Blogger: Rachel Kent
I was interviewed before the Northwest Christian Writers’ Renewal Conference by writer Kirk Kraft. This blog was posted on the NCWA site originally, but Kirk was kind enough to give me permission to post it here. I hope you are able to gain some insight from my answers and I’d love to hear any questions/comments you might have in response to my answers.
KIRK: Could you describe a typical day in the life of an agent at Book and Such Literary?
RACHEL: Each day in my week looks a little different because I try to do certain tasks on specific days, but generally I check my emails and answer the really important ones first. Then I negotiate contracts, edit proposals, or read manuscripts for my clients; send out submissions to editors; and if I have time in a day I’ll read queries and submissions from potential clients.
KIRK: How vital do you believe social media is to writers today? Is it necessary to sell a book?
RACHEL: Having a presence online is extremely important these days. I’m not sure that you need to be everywhere, but joining Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads is a great start for an author. I also believe that a professional website is a must for all writers even if they don’t have a book published yet. I will often go check an author’s website if I’m considering representing him or her and I like to find a professional, friendly page with information about that person. If I can’t find a website, I am less likely to take on that author as a client. It’s necessary to sell a book in my opinion, but there are always exceptions.
KIRK: How often do you fall in love with a query and possibly a partial, only to be disappointed the longer you read the manuscript?
RACHEL: I’m guessing here, but I’d say out of the queries I receive I request only 1 proposal out of every 200 submissions. Out of the requested proposals, I ask for a full manuscript from 1 out of 30. Of the full manuscripts I read I only offer representation to 1 out of 5 authors. These statistics don’t hold true for writers I meet at conferences. I request more proposals from conferences because I know that those authors are working hard on the writing craft and have invested time and money into making their manuscripts better.
KIRK: What types of thirty-something nonfiction are you interested in seeing?
RACHEL: I’m looking for issue-oriented fiction and nonfiction projects for thirty-somethings. Books that relate directly to what thirty-somethings are going through during that time of life. For example: reconnecting with a spouse after having children; coming to the end of having babies and dealing with knowing you are done with that part of your journey; and balancing work and a family. These types of ideas can be presented in fiction and nonfiction and I’m interested in both.
KIRK: What are you currently reading?
RACHEL: Robin Jones Gunn’s FINALLY & FOREVER, the fourth book in the Katie Weldon series. (Note, I’m now reading INSURGENT by Veronica Roth.)
KIRK: Please describe your dream client.
RACHEL: I could write an entire blog series on qualities I look for in clients, but to keep it simple I want I client who is:
easy to get along with, patient, a great writer, and willing to work hard.
I’ve also blogged recently on the topic of clients, so feel free to check out those blogs if you’d like to know more:
Any questions or comments? Thanks for reading!
Great to get to know you more, Rachel. Kudos to you for balancing such a heavy workload! I don’t know how you manage to find the time to even take on new clients with all the work you have to do with current ones.
Regarding what you said about social media, I’ve seen the benefits of it, no question. Through my blog and Twitter, I’ve met countless writers, several agents, and a few editors. It’s been priceless to me as I enter the waters of the publishing and writing world. Reading others’ posts and tweets also gives me more knowledge about the industry and best practices. So far, I’ve loved that aspect of my writing journey.
It’s a challenge to keep up with everything! I’d say the one thing I slack on is getting my submissions read in a timely manner. I really want to work on this though. You all deserve an on-time reply to your submitted work.
Even as an unpublished author, social media has been a huge help for me. Not only for networking with fellow writers (which I love!), but also in helping me “get my foot in” the publishing industry.
I had an agent request to see my manuscript based off the synopsis I had written for my “books” page. Without my blog, that wouldn’t have been possible without me querying her first. I’ve met several agents online through Twitter, and I have a much better grasp of the whole process because of social media. Reading other people’s blogs has helped me better my craft.
Now, when I’m ready to look for an agent, I feel like I’ll be much better prepared and more likely to succeed.
It’s so neat that an agent read the synopsis and requested your manuscript! Thanks for sharing how social media has helped you.
I agree with this! I’m a newbie writer, but social media has helped me to connect with writers, editors and agents. I’ve learned SO much by following people on social media. I’m not ready to look for an agent yet, either, but I know I’ll feel more prepared when the time comes.
Rachel, what a great post. More and more I’m seeing how necessary a social media presence is for a writer, hopeful author. One of my summer goals is to get on Twitter, and figure out how to get a blog up and running. At the moment, that feels overwhelming.
I was surprised to read there is a market for thirty-something fiction. That is good to know! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your insights today!
Jeanne, I suggest doing one thing at a time. Start up a Twitter account and get comfortable with it and then start your blog. If you already have some followers on Twitter you will be able to tweet your blogs to the audience you have already established.
