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March 2019
A Message from Kristin Nelson

Referrals: A Powerful Tool When Used Wisely

Kristin Nelson

A referral to an agent is like the holy grail of introductions for a writer. It lets you skip ahead to the front of the line. It’s a get-out-of-query-jail free card. What writer wouldn’t want that? As an agent, I do give priority to referrals, but I think there might be some confusion among writers concerning what actually constitutes a referral. So let’s break it down:

What is a referral?

Basically, a referral is when one of my current clients or an established publishing-industry professional whom I know personally reaches out to me directly and asks if they can send an author my way. The referral comes in directly from that client or industry professional—not from the author. Occasionally, one of my clients will give me a heads-up that a certain writer they know and feel is ready for agent representation will be reaching out to me with a query. That is, they will be submitting a query to me through our regular query process. When that happens, I alert my team to watch for it and forward it to me when it comes in. That’s it. 

But I think referrals are worth talking about a little more because some writers (hopefully unwittingly) use the term “referral” a little too freely, or in a broader context that might not be recognized by agents and editors. In QueryManager, our online query-submission tool, there’s a field where writers can submit the name of someone who referred them. If you don’t have an official referral, it’s OK to leave that field blank.

What isn’t a referral?

• If a writer meets an agent at a conference, and that agent has requested the material, there’s no need to call it a referral. In the industry, we call it a solicited or requested submission.  

• If a writer hears the agent speak at a conference, and the agent says to the audience at large that they are free to query the agency, that is not a referral, nor is your query a solicited or requested submission.

• If a writer follows the client of a particular agent on Twitter or some other social-media platform, and the writer mentions they plan to query that client’s agent, and the client wishes the writer luck, that is not a referral. It only becomes a referral when the client reaches out directly to the agent on the the writer’s behalf before the submission happens. 

• If a writer knows other industry professionals, but that professional does not know the agent personally, that is not a referral. It’s always a bit disconcerting to see that reference in a query letter. It leaves me scratching my head because the name being used as the referral is not familiar to me at all. 

• If a speaker or panelist at a convention or writers’ conference mentions an agent’s name during their talk, that is not a referral. That is simply a recommendation, but not one given to you directly. It’s just a broad mention to a wide audience. We actually receive a lot of query letters that cite this situation as a referral, and it’s not.

• If a writer works with an established author or a professional editor, and that person simply recommends querying me, that is not a referral. It only becomes a referral if that editor or established author is reaching out to me directly to request my review.

• If a writer finds the agent’s name in the acknowledgments of a current client’s published work and then references it in the query letter, this is not a referral—although this does show you are savvy and you’ve done your legwork!

• This one might cause a chuckle, but finding me, or any other agent, on Google is also not a referral.

When in doubt, if you have to fill out that field in QueryManager (or some other submission tool), just leave it blank. Feel free to mention names in the context of your query letter—such as in your bio or why you choose that particular agent for your submission. And if you do know someone willing to give you a legitimate referral, definitely thank them and use that referral to your advantage!

Recent News
Think Like an Agent

So You’ve Gotten a Full Manuscript Request…

By Maria Heater

First off, congratulations! That means you’ve written a successful query and nabbed an agent’s attention. So how to proceed?

Agencies can differ on how exactly they want full manuscripts submitted. Many prefer that you make the first page of your manuscript your query letter. Some require a synopsis, others want to be surprised. The requesting agent will typically specify what they want when they send the request. But one thing you probably don’t want to do is change your opening pages.

But you revised! You got feedback! Wouldn’t the agent prefer to see the newer, better version?

Well, yes and no. On the one hand, some agents are fine with you sending an updated draft, so long as you let them know. That way, when they dive in, they are primed to read new material and not expecting something familiar. But when we look at a new query, we are assuming this is your finished work and not a draft. If you are still soliciting feedback and editing, are you sure you’re ready to be querying?

A manuscript is ready to go out when it’s complete and polished. Agents often don’t have time to take second or third looks at manuscripts they’ve already passed on, so you do your work a disservice by sending it out before it’s ready. Being patient with your story and taking time to let your ideas percolate will always be a better option than rushing something out that you aren’t 100% behind.

Kristin's Book Club

Little Fires on your Bookshelf

Next up for our April meet-up, the explosive book that is Celeste Ng’s LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE. Named a Best Book of the Year by People, The Washington Post, Bustle, Esquire, and too many others to name here, this book is a bit like watching a train wreck in slow motion. The crash is inevitable, the destruction will be significant, and no reader will walk away unscathed. 

In other words, it’s the absolute best type of story. 

Fair warning that some readers, not all, might find the opening a bit slow, but I can assure you that every detail given is necessary. You will be rewarded. And as always, I highly recommend the audio version. Narrator Jennifer Lim is superb.

New Releases

Inspection

by Josh Malerman

 

J is a student at a school deep in a forest far away from the rest of the world.

J is one of only twenty-six students, all of whom think of the school’s enigmatic founder as their father. J’s peers are the only family he has ever had. The students are being trained to be prodigies of art, science, and athletics, and their life at the school is all they know—and all they are allowed to know.

But J suspects that there is something out there, beyond the pines, that the founder does not want him to see, and he’s beginning to ask questions. What is the real purpose of this place? Why can the students never leave? And what secrets is their father hiding from them?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the forest, in a school very much like J’s, a girl named K is asking the same questions. J has never seen a girl, and K has never seen a boy. As K and J work to investigate the secrets of their two strange schools, they come to discover something even more mysterious: each other.

Buy It Here:

       

Dear Ally: How Do You Write A Book?

by Ally Carter

Have you always wanted to write a book, but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you’re really great at writing the first few chapters . . . but you never quite make it to the end? Or do you finally have a finished manuscript, but you’re not sure what to do next?

Fear not – if you have writing-related questions, this book has answers!

Whether you’re writing for fun or to build a career, bestselling author Ally Carter is ready to help you make your work shine.

With honesty, encouragement, and humor, Ally’s ready to answer the questions that writers struggle with the most.

Filled with practical tips and helpful advice, Dear Ally is a treasure for aspiring writers at any stage of their careers. It offers a behind-the- scenes look at how books get made, from idea to publication, and gives you insight into the writing processes of some of the biggest and most talented YA authors writing today.

Buy It Here:

       

Nyxia Unleashed (Paperback)

by Scott Reintgen

 

Emmett Atwater thought Babel’s game sounded easy. Get points. Get paid. Go home.

But it didn’t take long for him to learn that Babel’s competition was full of broken promises, none darker or more damaging than the final one.

Now Emmett and the rest of the Genesis spaceship survivors must rally and forge their own path through a new world. Their mission from Babel is simple: extract nyxia, the most valuable material in the universe, and play nice with the indigenous Adamite population.

But Emmett and the others quickly realize they are caught between two powerful forces-Babel and the Adamites-with clashing agendas.

Will the Genesis team make it out alive before it’s too late?

 

Buy It Here:

       

Batman: Nightwalker (Paperback)

by Marie Lu

Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.

The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list. Bruce is turning eighteen and inheriting his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Industries and all the tech gadgetry that he could ever desire. But on the way home from his birthday party, he makes an impulsive choice that leads to community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison. There, he meets Madeleine Wallace, a brilliant killer with ties to the Nightwalkers. A girl who will only speak to Bruce. She is the mystery he must unravel, but is he convincing her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees?

Bruce Wayne is proof that you don’t need superpowers to be a super hero, but can he survive Madeleine’s game of tense intrigue and deception?

Buy It Here:

       
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