Friday, August 12, 2005

Let's Talk Shop: Question and Answer Time Again

I'm not sure how long I'll be able to keep up--y'all have a way of outpacing me with questions. :) Still, go ahead and fire away, and I'll try to post some answers this weekend.

Incidentally, one of our master plans here at The Knight Agency is to add an agency chat room, and have it attached to our website. I'm hoping to update said website, by the way, in the next few weeks. I've had a hard time keeping it current, and blogging here, and generally having our biggest agenting year ever.

So, blog readers, you have the comm. Sort of. :)

88 Comments:

Anonymous Shalanna Collins said...

I don't know how you keep up with it all. Writing, agenting, keeping up the website, and blogging. Wow! We appreciate the time you spend on the weblog.

Okay, here's a question to kick off the session. Is it more important in your view (in general) that a novel be well written (meaning the prose is cadenced and lively, the voice charms the reader, and it fulfills an emotional promise) or that the plot be gripping (in other words, a page-turner because of plot events, not because of the characters)? I'm talking about in terms of immediate marketability, not literary value or staying power. I can pick up three novels off the shelf at the bookstore and usually two out of three of them will have clunky prose and/or a typo or howler within ten pages. Or the plot will seem to get off to a good start, but there's a spot soon enough where you ask, "Why would she do that? Because the plot needs her to--the script says so." On the movie screen, events move too fast for most people to notice the plot holes and gaffes, and they're SEEING it acted out besides, so they believe. But I feel that novelists must meet a higher standard. All we have to weave the vivid, continuous dream is our prose. So I feel that it should be mellifluous and charming. However, I keep hearing that the most important thing is that the plot keeps moving quickly. No book can please everyone--a book finds its own audience. Still, I suppose writers should think about marketability.

I'm wondering what it is that grabs you and your agents. Do you fall in love with the characters? Do you love a good, rollicking tale? Do you even notice the writing itself (beyond typos and usage problems)? (It could be that I'm in the minority as far as noticing the "ear" of a novel.) What (in the words of another agent with whom I'm acquainted) will make you miss your subway stop because you're reading? (I hope he's speaking figuratively--that could be dangerous.)

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 12:54:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Angelle said...

Hi Deidre,

I don't know if this question was ever addressed (if so, I couldn't find the answer...).

I want to know if a category romance writer needs an agent and if so, why?

How would you treat a category romance writer who wants to continue to write nothing but category v. a category romance writer who wants to write ST?

Thank you! :)

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 1:00:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Actually, Shalanna, I'd say the number one thing I notice is the quality of the writing. Working in tandem with that, voice is probably what catches my attention the most. In terms of query, yes, I go for the concept or the overall presentation, but once I start reading, it's all about the voice. If there were any way I could convey to you guys just how much material we see, you'd understand that there are many capable works, but the ones with that very unique quality (and that, again, comes back to voice) are the ones that make us sit up and take notice.

In fact, I love *your* writing, Shalanna, just right here in your post. If you're not already agented, we'd love to see something from you!
D

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 1:15:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Angelle,
We treat all writers with respect--or at least we try to. :)We do have authors who want to write nothing but category, and I think it's important for strictly category authors to have representation. Changes in the market, contractual issues at HQ, negotiating advantages...all of these are reasons for someone in your position to consider obtaining an agent.

That said, our particular focus here in terms of category authors is to pinpoint authors who want to write in both areas, and help them "bridge over" (to use a girlscouts term!)In other words, help them parlay the success they've already achieved with category books into a bigger success by adding a single title aspect to their career.

Deidre

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 1:20:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 1:56:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Sariah said...

My question is - have you ever taken on a client that didn’t write the best query or synopsis? Have you come across authors that you chose to represent who are great at writing novels, but not so great at the other kinds of writing required in this business? If so, how did you find them?

Thanks for answering!

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 8:10:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 8:48:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Jess Madden said...

I've got a question. :)

Multi-genre -- help or hindrance?

Say you have someone that you're agenting that is just starting out, and they write...let's say chick lit and horror both. The manuscript you're shopping is chick lit. How do you feel about the writer's horror books? Are they put aside until a firm foothold is established in chick lit? Put aside indefinitely? Or do you welcome both?

Obviously it's not the case with every writer, as I would think if there's a natural bridge between genres one can probably get away with more, but if there's an obvious disparity, how do you, the agent, steer their career?

Just curious. I've heard on other agent websites (and boards) that Multi-Genre is BAD! Yet you see some successful ones as well, and I'm just wondering if (as aspiring authors) we're shooting ourselves in the foot by writing EVERYTHING we love instead of just sticking to one. :)

Thanks!

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 10:50:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Jessica Madden said...

Ooo, while I think about it, do you just consider genre in BIG increments (fantasy/horror/lit/romance) or do you consider it in smaller breakdowns (rom. suspense, chick lit, time-travel).

I guess along the same lines, is it as bad if someone writes historicals and chick-lit or is it not as grievous as switching genres entirely?

I'll be quiet now and give someone else a chance to play. :)

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 10:52:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Jenny Barnhart said...

Deidre,
I am now on my Great Agent search and need a bit of help on deciphering rejection letters. :) Can you give me an idea what some of the terms mean? Interesting, I couldn't find a publisher for your work, No time scrawled across the bottom of my query. Should I be worried about these things?

Thank you very much for this session. I can't wait to read all the questions and answers.

Jenny

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 11:03:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Jody W. said...

