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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Searching for Representation

"Secrets in the Wind" has officially won its first literary award: "Honorable Mention" in the 2023 London Book Festival's Young Adult Fiction Category. To celebrate with you, I would like to share with you five mistakes to avoid when searching for representation.

1.Sending in an incomplete or unedited version of your manuscript. Some may hire a professional to edit the work, some may even download an editing app or use a digital editing service, while others may edit it themselves! There’s also the option of asking someone within your circle of friends to double-check your work completely free of charge. It doesn’t matter how you do it; just make sure that your work is neat and clean with no grammatical or spelling mistakes before submitting it to a literary agency or publishing company. Note: do not submit if you do not have a completed manuscript and write something you, yourself, would like to read over and over again. Diligence is the making of an author.

2.Not knowing your competition. I remember starting an internship at a publishing company during my University years. I had a meeting with an editor regarding my novella because I had the connections; basically, this editor represented my professor who, in turn, recommended me. The first thing the editor asked me was, “Do you read enough to understand your market?” That meant basically, “Are there similar books out there? Is there a demand for this kind of literature? If so, who would your target audience be?” I had done my research before writing my novella, but I hadn’t researched the market enough for the editor to accept my manuscript. I eventually self-published it as “Her Feet Chime” and because I worked in the media industry, I had enough of a connection to get it the attention it required to sell. I do recommend always trying to get representation though, because self-publishing is hard work.

3.Copying and pasting the same cover letter to multiple different literary agents and publishing houses, but you change your ATTN:.... It’s not that generic or easy though; you need to research exactly what kind of company represents and/or publishes the genre you are specializing in for ex. which agent within that company is specifically looking for your genre and your style of writing. Ask questions like, “Have they published my kind of story before?” or “Is this the literary agent or publisher for me?” It’s okay if there are stories out there similar to yours; it doesn’t mean yours is any less unique, but it helps agents and publishers visualize the potentiality of your work. And remember, not all agents and publishers are right for you just as they may subjectively reject your work based on their wishlist. And if you do get rejected, make sure to read through the feedback that some publishers and agents so generously have given you (because most don’t have the time to) and be open to it. You may even implement their feedback and resubmit, specifying how you have taken into account what they have said.

4.Not looking at the submission guidelines: You need to understand what the agent or publisher is looking for; some require you to copy and paste the sample pages within the body of the email while others require you to attach them; some require you to send in 10 sample pages, while others require you to send in 20, so on and so forth. It is important to send in exactly what they are looking for according to their submission guidelines, no more…no less. However, most literary agents and publishers ask you to send in the following: a cover letter with a brief on what your story is about, the word count, the genre, your target audience, why the world needs to read it, your current competition, your author bio and a sample. Of course, explain why this agent or publisher is right for you and vice versa.

5.Submitting something that you think others want to read. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you write something you, yourself, would want to read. You need to write for YOU and nobody else or the lack of passion will show in your work. For example, I love reading fantasy novels, but just because I love reading them doesn’t mean I love writing within that genre. I just don’t feel like I am the most qualified person to write fantasy novels and I won’t do it just because that’s what’s “in'' right now.

Also, during the editing process, it is important not to lose your identity. In other words, you might start trying to put yourself in your readers’ shoes, asking questions like, “What kind of characters would my reader like to meet? What should happen next, according to my readers wishes?” That’s like going grocery shopping and asking yourself on your way back to your car in the parking lot, “What kind of activities does that nice cashier like to do during his/her free time?” You won’t know that answer because the cashier is a stranger to you just as much as your readers are. You know yourself better than anyone else so don’t lose sight of you in your writing.

Remember that if you write with only half of your heart, you will only end up with an incomplete manuscript so write with your whole heart for a complete manuscript!

Happy Writing!

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