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Why Twitter?

twitter.jpgTwitter. Facebook. Snapchat. Instagram. Periscope. There are so many options in social media that it can be hard to choose which one(s) to use. If you aren't on Twitter, don't know why you as a writer might want to use it, or don't know what to do with the Twitter account you have, perhaps this post will be helpful.

First, what is Twitter?

An internet discussion/social network where messages are 140 characters long. Some refer to this as microblogging. You can say what you want, whenever you want, and your followers can read it whenever they want. Messages are referred to as "tweets." Messages can include links to a website or blog, photos or videos, gifs, and polls.

My Reasons for Using Twitter

I started using Twitter to connect with other kidlit writers and to get better acquainted with editors and agents. It's a good place for those purposes, both which are really about connection.

Find People to Follow

Following someone is how you get to read messages in Twitter. Your Twitter feed, your timeline, is made up of messages posted by anyone you follow, plus messages you send. It's how you listen in on the conversation. It's how you join public conversations or start conversations. Messages are in chronological order in your feed with the most recent messages on top.

I started by following some writer friends. Then followed some people my friends followed. Since then I add people I meet, read about, read their books, hear speak, or find through retweets, or through Twitter suggestions. I may or may not follow those who follow me.

If I don't know anything about a person, I read his/her bio and some sample tweets. Sometimes I follow someone and later unfollow them as their tweets bother me (it could be language, or too much self-promotion, or too much discussion of politics.)

Because I now have an adult ebook out from Clean Reads, I have a Twitter handle for that pen name @SMFordwriter, too. I've found that the children's literature community--just as they are in person--are more open to conversation, helping each other, sharing, etc.--than the adult literature community.

The Conversation: What Do You Say on Twitter?

Answer questions. Here's an example that @KSonnack posted yesterday: "I need some book recs. #1: for an 8yo who just moved to a new city and is having trouble adjusting. Go!"

Follow links to articles, then comment or retweet the original tweet. (Retweeting means sending the tweet out again from your user name.)

Share articles. This from August 11th: "The 11th hour villain. I agree with this concept. http://www.starpowercomic.com/the-eleventh-hour-villain/ ...

Use the heart to "like" what someone says.

Comment on or retweet tweets. Such as: @Corinneduyvis on September 2nd: "Hugely important part of writing for me: my plot notebook. I take pen, paper, and just talk my way through scenes and problems."

Share good news, links to blog posts, writer quotes, and book recommendations.

Ask questions.

Celebrate others' good news and sympathize with bad.

Conversations: Private

You can also have private conversations by using DM (direct message) through Twitter. This only works for people who follow you. You can DM a single person or a group. More info here.

Searching Twitter

Twitter is searchable and the main tool to use is a hashtag. Hashtags can be anything anyone creates using the pound symbol (#) followed by a word or words with no spaces, but common ones start becoming known, such as #amwriting or #writingtips or #writingchallenge or #kidlit. Some are just initials or abbreviations that have become great tools.

Some of the most useful writer hashtags for submitting are #MSWL (manuscript wish list), #PitMad (pitch madness), and #PitchWars (a contest).


  • #MSWL also has a website--both the hashtag and the website offer editors and agents to post "what they are looking for." This is amazing!

  • #PitMad is a chance for writers to pitch manuscripts during quarterly events. Basic information can be found here. One of the most important things about it is that tweeters must also indicate the genre of the manuscript with another hashtag, such as #PB #MG #YA.

  • #PitchWars is a "a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer critiques on how to make the manuscript shine." See full details for 2016 here. What a deal!


These latter two give you a chance to see if your pitches are working. Do they garner any attention or not? You can often offer different versions to try pitches out.

Search for a specific editor or agent--one you'd like to know more about--by name. You may find links to interviews or blog posts by this person. You may find comments about the agent or editor. If the agent or editor has an account, you can read his/her tweets. Seeing a "I hate squirrels" tweet would let you know not to send a squirrel story to that specific person.

Twitter Lists

One of the tools on Twitter is the ability to assign those you are following to lists. I normally add someone to a list when I follow them. That means if I want to see what Picture Book writers are saying today, I can just see the posts of the people I've put on my PB list. (Would need to use Tweetdeck or HootSuite). Lists can be public or private.

Setting Up Twitter

When you sign up for an account, you create a user name or handle--mine is @SusanUhlig, my pen name for my children's writing. The @ symbol is the common way to indicate a Twitter handle. Once you have someone's user name, you can view their page by typing in your browser twitter.com/username. So in my case it would be twitter.com/susanuhlig. Once you go to my page, you'll see Sue (Susan Uhlig) followed by @susanuhlig.