Ditto Jess Madden's question for me, with an emphasis on unpubs who write in several different subgenres. Does it, perhaps, make it appear such authors (who COULD they be?) are throwing half-cooked spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks? Or just multifaceted?

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 11:16:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello! The question is: when you send out a rejection, does it mean the rejection of the 'agency'--or of the individual agent? In short, if you are rejected by the agent you sent your query to, would it make sense to query another agent in the same agency?

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 11:18:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Patrick McNamara said...

What sort of annual production rate should a writer be looking at if they plan on novel writing as a career?

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 11:47:00 AM EDT  
Blogger moonhart said...

Dee, my question is in regards to finding that "new" writer.

Everyone has limits. Even agents. Do you ever reach a "saturation point" when it comes to taking on new writers? Is there hope for the little fish in the big pond of the agency?

We hear over and over again that a bad agent is worse than no agent at all. My biggest fear is finally "getting" an agent but she is soooo busy with other people's stuff that my stuff will wallow in limboland.

Cue the nightmare scenario:

Agent takes new writer on board.

Agent's day: Big name author is breaking into new genre and requires significant amounts of agent's time. Push no-name author to the side to deal with significant publicity push.
Talk to big name author's pub. While on the phone with big-name author's pub, mention mid-list author is starting a new series that pub of big name author might be interested. Field calls from midlist author trying to claw her way up into big name author territory. Renegotiate with pub on lower midlist author's latest contract. Read several requested MSs from Nationals. Etc...

Newbie MS which now can boast coffee stains gets buried under the avalanche of "other interesting projects" and sits for another day.

Next day: Repeat scenario.

(Hey I said this was my nightmare, remember?)

Terri

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 12:41:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Jan said...

Hi Deidre,

Thanks for taking time to host this session. I've got a couple of questions. First, chick lit and its morphing chicks are hot now, but I'm not entirely sure which published works are considered mystery chick. (Important to me because I'm writing a mystery bitchlit. :)) So are those pubbed works billed as chicklit, or mystery?

I'm also hearing new authors are getting agented and sold off partials or nearly written chicks and erotic romance. Whether those are flukes or not, I hesitate querying an agent with a work that's 150 pages away from finished. Your take?

Thanks!

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 1:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jenny Barnhart said...

I have another question. What would you consider the best questions to ask an agent before signing with them?

I hear all the time that you want an agent you can be friends with. Someone who shares a passion for your work. But I'm a very reserved person, should I say socially awkward. I'm also pretty sure that if someone loved my work, I'd love them. :) What questions could we ask to chose the best agent for us?

Thanks again for this great opportunity.

Jenny

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 4:58:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Gena Showalter said...

Terri,
I can tell you that I was unpubbed when I signed with Deidre and never once in the two years before I sold did I feel like she put me on hold or lost faith in me. She always answered my questions and made time for me. She treated me like I was an important part of the team. That's a wonderful feeling! gena showalter

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 5:14:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jenny Barnhart said...

Gena,
And that's why everyone wants to sign with her. She's just so darn nice and helpful. :) She is a dream agent. If only all agents were that good...

Jenny

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 5:28:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 5:36:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Holly said...

Hiya, Deidre!

Have I mentioned that I love these Q&As? Even those of us who rarely post learn gobs - even answers to questions we didn't know we had. :) So, thanks!

My question: What type of story are you dying to see? (Aside from 'a great one,' hee.) Any genre or sub-genre you really wish more people would submit?

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 5:50:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have enjoyed your blog. I will definitely bookmark it!
I have a Best Credit Repair http://creditfixtip.com/blog. It pretty much covers Best Credit Repair related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 6:01:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Margaret said...

Hi Deidre.

Thanks for shining some light on this process.

I second the multigenre question, or third it, but I do actually have one of my own ;).

When writing a query letter, pretty much everyone is told to put a biographical note, but that the bio should be interesting and relevant. What kind of information are you looking for there? What types of things make you look again?

It's obvious what to put if you're writing medical fiction and you're a doctor, but when you're writing fantasy or science fiction and don't have a science doctorate or such, it gets more complicated. And then there's the question of non-fiction versus fiction credits; other, writing-related work such as freelance editing; and whatever else might make a letter stand out.

I guess I get confused because I have bio elements from several categories and, frankly, that piece gets way too much attention for how little I know about the best approach.

Cheers,
Margaret

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 6:04:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Marley Gibson said...

Man these automatic ad posters are annoying, eh?

Let me just echo what Gena said. Deidre just recently took me on (I'm unpubbed) and I can say that I feel like she has given me as much attention, focus and direction as I'm sure she gives her big named pubbed authors. In fact, she makes me *feel* like I'm her only client (in a good way) in that she's remarkably responsive, incredibly supportive and encouraging me every step of the way.

No matter who a writer ends up with in their corner as their agent, they have to remember, it's a team...it's a business partnership...but it's one built on trust and respect. Those are qualities you should always look for in your agent search.

So my question, DK, is WHEN do you sleep?! *BG*

Marley = )

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 6:20:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Jessica Madden said...

Wow, not only can I get my credit repaired just from reading Deidre's blog, but I can get a Star Trek Mobile phone!

*swoons with delight*

I'm just waiting for someone to show up and advertise siding from Sears! ;)

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 10:55:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diana Peterfreund said...

unpubs who write in several different subgenres. Does it, perhaps, make it appear such authors (who COULD they be?) are throwing half-cooked spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks?

Keep in mind that you submit each project separately. When you are looking for an agent, you query your book. Plenty of time for career strategizin once you've got an offer.

