Part 3 of 3
Hi this is the third part of my interview with Helen Corner, the director of Cornerstones a Literary Consultancy based in the UK. The first part can be found here, and the second here.
& don't forget to enter Cornerstones competition here on this blog: Click here.
You recently released a book, How to Write a Blockbuster together with Lee Weatherly. What was it like to put that together and how was it received?
It was a natural progression of all that we do and is based on our workshop teaching. It was a relief to get all our knowledge – a combined 35 years of experience - down on paper! At the risk of blowing our own trumpet I happen to think it’s the best book out there on how to write and submit.
Can you give us some tips on approaching agents?
There is an etiquette on how to do this, so any author will want to read our book for more information on how to get a MS into a publishable state, and approach agents and not get turned down! But here are a few key points to remember.
Make sure your MS is really polished, and your submission is professional, where there is no room for an agent to turn it down. Remember, you have about 30 seconds of an agent’s time before they make a decision.
Target specifically and aim for the agent’s desk and not the slush-pile.
Thorough research is the key. Have a list of agents, contact details and any information you can find on them via the web, writers’ handbooks, writing magazines etc.
Call or email and aim to check the contact details first and then speak to the agent. Have details of your story to hand in case your mind goes blank.
Personalise your cover letter: ‘I read an interview in Writers’ Forum and I see that you’re looking for thriller writers…’, ‘We met briefly at the Winchester Writers’ Conference…’, ‘We spoke on the phone today and you kindly said you’d look at my first three chapters. I hope you enjoy reading it…’
Make a follow-up call to check they received your submission and try to get an idea of timing. Remember that you’re only submitting to one or two agents, as you’ve targeted specifically, so you can’t afford for an agent to hold on to your ms for longer than a month before you try someone else. If you haven’t heard from them after a month make a gentle prompter phone call or email. If you haven’t heard anything after six weeks then move on. Never be rude or pushy.
Keep all rejection letters so you learn the difference between a positive turn down and a general blanket turn down. And then try again.
Good luck, and give us a call and let us know what you’re writing about. We might be able to help.
And that's it folks. Thanks Helen, have a great Christmas!
Quick footnote from me:
Helen talks above about targeting a few agents rather than mass mailing to a load all at the same time. I believe this is good advice. I have had some good chats with agents over the phone, which whilst haven't lead to any offer to represent me, did mean they gave my submission their attention and I got personalised letters back on my novel rather than standard rejection letters. It's scary ringing, especially when they ask you questions over the phone about your book, but if you prepare and are willing to go for it, you drastically improve your chances.
Contact Helen on 0208 9680777 or email Helen@cornerstones.co.uk or look up www.cornerstones.co.uk to find out if she can help point you in the right direction with your writing.
Please reference this article when you contact her.
Picture: Helen Corner & Lee Weatherly with their book 'Teach Yourself How to Write a Blockbuster' £9.99,Hodder.