What Agents, Editors and Publishers Ask Writers…

It can be quite nerve wracking speaking to agents, editors and publishers no matter what stage of the writing ladder you’re at, but especially so, I remember, when I was unagented and unpublished.

Looking back, there seemed to be several questions which cropped up regularly. I thought I’d share them as, even though I am now agented and have a publisher, they still came up at a recent meeting.

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What genre do you write in?

I found just saying ‘romance’, didn’t really pin down my style of writing very well. Romance is a very broad genre and includes, historical, suspense, contemporary, paranormal, Christian and so on. By defining it as mystery, suspense and romance worked far better and helped to expand the conversation.

Which author would you compare your work to?

I hate this type of question. If I answer no-one, will it make me sound ignorant of other writers? If I come out with an international best-selling author, will I sound too full of myself? I find a good way to deflect it, is by saying which authors I like to read and to say whether they have influenced my writing at all.

Can you sum up your novel in a couple of sentences?

This is actually a really useful exercise and can help no matter who asks you about your book, whether it be an agent, a publisher or a friend. If you can include the theme of your book, how you address this and the genre in just three sentences, then this shows that you really know your book and your market. It also helps to avoid those awkward silences or the false starts that start off, ‘Well, it’s about a woman. Well, two women. No. Actually, it’s about this man …’ Nailing it right down to three concise sentences will not only help to inspire confidence and professionalism in you from their point of view, but it will do exactly the same for you.

Where do you see yourself in 3/4/5 years’ time?

If you can outline your next book in a couple of sentences, this goes a long way to showing that you are serious about being an author. It shows that you have more than one book in you and you are worth investing in. If you can also have a general idea of where you are heading with your writing career, again, this all helps to show your professionalism and ambition.

Why did you want to speak to me?

This can be a tricky one, saying you’re working your way through the Writers Yearbook, probably isn’t going to go down too well. Explain, why you wanted to see them, maybe they have other authors similar to your style, yet you still have something fresh and new to offer. Perhaps, the publisher has a wide reaching audience or it might be because they are a small independent publisher and the family feel appeals to you. If you can come up with two or three reasons, then this will show the agent/publisher that you have done your research and, again, promote your professionalism to being a writer.

Of course, these aren’t hard and fast questions, they may vary and there will, no doubt, be plenty of other questions but I found these formed a good solid foundation to go into a meeting with.

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20 thoughts on “What Agents, Editors and Publishers Ask Writers…

  1. The ‘which author do you compare yourself to’ always gets me. If I quote a bestselling author, am I being too confident of my abilities? But if I mention someone whose work isn’t in Waterstones maybe they think I have no ambition? Great post by the way.

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