Posted On January 9, 2013 by Print This Post

Sara Megibow Sells Romance – Ask Her Anything

It has been a thrill to have Sara Megibow as a monthly columnist and we are saddened to see her go. I am so glad that walked up to her at the Washington Romance Writer’s Retreat in 2010 and thanked her for rejecting my manuscript because it helped me get my PRO status in RWA. We had lunch together that day and (to paraphrase Bogie)   – it was the start of a beautiful friendship. Thank you Sara! 

 

Dear Romance University –
 
Happy New Year!!! It has been an absolute honor and pleasure to be a part of your community over the past year and a half. All my thanks to Robin for inviting me to share thoughts with you.  And, of course, thanks to all of you for your wonderful questions and enthusiasm! This is my last post for your wonderful blog – I will miss all of you and promise to stop by again and again to see what’s new!
 

In trying to decide what to write for this last post I came up with something a bit out of the ordinary. I want to make sure that if you have a question for an agent, you get a chance to ask it, so here goes…
 
For today, if you post a question in the comments field below, I will answer it to the best of my ability. We can call this an #askagent if you want, but with more space in the blog comments to answer more thoroughly than we might on twitter. Please avoid asking about word count – that one gets old and unless you are writing 10,000 words or 250,000 words you’re probably not going to get kicked out of the slush pile for word count.
 

There is a TON going on in publishing right now – ebooks, self publishing, the merging of large NY publishers, amazon, the Department of Justice – feel free to dig in and get your questions answered. I reserve the right to be cryptic to protect a client and (as always) my opinion is based on my experience – other agents will have other (perfectly valid) opinions because they’ve had different experiences.
 

Anyway,
Happy New Year and thanks again for everything,

Ready…Set…GO!
Sara

 ***

So, don’t go easy on her today – ask anything you want to know about publishing. Sara is standing by . . . ..

On Friday, Loucinda McGary stops by with her unique insight.

***

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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32 Responses to “Sara Megibow Sells Romance – Ask Her Anything”

  1. Sorry to see you go, Sara! It’s been a pleasure getting to know you and to hear your insight on the industry.

    My questions are, how do you expect the consolidation of major publishing houses to impact the opportunities for being traditionally published? In ways must authors adjust to succeed in the ever-changing publishing landscape?

    Posted by Reese Ryan | January 9, 2013, 7:25 am
    • Good morning Reese – it’s been nice being here, thanks!

      Your question is a complex one. For traditionally published authors who are ALREADY under contract, then consolidation won’t be as big of an issue. Some imprints may close and, worst case scenario, I suppose some book contracts may be cancelled (we’ve seen that before and it’s yucky but it does happen). But, I’d say 90% of contracted authors will retain their contracts and experience a traditional book release. Competition will be higher for that second book deal, so earning out the advance will likely be even more important.

      As for authors who have yet to sign a book contract, then the competition will be stronger. Most traditional houses require an agent, so let’s say you have an agent and are shopping a book. Now that agent has 8 places to send your book instead of 9, so your chances are 1:8 instead of 1:9. And maybe that turns in to 1:7 or 1:6 in a few years.

      Make sense? As for advice, just keep writing the books of your heart – that’s really all we can do, eh?
      Sara

      Posted by Anonymous | January 9, 2013, 9:47 am
  2. Hello Sara,

    Would you take a few minutes
    to discuss what you mean by
    an “intelligent romance,”–a term
    you referred to in a recent interview?

    I wondered if you were thinking of
    romance novels that not only depict
    the philosophies, passions, & worldviews of characters, but their involvement
    with intellectual/cultural attitudes and/or
    social issues.

    Thanks very much!

    Síle

    Posted by Síle Post | January 9, 2013, 7:46 am
    • Excellent question!

      When pitching Sherry Thomas to publishing houses (wow, was it 6 years ago already?), we called her books “sexy and smart.” So, that’s what I mean by intelligent – it’s a descriptor used by the agent/ editor/ sales team/ bookseller to describe Sherry’s books to a potential buyer. If you write books that sound like Sherry Thomas or Pamela Clare, then I would love to look at a query! Or, like Tiffany Reisz, Roni Loren and Ashlyn Macnamara (they are my current romance authors)

      Posted by Anonymous | January 9, 2013, 10:20 am
  3. Hi Sara, we will for sure miss your insight!

    My questions concern querying.

