An Agent’s Tips for Your Manuscript

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by Mary Sue Seymour
The Seymour Agency

I am looking for Amish romances and also inspirational historical romances. I have never circulated an Amish romance or inspy historical I haven’t sold to a major Christian publisher. I like to see the first fifty pages, a synopsis and an author’s bio. Some authors seem to be a bit fearful about writing a bio. In truth, to sell nonfiction, it’s great to have a PhD but novelists, as far as I can discern, don’t even need a high school diploma. But having said that, a bio helps the person to whom you’re submitting your book learn a little more about you.

I remember when I first graduated from college, I taught school and was a cheerleading advisor. When choosing next year’s squad, a very difficult task, I usually picked the girls who made eye contact with me. Those who didn’t were a little easier to pass by.

Your bio should begin with the very most important info about yourself. I see a lot of writer’s bios begin with things like their grandmothers used to like to read to them when they were little and so on. Begin with anything published, contests placed in and conferences you attend. I like it when writers attend conferences; that shows me they’ll be willing to meet with editors and also participate in book signings. Editors and agents tend to be busy people; they might only read the first sentence of your bio. Make certain you put your best foot forward.

What attracts me to a manuscript is a great voice, a book you remember a week after you’ve finished reading it, and characters you’ve grown attached to. A good story saddens me when the book has to end. I have been known to do line to line edits on books [free of charge, of course!] if an author has a great voice and I am thinking of offering representation for the project.

The little mistakes beginning authors make are so fixable, and it’s so easy to perfect your book the next time. Some writers just need a little extra help.

I was asked what annoys me – nothing really annoys me – even when I’m stuck in traffic or in a long line in Walmart, that’s my down time where I think about things.

Things I appreciate are my clients. They are very good to me! I love meeting with them at conferences and taking them out so we can get together. Each of my clients is special to me in her/his own way. Writers work so hard and there’s such a huge margin for error when one writes a book. I like to think of my clients and me as a happy family. We are in this publishing business together for the good of the book industry. I smile when I think of all the Christian books my clients have sold over the years. I know in my heart many of them have lead people to Christ.

Last August I accepted an invitation from Thomas Nelson author, Beth Wiseman, to visit her at her home in Texas and then go to the River Walk in San Antonio with her best friend for the weekend! What an amazing time we had. The best part for me was watching Beth with Renee`! They have been friends for over 30 years and I felt blessed to be a part of their group. Renee’s daughter, Christie, does some modeling and is the cover model on Beth’s latest book, the third in The Land of Canaan Series titled His Love Endures Forever.

I attended a luncheon in Bird In Hand, Pa this past fall with clients: New York Times best selling Harper Collins author Shelley Shepard Gray and Zondervan authors Amy Clipston and Vannetta Chapman. This was a week long signing tour their publishers had sent them on. There was a girl in a wheelchair who had never read a book until she read Shelley Shepard Gray’s Hidden. Her family drove her many hours to meet Shelley at the signing, and Shelley posed for pictures with this reader. As the girl was leaving she asked Shelley if she would put a character in one of her books who was in a wheelchair. Shelley readily agreed. And that’s what it’s all about–satisfying the consumer and more importantly changing people’s lives, one by one.

Mary Sue Seymour, nominated for American Christian Fiction Writers Agent of the Year, has been agenting for 20 years and is currently listed as the number one deal-maker for inspirational fiction on Publisher’s Marketplace. She has sold multi-book deals to Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, Harvest House, Bethany House, Cook, Harper One, Guideposts, Abingdon Press and others. If you’d like to see current sales, conference pictures or recent covers of books she’s sold, please visit her web site.

Mary Sue likes to keep busy since her sons, Matt and Luke, named after the gospel writers, have grown up. The most important aspect of Mary Sue’s life is her faith in Jesus Christ. She attends two churches – one service at 9:00 – the other at 11:00 and she is never fearful of witnessing about the love of Christ.

Currently Seeking: Mary Sue sells primarily romance of the Christian variety – some secular romance and nonfiction. She doesn’t work with any other type of Christian fiction.


Comments 0

  1. I especially enjoyed your passing observation that even traffic jams and long lines at Walmart don’t bother you, for that is a good time to think about things. I agree. Many years ago a man I admired greatly (he’s now with the Lord) told me that he was rarely bored, because there are so many interesting things to think about. I’ve learned from his example. But I also cringe at how often young acquaintances on Facebook proclaim how bored they are.

    Enjoyed chatting with you in St. Louis, Mary Sue!

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