, appendixes also appear in plenty of fantasy and science fiction books to provide glossaries of terms, lists of characters, or more information related to the world the author has created.
My author Dr. Suzana Flores used an appendix in her book Facehooked: How Facebook Affects Our Emotions, Relationships, and Lives to present over forty stories she’d collected from people around the world on their experiences with Facebook. She grouped them by theme, such as privacy, addiction, validation, relationships, and identity. This made for a fascinating look at how individuals were relating to one another and themselves through Facebook.
Here’s an example:
Stephen, 41
Charleston, West Virginia
I’m really into this girl right now. We recently met again after not seeing each other for a long time.
It’s because of her that I got addicted to Facebook. Sure, blame it on Facebook. I’m kidding, but I was checking that thing like twice an hour to see if she posted anything. I got worried that she could see that I was checking out her wall too much. Can people see that? She started posting pics with her and this dude. Why is she doing that? Do you think she’s dating him or do you think she’s trying to make me jealous? If I like that pic, I think she’ll see that I’m confident and I don’t care. What’s better, liking these pics or ignoring them?
The case histories Suzana collected had a rubbernecking effect on me; I couldn’t look away even though I wanted to. “We should create an appendix for these,” I said. She’d collected more examples than we could use, but I had no doubt that a selection of them would add additional perspective to her project and be a guilty pleasure for readers.
Another example included a trial lawyer who had won a David versus Goliath case against a major pharmaceutical company. He planned to use an appendix to show the appellate brief he was forced to file when the trial judge overturned the jury’s verdict. I also worked on another project in which the author had included part of a trial transcript as an entire chapter of a book, which slowed the forward movement of the narrative — and gave part of the story away. An appendix was the better place for this transcript, because not only did it not give the story away in its new placement but it also added more perspective to the story, giving insight into the tragic turn of the main character’s life.
Checklist
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If you have supplementary material that would layer and give insight into your project but that doesn’t fit into the narrative, have you gathered it in an appendix?
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Have you assessed whether there is anything unique about the world you’ve created in your novel that supplementary material would help the reader understand? If so, have you added this material as an appendix?
Audience and Marketing
When you hear publishing professionals talk about audience, they’re referring to the reader or market for your book. Who is the audience for your book? Knowing your audience is important for a few reasons, one of which is determining your genre. And knowing your genre is crucial because some genres have rules you must follow or risk rejection. Children’s picture books, romance, and young adult books, for example, have specific word-count ranges. A dead body almost always appears in the first chapter of a cozy or a traditional mystery (two different types of mysteries), but if you add blood and gore to your cozy, like you see in many traditional mysteries, it’s no longer a cozy.
Most authors want to believe that their book will appeal to everyone. But publishing professionals know that every genre has its own, very specific audience. For example, in the thriller market, male readers tend to buy thrillers written by men; in the women’s fiction category, women tend to buy books written by women.
Knowing your audience is also important for the submission process. Even if you don’t know precisely which genre your book may fit into, it’s best to lead as if you do, with a simple declarative statement: “I’m hoping to interest you in my historical women’s fiction project, titled ____.” It’s better to go in confident rather than uncertain.
For both fiction and nonfiction, the audience and marketing section of a book proposal helps the publisher understand how to promote and position your book. This section of a book proposal should be no shorter than five double-spaced pages. List the primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences for your book. In a simplified example, perhaps you’re writing a parenting advice book. The primary audience you’ll identify for the publisher is the demographic (see “Demographics”) that is buying the most parenting books. Since together “women” and “men” cover the vast majority of the adult reading population, you could make the argument that women and men are your...

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