And then, even more once you start making sales and have to reevaluate what you have the ability to do and what it's best for you to do.

(Voice of experience... ::vbg:: )

Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 11:21:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Hi, Sariah!
I'm just popping in here to answer a few questions. Been at a family reunion out of town all day, and pretty tired, but thought I'd drop by here.

I don't honestly think about people who have had the great query or pitch. The main purpose of a query is to get us to request the material. From there, the material itself will do the work. Yes, you want your query to rock, but I request proposals off of what I'd describe "work horse" queries all the time. That's the main thing it needs to do for you--get the agent reading. Then, if your work is truly strong enough, the work will do the selling.
:)
D

Sunday, August 14, 2005 at 12:01:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Ellen Fisher said...

I have a specific genre-related question, Deidre. I'm trying to figure out where I should go with my writing to break back into New York. I write in several subgenres of romance, and I've always considered my single-title contemporaries more "marketable" because that's what NY has traditionally published the most. But when I look through the market news lately, most of what I seem to see new authors selling is paranormal romance. In your estimation, is it easier for a "newish" romance writer to break into the major markets with a contemporary or a paranormal right now? Or, like so many other things, does it just depend??

Sunday, August 14, 2005 at 1:25:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure if all the terms Jenny wrote were meant to be taken separately or if they appeared on the same query.

Jenny wrote:
Interesting

All by itself? Probably a request.

I couldn't find a publisher for your work

1) I like your story, but don't think it's marketable. Better luck elsewhere.
2) I like your story, but not enough to fight for it. Better luck elsewhere.

No time scrawled across the bottom of my query.

Not taking on any new clients right now.

If all three of those terms were scrawled across the SAME query letter, I'm guessing it means:

"Your story is interesting, but I don't think I have the time to try to find it a publisher, which I think might be difficult for me. better luck elsewhere."

Sunday, August 14, 2005 at 2:27:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jenny Barnhart said...

Hehe. I have more than one rejection. I think I more worried that I wrote an awful query. I saw the question Deidre answered about accepting stories on work-horse queries and that helped settle me down a bit.

I just find it very difficult to tell what an agent really meant by the rejection letter. Do they say "Although your story sounds interesting..." and really mean it?

I should stop stressing over this. I haven't been rejected by everyone and I do have some promising options.

Thanks for the advice.

Jenny

Sunday, August 14, 2005 at 5:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Gina Black said...

Hey Deidre! I'm finally back (and exhausted). I'd also love to know where you get all that energy. But that's not really my question. :)

What I'd like to know is what you think of writing contests. Is an author with good contest credentials more interesting to you? Do contest wins and placements help you market a client to a publisher? Or are contests strictly a tool of the unagented to get noticed?

I've heard varying reactions from editors and agents about this and would be very interested in your take on it.

Sunday, August 14, 2005 at 10:10:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Lis said...

Hi Deidre,

I have a question for you. Someone recently told me that NY publishers aren't interested in acquiring any amnesia-type storylines and that something like that is better suited to Harlequin. Just wondered what your thoughts are on this.

Thanks!

Sunday, August 14, 2005 at 10:57:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lis, do you mean single title versus category? because Harlequin IS a NY publisher with books in a large variety of length, scope, and genre.

That being said, I don't see a lot of amnesia outside of category.

Monday, August 15, 2005 at 8:15:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Shelley Tougas said...

If a production company buys your novel for film adaptation, will they give the author the first shot at the screenplay?

Monday, August 15, 2005 at 9:20:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deidre,

Is 'no response' to an initial query after a month or so, mean that you haven't gotten to it, or is that a 'no'? Just wondering whether if it may have gotten lost in the shuffle, and if I should resubmit to you.

:)

Monday, August 15, 2005 at 11:22:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Lis said...

Yeah, more on the single title side than category with the amnesia story. I'm not sure the premise would really work for category.

Monday, August 15, 2005 at 2:10:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Cindy Procter-King said...

Hey, Deidre,

You'll be happy to know that for once I have no questions! Unless it's...how do I stop painting all this house trim now that I've started? Sadly, I already know the answer: I don't. I must persevere. I WILL finish this deck/trim before the rains come again. I will!

Best of luck with your Q&A.

Cindy

Monday, August 15, 2005 at 2:27:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Jennette said...

At RWA National conference, it seemed so many editors - and agents too - say "we don't want anything longer than 100,000 words." Yet I see longer works on the shelves all the time, some by new writers. What is your take on representing romance (or fiction with romantic elements) in the 120-150k range?

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!

Monday, August 15, 2005 at 6:42:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Kelly said...

Hi Deidre-

Thanks for doing this Q&A. I have a couple of questions. The first is fairly prosaic: would you rather receive a query letter first or would rather receive a query and a partial? I've heard some people say, send the partial with the query because you're wasting time going back and forth with the partial stage and the editor/agent will be able to give you a definite yes or no.

The second, not so prosaic. What would you recommend to writers who have a fear of success? By this, I mean, the writer knows, down in the cockles of her heart, that she's got the beginnings of the absolute best story that she could write at this stage. The story was only supposed to be a few thousand words long, yet as soon as she started putting words to screen, she could tell the story couldn't be told in so short a time. She's entered the first chapter in a writing contest for fun, fully intending to work on the project to completion. It's a reader judged contest, so she doesn't think much about what may happen in the end. She receives not one, but two, requests from editors seeking to read the full because they loved the chapter they had seen on the contest website. She's shocked. She's ecstatic. She's frozen. She hasn't fully worked out the plot because the perceived scope was so overwhelming. Now that she has serious interest from publishers, she can't focus on the story long enough to put more words to screen. How can she shock herself out of this morass of uncertainty and fear to write this wonderful book of hers?

