Looking forward to meeting writers and chatting about publishing at the San Francisco Writers Conference this weekend! If you see me and I have my badge on, feel free to stop me and say hi and ask a question or two. 🤗
I’m so proud, blubbery, giddy, and all the other emotions to show off this amazing cover for GIRL GIANT AND THE MONKEY KING, a middle grade debut from my client Van Hoang. Phung Nguyen Quang and Huynh Kim Lien are the talented illustrator duo KAA behind this gorgeous cover. Super excited they are also doing some sketches in the pages of the book.
GIRL GIANT is out with Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan 10/06/20. Available for pre-order everywhere now!
Eleven-year-old Thom Ngho is keeping a secret: she’s strong. Like suuuuper strong. Freakishly strong. And it’s making it impossible for Thom to fit in at her new middle school. In a desperate bid to get rid of her super strength, she makes a deal with the Monkey King, a powerful deity and legendary trickster. Thom will help him get back his magical staff if he’ll take away her strength. Soon she is swept up in a centuries-old world where demons, dragons, and Jade princesses actually exist. But Thom quickly discovers that magic can’t cure everything, and dealing with the trickster god might be more trouble than it’s worth.
As I gear up to open to submissions for the new year, I’m once again faced with the task of whittling down the remaining fulls in my query inbox. I’d love to get down to zero, a fresh start to 2020. I have less than ten manuscripts to consider. Should be easy right?
As the pile of “maybes” gets smaller, the harder it is to make decisions on what to let go. There’s the young adult thriller I’ve had since spring, in which, although the plot is a mess, I’m in love with the narrative voice. The contemporary middle grade that’s been there since late summer, with the amazing concept and natural tension, but rough writing. The adult fantasy, just requested before shutting down my inbox, that is totally epic and totally up my alley, but perhaps not enough to break out in the smaller SFF market. The interesting women’s fiction from early fall, with the really cool author with lots of great experience and a huge platform, that doesn’t quite catch, but maybe could with some edits.
I can’t take on all of them. But there isn’t a good reason to reject them. So I start typing those dreaded words, “I just didn’t fall in love,” cringing because after months of considering a full manuscript, I know the author is going to be frustrated by this lame response. Sure I try to dress it up best I can, but the bottom line, is “it’s not you, it’s me.” I’ve gotten plenty of those types of responses from editors to know that wrapping it in a pretty ribbon of words isn’t going to make the seemingly arbitrary rejection any less baffling and/or disheartening.
How can I explain myself, and my cohort of literary agents across the country, for sending rejections we ourselves dread to receive?
So I emphasize once again, how in tune I must be with a manuscript and its author. My vision for what editorial the manuscript needs and who the target audience is should be crystal clear. Knowing those two factors, I can lay a path forward for myself and the author. My vision has to be strong, because that path will most definitely veer and fork and turn on itself. This business is a roller coaster at best and a human-eating monster at worst. As one of my favorite lit peeps Literary Agent DongWon Song pointed out in a recent Writing Excuses podcost:
Now, the thing is, publishing is a system that is designed to be extremely random. What makes a book work is highly unpredictable. What makes a book tank, also highly unpredictable. So when you’re thinking about this, there’s two things you need to keep in mind: always have a plan. But also be ready to throw that plan out the window at the drop of a hat. . . . You will go completely mad if you try to map the whole thing. So you pick your path, but then you’re ready to know, we can pivot wherever we need to.https://wetranscripts.dreamwidth.org/166134.html
So when I’m reading a particularly strong submission, I’m considering the biggest factor that will push me to make an offer: Is my vision for it strong and clear enough to survive through the inevitable roller coaster?
The writing may be excellent, the author may be fantastic, the story may be right up my alley, but could I take it the distance? If I give it more time, will my vision potentially solidify or should I let it go now?
The next time an agent hangs on to your manuscript for months and then all you get is a “I just didn’t fall in love” rejection, pat yourself on the back, you’re rising to the top of hundreds of thousands of submissions. It’s only a matter of time before you find someone who will “fall in love.”
And in the meantime, remember, it really wasn’t you, it was me.
I will be closed to submissions from December 15 until January 15, for the holidays. I hope to catch up with all outstanding queries, partials, and fulls during that time.
Wishing everyone a joyful holiday season and a happy new year!
After a long hiatus, the agents of Kimberley Cameron & Associates are once again teaching a Writer’s Digest course. Sign up and you get to join an online forum where you have four hours over two days to ask me anything about publishing. I will be there in real time, and there are no stupid questions.
After the forum, I will critique your query letter and first ten pages (this does not count as a submission, it’s for you to improve your work, you can always submit to me officially at a later date after you’ve incorporated the feedback).
Even if you are not ready to query, you are welcome to join us and to get feedback on your rough draft.
*Note, although you will have access to all the KC&A discussions, whichever agent you are assigned to will be the one answering your questions on the forum and critiquing your work, so if you are looking to connect with one of us specifically, make sure you let WD know.
I will be closed to submissions September 23 through October 14 for travel and work. Will also use the time to catch up on query backlog. Reopening in time for #DVPit! For those of you planning for the future, I will also be closing to submissions for a few weeks over the holidays.
