Just finished the Writers Digest One-on-One “Your First Ten Pages” Boot Camp with agent Rachael Dugas of the Talcott Notch Literary Agency and I have to say I was pretty impressed with it – $200 well spent. I’ve been waiting for a good Agent one-on-one from WD University to pop-up for a while now, but I either didn’t think the agency being featured was a good match for me or didn’t want to depart with the money. However, after doing some research on Talcott Notch, I decided to give it a go.
If you aren’t familiar with the boot camp, you basically send in the first ten pages (double-spaced) of your novel or memoir. Your assigned agent (the assignment is purely alphabetical) gets a day to review what is essentially your first chapter, then provides some feedback on how you can improve it. Over the course of the next 24 hours, your challenge is to take the suggestions and implement them, then send them back to the agent for final review. In the interim, you get access to a forum Q&A with the agent and other writers in your group, where you get to ask questions and get feedback over the course of four hours.
You also get to watch a couple of videos detailing what agents look for in those first ten pages typically – one of which proved a lot more helpful than I thought it might. I would encourage any beginner or veteran writer to watch the videos if you sign-up for the course.
Rachael Dugas was more than helpful and her feedback was spot on. She gave me a good mix of negatives and positives, and when I implemented her suggestions, it really made my story flow a thousand percent better. They were simple changes – things like using active versus passive voice, tweaks on transitions, and my arch-nemesis, run-on sentences. Incredibly effective.
By the end, Rachael gave her final feedback, and said I had succeeded in my changes – great stuff. To top it off, she welcomed me to query her when it is finished (polishing it up as we speak), which is great, because I think we would be a good match for eaach other. You can’t go wrong with an agent whose Twitter profile proclaims her love of chocolate and bacon.
So if you have a completed book (it isn’t required, but I would suggest it) that is polished and ready to send out to agents, I suggest you invest in one of these boot camps. It never hurts to have a professional opinion of your work and, such as in my case, can really give you the extra oomph in your work you might be lacking. Wait for one that has an agency you like (do you research before committing) and that covers your genre to make sure you get the most out of it.