How Am I Supposed to Network if My Event is Canceled?

Things are a bit… weird right now, to put it lightly. Due to the concern over Covid-19 spread, many conferences and book events are being canceled. This is a good thing, because it is keeping people safe, but I know it can be disappointing, too.

Conferences and book events are great places to network. However, with the cancelations, it might feel like that networking won’t happen. But it can! I want to go over some ways you can still network even if your event was canceled.

Most conferences have a list of professional attendees posted on their website. Start there. Who were you most excited to meet with? Find those people online. Many email addresses can be found by a quick google search. Follow agents and editors you were supposed to meet (and others!) on Twitter. 

If you can’t find an email address, reaching out via social media is okay. I wouldn’t use this as your first option, but it’s a good backup plan. If the agent/editor has their DM’s open (I do!), shoot them a message! Your message should look something like this:

Hi! I was excited to meet you at (name of conference/event) and was disappointed that it was canceled, so I wanted to reach out and connect! 

You can add a question or the reason you wanted to meet them. Avoid pitching your book this way. You can mention it briefly (I have a YA contemporary, can I query you?) and ask for their submission guidelines (look for these online first!!!!). 

Email is the ideal way to make these connections. If it was an agent (or editor who accepts unagented submissions) you were excited to pitch, mention the conference in the subject of your query letter as well as in the body of the email. It can’t hurt to let the agent/editor know you were going to attend the canceled event! 

If you’re not trying to pitch your book and just wanted a chance to talk with publishing professionals, you can do that, too. I can’t guarantee a response since agents and editors are very busy, but some will be willing to chat with you briefly. If you had a specific question that you wanted to ask at the event, email the agent/editor (or ask via DM if you can’t find their email address). 

I’ve seen a lot of agents and editors doing “#askagent” or “#askeditor” type things on Twitter. Authors are doing it as well! Search these hashtags on Twitter and join in. This is a great way to connect with agents, editors, and authors, and it allows you to ask your questions. Plus, it gives you a chance to reach out to professionals beyond those you would’ve met at your canceled event. I also highly recommend looking at other questions and answers as well. You’ll learn a lot this way! 

Conferences/book events aren’t only for making connections with agents, editors, and other publishing professionals. They’re a great place to meet fellow writers, and having a community is so important when you’re a writer. It can be lonely otherwise!

Go about connecting with authors in the same way you did editors/agents. The list of attendees won’t be as easily available, but try searching on Twitter for the conference name. A lot of other authors may have mentioned they were going to attend. Follow them and reach out, especially if you write in similar genres. You can also try searching the name of the event on google. If authors mentioned the event on their website, you’ll find them this way, too. Most will have a contact page available so you can connect. 

Just because you can’t leave your house doesn’t mean you can’t still network. The internet is a great way to make connections. Email agents, editors, and authors you might have met at your canceled event. Many will be willing to talk with you. At the very least, most agents will accept your query! 

Stay safe and healthy, everyone!

xoxo Tia

If you like what you find on my blog, please consider buying me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/tiarosemele

Why Do the First Ten Pages Matter?

When agents (or even editors!) ask for sample pages with submissions, they usually want the first pages. It might be tempting to send chapter seven because you think that is your best, but that’s not a good idea.

Why?

Well, would you ever choose a book in the bookstore, open to chapter seven, and start reading? No, you wouldn’t, because you’d be horribly confused. In order to understand what’s going on in a book you (usually) need to open to the first page and start there.

That’s why your first x number of pages matter. At our agency, we ask for a ten page sample with queries. Why do we ask for ten pages? Well, because a reader probably isn’t going to give you more than that to capture their attention. 

Those first ten (or so) pages are your first impression on an agent, an editor, and a reader. You want them to be the best because your first pages are going to sell the book. When a reader picks up your book in the bookstore, they’re going to decide whether or not to buy by skimming those first few pages. 

How do you make those first pages pop? 

  • Start with an action scene. That doesn’t mean your character needs to be in a high speed chase or running from explosions, but they should be doing something
  • Avoid backstory in the first ten pages because it’s usually boring and slow. Save that for later, and sprinkle it throughout instead of giving it in an info dump. 
  • Introduce us to your character in the first ten pages so we know who to root for. 
  • The plot should start or be close to starting in these first ten pages. Remember, you want to capture your reader’s interest and then keep it. 

The point is, chapter seven shouldn’t be your best chapter. Chapter one should be. Of course, you want the entire book to be good, don’t get me wrong. However, those first pages are what get a reader to buy your book, or an agent to request more, or an editor to acquire it. Make sure your first pages are engaging and strong, and the rest of the book will follow!

xoxo Tia

PS, Talcott Notch does a first ten pages bootcamp through Writer’s Digest University. There’s one this weekend (starting 12/6/19, hence why the first ten pages are on my mind), but we have them every few months. Keep an eye out for our next one if you’d like to participate! https://www.writersonlineworkshops.com/courses/agent-one-on-one-first-ten-pages-boot-camp-2019-05-09

If you like what I talk about on my blog, consider buying me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/tiarosemele

How Do You Pick Things You Like? What Are Common Reasons You Reject?

How do you decide which projects you want more of, and which you don’t?

The easy, short answer is I just know. But that isn’t helpful, is it? That’s not advice, it’s a statement. It’s a true statement, but not one that answers the question.

I really do just know which projects will work and which won’t. However, I didn’t always, and it’s not as simple as it sounds. 

