Posted On September 14, 2011 by Print This Post

Sara Megibow Sells Romance – Like A Good Melon

You spend hours, months, maybe years writing your book and then polish it until it shines.  But, is it ready? Sara Megibow is back and today she’s talking to us about ways to make sure your book is ready for prime time.

LIKE A GOOD MELON

How do you know when your novel is ready to submit? Do you dot the last I and cross the last T and just “know?” Do you ask your best friend or crit partner? Do you thump it like a ripe melon?

Here are some suggestions for sending out your best work. Really, really, really your best work. You’d be surprised how many times I pass on a good (but not quite great) manuscript and one day later receive a response saying, “you know, I think you’re right – this book isn’t quite ready yet. I’ll fix it up and query you again.” I am of course thrilled at the writer’s enthusiasm, but my gut reaction is “darn, wish I could have read the best possible version with fresh eyes.” If you want to increase your chances of having an agent (or an editor) ask for sample pages, ask for a full manuscript or offer representation or a book contract, make sure that novel is 100% ready before you start the process!

There are places to go for a critique if you know where to look. Agents are not crit partners! I need to spend my time shopping your book, shopping subsidiary rights, planning marketing campaigns, tracking royalties, following up on questions, etc. But, you CAN get a professional take on your novel before submitting and that’s always a good idea.

– The fabulous Janice Hardy (author of THE SHIFTER, BLUE FIRE and DARKFALL – the HEALING WARS middle grade fantasy trilogy) has used www.critique.org and blogs extensively about critiques and writing here:
http://blog.janicehardy.com/

– Roni Loren, debut author of CRASH INTO YOU (January 2012, Berkley Heat) posts extensively on her blog for writers. Whether you are new to publishing or an experienced author, this is one of the top writing blogs I recommend!
http://fictiongroupie.blogspot.com/

– My boss, Kristin Nelson, has hosted a blog for years. While she also talks a lot about the business side of publishing, her critique feedback (and especially the blog tag called “Beginning Author Mistakes”) is invaluable!
http://pubrants.blogspot.com/

– Romance Writers of America (RWA) is one of the most extensive and professional writing organizations in the country. RWA will help you find critique partners and will direct you to contests and competitions to get your material read. And YES – these RWA contests do matter to me when you mention them in a query letter. Since I have such a high opinion of RWA, I know their contests (and contest winners) have clout. If you are an RWA member (and I am gambling that you are, as you’re reading this post on Romance University), then use it!

– There are various online fundraisers to which agents and editors donate critiques. Yes, this would cost you money, but it’s a donation to a good cause in exchange for professional feedback. The Brenda Novak online auction for Diabetes is one of the largest annual fundraisers and our agency (among many others) always donates to it:
http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/

– If you want a couple of free options, here they are: I recommend reading your novel out loud. Yes, it’s essentially your own feedback yet again, but you’ll be surprised how many mistakes you can catch using this technique. Also, if you are having trouble with a particular passage (especially if it’s the beginning), then try taking two blank pages and writing that segment in two totally different ways and comparing them.

– Go to a conference and attend a workshop geared toward editing and revising. (Again, especially if it’s an RWA sponsored conference – they are awesome!)

– Pay an English major to read your book and offer feedback. S/he won’t know the insides of publishing but s/he will be a fresh pair of eyes with (hopefully) the ability to read for story development, characterization, cohesiveness, world-building, etc.

– Read other books in your genre and sub-genre. You are all (or mostly all) romance authors here, right? Make sure you are reading romance novels, published within the past two years by major New York publishing houses. I love when someone says “I’m a huge Nora Roberts fan” (who isn’t?), but read recent debut authors too! Do you write paranormal romance? Try Allison Pang’s A BRUSH OF DARKNESS. Do you write historical romance? Try Ashley March’s SEDUCING THE DUCHESS. Do you write romantic suspense? Read Pamela Clare’s BREAKING POINT. Reading tends to be an excellent window into learning more about writing. I know some authors fear that looking at other books will taint their own work or intimidate them out of writing, but I still recommend it.

– Finally, the very best advice I can give. Finish the book and even if you think it’s your absolute best work, stop. Wait. Sleep on it for a week and then re-read it. Don’t be one of those people in the slush pile whose query reads, “I finished my first book last night and I want you to sell it.” Trust me, even a week away from the manuscript will give you great perspective.

