Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Be a Warrior! By Quressa Robinson

Status:

Working on Wednesday’s newsletter article! 2 days ahead of time. Unheard of.

Listening To:

PLEASE PLEASE ME by the Beatles

It should be no surprise to anyone who knows me that I’m a huge nerd. Science fiction, fantasy, pop culture–I have a deep love of many fandoms. So many of them have their own identities that are easy for me to relate to–for instance, Slytherins are competitive, ambitious, and deeply protective of those they call their own. These are all qualities I feel I possess, and also think are great qualities for an agent!

As we gear up for a winter that’s teeming with exciting fandoms, I’ve been increasingly drawn to the hopeful and uplifting trailers that have rolled out for A WRINKLE IN TIME, directed by Ava DuVernay. “Be a warrior,” Oprah says to Meg. I felt ready to fight! I don’t know what, but I was ready. Yes! Be a warrior!

So how can you be a warrior when it comes to your writing career? Many aspects of the process can feel daunting, so learning to wage war on your doubt and feelings of defeat will only propel you through the arduous, never-ending process.

What tools does a warrior-writer need?

Persistence: A warrior never gives up! They keep going no matter what obstacles are thrown in their way. It’s easy, at any stage of your career, to throw your hands up and quit. Rejection is consistent and doesn’t stop when you sign with an agent, or even when you have a published book. Knowing how to push through the hardships, the rejection, the feelings of doubt, even imposter syndrome, makes all the difference. Being a persistent warrior can help you keep your emotional sanity in an emotionally sapping industry.

Endurance: Most writers give up at the querying stage. There are just too many NOs to handle. Maybe they weren’t prepared for the wave of rejections. Maybe they were too invested in their work to have an objective view of it. If you want a lasting career in publishing, you’ll have to overcome a lot of obstacles. Querying is just the first step. If you can’t get past query rejections, you’re already dead in the water. Be a warrior. Remember that there are many battles left to fight. You can lose many of them and still win the war. You just need that warrior perspective.

Adaptability: Publishing is a changing industry, and trends ebb and flow. What’s hot now might not be hot later. Everything is cyclical. Most writers don’t realize that the books being publishing now were likely sold to publishers a year or two ago. It’s also possible that it was another year or so before that when the author signed with their agent. Vampires might feel passé, but eventually readers will be excited for a new wave of vampire books. Keeping this in mind, a warrior will be able to go with the flow or roll with the punches. It’s not easy to predict which stories will become a hit with readers, so being ready to change things up is an important warrior trait to have.

Communication: The best warriors know how to share their strategies with others. In an industry where people spend most of their time with words, you’d think good communication would be a given. But you’d be surprised how many struggle to effectively convey their thoughts and ideas. Knowing how to advocate for yourself and express your needs is essential to moving ahead in this industry, but that all begins with your writing. Craft a solid query letter and make sure you have written a strong manuscript. It’s challenging to differentiate between good and bad when you’re first starting out, but getting feedback from others, giving feedback in return, and being clear about expectations will go along way in helping warriors craft strong writing that will get them the win they are looking for.

Dedication: Warriors need to be fully committed. The road is rough, and if you aren’t 100% all-in, it will be obvious. Publishing is a very collaborative industry. Agents are working with their clients to get manuscripts ready for submission; agents and authors are working with editors to make sure manuscripts become books that sell well; and authors are engaging with readers to build their fan base and ensure future success.

Prolificacy: A warrior is always thinking about that next step, that next campaign. A writer should always be writing, thinking about writing, and forming story ideas. It’s all too easy to get over-invested in one idea, one manuscript, to the point that you can’t move on. When you’re querying, write your next book. That way, if your manuscript is rejected, you’ll have another ready to send out. When you’re agented, work on a new manuscript while you’re out on submission. If your agent can’t sell your first book, you’ll have your next lined up. If they do sell it, your editor will be grateful that there are options for a sophomore book right away.

So warriors, go out there. Be bold. Be smart. Be strong. Be a Warrior.


9 Responses

  1. Debra L Shelton said:

    Love this article, Kristin! Nearly ten years ago, you were the first agent to ever ask for my work. Since then, I’ve completed seven novels, signed with two different agents, was on submission once, and considered throwing in the towel numerous times. I’ve just completed my eighth novel (murder mystery) which I plan to query in the near future. Thanks for being an advocated for writers. Agents like you give us hope we can make our dreams come true.

  2. T.S. Starkenberg said:

    Nicely said, Quressa! Particularly the endurance aspect. Even the best heroes have to slog through Act 2.

  3. Gary Horn said:

    This site is very interesting and helpful. I’m a beginning writer and hope to knock the socks off many generations of readers. I see myself as a partner with my agent – a nuclear weapon that can be used to level the field and establish myself as a dominant writer in the future. OK – so here we go !!!

    Gary Horn, Michigan

  4. Janice Cairns said:

    I enjoyed this article so much I felt I wanted to comment. I agree writers should be writing all the time and doing so keeps you emotionally strong. I was first published in 2014. Before that date, however, I had a lot of persevering to do. And, looking back, I could see I could have given up. Patience, I think, is another big key to getting where you’d like to be in the literary world. My first book was traditionally published, my second novel was self published. I’m working on my third book just now and it will be self published too. I’m loving being a published author and I go along with your article that you need to put your all into your career. I agree a writing career is not something you can be halfhearted about. Like love, it’s got to be all or nothing. No halfway house. Every now and again I am inspired by an interview or some suggestion and considered this particular post of extreme interest. I found it most inspiring and, as we writers strive on, being as brave as we can be, facing such huge competition as we journey on, it is a great thing to have inspiration like this, to keep us fuelled. Thanks for posting!

  5. Hazelyn Patterson said:

    Love this site. I’ve been lurking here for months, picking up the tidbits to make my writing stronger. These are wise words. A few more edits and I may work up the nerve to send a query letter.

  6. Kevin A. Lewis said:

    I realize that the utter tedium and randomicity of the query/submission process might be more fun
    if some writers want to think of themselves as “warriors”, but that’s a metaphor I dropped in favor of a sort of videogame/slot machine model which factors in the chaotic nature of the field. John Kennedy Toole was a cautionary example of the “warrior” approach; his manuscript fell into the hands of a flaky literary gatekeeper who strung him along with frivolous revision demands, mostly, I suspect just for the fun of jerking him around. He won a Pulitzer a decade after his suicide, (A Warrior always fights to the death) but a videogamer just finds another game….. .

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