Thanks for the encouragement, Rachel. I’m going to do that. 🙂
Jeanne, you’re not alone. Social Media can be overwhelming initially.
When I first began blogging a little over a year ago it seemed so daunting, but there’s a wealth of helpful info out there for social media newcomers. (If you can get past the title, Blogging for Dummies was very helpful. :))
WordPress is very easy to navigate (though it does take a bit of time to learn) and you can create a lovely site uniquely your own. (WordPress has a lot of great tutorials to help you get started.)
Later, I transitioned into a full website to more fully suit my needs, but WP or even Blogspot are super places to start. I have no experience with the latter, but many people use it and seem to like it, too. I’d heard WP was a little more user-friendly and that’s what influenced me.
Twitter is fun! I actually like it better than FB. And with HootSuite or TweetDeck, it’s a snap.
Jill Kemerer is a super go-to gal for techy stuff.
I’ve learned there are no silly questions. Everyone has to start somewhere. 🙂
Thanks so much for sharing Rachel! I think it’s great that you’re willing to reach out to us and teach us, even when you’re so extremely busy with everything else!
I especially love what you said about social media. I’ve been working hard on a website the last few months and it’s great to hear affirmation that I’m on the right track… especially with the overflow of social media advice out there nowadays! Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start, but starting can also be the key to get going.
Thank you, Wendy. I enjoy connecting with you all and I like hearing that my blog posts are helpful!
How are you liking Insurgent? 🙂
Loved what you had to say, Rachel!
I JUST bought it, Nicole, so I’ll let you know soon. 🙂 I liked DIVERGENT but didn’t love it so I expect it will be the same with this one.
I’m excited to hear what you think of it, then! I’ll have to bug you about it later. 😉
Trying to get back into the social media groove, but I really enjoyed my sabbatical away from the internet. Even though it is “mandatory” that we writers are more visible than a Kardashian these days, there’s something to be said for being able to just get a tan from something other than the glow of a computer monitor 🙂
[Not that I am disparaging other authors: not everyone is able in their career / personal life balance to take a break, especially in this economy and constantly changing industry, but I merely suggest that between the blogging, the tweeting, the facebook updates, and the myriad other responsibilities of a writer in a digital age, that one does not become ensnared like Kafka-esque bug on the World Wide Web.]
I suppose tanning in front of the computer screen is less harmful? Hard to know for sure.
Thanks for this post. I am sooo behind the times with social media — just Facebook, Goodreads, and a fairly new blog, which I’m still figuring out a little at a time. I’m always amazed at how skilled some of you people are with blogs! Gotta work on Twitter next.
I was also interested in the thirty-something market. Personally, I’d love to see more fiction in for that audience, since that’s where I fall myself.
And I need an editor, apparently.
I’m hoping the 30-something market will really grow in the next few years.
I love this post, Rachel. I cringe when I can’t find an author’s website. It makes it harder for me to promote a client’s book when I can’t direct potential reviewers and readers to a website to learn more about him and his work.
I found what you said about conference attendees interesting. Seems like another great reason to make that investment.
Oh, I also meant to ask: I noticed one of the topics you mention for thirty-somethings is coming to the end of raising babies, but with women have children later in life, that seems to me forty-somethings would be very interested in that too. I’m at that point in my life right now (unhappily). I’ll be 44 in July and the hubby and I have been trying to conceive for a few years. That doesn’t seem to be in God’s plans for us, but even knowing God must have his reasons, doesn’t necessarily ease the disappointment.
I think the primary audience for such a book is still those in their 30’s but you’re right that many women in their 40’s are still having children so I’d put them as a secondary audience for a book like that.
So sorry to hear that having children has been a struggle. 🙁 Sounds like you have an issue-oriented book that you could write based on that topic though…maybe in a few years when the disappointment isn’t so fresh. That’s really tough, Cheryl. Praying for you!
Thanks for your insights and prayers, Rachel. They are greatly appreciated.
Hugs. And prayers too.
My honey and I dealt with this too, Cheryl. My heart goes out to you.
Dean K Miller
I’ve heard several times that an writer, even unpublished, should have a web site.
What do you suggest goes there? I have a few clips, etc. but nearly everyone does.
Any suggestions on content for such a site?
thanks for the post. This was interesting and helpful
A nice front page, an author bio, a photo of you, potential speaking topics if you’re up for it, your blog if you blog, a twitter feed if you tweet, a bit about what you are writing…
Anyone else have suggestions?
Perhaps where you live, that way, if people who are thinking about having you come speak need to look at expenses, then your location can be factored in.
