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Writer to Agent Q & A: The Manuscript

Part Two to the Writer to Agent Q&A with Kimberly Cameron and Associates covers a few questions about the manuscript. You can find Part One (The Query) here and Part Three (The Platform) here.
Back in January 2014 I joined a Writer’s Digest Boot Camp called Agent One-on-One where the wonderful, informative agents from Kimberley Cameron and Associates critiqued our queries, synopses, and first few pages. It was an invaluable experience and I highly recommend the Boot Camps to all writers looking for help in their writing journeys. Here are *some* of the Q & As that were asked by various writers and answered by the agents during Boot Camp. Many questions were about the writer’s personal works and were not written down. Hopefully this helps some writers out there!
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Using brand names:
Q: What is the rule on using name brands in your manuscript? Is there some sort of permission you have to get to publish a name brand? For example, if I wanted to reference Harry Potter or mention a Pepsi on the table.
 
MM: In general you should not use brand names in your work. Instead of using “Pepsi” use “cola” instead of using “iPhone” use “smartphone.”

The reason for this, is that it dates your work. You want your work to be as timeless as possible. Something like Frankenstein, which is 200 years old, is still relatable today, but if she had used brands that were common then, they would make no sense to the modern reader. Already a lot of pulp fiction from the fifties falls flat with the modern reader because we can’t understand the heavy lingo/brand names.

 

Editing your MS (Manuscript) First:
Q: Does your MS have to be in pristine edited condition? Editing is still expected to happen, right?
 
MM: A great question. Most agents, especially less-experienced agents, expect to do some polishing on an MS. My most recent client we had 4 rounds of edits before I signed her, and now I’m doing an intense copy-edit on her manuscript before shopping it. However, it is a good idea to work with a free-lance editor at least through one round of edits to get your book polished enough to catch the interest of an agent.
The truth of the matter is, that if an agent absolutely loves the concept of a proposed book, they will be more willing to risk their editorial time than on a book that did not capture their heart. However, those non-hearted books, if extremely well-written and polished can still capture their interest and stand a much better chance of eventually capturing their heart.

I guess to sum it up, when your book is on the fence in terms of interest, it has a much better chance of falling on the right side if it has been professionally edited.

Finding a Fiction Editor:
Q: What is the best way to find a great fiction editor?
KC: Again, great question. Yes – editors that have been in the publishing world are professional and know their business. There are lots of editorial services with experienced editors that have been at the major houses, such as:http://www.bookdocs.com/
Commercial vs. Literary vs. Mainstream
Q: What is meant by commercial fiction as opposed to literary fiction versus mainstream fiction?
AC: In commercial/mainstream, you typically find a faster pace and the stories tend to be more plot driven. With literary fiction, you have more leeway with deeper character development, crafted prose, and developed themes.
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