Monday, August 15, 2005 at 8:01:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous ZaZa said...

Hope I'm not repeating someone else's question, but I was just reading about the "interminable clause" on the RWA site.

Does the Knight Agency have such a clause in their contract, that is that the Agency retains rights to commission on advances and royalties for the life of the copyright, even on contracts not negotiated by the Agency?

I'm not casting aspersions. It's just the first I've heard about such a clause, and it's definitely something that concerns me.

Thanks

Monday, August 15, 2005 at 8:37:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diana Peterfreund said...

Ooh, one I can answer that isn't just my loudmouth opinion, but actual fact.

Zaza: No. They don't have that clause..

Monday, August 15, 2005 at 11:10:00 PM EDT  
Blogger ME Strauss said...

Hi Deidre and all,
I didn't introduce myself properly at the one liner critique, I apologize--first talk jitters. I'll fix that now. I'm an unpub author, but earned my living as a writer and editor for 20 yrs. My name is Liz. Thank you for that and for this.

My Q: The quirky zen-jogger of the one-liner posts listens to music continuously and somtimes uses the lyrics to explain her feelings. I know the author is responsible for permissions, and I have handled the issues involved. Would you turn away a novel that carried the song lyrics from half a dozen songs (familiar, but not mega-hits) that needed permissioning?

It's the second revision so I'd better start writing them out soon. :-)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 8:39:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Patrick McNamara said...

With the number of comments appearing in the blogs, have you thought about using a forum?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 9:47:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Patrick,
Excellent question, but we probably aren't going to do a forum. I thought of that at one point, but I find the format here on the blog easiest for group communication b/c I don't have to figure out which threads have been updated and the like.

We are, however, going to be focusing more on our TKA egroup. We plan to use yahoo to form chats, and so watch for a big announcement here about that. We already have the egroup, we just haven't done anything with it to date. Now, we're looking to open it up for group participation, and also to enable the chat room for full-time use. You guys could go in there any time you wanted--we might pop in sometimes--or not. But we would have set times to do q/a, and also to have our clients in there for q/a.

What do you guys think of that??? :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 2:52:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Edie Ramer said...

A chat room would be fun. Go for it, Deidre!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 3:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

ME Strauss,
I wouldn't let the quotes turn me off, but I would also likely tell the author to take them out before we shopped the material. Quotes are great, and I understand why an author wants to use them, but at the same time, in this current market where such permissions can be very costly, I'd hate to see a novelist build too much of their emotional energy in a novel around their inclusion. So, in short, it's not a total turn-off to me, but it doesn't excite me, either. :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 3:59:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Jessica, I am very open to authors writing in multiple genres, so long as they're *related* genres, i.e. women's fiction and romance, or paranormal romance and fantasy. Totally disparate categories tend to overwhelm me as an agent, i.e. it represents a lot of work to try and decipher the best way to possibly position someone who is doing wildly different things. But if you're writing YA chick lit and women's fiction or some similar combo, certainly we're open to it. It all depends on what an author is interested in doing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 4:01:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Gina said...

okay I've been lurking around here so I'll post my question (which I am pretty sure I know that answer to but anyways)... are you looking only for completed ms or are you willing to take a look at a wip?

thanks !

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 4:31:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Jenny, the best advice I can give you on deciphering agents' general rejections is to take them for what they are and not read too deeply. If it's from a query, this is basically a quick pass. It's not like they read your material. The agent simply decided to pass. The end. In other words, if you try to read more into a query rejection than that, you're spending too much time on it.

Only if a rejection gives specific critique, with specific suggestions, do I recommend analyzing the content of the rejection too closely.
:)
D

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 4:51:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Jody W--the truth is that an author writing in several sub-genres as you mention may seem either multi-faceted OR a little desperate. It depends on the impression they give me as to which way I interpret their various works. It's all within the context of who that author IS when I read the work or see a query. :) DK

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 4:53:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Anonymous asks whether a rejection from one of us is a rejection from that particular agent or the agency at large. The answer here at TKA is that it's an agency-wide rejection. I handle all the queries here, and that means that no matter who you've directed your query to, I'm the one reading it. So a pass is, unfortunately, a pass from the whole agency. I imagine this policy varies from agency to agency.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 4:55:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Patrick, the answer on output is entirely dependent upon the kinds of books you're writing. I think a romance author should be able to produce at least a book a year, if not more than one. THese days publishers want to launch new romance authors with an escalated schedule if they can, toward building momentum.

Hard cover authors aren't going to publish nearly that quickly.

Hope that helps. dk

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 4:59:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Moonhart asks about whether an unpublished author still has a shot here at TKA, and also in general whether it's tough to get attention at any agency as an unpublished author.

I think the key is landing with a boutique style agency, one where personal attention comes before being a mega agency--unless said mega agency has a great system in place for making all authors feel catered to on a very individual basis.

Here, we have made a name by discovering unpublished authors. Because we built the agency from the ground up, as opposed to leaving a big, established agency, or putting a shingle out after editing for years, we had to focus on what we did best: discover new voices. So over the years we've sold first novels by a host of authors, discovering a really wide range of fiction and nonfiction authors. You've seen some of the examples on this blog.

I know we put just as much emphasis on helping the first timers as we do the big name authors. That's why we're so selective, and although some of you may grow frustrated with how tough it is to land here, on the other hand it means we remain available to those authors we do sign on.

