Thursday, September 28, 2006

Q & A Day!!

Okay, ladies and gents, it's that day of the week again and I'm in the hot seat. Have any burning questions for me? You know the drill. I'll answer questions for the first five people to post on the thread. I will also do my best to let you know when we've hit the limit, but Blogger is loading like it thinks it's a Monday so I may be a bit late to the party. Try to keep an eye on the comments when you post. Thanks!

Can't wait to see what you'd like to know. And in the meantime, I'm going to subject you to a photo of my niece, who was born the end of July. She's a little too young to read quite yet, but don't think for a minute that I haven't already started a TBR pile for her...

Baby Reese, 8 weeks old


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always wondered about industry (agent-soul-types) "standards" as far as courtesy - even rejection courtesy... Publishers seem to be fairly good at replying to authors - even when it's a form rejection letter. But I've been surprised with agents. Many seem to just swallow query letters up with no reply. Obviously, writers don't want agents who don't communicate... but can you educate us as to what industry standards are? What we should be expecting as far as good manners?

Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 1:33:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jennette Marie Powell said...

As a west coast agent, how important do you think it is for an agent to at least visit NY? I'm thinking in terms of building relationships with editors and other publishing pros. How important is the face-to-face contact - and how much, in your opinion, is enough? Would infrequent or no face-to-face be a red flag?

Your niece - what a cutie! Thanks for answering our questions.

Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 1:45:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...


I think the industry standard, at least among the agents that I know, is to reply to authors. That said, I'm assuming the querying writer has taken the trouble to follow the agency's submission guidelines. Funnily enough, I've an entire post on this subject going live tomorrow over at Romancing the Blog. But here's the short version:

Agents want good writers who are willing to put an effort into their careers. This means not just writing a great book, but doing a little homework to identify what agent might be right for their material and then doing them the courtesy of querying according to their submission guidelines. For instance, we at The Knight Agency have a specific e-mail address for initial queries listed on our site, while our individual e-mail addresses do not appear. So when someone manages to find my personal e-mail address and send me a query directly, rather than following our specific instructions, I'm not going to consider that submission. I might refer them back to our guidelines, but I also might delete the query outright. (This last fate is generally reserved for people addressing me as Mr. Nephele Tempest, which I've whined about here previously.) I'm not trying to be cruel, but I also receive a great deal of mail every day and I don't think it's too much to ask that someone asking for a moment of my time do me the courtesy of checking the resources we make available. If that's too much trouble for them, then they aren't someone I'm interested in as a client.

But these are definitely exceptions. Most people do query according to our instructions, and we are careful to reply to every single one of those people in as timely a manner as we can. Do things go astray? Of course. Neither e-mail nor snail mail is a foolproof means of communication. But it is not our intention to leave writers hanging, whether we're requesting more material or rejecting the project in question. And as far as I know, that's the general consensus.


Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 2:01:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...


The days where deals were done over NYC power lunches are long gone. The internet, cell phones, and Fed Ex have made it possible to work as a literary agent anywhere in the world. And more and more, publishers are cropping up in other places besides New York as well.

That said, I think it's still helpful to get some face time with the editors in New York. In our case, we try to get to NYC a couple of times a year and spend two or three days in a whirlwind of meetings, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and drinks with both editors we know and those with whom we're hoping to work. As a matter of fact, I was there just a couple of weeks ago and met several new editors, so now I'm chomping at the bit to find projects for them. I also finally met a couple of editors with whom I have clients, but whose schedules haven't meshed with mine on one of my previous trips. One actually told me that she loves agents from out of town, because we make more of a point of trying to meet. She has NY-based agents she's dealt with for years, yet she couldn't pick them out of a crowd because she's never seen them.

There's something energizing about spending time with book people of any sort, be they editors, writers, or other agents, so these trips serve many purposes. But as an LA-based agent, I don't always have to go to New York to meet with editors. I attend conferences and conventions all over the country each year, and just as there are agents at these events, there are editors. I try to take time out to speak with them when our schedules allow, and it's fun seeing each other in a different venue.

