Thursday, March 08, 2007

5 Questions!!!

Hey everyone! It's been a while since we did one of our 5-Question Thursdays, so I thought I'd drop by and see if anyone had anything on their minds. For those of you who don't know the drill, post your industry-type questions here on the thread, and I'll answer the first five. I'll come back in a bit to see what's going on, and to provide some answers.

So? Ask away!! And remember, first five people get replies.



Anonymous Shelley said...

Thanks for this cool opportunity! Can you give a quick assessment of what's going on in the YA world of publishing -- what's hot and not, that kind of thing.

Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 1:25:00 PM EST  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Hi Shelley,

YA is selling like hotcakes. In fact, this article calls this the "golden age" for young adult books. Part of this, of course, is because all those kids reading right now are the children of the Baby Boomers, so there are lots of them. But I think more and more older readers have refused to give up on their YA favorites, just because they've hit their 20s (or beyond). So, that's great news.

As for what's selling, I hear more and more requests for really excellent writing. Not that this wasn't always the case, but I think editors can afford to be even choosier now since more YA sales has translated into more YA writers. Everyone wants to give it a go. So, my advice is to really polish your work before sending it to agents or editors. Just because you're writing for younger readers is no excuse to slack on grammar, etc. Limit slang and such to dialogue, and make sure descriptions and narrative use all the correct punctuation, etc.

Subject-wise, I think the sky is the limit. Paranormal twists are still popular, as are teen romances. If you're writing about teen issues, such as eating disorders, drugs, parental problems, suicide, or anything the least bit serious, make sure not to preach to your readers. Try to get inside their heads to see how they handle the issues, and then portray that--not how adults perceive them from the outside.

Fantasy is still popular as well, particularly for middle grade readers, but beware the dreaded Harry Potter hangover. No one wants Harry Potter in a thinly veiled disguise. Be original.

Hope this helps!

Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 1:58:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking my question! Can you explain what the difference is between the query letter and the short synopsis and what it is agents are looking for? Thanks, Angie

Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 3:16:00 PM EST  
Blogger EGP said...

I have another question about "what's hot", regarding the "political/conspiracy thriller". Robert Ludlum of course was the best known author of such books, but there is overlap into people like Clive Cussler, Christopher Reich, and some of the spy novelists and techno-thriller authors. Is there still a market for new authors of such books? (I recognize that this is not a Knight Agency specialty)

As you might guess, I ask because I have written one that is approaching readiness for submission, and I have another one in the works. I understand that ultimately good writing is what it's all about, I just am trying to get a feel for any obstacles to overcome with this particular genre.

Thanks for your willingness to answer questions.

Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 3:44:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, Nephele, and thanks for the chance to ask:

I recently parted company with my agent. As I search for a new one, how do I mention my old relationship with him in a query letter? Will my severed contract work against me in finding a new agent?

Sorry, that's 2 questions. : )


Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 4:27:00 PM EST  
Blogger Lis said...

Thanks for the chance to ask questions. Is the paranormal market shifting more towards straight dark, sexy paranormal or is there room for a dark paranormal with humor? (ie, Buffy)


Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 4:36:00 PM EST  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Hi Angie,

Queries vary based on what a particular agent is looking for, so you should always double check an agency's web site for any guidelines as to how they prefer you query. But basically, a query is an introductory letter you send, either by snail mail or by e-mail (again, check their preferences), that gives the agent an idea of who you are, what you're pitching, and any pertinent background you might have to offer. For instance, you might introduce yourself, state any prior publication experience or if you work in a writing-based career, and then pitch the project you'd like them to represent, keeping your description short -- anywhere from a few catchy sentences to a couple of short paragraphs. (Think of an expanded version of the blurb that might show up on the back of your book if published.)

If you have anything else you think might make you an attractive client, also mention that: a blog you keep with a strong following, any association with a well-known writer who might offer quotes, etc. If you don't have these types of things, don't worry, and don't apologize for them. But don't leave them out if you do have them, since every little angle is helpful.

Now, a short synopsis is generally something an agent requests. (Occasionally they ask for one as part of their query guidelines, but more commonly as the next step, to accompany sample pages or chapters from the work you pitched.) Short can mean anything from one to three pages. There's no set format for these -- generally whatever you're comfortable with -- but keep in mind that it's another example of your writing, so make sure to proofread and so on. And don't leave the agent hanging at the end; the synopsis should include the climax and conclusion of your book, because that's part of why the agent wants to see it. If they like your writing in the sample chapters/pages, they want to see if you have a good narrative arc and conclusion before they take the time to read the entire manuscript.

Good luck with your queries!

Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 4:44:00 PM EST  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Hi egp,

You're correct that thrillers and political conspiracy novels aren't really our specialty (though Elaine and Deidre and both starting to take a look at these types of books). I'm afraid I don't have a good handle on this market, since I don't represent these stories or even read them very frequently. However, that said, I can give you some general information and hopefully that will get you started.

"Puzzle" thrillers seem to be really huge right now. Part of this steps from the success of The DaVinci Code of course, but also I think a lot of readers enjoy thrillers that are less closely linked to the current political climate (i.e., the war in Iraq) because they hear plenty of that in the news. Also, keep in mind that thrillers steeped to closely in current politics can get dated very quickly.

A trend we're seeing in romantic suspense is a request for more "domestic" thrillers, as opposed to things set in war zones or even in countries where we have a tradition of strife. I suspect that this spills over into more mainstream suspense as well.