Whether with our agency, or another, I say find out what the clients say. Is that agent available? Responsive? The kind who makes new authors feel catered to and cared for. Those kinds of things. :)
D

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 5:04:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Kelly, I'm taking your easy one for now, then heading out of here until later. :) I WILL get your fear of success question picked up, though.

I don't want to see partials at all during the query stage. Because we handle everything by email, I make my first judgment off of the query. With more than 40-50 queries coming in every day, there's no way I can look at partials at that stage--not and get back to people on time.
d

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 5:06:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Patrick McNamara said...

>Hope that helps. dk

Yes. Thanks. I've heard a thousand words a day mentioned, but I was never sure what the annual rate was.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 5:53:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Gina,
We will entertain queries for incomplete manuscripts, but you need to make that clear in your initial query, and again if we request the first chapters. We'd have to be blown away! :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 6:32:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Kelly, the fear of success question is a good one. I think you have to put yourself in the frame of mind of an actor, and think: "No one is watching me." I posted on this months ago on my author blog, it was called SAME GIRL I WAS BEFORE. You are still the same writer you were before thees requests came to you, and so you turn off that "being watched" feeling and go back to what worked all the other days prior to those editors expressing interest.
:)
D

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 6:34:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous ZaZa said...

"I don't want to see partials at all during the query stage. Because we handle everything by email, I make my first judgment off of the query."

I'm confused about this. When I looked at the TKA site, it asked for a whole bunch of things, including the first three, by snail mail. Are you saying that we can send a simple query/proposal via email first/instead?

I was all set to send in a proposal package as soon as you opened up several weeks ago, but I got as far as the chapter outline and was overwhelmed. So, if I can do the short version by email, that would be great.

Where would I find this info? And, boy, is it nice to be able to speak informally on these topics. What a relief.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 7:40:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Zaza, on the site it talks about the stages of the query process. For the query, all we ask for is a letter--you're looking at what we look at once material is *requested*. I think if you go look again, it will make more sense to you with this additional explanation in mind.
D

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 7:44:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Zaza, here are submission guidelines:

How to Send Us a Query Letter
We only accept e-queries; no paper query letters. An acceptable e-query must consist simply of an e-mail letter without attachments. Attachments will not be downloaded, and will simply be ignored.

Please direct all queries to Deidre Knight, Manuscript Coordinator, at submissions@knightagency.net. Query replies usually take two weeks from time of receipt.

What's Next
As indicated above, we receive thousands of query letters a year. Sheer mathematics and the realities of business dictate that the vast majority of these will meet with a polite rejection, but a very small number of queries are solid enough to result in a request to receive additional materials from the author. In such cases, authors are invited to submit a partial manuscript (for fiction) or a proposal (for nonfiction). For more information regarding preferred proposal content, please visit our Proposal Guidelines page.

At the time such an invitation is made, we will provide you with instructions regarding the proper method for submitting the appropriate materials. All submissions are to be made electronically.

Review of manuscripts currently takes eight to twelve weeks from the time of receipt. Please do not call to check on the status of your manuscript. If you are concerned as to whether we received it or not, e-mail is the best way to inquire. In general, it is never a good idea to continually communicate with the agent--unless, of course, the agent is sending communications to you--during the manuscript review process. By continually peppering the agent with additions and amendments to the manuscript, or by submitting materials other than those requested, one virtually ensures rejection.

A Further Cautionary Note: Everyone has heard stories about the author who boldly defied the guidelines, employed some sort of gutsy maneuver to get his or her manuscript to the front of the line, and is now luxuriating in literary immortality and worldly riches. Such stories, while entertaining, have all the instructive value of conspiracy theories and urban legends. In reality, agents and editors are not inclined to look fondly on someone who ignores their requests, or who tries to push ahead of others.

In view of these points, PLEASE DO NOT SEND UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPTS. All such materials will simply be recycled, unless a SASE has been included, in which case they will be returned. Under no circumstances will we read an unsolicited manuscript. Many authors may say, "But aren't you afraid of missing out on a really good writer that way?" In fact, one mark of a person who is good at any profession is that he or she knows the rules of the game, and recognizes which rules simply can't be broken.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 7:45:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Jessica Madden said...

Deidre,

Thanks for taking the time to answer everyone's questions. You're always so helpful and polite, and you never make us feel stupid!

Here's a related question to the 'song lyrics' thing. What about quotes from historical figures? Aristotle, Plato, etc. You don't have to seek permission for those, do you?

I wouldn't think so, but you never know...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 8:38:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous ZaZa said...

Deidre,

Thank you. And do I now feel like an idiot? Well, in a word, "Yes."

Bless you for your patience.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 11:33:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Margaret said...

Hi again,

I should probably stay quiet because you haven't answered my other question yet, but the whole multigenre question is bothering me. I am really enjoying your blog and the opportunities/information you offer. That said, I write science fiction and fantasy as well as romance. I do intend to focus on one genre for a while, but for now, I'm writing whatever inspires me the most because I could break into publishing through any of them. What advice do you have for someone in my situation? Should I limit myself to agents who cover all the genres I write? Or should I choose the agents I like and worry about what to do with the other genres when I've established myself enough to cross over? You don't accept SF/F unless it has a strong romance element. If you "found" an author who had a good voice in SF/F beyond the romantic subgenre, would you decline to represent the romances? Would you represent everything? Would you recommend an agent you trust for the non-romance books?

Thanks for your help.