    I sent out some query letters and the helpful rejections said the premise was good but the first pages did not grab the agent. After the third such reply I rewrote my first chapter to address that. So, should I query those 3 agents again with the revised pages? I know I can’t replace the queries I already sent out, but should I write to the agents that have not replied yet (and do not have a “no response means no” policy)? Or should I just move on to the remaining agents on my list?

    Posted by Patricia Moussatche | January 9, 2013, 7:47 am
    • Dear Patricia – that’s a hard one. Honestly, no – you should not re-query the same agents with the same book unless you’ve significantly overhauled the entire work. I know that’s not quite the answer you want to hear, so you can of course make your own decision on this.

      Our agency sees a lot of what we call “we changed the color of the hero’s shirt on Page 5″ revisions. When we pass on a manuscript it’s because we feel it’s not ready to be sold to a traditional publisher (that’s our scope – other agents evaluate based on traditional publishing and self publishing, but we don’t). So, if there is a problem in the first 5 pages it’s very likely that problem exists throughout the manuscript. If you’ve overhauled the entire book,then yes – you may re-query. Otherwise, just stick with the agents you haven’t yet queried because maybe one of them will fall in love with it.

      Make sense?

      Posted by Anonymous | January 9, 2013, 10:39 am
  4. Thanks for doing this Sara! I have sooo many questions, but I’ll try to contain myself! I am just barely starting to throw myself into the writing world (meaning I’ve written for years but never for more than personal enjoyment). How important is it to get an agent before contacting publishers? And do beginning writers really need to stick with one genre or is it okay to test the waters with a couple of different ones? What do I do if I don’t really fit any of the traditional ones? As you can probably tell, I have no idea where to start when trying to market my book. Any advice you can post would be soooo appreciated!

    Posted by LeAnne Bristow | January 9, 2013, 7:53 am
    • Excellent questions!

      First of all, you are in the right place by following Romance U – I’ve found the information here to be reliable and accurate. Accurate info is the name of the game when going from writing-for-pleasure to looking-at-publishing.

      Some other great resources?
      http://www.aar-online.org
      http://www.writers.net
      http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/

      1) when you’ve finished your book 100%, the next step is to decide which path you want to try first. There’s traditional publishing (what I do), there’s small press publishing (also excellent and doesn’t require and agent) and there’s self publishing (not my forte at all, so don’t take advice from me on that)

      2) If, after you’ve done your research you decide to try for traditional publishing, then yes – you need an agent. Know your genre! If you write romance (as I assume as you’re here), then join RWA (Romance Writers of America) and query RWA approved agents or any agent listed at http://www.agentquery.com who says that she or he represents romance.

      3) Before you sign your agent it’s ok to write in a variety of genres to get a sense of your artistic style. After you sign with an agent, be careful to try to create a brand before branching out too much.

      4) If you don’t fit the traditional mold, try small press publishing or indie publishing – again, not my forte so I won’t go in to that. But, do your research first and make sure the info you gather is accurate.

      hope that helps!

      Posted by Anonymous | January 9, 2013, 11:07 am
  5. Morning Sara!

    I agree- very sad to see you go! You’ve been a real benefit to RU for the past year and a half, we’ve loved having you!

    I have one agent in mind, for when I’m at “that” point – and yeah, only one at this time…lol….I know I should have lists of top tier, second tier, etc. I had heard this lady speak at an RWA conference and I thought she sounded like someone I’d be friends with. =) Corny I know, but it was just a feeling. Would it be acceptable to put something like that in a query letter? (Not the stalkerish part, just the I heard you speak part) as a way of introduction?

    Or is that just weird. =)

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | January 9, 2013, 9:03 am
    • Hi Carrie –

      I think it’s fine to mention that in a query letter, but what is really important is the pitch. Honestly, I don’t read the bio paragraph at all – just the pitch paragraph to evaluate the writing. So, it can’t hurt but it’s likely not a deal breaker or deal maker, if that makes sense.

      Posted by Anonymous | January 9, 2013, 11:21 am
  6. Sara…this is in the inbox – from Becky Lower

    In the past year, I’ve had two books published by Crimson Romance and already in 2014, I have two more under contract with Crimson and Soul Mate. I feel I should start querying agents simply because I’ve been told time and again I need one, but I want to be assured they can do more for me than I can do myself. Where I feel I’m lacking is in promotion of myself, not finding a publisher. Would love to hear your advice.

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | January 9, 2013, 9:05 am
    • Dear Carrie –

      complicated answer. First let me say that advice for an author is very specific to each author’s career. Since I’m not your agent, you should not take this as the be-all-end-all of advice. It’s one opinion and that’s it.