As for breaking into this genre, I can't really speak to how easy or difficult it might be, but I do think that, as with any genre, your best bet is a fresh twist on something that's been successful in the past. Also, I don't know what type of suspense you are writing in particular, but several successful suspense/thriller authors started out writing strictly romantic suspense, and once their readership and popularity had built up, they made the switch over to the mainstream suspense category. Think Tami Hoag and Iris Johanssen. Just a thought... Regardless of how you pursue publication, good writing and the best ideas you can come up with are still the way to go.

Good luck!

Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 4:52:00 PM EST  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Hi Kirstin,

By all means mention that you and your previous agent have parted ways. This is not an uncommon occurrence; writers look for new agents for a variety of reasons. And you want to be upfront with any prospective representation. With some agents, the fact that your writing was strong enough to attract an agent's interest at some point gives you a leg up over writers who have never been represented. A tiny one, perhaps, but it's there. I suppose there might be some agents who would hold it against you, but that should be a small number (and do you really want to be represented by someone who doesn't understand that sometimes a relationship evolves and no longer works?)

Good luck with your search!

Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 4:56:00 PM EST  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Okay, everyone! This is question #5, so that's it for today. Thanks to everyone for their great questions, and for those of you who missed out, I'm sure there will be more opportunities to ask us questions in the coming weeks. Just keep dropping by!

Hi lis,

It's true that there seem to be a lot of dark and edgy books in the paranormal genre, but that doesn't mean humor is dead. As with anything, if you have a fresh take on your subject matter, you will attract attention. There are plenty of people out there buying humorous paranormals, and as long as that's true, editors will keep buying them as well.

Happy writing!

Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 4:59:00 PM EST  
Blogger Kimber An said...

I know questions are closed, but I'm ready to bang my head on the keyboard over Angie's question and Ms. Tempest's answer. :( For the record, I've sent 18 queries out and none of them have gone to the Knight Agency. I'm not planning on sending any others out on that novel. So, this is a general head-banging thing and not related or reflective of the Knight Agency in any way.

I'll ignore the query format issue, because I've already banged my head over that one. Every agent wants something different it seems. I've done my homework and hope I've accomadated.

The Blog issue. I have a blog which just passed the 1300 visiter mark, but I was advised by fellow published author/mentors not to mention it in my query. So, I didn't. I'd also read on some agents' blogs that it's not recommended.

Name-dropping. I have a whole flock of wonderful author Blog Buddies who've generously advised me on many things, but I wouldn't dream of mentioning their names unless they came out and told me to themselves. I'm afraid to even ask. If I do, I'm afraid they'll think I'm only trying to use them.

Am I misunderstanding the advice?

Sign Me,
So Confused in Alaska

Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 9:46:00 PM EST  
Blogger EGP said...

Ms. Tempest,

Thank-you so much for the detailed response about political/ conspiracy thrillers. You have given me several things to think about in terms of what I highlight in my query letter. And your comments about the trend in some thrillers away from a current political backdrop as well as towards more domestic settings is particularly helpful. The nearly polished work fits into those trends pretty well, but the recently begun work has the potential to go in any of several different directions.

Thanks again!

Friday, March 9, 2007 at 12:59:00 PM EST  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Kimber An,

As I mentioned, agents look for different things, so you're wise to try and tailor your queries to whomever you're approaching.

Regarding blogs and such: You're a writer. As an agent I would want to know what sort of writing you do. So, if you query me, I'd expect you to include a sentence or two that covered your writing experience, and the fact you have a blog falls into that. Now, I would not necessarily care if you said something along the lines of "I've been keeping a diary since I was ten years old." That's great, but doesn't apply to much. However, "I blog several times each week about the trials and tribulations of being a writer trying to break into publication, and have an average readership of over a thousand," is a bit more pertinent to what you're selling me. Yes, I want to know you can write and I want to know if I'm going to like your book. But as an agent, I sign writers, not books. If I can't sell your first book for some reason, I anticipate you'll be hard at work on a second one for me to sell. The Knight Agency does not drop an author because one book doesn't fly. Not all agents work that way; some agencies represent authors on a book-to-book basis, and therefore might care less about you as an overall package at the query stage.

As for having friends who write, if a published author has praised your work and offered to give you a quote should you get to that stage, I don't see any reason not to include that. Again, it's not the first thing I'd consider, and certainly won't make me read your work if I'm not interested, but it is part of what you as an author have to offer.

Writing is a business, and far too many writers never seem to look at it as such. You need to hone your craft, you need a solid idea that will catch your reader's attention, and you need something that will appeal to the public in some way. But then what?

There are lots of manuscripts floating around out there, and you need to sell yourself, not just your book. Not in an over-the-top, obnoxious, used-car-salesman type of way, but you do need a hook. So find your hook and throw it out there.

Unless you're J.D. Sallinger, you won't get very far as a professional writer just sitting in your home office and being mysterious. Writing the book is only the first part of the equation. You need to learn to sell yourself, your image, your whatever... Shrinking violets need not apply.

Sunday, March 11, 2007 at 4:37:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Kimber An said...

Thank you so much for replying, Ms. Tempest, even though the questions were closed. I'm no shrinking violet, but I certainly am caught between the conflicting advice of kind-hearted, well-meaning people. I shall release one long sigh and forge ahead.

Sunday, March 11, 2007 at 6:13:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first book, for a Random House imprint, had a 5,000 first printing. Then my editor left. The replacement editor turned down my next novel.

Is my career over?

Friday, March 16, 2007 at 10:45:00 PM EDT  

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