Margaret

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 at 12:58:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Demented M said...

Hello! I don't have a question, just wanted to say how enlightening the Q&A has been.

Thanks for doing this!

M
http://dementedmichelle.tripod.com/dementedblog/

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 at 8:34:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diana Peterfreund said...

Hi, I'm not Deidre, and I've never played her on TV. But, with ehr permission, I'm taking a stab at a few of these.

Jan asked:
I'm not entirely sure which published works are considered mystery chick. (Important to me because I'm writing a mystery bitchlit. :)) So are those pubbed works billed as chicklit, or mystery?

It really depends on the bookstore. Kyra Davis' Sex, Lies, and a Double Latte is Chick Lit Mystery, but is on the Barnes and Noble Hardcover mystery list. In my local Waldenbooks, which shelves all RDIs (Harlequin) with "romance," it's in the romance section. Kyra calls it chick lit mystery. So does The Washington Post. Books like The Givenchy Code, Lori Avocato's nursing myseteries, the Bubbles books, Dating Can Be Deadly, and even to a certain extent, Janet Evanovich, are all part of this explosion. All the major chick lit imprints (Downtown Press, RDI, Avon Trade, etc.) are dabbling in this sub genre. THe "mystery-style" chick lit books put out by these imprints usually have brightly colored chick lit style covers, cute, chick-litty titles to signal to the reader that that is the ytpe of book their getting, but most of all, they've got the sassy chick lit voice.

However, to be honest, I think the best thing to do is write your book and let your prespective agent and editor decide how best to position it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 at 7:39:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diana Peterfreund said...

Jenny asked:
I have another question. What would you consider the best questions to ask an agent before signing with them?

I'm not an agent, and a simple google search might give you a great list to ask, but here are some questions I thought were important for me to ask. B/c you're a really savvy agent hunter, you probably know a lot of the answers to these questions by the time you get to the "offer" stage -- like whether or not they're a member of AAR and who their high profile clients are.

1. May I contact your clients?
2. May I see your contract?
3. Are there any fees I should know about?
4. Where would you send my book?
5. How do you envision my career?
6. What attracted you to my work?
7. What happens if you become ill or otherwise incapacitated?
8. What do you think have been your greatest successes?
9. I expect [THIS] from my agent. Do you think you're willing to provide that?
10. [THIS] is what I want from my career. Do you think we can pursue that?

There can be a range of answers and in most cases, there's no "right" answer, but I think it's best that everyon goes in with eyes open. Think of it as a marriage.

Also, you should try to get a few ideas from the clients. Questions I asked included:

1. How does the agent (or does the agent) work with you on your book before sending it out?
2. How do you handle differences of opinion about career choices?
3. How does she respond to "dry spells?"
4. How hands on is she (some want more than others, but you should know what you're getting before you sign).

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 at 7:45:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diana Peterfreund said...

Margaret asked:
When writing a query letter, pretty much everyone is told to put a biographical note, but that the bio should be interesting and relevant. What kind of information are you looking for there? What types of things make you look again? ::snip:: And then there's the question of non-fiction versus fiction credits; other, writing-related work such as freelance editing; and whatever else might make a letter stand out.

If your experience could conceivably be part of your platform, then put it in there. (Hint: Usually, "Based on a true story" is not a good platform for a novelist.) Now, there is no necessity for you to HAVE a personal platform for a novel. You can write a rocking spy book without ever being in the CIA. And if you're a Starbucks barista and your protag is also a Starbucks barista, it could be a totally rocking book that the agent will jump all over, but your experience is not so much of a platform. However, if your book is about something that is unfamiliar to a lot of readers and you have a unique insight into it, then that's a platform. You're writing a time travel book and you've got a PhD in string theory. Your heroine is first-generation Korean-American Wicca -- just like you. For instance, when I was sending out query letters for (Secret) Society Girl, I wrote, "I attended Yale University, and am intimately familiar with the culture of Ivy League secret societies like the one portrayed in my book." However, let me repeat -- platform not necessary. You can sit in your basement for twenty years and dream up amazing stories, too.

If you are previously published in book-length fiction, tell them. If you have published half a dozen short stories in half a dozen venues, pick the two most prestigious and write, "I have published several short stories in magazines such as Awesome Rag A and Large-Circulation Paper B". Ditto for freelance journalists and contest winners. Pick the top two or three and hint that there are dozens. If you're a journalist, say, "I have written over [nice round number] articles for my local newspaper." You don't need to name every article, publication, and date. That just clutters up the query and detracts from teh story you are trying to sell them.

If you are currently or formerly an editor at a major publishing house or magazine, put it in (because the agent will think you have some connections that might get you a more friendly read than some stranger). Nix the freelance editing.

You should always focus on the strength of your pitch. I didn't mention contest wins or my journalism in my query because it would detract from the focus of the pitch which was: this is rockin' story about secret societies and guess what, it just so happens that I know all about them, too.

The bigraphical info is really an extra. You can describe your awesome story and say "See you later" and they'll still request it if the story is awesome. (and you include an SASE). But never forget that the query is selling your story, first and foremost. It might be good for them to know how good you're going to be at telling this story, but mainly, they want the story to be good.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 at 7:56:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diana Peterfreund said...

Is 'no response' to an initial query after a month or so, mean that you haven't gotten to it, or is that a 'no'?

It means different things at different agencies, but at TKA I'm pretty sure it means, a) they never got it, b) you never got their response, or c) they haven't gotten to it yet.

