book inc, Project Write Now’s book-writing community, is excited to announce its new Book Submission Lab. This six-month program is designed for writers ready to submit their memoirs or novels for publication. Beginning July 26, Book Submission Lab will be led by Jennifer Carson. Jennifer earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Literature from Bennington College in 2019 and in 2020, she launched a literary organization, To the Lighthouse, which offers professional book group facilitation and hosts author events and retreats.
We “sat down” with Jennifer to get to know her a little better and to ask about the upcoming Book Submission Lab.
PWN: Before we jump into discussing Book Submission Lab, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
JENNIFER: I’m an author and book critic, and my work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, Barnes & Noble Review, and Science, among others. I signed with my agent Stephanie Cabot in the fall, and my first novel, The Savage Path, is currently on submission with editors. Before I earned an MFA, I trained in many writing workshops, including two scholarship years at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and summer programs at Tin House, Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference.
PWN: What can a participant expect from the program?
JENNIFER: Process-wise, you can expect to interact—with me, your fellow writers, and guest speakers. Each week for the first six, we’ll roll up our sleeves and attend to some aspect of the submission process. During the monthly check-ins, we’ll support each other by sharing stories, successes, best practices, and other tips and insights. Each person’s path through the submission process is different, so I’m inviting guest speakers to talk about their experiences as well.
Product-wise, you can expect to come away with a polished query letter reviewed by both your labmates and myself; a set of opening pages to send to an agent, similarly reviewed; a set of skills for identifying appropriate agents for your work; and a list of agents that you have queried or will soon. I also hope you’ll gain increased confidence in your ability to navigate the submission process.
PWN: Who’s your ideal Book Submission Lab participant?
JENNIFER: A writer eager to put in the time needed to make their submission packet as good as their book.
PWN: What is YOUR experience with querying agents?
JENNIFER: I’ve been through the agent querying process twice. Several years ago, I sent letters to agents about my previous novel, Fire Sermon (before Jamie Quatro published her book of the same name). A couple dozen agents asked to read it, and one offered to represent me. On the phone with her, though, it became clear that she did not share my vision of the book, and I knew it wasn’t the right fit. I turned her down. Eventually, I decided to stop querying with that book and focus on my second.
I used the contacts I had from Fire Sermon when I was ready to query agents about representing The Savage Path, but I also did an entirely new round of research, because the two novels are very different and the agenting landscape changed in the intervening years. Again, several agents asked to read it, and in the end, two were interested in representing it. I had multiple conversations with both to be sure about my decision. A friend’s agent said something I will not forget: your choice of agent is the most important decision you’ll make as a writer; it’s more important even than who publishes you, in its influence on your career. I took the decision very seriously, and I think I ended up with the right person.
I signed with Stephanie in late October, revised the manuscript based on two suggestions from her, and sent it back to her just before the new year. She sent it to editors in late January. We’ll see what happens. In the meantime, I’m writing my third novel.
PWN: What would you say to a writer terrified to start querying agents?
JENNIFER: Fear is normal! It’s a sign that you care about your writing. I’m glad you care that much about your writing.
We don’t have to stop being nervous—or even terrified—to start this process. We do it anyway, tolerating the fear, forging ahead, doing the work. Eventually, I promise, the fear passes. Nothing lasts forever.
Thanks, Jennifer, for talking with us today about book inc’s Book Submission Lab. book inc is currently accepting applications for our 2024 Book Submission Lab. Learn more here.