Happy writing to you all! In the comments section here, please mention if you have other suggestions for where writers can go for GOOD feedback on their books.

Sincerely,
Sara

***

Do you have a method or process you follow to make sure you’re manuscript is ready? Any questions for Sara on the pitfalls to avoid sending a manuscript too soon?

On Friday, Author Beth Kery, discusses the submission process.

***

Sara is giving away a copy of  ROMANCING THE COUNTESS to one lucky commenter!

ROMANCING THE COUNTESS by Ashley March (www.ashleymarch.com)

An illicit affair…
An unlikely pair…
A second chance at love…

Sebastian Madinger, the Earl of Wriothesly, thought he’d married the perfect woman—until a fatal accident revealed her betrayal with his best friend. After their deaths, Sebastian is determined to avoid a scandal for the sake of his son. But his best friend’s widow is just as determined to cast her mourning veil aside by hosting a party that will surely destroy both their reputations and expose all of his carefully kept secrets…

Leah George has carried the painful knowledge of her husband’s affair for almost a year. All she wants now is to enjoy her independence and make a new life for herself – even if that means being ostracized by the Society whose rules she was raised to obey. Now that the rumors are flying, there’s only one thing left for Sebastian to do: silence the scandal by enticing the improper widow into becoming a proper wife. But when it comes to matters of the heart, neither Sebastian nor Leah is prepared for the passion they discover in each other’s arms…

***

Bio: Sara Megibow, Associate Literary Agent
Nelson Literary Agency, LLC

Sara has worked at the Nelson Literary Agency since 2006. As the Associate Literary Agent, Sara is actively acquiring new clients! The Nelson Literary Agency specializes in representing all genres of romance (except inspirational or category), young adult fiction of all subgenres, science fiction/ fantasy and commercial fiction (including women’s fiction and chick lit). Sara is an avid romance reader and a rabid fan girl of super sexy and intelligent stories.

Nelson Literary Agency is a member of AAR, RWA, SFWA and SCBWI. Please visit our website http://http://www.nelsonagency.com/for submission guidelines, FAQs, resources and sample query letters. Sara’s Publisher’s Marketplace site (www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/SaraMegibow) is a great place to find more about her personal tastes, clients and recent sales. You can also cyber stalk Sara on twitter @SaraMegibow

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20 Responses to “Sara Megibow Sells Romance – Like A Good Melon”

  1. Hi Sara,

    Thanks for the great advice.

    You’re probably going to kill me for what I’m about to say, but my big break came after receiving feedback from two agents.

    In addition to my awesome CPs, I utilized many fabulous and professional resources during my publishing journey–all of which got me closer and closer.

    But it was the agents’ perspective that gave me something to sink my teeth into and get to the core issue. What can I say, you guys are the bomb!

    Sorry!!
    Tracey

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | September 14, 2011, 4:44 am
  2. Sara: I have a wonderful CP and a couple of close friends who beta read for me when it is all said and done. My everyday CP sees it as it goes along, chapter by chapter and the others look it over as a whole and they all catch different things. I am so lucky to have them.

    What’s the best advice to avoid a toxic CP? How do you keep your voice and not lose sight of it with all the advice coming in?

    Posted by Robin Covington | September 14, 2011, 5:31 am
    • Honestly, it’s going with your gut. When I offer feedback to my clients on their books, I always preface it by saying “if this doesn’t feel authentic to the book, scrap it.” There’s nothing wrong with opening Document #2 and “trying” a new way. But, if it doesn’t fly – just delete and file that person’s feedback under the “ok, tried it”

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | September 14, 2011, 7:35 am
  3. Morning Sara!

    I agree totally about the step away from it thing! I just peeked back into a first chapter from a few months ago, and went wow…let me fix that! and that! A fresh perspective indeed makes a difference..=)

    Thanks for posting with us today Sara!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | September 14, 2011, 7:03 am
  4. Hi Sara,

    Reading helps my writing. I look for books with a similiar idea and take notes.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | September 14, 2011, 7:28 am
    • Absolutely!