I think that if you haven't gotten a response toa query (not a manuscript, but a query) after more than a month, then I would resend the query with "RESEND QUERY: TITLE OF YOUR BOOK" in the header and indicate in the opening to the letter that this is a resend of your query from such-and-such date. That way, if they responded they can let you know, and if they never got it or haven't responded, they can do so.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 at 7:59:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diana Peterfreund said...

What about quotes from historical figures? Aristotle, Plato, etc. You don't have to seek permission for those, do you?

I think if they are in the public domain, it's cool. And those guys have been dead for centuries.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 at 8:00:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Margaret said...

Hi Diana. Thanks for the answer. That's basically what I was expecting, but you never know. Sometimes it turns out that your understanding is completely cock-eyed. A friend of mine got an invite to submit and the thing that stood out to me in the query was that a published author accepted an edit/crit from this person. Maybe something else stood out to the agent, but it made me start to question some of my assumptions :).

Cheers,
Margaret

Thursday, August 18, 2005 at 1:06:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Jenny Barnhart said...

Thanks, Diane, for the wonderful list to get me started. I'll hunt up some more, but you've given me food for thought.

Thanks, Deidre, for answering my question on rejections. I'll relax. For some reason I had an epiphany about that the other day and I'm okay with it. Who knows why it took me so long to figure out. :)

This has been a great session and thanks to all for the advice and questions.

Jenny

Thursday, August 18, 2005 at 8:44:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diana Peterfreund said...

Margaret wrote:
A friend of mine got an invite to submit and the thing that stood out to me in the query was that a published author accepted an edit/crit from this person.

Hmm, that never occurred to me to drop into a query. Does it indicate taht her writing is stronger? I would think it would only indicate that her ability to read analytically is stronger. I guess it's because I've critiqued for published and unpublished writers and had published and unpublished writers critque my work since I first joined RWA, with varying levels of success in each group. One of my CPs is the also the CP of a NYT bestseller, but it doesn't mean that I took her advice over another CP who was not published/ the CP of anyone who was. I always took the advice that worked the best. Two of my most trusted "first reads" come from people who aren't writers at all, just opinionated readers who call it like they see it, don't sugarcoat, and whose opinions I trust. They're both amazing critiquers, but I don't think I'd come to the conclusion that it means they'd be great writers themselves.

However, what I would put in a query is, if you are the CP of a pubbed author and she's written good things about your work, quote her (with permission). It's kind of a like a "cover quote." In addition, if you have nailed down potential cover quotes (the aforementioned CP of mine has been promised one by her NYT-bestselling friend, who happens to be the reigning queen of the genre in which my CP writes) definitely put that in the query, too.

Maybe others have opinions about this? I think I might be unusual in this area, becuase I'm one of those who never weighed the opinions of the "pubbed" and "unpubbed" judges differently in contests because of their status -- just weighed the validity of what they said.

Thursday, August 18, 2005 at 10:09:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diana Peterfreund said...

Actually, now that I'm thinking about this, I do remember once a few years ago when an editor who was rejecting me over the phone got all excited about the fact that I was CPing with a published author. (But obviously not enough to reconsider the work with that in mind! LOL) So maybe there are some industry folks who find that an important cred.

But I was a restaurant critic who could hardly boil an egg, so I'm of the mindset that one does not necessarily have to be an expert in the art to discern what is wrong and right about it.

Thursday, August 18, 2005 at 10:46:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Wendy-Marie (a.k.a. Sydney Gallagher) said...

Hi, Deidre.

I have a question regarding e-publishing.

I know it can take years to get a good agent, so waiting to submit to publishers is ridiculous. But what if a writer has an ms they believe has the potential to be published by "normal" publisher, but receives a request for a full from an epublisher. Is it best just to send it in and see what happens? Or would the writer be making life difficult for a possible future agent who may come in and say it would be better not to go with an epublisher?

How does an unagented writer make that kind of decision? Especially if they are in the process of finding an agent and don't want to screw something up that the agent can't fix afterwards.

Thanks for taking the time!

Wendy-Marie

Friday, August 19, 2005 at 3:30:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Wendy-Marie (a.k.a. Sydney Gallagher) said...

PS. What happened to the pitch topic? I can't find it anywhere.

Friday, August 19, 2005 at 3:31:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Ellen Fisher said...

Wendy-Marie, I'm not Deidre, but if you really want to be published by a big publisher rather than an e-pub, I wouldn't submit to e-pubs till all other avenues have been exhausted. The contract you sign with an e-pub is just as binding as any other contract, and once you've sold to them you usually can't sell the same book to a major publisher. Have you tried submitting the manuscript to agents? It doesn't take nearly as long as submitting to New York publishers:-).

Friday, August 19, 2005 at 4:56:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Wendy-Marie,
Ellen gave you good advice, but I'll just chime in and say that if you think a book has big publisher potential, why would you "spend it" on an e-publisher (I mean no disrespect to e-publishers here!) if you might be able to sell it to a big publisher and get a good advance, etc. I think you should go the regular route first. And I don't think that finding a good agent should take years. Query your targeted list of appropriate and viable agents, then see what happens. Don't go "one by one"--put the work in play, and see who nibbles. :) Deidre

Friday, August 19, 2005 at 10:43:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Gina,
Have we answered your WIP question? I can't even tell anymore this thread has become so long and involved! But, yes, we are--just be sure to *NOTE* that it's a WIP in the query. Then, also note it again in the partial submission. Thanks!