Actions you need to take asap are upload an avatar--usually a picture of you--and create a bio. You don't have a lot of characters, so keep it short and pertinent. Mine says: "Children's Book (PB, readers, MG, YA) & Mag Writer. Writing helps/book recs on my site ('cuz I always have an opinion). SCBWI Oregon. ICL Instructor." You can see I used some of my bio space for affiliations. I also get to list my location and my website in addition to my bio. Another fun option is adding a header photo, but that can come later. However, often people won't follow those who do not have an avatar.

Of course, Twitter itself has articles and FAQs that can help you get started.

Once you are set up, you can join the conversation. If you find you are spending way too much time on Twitter, set a timer for how long you want to be on and when it goes off, close that Twitter window.

Making Use of Twitter

You can also set up a Twitter widget on your website that will show a specified number of your most recent tweets. It's one way to have frequently changing content on your site. (How you do this depends on your website software.)

Someone once asked me if I could explain Twitter in 140 characters. As you can see, I can't. But I can sure tweet this post.


MS Wish List

photo courtesy of morguefile.com
wishing.jpgIf you're on twitter, you've probably seen the hashtag #MSWL. If you've read the SCBWI Insight, you're aware of it, too. Maybe you're still wondering though how useful it is. Or maybe you have no idea what I'm talking about. In either case, keep reading.

On the webpage itself you can find a collection of wish lists from a specific agent or editor. For example, here's a sampling from editor Cheryl Klein who has recently gotten involved with #MSWL.

Cheryl Klein
@chavelaque (her twitter handle)
After long thought and much perplexity, to be very brief was all that she could determine on with any confidence of safety. All tweets here my own. (her twitter bio)
Brooklyn, NY
cherylklein.com

She's interested in MG, YA, Nonfiction, Women, Diverse, Picture Books.

July 29th: I also want more MG/YA narrative nonfiction in history & science. Again: stakes, characters, good writing. Women & diversity a plus. #MSWL

July 29th: But the idea has to unfold thru v. real characters & a story w/ stakes, action & smarts. Ex OPENLY STRAIGHT, MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD #mswl

July 29th: I always want Big Idea books -- PB/MG/YA whose story shows the character exploring a philosophical/political/personal idea or problem #MSWL

Interesting quick look at Cheryl and what she wants to see, right?

As of today, July 30th, there are 255 agent profiles listed on this website. There are also 130 editor profiles, 44 editorial assistants, and a number of other categories. Go here to see who they are. Once you have clicked on the type of person you are interested in, you can use the sort for categories such as Children, MG, Humor, etc. Editors, Agents, etc. are listed alphabetically by first name or by Agency name.

Does a listing on this site mean you can submit to that agent or editor? If you have something that fits their wish list, by all means. But if not, don't. Look at this query tip:

aba Sulaiman @agentsaba · 21h
"Although this isn't what you asked for, I hope y--" Stopstopstop. Pointing out that your book isn't on my wishlist won't help you. #querytip

Which reminds me, you can also click on Pub Tips, which will give you publication tips, including the query tip above.

There's also a Queries tab, which lets you get a look at some query responses such as these:

Eric W. Ruben, Esq. @EricRubenLawyer · 2d
Q1 YA: Dark subject matter and gritty MC. Not my style but might be good for someone else. Pass. #tenqueries

Laura Zats @LZats · 2d
Q456:C MG. Too introspective and not enough of a romp for me. #500queries #everyquery
There's also an Ask Agent tab. Here are a few samples:

Linda Epstein @LindaEpstein · 1d
@CharleyPearson Only resend a "completely revised" ms if it's "COMPLETELY revised." Otherwise it's just annoying. #askagent

Peter Knapp @petejknapp · 2d
Someone asked: Can you help explain the difference between YA & adult fiction w/ a teenage protag? http://t.co/aJTRg9F0DV #askagent

Do you have to be on twitter to use this site? Yes, and no. If you want to see more tweets related to a specific tweet, yes, you'll be directed to twitter. Do you have to have your own twitter account to read tweets? No. Do you have to have your own twitter account to read this website? No.

If you have more questions about the #MSWL hashtag, feel free to ask.