      It helps me too! I recently read WHEN HARRY MET MOLLY by Kieran Kramer. I loved it and the narrative voice was so unique. Seeing a book with a really fresh take on voice succeed opened my eyes to what my clients could be doing with their voice. Make sense?

      So, yes – I agree
      :)

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | September 14, 2011, 7:38 am
  5. Hi Sara. Such great advice. Finding the right critique partners is a huge undertaking,but once you have them, they’re like precious jewels!

    Reading the book out loud is the final thing I do before I submit it. It helps me see where the cadence is off or where a bit of dialogue needs work. I learned that from Margie Lawson and it’s some of the best advice I’ve ever received.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | September 14, 2011, 7:56 am
    • Good feedback, thanks!

      I spoke at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers last weekend and I heard soooooo many critique partner success stories – it was inspiring!

      Yes, like precious jewels
      :)
      Sara

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | September 14, 2011, 8:16 am
  6. The timing of this post is eerie. I’m one of those people who used to submit the minute I finished the first round of revisions. I’ve had some very nice, detailed rejections saying I was “almost there” – but “almost” good enough isn’t what I’m aiming for.

    My current story is taking a lot longer than I anticipated, and that frustrates me. It’s hard to be slow and painstaking when I have requests for the story.

    The way I see it, the people who requested it (knowing it wasn’t quite finished), will be happier if I wait until this melon is ripe rather than submit it while it’s a little green around the edges.

    I don’t want to wait until it’s turned to slimy mush, either, and some of my friends are worried I’m obsessively over-editing – putting off submitting out of a fear of failure. Not my CPs, though – they’ve found things I need to address, and I’m working on those things now.

    It’s easy to overlook problems with your own work – a good critique partner (or two, or three…)is one of the best resources a writer can have.

    Thanks for an extremely timely post, Sara. I’ll tackle those revisions with renewed fervor now!

    Posted by Becke Davis (Becke Martin) | September 14, 2011, 8:56 am
    • OOOoo – your imagery is perfect! *big smile*

      You know, one way to tackle this kind of thing is to do a smaller submit. You think it’s ready? Send to 2 agents instead of 10. That way you have the chance to revise again before sending out more if you get passes.

      When I see a query that opens, “you saw a previous version of this book before I edited it” then I wince. Half of me thinks “well it caught my attention once and maybe that’s JUST the edit it needed!” and the other half of me thinks “Oh, to have seen this with fresh eyes!”

      Anyway, if you’re hesitant about whether it’s done or not, try a smaller submit – thats my advice.

      Nice work!

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | September 14, 2011, 9:36 am
  7. Hi, Sara –

    Great advice! My question for you is this: Do you find that some of the writers you’ve signed as clients had a gut feeling about this manuscript being “the one?”

    Thanks!
    Kelsey

    Posted by KelseyBrowning | September 14, 2011, 10:09 am
    • As one of Sara’s clients, I can answer this one, at least for myself. I think I did have a gut feeling for my manuscript, but I didn’t quite want to believe it–as in, I didn’t want to get my hopes up, because it’s definitely not the first manuscript I completed. I’d say my CP had an even bigger gut feeling than I did. She told me on more than on occasion I was onto something with it. Turns out, she was right.

      Posted by Ashlyn Macnamara | September 14, 2011, 12:47 pm
      • I absolutely agree with Ashlyn!

        Yes, my clients have a gut feeling when they hit upon something that is really, really authentic.

        I remember editing Tiffany Reisz’s THE SIREN before submitting it. I said “how about having a POV from the hero’s perspective?” and she said “absolutely not.” I said “ok” because her answer was so from-the-gut. She was right. :)

        Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | September 14, 2011, 4:51 pm
      • What a great story! I love CP feelings. :)

        Jamie

        Posted by Jamie | September 14, 2011, 8:10 pm
  8. What a timely post, thanks Sara. I’m joining an RWA sub-chapter critique group and am looking forward to someone other than me looking at my work.
    Wanted to add another critique source to your list: Irene Goodman’s Ebay Critique for charity.
    cheers,
    -a-

    Posted by Anne Francis | September 15, 2011, 10:34 am
  9. Congrats Ashlyn! You win the book giveaway! Send me your snail mail addy at robincovingtonromance@yahoo.com

    Robin

    Posted by Robin Covington | September 15, 2011, 11:56 am

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