Friday, August 19, 2005 at 10:46:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Okay, gang: if you've posted a question, and we've missed it, please repost. I can't wade through and figure out who we've hit, who we haven't, etc. A huge thanks to Diana "the gem" Peterfreund, for being such a gem in answering a number of questions on this thread. Thanks! :)
D

Friday, August 19, 2005 at 10:47:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Angelle said...

Wendy-Marie,

Ellen & Deidre are correct. Always aim high! :)

Saturday, August 20, 2005 at 5:35:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Ellen Fisher said...

Reposting my question as per your comment, Deidre:

I have a specific genre-related question. I'm trying to figure out where I should go with my writing to break back into New York. I write in several subgenres of romance, and I've always considered my single-title contemporaries more "marketable" because that's what NY has traditionally published the most. But when I look through the market news lately, most of what I seem to see new authors selling is paranormal romance. In your estimation, is it easier for a "newish" romance writer to break into the major markets with a contemporary or a paranormal right now? Or, like so many other things, does it just depend??

Saturday, August 20, 2005 at 9:05:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diana Peterfreund said...

Hey, Deidre! Thanks, you know me, always happy to blab my opinion around!

Just wanted to point out some unanswered questions that I think deserve your expert advice (it's the mutual admiration society around here!)

Lis wanted to know whether or not single title NY houses would be interested in "amnesia" storylines.

Shelley Tougas was curious about whether or not Hollywood gives the writer first crack at the screenplay when the writer sells a book's film rights.

Gina wanted to know how the industry people feel about contest results -- whether they take a writer more seriously because of them.

Jeannette noted that at reno, houses seemed to be asking for shorter works (like 90k) but she says she sees longer books on the shelves by new writers all the time. How do you feel about representing books from the 120-150k mark?

And finally, because Margaret's question is very specific, here's the exact text:
"I should probably stay quiet because you haven't answered my other question yet, but the whole multigenre question is bothering me. I am really enjoying your blog and the opportunities/information you offer. That said, I write science fiction and fantasy as well as romance. I do intend to focus on one genre for a while, but for now, I'm writing whatever inspires me the most because I could break into publishing through any of them. What advice do you have for someone in my situation? Should I limit myself to agents who cover all the genres I write? Or should I choose the agents I like and worry about what to do with the other genres when I've established myself enough to cross over? You don't accept SF/F unless it has a strong romance element. If you "found" an author who had a good voice in SF/F beyond the romantic subgenre, would you decline to represent the romances? Would you represent everything? Would you recommend an agent you trust for the non-romance books?"

Now, I'm off, before you realize that I'm doing this as a way of avoiding deadlines. ;-)

Saturday, August 20, 2005 at 9:01:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Wendy-Marie (a.k.a. Sydney Gallagher) said...

Thanks, Deidre and Ellen.

I actually sent the epub editor an email before Reno thanking them for their interest, but saying I needed to research the whole epub market, since I've been concentrating on regular publishing routes. I didn't want to burn a bridge, but I also don't want to ignore the request. I feel better now about my decision, thanks!

I have another question, if an agent has had an ms for an extended amount of time (going on 5 months),but has been in contact that she's getting to it (personal things got in the way), and, in the mean time, I've added a genre/sub-genre that go in a different direction than the ms she has, should I email and tell her?

As I understand it, we're not supposed to bother agents while they're trying to decide. But I don't want her to possibly offer me a contract and then realize that my writing has gone in a new direction.

Any thoughts? Thanks in advance!

PS: I'm still searching for the Pitch topic. Can't find it in the archives or anywhere. Did it disappear?

Sunday, August 21, 2005 at 5:50:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous pamchampagne said...

Deidre,

Thanks for such a great site and the topics you post. There is a wealth of information in this particular Q&A section - it would make a great book!!!!

Know that your efforts are noticed and appreciated.

Pam Champagne

Monday, August 22, 2005 at 6:38:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wendy-Marie,

The pitch topic is the last blog entry for July, July 26, I believe. Click on the July archives and it should be the first entry on the top.

Good luck!

Robin

Monday, August 22, 2005 at 10:42:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Demented M said...

Hello! My question relates to word counts.

Word counts drive me batty. When I first started writing seriously, I was told 80k was desirable for my genre then, after I finished my manuscript, I was informed publishers now want 100k.

An editor from Del Rey actually told me they want 100k or a little over because (paraphrasing) "that is a book and we want to give people something for their money".

Since I write very tightly paced stories that don't give me much room to go in and dump (or cut) an extra 20k words the conflicting advice makes my head hurt.

What is the current ideal word count range for the fantasy and paranormal romance genres? I am aware of some publisher's requirements (e.g. HQ's Luna line wants 100-150k), but I'm trying to understand what variance the market will tolerate.

Does 80k still sell? What about 90k?

I find, for me, that I need to plot with word count in mind which has created all sorts of...anxiety regarding this issue.

Thanks for your help!

M
www.dementeddelusions.com

Tuesday, August 23, 2005 at 9:10:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Margaret said...

Thanks for reposting my question and for offering your take, Diana :). It could also be that the agent's eye was caught by something else in the query. That's what caught my eye, but I'm not in the acquisition business so....

And looking forward to your take on it Deidre.

Cheers,
Margaret

Thursday, August 25, 2005 at 1:05:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

Ellen,
THings here have been a bit nuts lately, so just picking up your question. Definitely shoot for paranormal, given your pre-existing interests in that area. Right now, I'd say that's much easier to sell than a straight contemporary. :) Hope that helps! D

Sunday, August 28, 2005 at 7:16:00 PM EDT  
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