I’m pleased to share that I’ll be heading an affordable and local workshop on how to query a literary agent this month! On Sunday, September 22, at 2pm during the Marin California Writers Club’s monthly meeting, I’ll be discussing the importance of the query, advising how to craft one, as well as answering questions and critiquing a few (anonymously) for the group (if you wish for yours to be critiqued, bring a print copy minus any identifying information).
Although it is hosted by the CWC, non-members are welcome as well. At $10 a person ($5 for members) this is a really good deal, when you consider attending a conference or online workshop to get the same information would be at least 20 times this price.
I’m always keen to share what I wish I had learned back when I was a querying author, and am strongly aware of the lack of affordable resources for writers. So please feel welcome, even if you’re not ready to query yet. This is a great opportunity and I hope to meet more than a few local writers there!
One of the most important and also hardest aspects of my job is getting a project past the publishers’ editorial front line. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the process: once an agent has sent a manuscript to editors, said editors will read and consider whether or not they want to take the ms to acquisitions. That means the editor has to be passionate about it enough to get their team to read it fairly quickly (all of whom are swamped with their own tbr pile), draft a profit and loss statement, convince a room full of people that the ms is worth investing in. Basically stake their reputation on it.
This excruciating process can take weeks, and it is a lot of time and energy away from current work (not taking into consideration the project going to auction). So an editor can like a project–they mostly do like the client work that I send, as I work hard to maintain a standard and appeal to individual tastes–but simply liking a project isn’t enough. So I have to do everything in my power to get them excited before they read it, which means creating a letter that indicates why they are a great fit for the project, and one that includes a powerful pitch, current successful comparative titles, and a clear author bio. Sometimes I will pitch in person or on the phone, but the power points remain the same. Sound familiar?
If it works then they go in primed to love the manuscript. Which gives it the best possible chance to make it past the front line. And ideally go further–then the editor will use those same power points when lobbying your manuscript to marketing, financial, the publisher itself. And those points will be part of the final decision, i.e. if you are going to be made an offer.
So remember, that’s the end game. Your query is not just a way of introducing yourself to an agent, but to show how your manuscript can be positioned positively in the market and that it has potential to sell. You’re clearing the road blocks, so the decision gets down to the writing itself.
Don’t be intimidated by this, we don’t expect new authors to navigate the market with years of experience and execute the perfect query letter (that is why you’re looking for a literary agent after all), but at least understanding why these concepts are important can only benefit you on your road toward publication.
And even if you do pull off everything perfectly, you will probably still get rejected. It’s incredibly frustrating and heartbreaking, but you’re not alone, and we feel it too. Every agent has a few of those projects that they’ve never forgotten and were stumped as to why they didn’t sell.
But you can and will navigate the process with more confidence and knowledge and eventually there will be a project that will get that yes.
It is universally claimed that one of the major reasons submissions get rejected is because of grammar errors. That an agent will take one look at the spotty pages and toss it out.
So those of you who have done the research and understand the submission process to the best you can, of course you comb through your pages, even futilely AFTER you send it (I see you, you anxiety-ridden worker bees). And upon re-reading you discover that you misplaced a comma, or even worse, misused a homophone! So you agonize when that rejection letter comes in, was it because you spelled the witch’s altar with an “e”? How could you have been so dumb?
I’m here to reassure you. We are human, we make mistakes. Publishers have entire departments whose soul job (see what I did there?) is to make sure their content is grammar-error free. And even then it’s not a hundred percent, we’ve all caught a random error in a published book.
Sure, there are professionals (or people in general) who will judge your pre-published work based on its grammatical precision. But before you label yourself stupid or inferior for making those mistakes, try to see the bigger picture.
“Perfect” grammar is an inherently classist concept (PrintRun Podcast has a wonderful episode about this: Grammar and Power). Someone who belittles others about grammar, had the privilege of an elite education. They are attempting to wield power–their intention is to make you feel inferior, nothing else.
And by default, agents sit in a position of power. Power creates hubris. It’s a reality we’ve all been faced with. Some deal with it better than others.
So turn the picture around. Consider what you want in a literary agent. If an agent actually rejects your submission because of specific grammar errors (potentially rules that you were not educated in) do you want to work with them? Coming from such different perspectives, will they understand or relate to the content and be able to champion it with the passion and sensitivity it deserves?
This is not to say you should toss all your grammar concerns aside. Odds are your submission isn’t getting very far because your writing is underdeveloped. Writing is first and foremost an apprenticeship. You should be continuously honing your skills, including your proof-reading abilities, so your prose reaches toward your ultimate goal, whether it be more elevated, more streamlined, easier to read, more beautiful etc.
This may seem like conflicting advice, don’t worry and do worry about grammar. To be clear, understanding why grammar is important and how to wield it, can and will strengthen your writing. This education is an attainable power, but there is no shame in your ignorance of it. Your path is different, but your work is not inferior. Anyone who tells you different, whatever position of power they hold, is the one with the complex.
I am closing to submissions for the month of May for travel and work. Will also use the time to catch up on backlog and hopefully respond to any outstanding fulls and partials.
Reopening June 1st!