Friday, October 18, 2013

How do I get to know a small press or literary agency?

Previously blogged at World Weaver Press

Whenever one a Pitch Madness or similar event happens online, there's a flurry of social media activity prompted by writers wanting to know who knows what about which press or agency. But reaching out to the void might not be the best way to answer the question How do I get to know such-n-such press or agency?

Now, before I break into my best off-key rendition of "Getting to Know You," with full-on The King and I giant hoop skirt,* I must stop to wave my metaphorical pompoms for the wonderful review Forged by Fate recently received from Book Chick City which lavished praise on Amalia Dillin's ability to seamlessly weave Norse, Greek, Biblical, and Egyptian mythologies into one epic romantic fantasy. And that same novel is up for a Book Junkies Choice Award in the Debut Novel (fiction) category — vote for Forged by Fate today!

Back to Getting to Know You -- For writers, Pitch Madness has several layers of activity, including entering the Twitter Pitch Party in the hopes that it will pique the interest of an agent or editor who's also attending the party (i.e. reading the #PitMad stream). World Weaver Press Reading Editor, Stephanie Sauvinet, and I will be taking part as editors in the Twitter Pitch Party on September 12. We participated in May 2013, and requested queries and samples from some interesting projects. To date, we've not made an offer of publication on a project that came to us directly through #PitMad, but we've seen an interesting correlation to our involvement: the number of regular queries jumped in the weeks after Pitch Madness in good part, I suspect, from observant #PitMad lurkers.

Here's where the lurkers show their strong suit:

If you're going to send an agent or editor your query letter, you're beginning the submission process in earnest. It's like dating -- a Twitter Pitch Party might be akin to speed dating, but if you can't see yourself getting involved with someone, then you really shouldn't agree to go on a real date. So how do you know that you want to submit to that publisher or agent? How do you get to know them? How do you judge them? The answer is simple: you read the books they publish or represent. Additionally, you can see if a watchdog group has flagged them as running a scam, you can glean their personality through their blog and Twitter feed (savvy marketers know that you have to have someone knowledgeable and invested in the company run the Twitter account, not the intern; at WWP, about 85% of the tweets are me and the other 15% come from our Reading Editor). Admittedly, these getting-to-know-you activities take time. Time that the lurkers have invested -- they see a press participating in #PitMad, they check them out: they toodle through the website, check out the type of fiction being produced, check out the authors and the publicity they've received, they read some of the published books before submitting because they understand that in the end, a publisher's product is their books not their website or social media presence. I love it when I get down to a query or make an offer of publication and the writer tells me what they appreciate about our previous releases, that they liked our publicity campaign, or that when we requested their full MS they politely contacted a couple of our authors to see how we were to work with. These are writers who've done their research and know they're ready to publish with a small press.

We know where we stand in the market. Our goal from day one has been to produce great speculative storytelling and bridge the gap between between self- and traditional publishing. We've looked at work through agents as well as directly from authors. But as Dahlia Adler points out in her brilliant essay On Querying and Submitting Simultaneously, writers should decide if they want an agent or want to work directly with an editor before submitting to either. Agents and editors are on the same team: the author's. They have different functions, but writers should think of them as offense and defense, not rivals to be played off one another. They don't want to fight, they want to work together to get your book across the same goal line. I highly recommend Dahlia Adler's essay linked above; it's eloquent, thorough, and avoids almost all sports metaphors. In my case, the latter is likely symptomatic of my TV's unfortunate new inability to pick up Notre Dame football games.

So I invite you to get to know us. Sign up to get our News & Blog posts in your email (it's on the right-hand sidebar, "Straight to your inbox"). Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Order or download a book. Leave a comment. Have a conversation. Tweet me the Notre Dame score. Just don't ask me to sing -- show tunes or otherwise -- I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.

 *N. B.: I do not, in fact, own a hoop skirt. Giant or otherwise.

Highly Recommended