One Size Does NOT Fit All

picture courtesy of Creative Commons License taken by Alisdair
almost fits.jpg

Recently, someone asked me "how do I submit to agents?" As I told them, each agency has their own submission guidelines. Not only do the guidelines say how they want you to submit, but what they want you to submit. And, of course, some agencies or agents are closed to submissions.

The only ways to know for sure what a particular agent wants are to visit the agency website, visit Publisher's Marketplace and search for a specific agent, or hear the agent speak at a conference or other writing event.

I personally am interested in contacting agents whom I've heard speak, met in some way, have read their tweets, have read their blogs or have read interviews with them. I like knowing a bit more about an agent, than what is said on the agency website or on Publisher's Marketplace.

The basic three "how to"s of agency submissions:


  • Via a form on their website

  • Via email, either with attachments, or pasted into the body of the email

  • Via postal mail

What agents want is more complex, but these are common variations:


  • Query only

  • Query with a certain number of pages or chapters for a novel

  • Query with synopsis and a certain number of pages or chapters for a novel

  • Full manuscript for picture book

  • Full manuscript for middle grade or YA novel

Addendum


  • A full manuscript probably needs a cover letter

  • A few agents may want "exclusive submissions," but most do not

Samples of how and what:

FORM
Currently, EMLA's (Erin Murphy Literary Agency) website says: "EMLA is closed to unsolicited queries or submissions. We consider queries that come to us by referral from industry professionals we know, and individual agents are open to queries from attendees of conferences where they speak, except that Erin Murphy is entirely closed to queries and submissions in the first half of 2014. If you have met us at a conference or have a referral, please paste your query into the contact form on our contact page. Please note that we are no longer responding to queries or submissions from those who do not have a referral or have met us at a conference. Those sent in hard copy form via post or other means will receive no response, and those sent via email will receive a form rejection." So, the how is use the form on their website, the what is query and the extra important information is "by referral from industry professionals" and if you heard a specific agent speak at a conference.

Nancy Gallt Literary Agent accepts submissions via a form, in a step-by-step process. Or by postal mail.

EMAIL
"The Bent Agency ONLY accepts email queries. If you send your query by postal mail, it will be recycled and not returned to you."

Some guidelines will tell you what to put in the Subject line of your email.

Email Query Resources

How to Format an Email Query - Nathan Bransford

How to Format an Email Query for Literary Agents - Seven Tips from LiteraryAgents.com

POSTAL MAIL
BookStop Literary accepts via postal mail and has specific instructions by genre. Here's what they say for the younger readers:

TO SUBMIT A BOARD BOOK, PICTURE BOOK OR EASY READER
Mail submissions: Please send the entire manuscript (but no more than 15 pages), a cover letter and a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to BookStop Literary Agency at the address on the left. In your cover letter, include your phone number, e-mail address, a short paragraph about your background, and a brief synopsis of your manuscript. Please do not submit more than two manuscripts at a time.

Please DO NOT send art, dummies, binders, or mock-ups unless you are a professional illustrator.

They also accept email submissions.

What Agents Are Looking For

What we haven't covered so far is the interests of the agents. Some agents look at the whole gamut from picture books to new adults. Others are boutique agencies who may focus on a specific audience or age range. Some agents tell you what they specifically want.

Here's a portion from Bree Ogden's want list (D4EO Literary):

Seeking:
*NOTE: I am actively seeking children's/YA nonfiction. NO memoir unless you have a gigantic platform (i.e., The Pregnancy Project). I would love something in the vein of The Letter Q, Dare to Dream!: 25 Extraordinary Lives, The Forbidden Schoolhouse, or a Starvation Heights type historical fiction.
~Highly artistic picture books (high brow art, think Varmints)
~Middle grade (generally horror)
~Young Adult
~New Adult (no erotica, please)
~Adult (very specific genres, see below)
~Graphic Novels (preferably artist/illustrator OGNs)
~Nonfiction (no heavy academic, rather pop culture and journalism or essays, think Kelley Williams Brown, David Sedaris, Chuck Klosterman. MUST have platform, no memoirs)
~Humor
~Pop Culture
~Art books
~Unapologetically bizarre books
~Macabre literature for children

Response Times

How long an agent takes to get back to you varies by agency and by agent. I remember one writer friend getting a response from an agent the same day. Other writers told me one agent takes 8-9 months to respond. You may be able to learn this information on the agency website or perhaps on Publisher's Marketplace.

Example:

The Bent Agency: "It is our goal to respond to every query. If you don't receive a response within a month, please resend your query and indicate that you're sending it again."

More and more agents are not responding unless they are interested in your submission.

