Thursday, August 30, 2007

Q&A Thursday

Me again! I'm back this week for another Q&A session with all you lovely folk. So, what's on your minds? You know the drill. I'm at your disposal, so go ahead and post your questions. I'll answer the first five to hit the thread. Questions about the industry? How to get an agent? What it really takes to be a published writer? Let 'em rip!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi again,

Thanks for answering my question last week. I've got another one for you. I read in another blog once, that sometimes themes in submissions go in waves. Where agents in a single week will get a wave of submissions of say, shape-shifting bunnies. That example is a little out there, but you know what I mean.

Are there any themes or elements in the queries or submissions lately that you are tired of seeing? Or baffled by? We constantly hear as writers, "Find something new and unique." What is old and worn?


Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 11:19:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Welcome back, Chessie, and thanks for your question.

There are always trends in what we see in submissions. Vampires and werewolves have been filling my inbox for years now, though they finally seem to be trickling off somewhat as people begin to understand that this area of the market is very crowded and it takes a real stand-out project to break through. I've been seeing more mythological creatures in paranormals--Greek and Roman gods, Valkyrie, etc. I wouldn't call this trend worn out, but I see a build up that makes me wonder if people think that's the next big thing. Some of the projects I've seen are intriguing, but a lot have felt like an author is trying to hard to tap into a new area of the market, and lack the passion on the writer's part that makes a project really shine.

In YA there has been a very steady trend of Harry Potter-wannabes, with wizards and magic and little boys discovering they're not who they thought they were. Most of these submissions really have not been good enough to stand out in a sub-genre that is dominated so thoroughly by one author, since comparisons are inevitable.

Of course, I don't actually read many queries, as those go through the main office and Elaine Spencer generally sorts through them and determines what has promise, so she probably sees more trends than I do. I'm mostly basing my observations on the projects being pitched to me at conferences.


Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 11:29:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Margaret said...

Oh hmm, I swung by to read everyone else's clever questions and the grand answers, only to find I'm too early.

So, here's something that's been a question for me for a while and I hope will be of interest to others as well :).

I've written a number of books and am engaged in the slow process of editing them all to submission ready. This means I have a number of manuscripts close to or submission ready at one time.

What is your recommendation as far as mentioning the existence of other manuscripts in the query letter? I've heard everything from, "if you've got multiple projects, query all of them at once," to "focus just on one project and use a vague line like 'looking for representation for this and other manuscripts'." At this point, I debate with each query I put together so would really appreciate your advice.


Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 11:43:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Hi Nephele!

I have a question about writing in first person for a novel which can be considered urban fantasy.

What grabs your attention? What irritates you? What would you
Thank You!!

Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 11:52:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Hi Margaret,

I think it's important to focus on a single project in a query, but it's also important for an agent to be aware that you have other manuscripts you feel are submission-worthy. My advice is to pick your most polished, marketable work and query for that, but definitely indicate toward the end of your query that you have additional works for consideration as well. I wouldn't go so far as to describe them or even list the titles, but say something the line of "In addition, I have several other works for consideration if you are interested" or whatever. It's a great way to give a hint to your potential as a client, and also tells the agent from the start that you're serious about career building and not just submitting the one and only manuscript you've written.

Hope this helps!


Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 11:57:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suppose I've sent query letters to a number of agents for my first novel, and eventually after getting no responses decide to try sending them to small or medium press publishers.

Which of these are real publishers (science fiction especially) who have books bought by real distributors, who not merely make them available to bookstores but sometimes have sales agents sell them actively?

Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 12:00:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Hi Diane,

First person, done well, can be terrific. Done badly, it can make me roll my eyes and reach for a rejection slip. Personally, I enjoy reading a very well written first person narrative, but the key is to stay in character. I think the danger with first person is that it is all too easy for the author's own voice to slip through the cracks, and for your character to start sounding like you or reacting in ways that aren't appropriate for the story. It's easier to remember you're talking about someone else when you write in third person. So, my first and best advice, regardless of genre, it to read and re-read a first person narrative and keep asking yourself if you've kept inside your character's head.

The other danger of first person, and what I see quite often, is too much information in the way of internal musings. You wouldn't want to listen to a friend ramble on forever about their childhood or bad day or how much they hate someone, so don't let your character do it either, even if they're just thinking to themselves. I'm not sure why this is true, but I see more long-winded writing when it comes to first person than in third; maybe because there's this need to tell the readers everything that's going on inside the character's head in a steady flow. Not necessary. Let your character have his or her privacy and their own personal thoughts, even if they are telling the story.

Last, but not least, please avoid using the following sentence or anything similar:

Little did I know that soon I would regret that decision.

In third person, you can assume your narrator might know things the characters don't, and so this type of future projection, while a little annoying, isn't completely unreasonable. But in first person, you're waving a red flag and telling the reader that the narrator already knows what's going to happen. Even if you're telling your story in past tense, this really kills the suspense. You're reminding the reader that the narrator is telling the story, not living it, and it pulls them out of the flow. It's an old-fashioned story telling device, and one that really needs to be put out to pasture.


Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 12:08:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Hi Anonymous,

Interesting question. The answer is I'm not sure. There really aren't that many major publishers, even small ones, that take unagented submissions these days. I'd look at Tor, Subterranean Press, Nightshade, and Pyr. I'm sure there are some others I'm just not thinking of right now. I recommend you go through a few issues of Locus magazine, which concentrates of sf/f publishing, and see who's publishing where. It's a great resource.


Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 12:15:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Okay, guys, you're certainly on a roll this morning. One question left!


Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 12:16:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Nephele,

Do you get many new writers submitting through referrals from published authors you already work with, or know? How important is it for an unpublished writer to network with other writers…not only for catching an agent’s attention, but also for promoting and selling their work once it had been published?

Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 2:11:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Knowing people is a short-cut. Yes, I've definitely read submissions on the say-so of some of my current clients, which generally means that the writer gets to circumvent the whole Knight Agency query process and send me something directly. I'll generally also do that writer the courtesy of reading at least a few chapters, assuming it's a project that I think might be marketable. To date, I've signed one writer based on a client rec, but I still have a couple in the pipeline, so that number might go up soon.

That said, getting your foot in the door is obviously still no guarantee that you'll get an agent. It just means you might get more immediate attention. This is a business, so I'm only going to sign writers whose work I love, no matter who they know. Just the way it works.

Networking, however, is always handy, not just for the sake of getting an in with an agent or publisher, but because as a new author you can learn so much about the process from someone who has already experienced it, whether it's who and how to query or what to put on your web site, or how to deal with publicity once your book is set to publish. I encourage writers to make friends in the industry because it also gives you another person with whom to talk shop--and gives your mom, significant other, best friend, or whomever, a rest from listening to you blather on and on about writing. Always a good thing.

And that was number five! Thanks for all the great questions today, folks. I hope my answers were of some use. That's the five for today, but don't worry if you missed out--there will be plenty more Q&A Thursdays coming up.


Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 2:36:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Claudia said...

Dear Nypele,

Hi! My name is Claudia Bates (yes, he is my brother)

My story is at a point where I am seeking a literary agent-about 1/2 way through book 1 of (hopefully) 5.

So far I am simply querying agents, submitting as directed with either synopsis or project outline, with bio and all the related material they may dictate.

How can I stand out from the crowd, and hopefully get someone to pick me up? Somehow I feel that if I am compliant in all the directions, I will remain in a very LONG line of people who want representation.

Thanks, You guys ROCK!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007 at 8:32:00 AM EDT  

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