Jessica R. Patch
I am always amazed at how much work you, and other agents, have. When I first started writing it consumed every part of my day and I quickly had to learn how to balance my writing time and family time. I’m interested to know, do you take work home often or do you try to keep it at the office? Okay, that had nothing to do with social media, but I was referring to a typical day for you in the interview!
As far as social media, I think the benefits far outweigh any cons–like the frustration of figuring it all out! I enjoy connecting online and blogging turned out to be a lot of fun for me. 🙂
I always try to keep my work hours for work time and after hours for family and “life.” There will always be work to do and it could consume every hour if I let it.
If there’s something that has to be done I’ll do it after work though.
What an awesome interview! Thank you for sharing, Rachel.
About the website: does a static front page of one’s blog count? Or, should we invest in a domain name and web design?
It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s best to have your domain name and a professional looking webpage.
You’re so right about an online presence! I’ve learned so much about agents and had opportunities because of Twitter. I already had a blog, but more people are viewing it now.
Great interview, thanks. I found the stats interesting. It seems you do make offers on the unsolicited slush pile and that’s encouraging.
I also want to know what you think of Insurgent. I loved Divergent (as I was frantically turning pages) but as page-turners often go, I forgot the story once I was done, so I had a hard time understanding what was going on in Insurgent. My daughter loved it. She remembered the people and the setting. I wanted some more description–some scene setting–in the first couple of chapters. So I didn’t finish reading it. I’d like to know if I should go back and give it another go.
I represent quite a few clients that I discovered via query letter. 🙂
Lindsay A. Franklin
I think that’s a 0.003% representation rate on cold-queries. Is my math right? Yowsa! It’s a sobering stat. But like Sally said, there is always that one from the slush pile that is a good fit, and that’s an encouragement. I’d be interested to know what percentage of agents’ clients come from means other than the slush pile (i.e. conferences, contacts made through contests, etc.).
Great interview, Rachel! 🙂
Well, if you put it that way…
I see that she offers to rep one out of 30,000 submissions. And, yes, that seems like winning the lottery. But I was looking at her offer to rep one in five on the fulls she requests. That struck me as a high number.
And asking for proposals on one in 200 isn’t bad, either. That’s .5 percent, but if we knock out 90 percent that are badly written by people who have never even read a blog post on how to write a query letter, we can see that she’s requesting a proposal from one writer out of twenty that have studied writing and the guidelines. (I know it’s getting more competitive, but there is still a lot of junk out there that she can reject fairly quickly.) Then from those proposals she asks for a full on one in thirty. That’s still doable. And from the requested fulls she offers on one in five. That’s huge!
So if you get rid of 90 percent that are culled fast, that leaves an offer rate of 1 in 300, or .3, which is decent number for slush. I think.
OK, it’s still like winning the lottery. Thank God we don’t have to worry about that. We can send stuff out and know that when he’s ready, when we’re ready, he’ll find us a home. 🙂
Lindsay A. Franklin
LOL @ the Slush Pile Hell link.
Totally agree with you, Sally. All things considered (like the fact that a large percentage of original queries are probably inappropriate for one reason or another), I think the numbers are encouraging in that they’re not zero! 🙂
I don’t like math. 🙂
The thirty-something issues can be pushed into the 40’s as Cheryl Malandrinos said, as well as the early 50’s. I had my last baby at 40, and yes, he was a surprise. So I’m dealing with (wayward and difficult) 21 year old daughters and then down to a 9 year old. One of the big issues in women my age is having and dealing with depression, which is by far, the worst kept secret in the North American church. Women NEED tough talking and hope giving books, whether fiction or non-fiction, to give them a rope up out of the well.
I did a speech on this topic recently. Anti-depressants are now the most widely prescribed drugs in the US. They are prescribed more than medicines for high blood pressure, asthma, and headache. Women take them 2 and half times more than men and 21% of women in their forties and fifties take them. Depression/anxiety is a huge problem in the church as well as in the world.
Have you encountered those who tell people to “pray harder”? I certainly have. I also had someone tell me that if my 95% hearing impaired mother had more faith, God would restore her hearing. (Did you know that it’s considered rude to punch people in church?)
It is still very difficult for a CHristian woman to admit the need for meds, or non-medicated therapy of any kind. A good Proverbs 31 girl shouldn’t need help. (Again, with the punching question).
Thanks Rachel! That was very informative. I now realize I need a website. Phew! 🙂 I am not on Goodreads yet either, I hadn’t heard of it. Is it a blog?
It’s a website where readers are able to post reviews and connect with authors.
What exactly do you mean by a professional website? Do you have to pay a professional in order to make it a professional site? Or does a sophisticated do-it-yourself blog or site work?
You want it to look good and to be focused on your writing and not just your life. If you can put something nice together yourself you don’t need to hire a professional at this point.