I started as an intern at Talcott Notch when I was finishing up my undergraduate degree in English. The first few queries I read? Some were easy to get rid of, because they were too long, or too short, or they were things we didn’t represent (like picture books). Others were a lot harder, because the concepts were good but the writing wasn’t there. Or the writing was great, but the concept needed work.

I requested to see more of a lot of projects as an intern. So many. I went partial happy in those first few months, and then I had to read all of those partials. It was a lot, especially when I was still in school full time and working a part time job. But I got it done, and it was an incredible learning experience for me. I don’t request nearly as many projects now. Because I figured out what might work, and what probably won’t. 

In my own inbox, there are some queries that are quick rejections. I only represent women’s fiction and romance for adults, so anything outside those genres will get an instant no from me. I don’t know those markets as well as others, and since I’m just starting out it is better to limit myself to specific genres that I know. I also don’t work with chapter books or picture books, so when I get those in my inbox I reject them as well. 

As an assistant, I read queries for other agents at our agency as well. They have been in business longer, so they work in a wider range of genres. There aren’t as many quick rejections there. 

After I’ve weeded out the ‘easy’ ones (sending out a rejection is never easy for me. I don’t like telling authors no, but it’s a part of the job), it’s time to go more in depth. I read the query and sample pages. There are some concepts that don’t work for me specifically, like most high fantasy or scifi, that I’ll reject. I have to be passionate about the projects I take on, and that doesn’t happen with some subgenres (though I always read the sample pages in case it does spark my interest). 

Some concepts are really interesting to me. You can see my MSWL here and my blog post on what I’m looking for here. These usually take a priority for me when I’m reading queries, because they’re subjects that I love and am already passionate about. My client Allie’s book is about a girl with undiagnosed OCD and my client Carrie’s book is about a tennis player. Mental health and sports are two of my favorite subjects to explore, especially in YA, so they were instant requests for me. 

Once I’m intrigued by a basic concept, I consider the sample pages. I don’t think the pages need to be perfect, at least for me. I like to work as an editorial agent with my clients, so we can work on the grammar/spelling in the book when the time comes. However, there is something to be said about voice. I want the voice to draw me in and I want to feel like I’m on a journey with the character, not just hearing about it from the character. I sometimes put it in terms of TV shows: I like the ones that never break the fourth wall and have a story for me to dive into, rather than the ones that talk to the camera or are told with a lot of voiceover. This is a personal preference, and when I reject on the basis of narrative voice, it doesn’t mean there is anything inherently wrong with the voice or the project. It just isn’t right for me.

There are some writing issues that I will reject for. If the sample pages are an info dump, I’m not going to be drawn into the story as much as I want to be. If it starts with a boring scene where nothing is happening, I’m not encouraged to keep reading. Basically, any reason I would put down a book in a bookstore, I’m going to do the same when I’m going through my queries. 

Then there’s telling vs. showing. This isn’t an instant rejection for me, because if you have a strong concept and characters, we can work on showing instead of telling. However, if I’m distracted by the telling and it makes it impossible for me to get into the story and appreciate the plot/characters, then I’m going to reject for it. 

For some books, the setting matters almost as much (or more) than the characters and plot. If I can tell that is the case from the query, and I don’t feel like there’s a sense of place in the sample pages, then that’s another reason I might reject. This is a limited case, though. 

There may be other reasons I’ll reject, but these are the major ones. There are of course other reasons I might request more of a manuscript, too. Even if I’m not sold on concept, if the voice and sample pages intrigue me, I’ll read more. I’m looking for good writers telling good stories, but agenting is subjective. What I want is different than what other agents at our agency, and other agencies, want. What I don’t want is different, too. 

Write the best book you can, get feedback from beta readers and writing groups, and research agents to determine who might be a good fit. I hope this post, and others, help you to see what the process is like, and the reasons I will – or won’t – reject a query.

Happy writing!

xoxo Tia

If you like what I talk about on my blog, consider buying me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/tiarosemele

Hello world!

Welcome to my new website! Thank you to my aunt for making it look pretty for me. If you have any website needs, check her out at http://www.lizmsolutions.com/home/ .

Let me start off by introducing myself. I’m Tia Mele, junior agent and assistant at Talcott Notch Literary Services. I started at TN as an intern when I was a senior in college and they just couldn’t get rid of me! I’m so lucky to have found a home with some incredible women from whom I’ve learned so much about publishing and life.

As an assistant, I take care of queries, manuscript submissions, sending out royalty statements, mailing contracts, etc. for the agency. It definitely keeps me busy!

As an agent, I work on my own query inbox as well as sending my clients’ work out on submission. Again, it keeps me busy!

I’m actively seeking more clients. I currently only represent middle grade, young adult, romance, women’s fiction, and select non-fiction projects. Check out my MSWL for more specifics: https://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/mswl-post/tia-mele/

When I’m not reading submissions, you can probably find me at a baseball game or watching football, depending on the season. I also recently discovered a love for line dancing. My dogs and my rabbit are my best friends, and we hang out frequently. I love going on hikes and hanging out with my friends (the pet and human varieties). All of these things tend to seep into my professional life, so if your book includes any of my hobbies or interests, please send it to me. I’d love to read it!

I’m excited to use this space to give query tips, writing advice, and talk about life in general. Keep an eye out for regular blog posts!

Thanks for checking out my website. Come back soon!

If you like what I talk about on my blog, consider buying me a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/tiarosemele

xoxo Tia