Example:

Wernick and Pratt Agency: "We receive hundreds of submissions each month, and while we would like to respond to every submission received, we unfortunately cannot reply to each one. Submissions will only be responded to if we are interested in them. If you do not hear from us within six (6) weeks of your submission, it should be considered declined. If you would like to request confirmation of receipt, please use the request-receipt function when e-mailing your initial submission to receive an automatically generated response confirming receipt. We will not confirm receipt of submissions unless we have requested additional material."

Can I Submit to More Than One Agent at an Agency?

Most agencies consider a submission to one agent at the agency as the only submission allowed. In other words, you can not submit to another agent at the same agency. This information will probably be in their submission guidelines. It never hurts to ask at a conference what the agency's policy is on this.



How To Start Querying an Agent

letterbox.jpgguest post by author Jan Fields

First, of course, you need to find an agent you feel good about and learn what the agent wants. My favorite place for this is www.literaryrambles.com by Casey McCormick. If you look on the left-side column on Casey's site, you'll see agents grouped by what they represent. She's spotlighted many agents and looked at what each agent represents and how the agent wants to be contacted. It's really a treasure trove of help.

Now, after you've picked an agent. Try a Google search with just that agent's name. Sometimes you can pull up even more information to help you really know what the agent wants to see from you (and sometimes the agent even has a blog where she/he puts queries that really snagged his/her attention. These are really priceless examples because they show how to effectively pitch to that agent. If the specific agent you've chosen doesn't have that...poke around in Casey's list to find some who do. It's invaluable to check out examples.

Now, in the query/pitch itself, you can find wonderful, wonderful help on Nathan Bransford's site. Nathan isn't agenting anymore but he has spent a massive amount of time helping writers to do this stuff right.
Here's his query formula.
His good examples.
Even help with formating an email query.
Really, you'll find a ton of help on Nathan's site.

Another agent who has given tons and tons of help is Mary Kole with Movable Type Management who has a site called Kidlit.com. There she has:
Help with queries.
General stuff about agents.

And agent Jennifer Laughran has a great bit about your author bio that goes in your query.

So, that's a good bit of reading but it should really get you going on your agent hunt. Good luck!





Jan's Brief Bio


"Since my first magazine publication in the 1980s, I have been steadily writing for money in some form. Today I have over twenty books in print and still more in the pipeline - books for children and adults. I've also written for magazines, educational publishers and even a toy company! Writing is the only thing I've ever done really well that didn't eventually become more like work than fun."

To read more go to Jan's site.

Jan is also the editor of the Children's Writers eNews. If you aren't getting it, you're missing out!


Thanks to Clarita on morguefile.com for the above image.

Agents Telling What They Want

no secret.jpgIt's not a secret. Agents tell what they are interested in. They tell at conferences, on sites such as querytracker and publishers marketplace, their agency websites, on blogs, and even on twitter chats such as #askagent. Here's a collection of recent "what agents want" for you.

Amanda Luedeke with MacGregor Literary was interviewed by Janet Fogg on the Chiseled in Rock blog on April 9th.

Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Agency was interviewed by Authoress on her Miss Snark's First Victim blog on April 12th. Did you know she's an author, too?

During an #askagent on March 20, 2012 Bree Ogden at D4EO Literary Agency (@breeogden) replied to a question with this: "I rep children's, YA, graphic novels & art books. I prefer dark and realistic NO paranormal."

Erzsi Deàk of HEN & ink was interviewed here by Nicky Schmidt in midFebruary 2012.

Marie Lamba, an assistant agent at the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency was interviewed in early February 2012 by Tori Bond.

Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour Agency was interviewed in early February by Melissa Landers.

Sara Sciuto, new at Full Circle, was interviewed by Stacey O'Neale in early February.

Sarah Davies at Greenhouse Literary does so with an early February 2012 post: The things I see (and don't see) and it has some good book recommendations, too.

Agent Susan Hawk Talks Picture Books - this is an interview done by Heather Ayris Burnell's blog on February 21, 2012. l AND on her blog Susan shares her novel wish list. Susan is with The Bent Agency.

Do you have any agent sightings to share?


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Why Twitter?

MS Wish List

One Size Does NOT Fit All

How To Start Querying an Agent

Agents Telling What They Want

Do You Remember?

Mind Your Cs and Qs - part one

Market Research Resources - Agents

Writing a Novel? Where Does It Fit?

Meeting Editors and Agents - In Person

Meet Editors and Agents - Online

Book It! - Recording What You Read