      My suggestion would be to evaluate these things: distribution, sales numbers, commercial success (how much money you are making) and subsidiary rights (foreign sales, film sales, audio sales). If you are happy with each as is, then no – you don’t need an agent and you should continue as is. If these are areas that you are specifically interested in, then decide how to get there – is it big press, more small press sales or self publishing? Since I only do big press, I can’t advise you on the other two. Personally, I am outstanding at analyzing distribution and evaluating for an author’s career. I’m also very good at selling subsidiary rights. But, those two things come more with traditional publishing than they do with the other two.

      Long answer short – if you want to do what you’re doing now, go for it – sounds like you’re experiencing great success. If you want what the traditional publishing deal offers,then yes, very likely you need an agent.

      Agents aren’t necessarily used for promotions (although I’m pretty good at creating marketing plans for my authors). Rather, agents are exceptional at negotiating contracts, planning strategy, selling to Big 6 publishers and selling subsidiary rights.

      Posted by Anonymous | January 9, 2013, 2:29 pm
  7. Hi Sara,

    If you were a writer, what would look for in an agent? What is the biggest don’t for a writer when querying an agent?

    Happy trails to you,

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | January 9, 2013, 9:40 am
    • Hi Mary Jo –

      the easy answer first = the biggest no-no in looking for an agent is querying an agent for a book in a genre they don’t represent. If you’re here, likely you write romance novels, yes? Make sure to query agents who sell romance novels.

      As for what I’d look for in an agent? Every author is different. Some authors want good editors (I am not that), some want good marketers (I’m much better at that) and some want strong back end services (I’m excellent at that). Back end services include contract negotiation, strategic submissions planning, marketing guidance, auditing royalty statements, etc.

      Follow some of the authors you respect and find out who their agents are. Then, follow those agents on FB and twitter and blogs to get a sense of who is strong at what. Also, if you are a romance writer, join RWA and consider attending a conference at which you would meet agents in person.

      Posted by Anonymous | January 9, 2013, 2:32 pm
  8. Hi Sara – I’m very sorry to see you go, but I appreciate the time you’ve spent with us. I always learn something from your posts!

    My question is similar to one posted above. I’m revising a story that I submitted two years ago. It got good feedback but there were a few things that clearly needed work. I’m going into the revisions with those issues in mind, as well as other things I think I can improve on.

    I plan to keep my title and tagline, but I’m afraid agents and editors will give it a pass because they’ll assume I’m resubmitting the same story. I received good feedback on the overall premise – it was my writing skill that needed work.

    What would you recommend – tossing the story and moving on, or giving it another shot?

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 9, 2013, 9:55 am
    • Hi Becke –

      it’s a really tricky question. We’ve definitely signed clients who came back to us with a revised novel (Gail Carriger for example). I will say that most agents are happy to read revisions and you should simply start the query process again and avoid saying anything like “you saw this before and passed on it.” That’s not a very engaging opening to any query.

      Our agency is going to be much tighter on reading resubmissions this year. It’s a sad thing, but there it is. If you feel the novel is now 100% ready, go ahead and resubmit. There’s nothing wrong with shelving it for 6 months while you work on something new and then in 6 months re-evaluating though. That might be what I would do.

      Posted by Anonymous | January 9, 2013, 2:39 pm
  9. Sara, you’re always so generous with advice – a real gift to writers!

    When you have a stack of manuscripts you’ve requested, do you read by date requested/received or the ones that appeal to you the most? Do you read one at a time? I realize everyone has a different approach, I’m just curious. :-)

    Again, thank you for taking the time.

    Posted by Orly Konig-Lopez | January 9, 2013, 11:44 am
    • Hi Orly –

      It depends. Usually I read based on received date. Sometimes I shuffle it around based on if the author has an offer on the table or something.

      :)

      Posted by Anonymous | January 9, 2013, 3:01 pm
  10. Bear with me folks – we are dealing with some back-end issues. I am posting this for Leanne –

    Thanks for doing this Sara! I have sooo many questions, but I’ll try to contain myself! I am just barely starting to throw myself into the writing world (meaning I’ve written for years but never for more than personal enjoyment). How important is it to get an agent before contacting publishers? And do beginning writers really need to stick with one genre or is it okay to test the waters with a couple of different ones? What do I do if I don’t really fit any of the traditional ones? As you can probably tell, I have no idea where to start when trying to market my book. Any advice you can post would be soooo appreciated!

