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PART B

Critique:

Hema: Is it advisable to get your manuscript read to a classroom before it is published?

Mark: No, not at all! (Mark was emphatically unequivocal about this point.) This exercise will not produce an objective critique for your manuscript, which is what you should be seeking. And I say this for two reasons:

  • The kids will say they love it anyway, because the book will provide a break for them in the day’s routine.
  • The teacher will say she’s excited about it; I was a teacher myself, so I know. Most everyone when they ask for criticism, they’re only willing to listen to positive comments about their work. So, the teacher will only focus on the positive aspects of the manuscript and will not be able to provide the kind of objective critique you’re looking for.

So, I do not suggest this kind of exposure for your manuscript. You should be part of a critique group which has published authors, or authors who are working at getting published. They can provide objective comments for your work.

I would advise you strongly against including anything like “I had my manuscript read to a classroom and the kids loved it” in a query letter; no one will look at it favorably.

(I always thought that reading it to a classroom would be a good beta test for one’s manuscript. Mark’s answer was sure an eye-opener for me!)

Questions Related to McVeigh Agency:

 

Clients:

 

Hema: What are you looking for in a client?

Mark: I am looking for authors who: 

  • Have a unique voice.
  • Have something they need to say that will be of interest to a wider audience.
  • Take a professional approach to writing.
  • Are willing to take criticism.
  • Are aware of industry trends and market direction.
  • Can write multiple genres for multiple age groups: picture books, middle grade, young adult, the lot.
  • Are not reluctant to talk to the agent. Authors should be upfront about what’s working and what’s not in their relationship with me. When I provide them with editorial suggestions, they don’t always have to take them. They should be able to tell me if they don’t agree with my suggestions.

Hema:    What is the ratio of established authors vs. new authors in your client list?

Mark:    About 2/3 of my clients are established authors and the rest are new talent.

 

Query Process:

Hema: What do you look for in a query?

Mark: I look for a letter that is simple and professional. See the submission guidelines in my web site for more details.

Hema: Writing a good query letter is a whole different ballgame than writing a good story. It’s very hard for the author’s voice to come through within the expected 250 words or so. I see that your submission guidelines include a query letter and the first 20 pages of the manuscript. So, if a query letter does not grab your attention, do you leave it at that, or do you go ahead and read the pages included in the email?

Mark: When the query doesn’t grab my attention, I do go on to read ten or so of the pages included. It depends upon those initial pages whether I will go ahead and read all 20 of them.

Hema: Thank you very much, Mark, for taking time out of you busy schedule to answer my questions!

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At this point, I had at least a dozen more questions that I would have loved for Mark to answer for me, but the 15 minutes allotted me were regrettably up.

Mark’s new blog is going to be officially launched soon, with interviews with publishing legends, give-aways, videos, and more. He also promises to up the gossip quotient to make it worth the time for those who follow his blog.

Need more reasons? Then how about this: he is going to give away more of these free chats in the first week of April! So, go on and start following his blog, if you aren’t already doing so.

It was a pleasure to talk to Mark, and he gave me a lot of food for thought. Thank you, Mark, for sharing all this excellent information with me and the readers of my blog!

Here’s Part A of the same interview.

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Yup, you read it right. From splash to splat — me, like a lizard that has fallen from the roof of a high-ceilinged room to the floor. Ouch!

(You don’t see them very often in America, but in India, where I grew up, it is quite common to find lizards – buggy eyes and all – cohabiting with their human counterparts . Eek! I know!)

Why, you ask, has this happened – you know, from splash to splat?

I started this blog yesterday with all the positivity and enthusiasm in the world and posted my first ever blog. Right? That was the easiest part, believe me.

Experts maintain that novice bloggers should make a habit of blogging every single day. Yes, every single day. They say that doing so not only forces them to keep writing, but also helps them by putting that writing out in the public eye right away.

When you’re reading that advice, it sounds so simple and so inspirational and oh-so-doable. Right? Wrong! Right after you post that virgin blog, doubts set in:

“What did I do? Have I lost my mind? Did I really commit myself to putting down a page of thoughts for public consumption, every single day? What was I thinking? I don’t even have thoughts on most days that are fit for my own private consumption, let alone for the eyes of the entire world! What if I wake up tomorrow and discover that all words have been squeezed out of me?”

These are, to mention, just a few doubts that will assail you. And then night approaches. You know how the dark distorts and magnifies every worry you have? Those mutated anxieties then advance upon you, intent upon trampling you.

You sit up abruptly in bed, feeling hot and cold all over. All you hear is the clock ticking away. (That Tinker Bell digital clock that had stopped working a few months ago, but you didn’t have the heart to throw away? Yeah, that one!) After sitting there, shivering, anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, you’ll finally fall asleep, utterly exhausted. And lo and behold, before you know it, it’s the next morning.  

Hey, wait a minute! I have just drafted my second post. And I didn’t even realize that I was doing it. And remember that lizard that you thought has belly-flopped to the ground? Turns out, it actually has landed on its cushioned, webbed feet. It is somewhat stunned, but it will live.

Okay, so I have grossly exaggerated, but seriously, this is the life of a writer, especially an aspiring one. Do published authors also feel this way? No idea! I have but one friend who answers to that description — note to self: ask her if she suffers from occasional  self-doubts like I do, when I talk to her next.

In the meantime, is there anyone out there, who has published a book or two and would be willing to enlighten me and my friends here, on whether you suffer such self-doubts, too?

BUT, let me be the first one to tell you this: just as the lows are low, the highs of a writer’s life are really high. The euphoria you feel when you nail an especially difficult scene (and your critique group, which does not mince words, unanimously gushes over it) is just about worth all the lows that came before that one moment and all those that will surely come after it. Trust me on this one.

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