I think if you're considering an agent outside the New York area--and there are tons of terrific ones--you should just ask how they handle their editor relationships, and what they do to maintain contacts. I don't believe there's any one right answer, other than the one that makes you feel comfortable with that person. Hope this helps!


Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 2:14:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jennifer Echols said...

Your niece is adorable!

Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 2:31:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jennette Marie Powell said...

Thank you, Nephele! That helps a lot. I am definitely querying out-of-NY agents, and this is a great way to phrase a question I want to ask should I get the call from one.

Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 2:42:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

I've looked over the blog and the Knight Agency website to get a better feel for who you are; I've just gotten a request for a partial from Elaine Spencer, and I'm doing my homework.

Your agency is rooted quite firmly in the romance and chick lit fiction genres, but you seem to be branching out to encompass a broader range. Am I correct in this assessment? I'm thinking in particular about your relationship to science fiction and fantasy, which is where my work usually falls.

Thank you!

Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 3:11:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Hi Jeff,

I love people who do their homework! (If that wasn't already painfully obvious.) :)

Yes, we are branching out quite a bit. Romance has always been a huge part of the TKA list, and will continue to be, but we're very interested in other genres as well, particularly science fiction, fantasy, and now a bit of mystery as well. So get the word out! And thanks so much for your interest.


Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 3:35:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been looking at different submission guidelines, and some agencies want to know who you think your target audience will be. How is a writer supposed to answer this? Right now, mine would look a mess, like:

People who like Buffy the Vampire Slayer like it. But it contains no Sci-Fi/Fantasy elements! Not a bloody one! Also, people who like crime and psychological suspense enjoyed it. Oh, and New York City. And the the early Edwardian era. And everyone who's read it and likes it also likes chocolate.

Any ideas/formulas/solutions to this? I understand why an agent wants to know, but I don't know what kind of answer they're looking for.

Thanks so much, Nephele! And your niece is gorgeous!

Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 3:40:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...


First of all, your description has me rolling on the floor. So funny! Thanks for the laugh.

Now, this is an excellent question, and you can handle this situation a couple of ways. You can go the general route, which is probably a safe approach, and liken the book to specific sub-genres or a combination of sub-genres. For instance: "This book will appeal to fans of light paranormal books with elements of suspense and mystery, and no graphic violence."

Or you can get a bit more specific, and compare it to books, films, and TV shows that are already familiar parts of popular culture. This generally requires you to do a bit of research to determine what books out there you think are similar in feel to yours, and then you can suggest that fans of those might also be interested in yours. This can backfire if an agent detested one of the books you're using as a comparison, but it can also be much more specific and useful if you've written something that's easily categorized in this manner.

Hope this helps!


Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 3:52:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, she is too, too cute, Nephele!


Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 4:46:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks so much -- that's a great help. I'll go with the first, more general style, at least until I can get more comfortable with the process. If that ever happens.

Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 5:58:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Natalie J. Damschroder said...

OMG, the HAIR! She's so precious, but I'd be touching that hair all day! LOL case you can't tell, I love baby hair. :)

Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 7:43:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Knitty Yas said...

When submitting a query letter, is it better to take the funny, personalized comfortable approach, or the more professional down to the nitty-gritty approach?

I have been going through the ringer trying to figure out how to write my query letter. I think I'll have a nice round bald spot by the end of this whole experience.

ps adorable kid :p and the whole name thing... trust me i understand.
6th grade substitute called me Yosemite once. scarred me for life.

Friday, September 29, 2006 at 3:02:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...


Good question. My take on query letters is that the letter itself should be professional: Follow guidelines, use capital letters and proper punctuation, paragraphs, and a fairly polite, business-like tone where you introduce yourself and give your background information etc.

Where you can get creative is in the portion of your letter that describes what you're pitching. The short synopsis is your place to show the agent or editor a bit of your writing voice, as opposed to your career-person voice, so don't hesitate to use the tone from your manuscript at this point. If your story is in first person, let your hero or heroine introduce themself and brag a bit about their adventures. Have fun with it.

Hope this helps. And thanks for getting in that last question. That's it for Q & A until next week. Have a great weekend, everyone.


Friday, September 29, 2006 at 1:07:00 PM EDT  

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