    Posted by Robin Covington | January 9, 2013, 12:10 pm
  11. Hi, Sara. I’m so sad to see you go! I’ve loved your posts.

    We talk a lot on RU about querying agents when a writer is unpublished, but we don’t talk much about how a published author who has had representation approaches a new agent. I’m curious if the process is the same.

    Thanks so much for being with us. You’re posts have been wonderful!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | January 9, 2013, 12:16 pm
    • hmmmm…I suppose it’s different each time, and that’s a great question.

      #1 – you must let your current agent know that you are shopping. Publishing is a small world and if you’re agented and hunting around under the table, your agent will know (trust me on that one)

      #2 – sever your relationship in writing to terminate your old agency contract.

      #3 – then, perhaps your old agent will give you a letter of recommendation to a new agent? If not, start over with a new list of agents and a new query letter. If you’re multi published you may not need a fully complete manuscript, but you’d still need the description of what you are wanting to shop next.

      #4 – very important – if your old agent shopped manuscript X and did not sell it, the new agent is NOT able to shop it. Shopped is shopped.

      I think that’s it? Hope that helps!

      Posted by Anonymous | January 9, 2013, 3:13 pm
  12. Congrats on your recent sale of New Adult work, The Heiress! Can you tell us NLA’s policy about New Adult? is it something you guys are actively acquiring now? And lastly, do you think NA will be as embraced as YA?

    Posted by Bethany | January 9, 2013, 1:55 pm
    • Bethany – excellent question! We don’t have a policy on New Adult yet.

      We crafted THE HEIRESSES to hit a very specific market (kind of a backwards way of attacking a book deal but we really wanted to work with Dan Weiss and his team at SMP).

      Yes, I would absolutely consider more New Adult submissions – THE HEIRESSES is getting a tremendous amount of support and I’m happy that the reviews and momentum are outstanding. So, I would do it again in a heartbeat. As for New Adult as Young Adult – that’s really a matter of where the bookstores decide to shelve these books. If they are shelved in young adult, then yes – I think they will be reviewed by YA reviewers and up for book awards in the YA market. If not, I see them going as literary or commercial fiction.

      Thanks again – I hope you love the book!
      :)

      Posted by Anonymous | January 9, 2013, 3:28 pm
  13. Sara,

    Thank you for your contribution to RU. We will miss you!

    What’s the favorite part of your job and do you ever think about writing a book of your own?

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | January 9, 2013, 2:22 pm
    • Hi Jennifer –

      I have no interest in writing a book myself – I read, don’t write. But, lots of people ask me that. :)

      As for my job? Walking in to a bookstore and buying my clients’s books trumps everything! I love that day!!!

      Posted by Anonymous | January 9, 2013, 3:42 pm
  14. Sara, such a sad day for RU! I’ve learned so much from you over the last 1.5 years. Thanks again for always being so candid. Much appreciated!

    1) Novellas–if I wanted to write a novella that’s connected to a series, when is the ideal time for the novella to release? Right after my current release or right before the next?

    2) Branding–do you think it’s too much of a stretch to write historical romantic suspense, mainstream historical thrillers, and YA dystopian thrillers? If not, how long should a new author wait before branching out? 2 books in the same genre? 5 books? 10 books? I know it’s not an exact science!

    Hugs and well wishes! See you on Twitter, my friend. BTW, LOVE your new 2013 Twitter campaigns–#5pages & #SaraBookClub!!

    Tracey

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | January 9, 2013, 2:26 pm
    • Hi Tracey –

      Thanks! Yes, it’s going to be an exciting year although I will miss seeing you all every month here at RU.

      Let’s see – releasing tie-in novellas depends on a lot of things. In general, for brand new authors it makes more sense to do the novella as soon as possible. For more established authors it makes sense to do a novella once there are more books available to purchase (so closer to release of Book #2 than Book #1).

      As for branding, I’d be tempted to have 2-3 books out and available for purchase (as ebook or print or both) for 6 months or so before starting a new series. That’s not set in stone, but in general, for romance authors, I’d say 3 books in a series before branching out more.

      Just my two cents. Hope it helps!
      Cheers!

      Posted by Anonymous | January 9, 2013, 3:47 pm
  15. Hey Sara,

    Thanks so much for answering our questions.

    With great epubs like Carina and Entangled accepting unagented manuscripts, could you please offer your opinion on how an author can decide if they still need an agent, or how an agent can help them when they want to target the above houses for their work, And I’m not talking about category romance but single title.

    Thank you so much for your time.

    Posted by Kelly | January 10, 2013, 12:52 pm

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