Thursday, March 05, 2015
The Business of Reading
Early in my fiction-writing journey, I read stacks and stacks and more stacks of the books in the genre I was pursuing for publication. Reading good writing can only help improve writing—that’s the advice given by just about every published author.
But now that I have improved, and have a few manuscripts of my own, I read with an added purpose.
What To Read Before the Conference
If your work is ready to submit, it’s time to take your reading to another level. Here’s a couple ideas of what to read, depending on what you’re looking for:
There could be anywhere from three to a dozen agents at a writer’s conference. If you’re looking for a good fit, read their websites and/or blogs. Then check out the books they’ve sold and/or had published. And then read a couple of those books. It won’t take long to get a good feel for what an agent likes. Because if you want an agent to fall in love with your book, give him or her what they like. Put another way, don’t waste your time or the agent’s time. If your work leans to dark and edgy, look for an agent who leans the same way. Like calls to like, my mom always said. (And Mom was right.)
Like agents, editors have specific likes. You’ll quickly pick up on them if you read a couple books from their list. That’s not to say that your manuscript won’t knock their socks off if it’s different from their list—it very well could—but you’ll have a harder sell. Look for a way to connect your manuscript in some way to what an editor already likes. The more you read, the more you’ll know. And they’ll appreciate that you’ve done your homework, perhaps giving you a connection for a future manuscript.
And what if you’re not attending a conference but you’d still like to get this insider information?
Reading is still the answer. Go to your library or bookstore and choose books similar to the manuscript you’re hoping to sell. Those are the publishers you’ll want to target. And if you need an agent to submit to the house, look inside the book, to the very back page of acknowledgements. What agent does the author thank? Start your list and continue your reading homework.
Reading. It’s a tough job, but a writer’s got to do it.
~Cathy C. Hall