Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Agent Q&A!

Happy Hump Day everyone! And question day, as well. I'm back to answer your burning questions about getting an agent, publishing and so on. For those of you who didn't play along last month, here's how it works:

Post your question to me in the comments section below. I will come back later this evening/early tomorrow and answer three of them at random. (Could be more, but probably not because it's insanely busy around here right now.)

That's all there is to it! So, whatcha want to know?



Blogger Sean Thomas Fisher said...

If one chooses to self-publish their book with Amazon, will that hurt their chances of getting an agent/publisher beyond that?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 11:18:00 AM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

If an agent is looking at a full, and other requests come in, is it proper etiquette to let all the agents know, or only if there is an offer of representation?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 12:25:00 PM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh, and this is a great opportunity. Thank you.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 12:27:00 PM EST  
Blogger Heather said...

Thank you for this opportunity! I'd love to know what you think are good questions for a writer to ask when they get that agent call and offer of representation.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 12:29:00 PM EST  
Anonymous AJ Booloodian said...

Query question: If you've won an award for writing, should you include that in bio area of the query? The contest is valid (critiqued by agents and editors), but is not for the novel I'll be sending the query on.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 12:30:00 PM EST  
Anonymous AJ Booloodian said...

Thank you so much for doing this! I am always impressed by the amount of opportunities the Knight Agency gives for those of us who are not yet published.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 12:32:00 PM EST  
Blogger Evangeline Holland said...

Unless otherwise stated, is it poor etiquette to include 1-3 sample pages of your manuscript when querying agents?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 12:37:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

I know dark paranormals are popular right now, but do you see a place in the market for, say, a contemporary with paranormal elements, where the paranormal parts of the story do not dominate the tale?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 12:37:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The YA market is so strong right now. One of the reasons, I think, is that the characters are very realistic and easy to identify with, even if they're involved with vampires/werewolves/ghosts. They're less cheesy, book-character-ish than in adult genre fiction. Do you think these more realistic characters are going to crossover into the adult genre market?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 12:39:00 PM EST  
Blogger Leona said...

If you are networking, and through that networking an editor from a well known house, asks you to see a work that you were getting ready to send out, is it better to wait to send out queries until you hear back? Or should I send out a query with the addition of the fact that it was asked for?

I have posted bits and pieces of romantic thriller on twitter as I was doing that last boring edit. You know, the one that is for imporper contractions (slang usage) and wrong spellings (he instead of the LOL).

In the process I found out that someone was looking for thrillers and they asked for me to submit directly to them. Now I don't know what to do.

Wait for response from them or find an agent in the meantime. Help!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 12:40:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jessica Silva said...

I don't know if you've ever signed a duo (two authors who have written the same book), but I haven't heard many agents talk about it and I'm curious as to how it works, if it works, and what the agent side of that kind of decision looks like.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 12:45:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

Thanks for the opportunity!

I've finished my first novel(the first in an urban fantasy series)and am getting ready to start querying for representation. My problem is my bio section. It's literally non-existent. Anything I could honestly add just seems to smack of amateur. Is it acceptable to just skip this bit, and stick with the merits of my book in the query?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 1:08:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Related to AJ Booloodian's question: When seeking an agent for my novel (literary fiction), should I mention any of my non-fiction background?

I've made my living as a professional writer for nearly four decades but have no track record writing fiction. I have won national awards, ghosted a book that's still in print 16 years later, was a book and arts reviewer for major newspaper, blogger, had plays produced, etc.

Will an agent care about any of this?


Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 1:09:00 PM EST  
Blogger Roberta Walker said...

If the MC is college age or graduated college, is a story still considered "YA" ? And is 110K word too long (pretending every word is awesome and couldn't possibly be cut :) for this category?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 1:20:00 PM EST  
Blogger Alta said...

What draws you to a potential client? What scares you away?

Thanks for doing this. You guys at TKA are awesome!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 1:21:00 PM EST  
Blogger Countesswells Resident said...

If an author has a blog in which the gestation of the work has been discussed (although no samples posted), should that be mentioned during the query?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 1:44:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Montana Jade said...

Hi there,

For first time authors, writing a paranormal romance, what should the cut off word count be?

In addition to this, once a writer's recieved representation, what process does the manuscript undergo afterwards? And how long, roughly, will it take to for the book to get on the shelves, if/when a publisher has picked it up?

Thank you! =D

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 2:04:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What sort of lengths are recommended for adult or YA novels nowadays, and does it vary by genre?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 3:00:00 PM EST  
Blogger Shalanna said...

I'm with Alta--I wonder what scares agents away. I have scared away two agents during the "I'd like to offer representation" phone calls. The first time I was just an idiot, thinking we were Close Personal Friends and revealing too much about my expectations (which weren't really real but just the result of enthusiasm), but the second time I suspect it was because I sent her ALL MY BOOKS in email messages after our initial contact and that turned her away. Anyhow, I second the question. Hope it doesn't scare you.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 3:37:00 PM EST  
Blogger HowLynnTime said...

Break down your numbers for us, just for fun.

Query this month____
Number I must read prior to getting to this months______
Absolute Trash ______
Creative format _____
Scary - - Crayon, cookies, stalker potential _____
Would rep but no time____
Like but NO ______
5 years ago ____
Perfect but no_______
yes, more______

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 4:30:00 PM EST  
Blogger Scooter Carlyle said...

This is an odd question. I attended a panel at a conference last month. There was an agent on the panel. While asking a question, I inadvertently made him laugh. (With me, not at me.)

The context of my question and the laugh had memorable elements that were directly tied to what I write and who I am. I researched the agent when I got home and I think he'd be a good fit for my novel. Should I mention that laugh in my query letter so he remembers me? Or would that come off as desperate?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 5:59:00 PM EST  
Blogger Scooter Carlyle said...

Also, could we discuss amongst ourselves the questions you don't answer?


Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 6:03:00 PM EST  
Blogger D.D.Gibson said...

I recently subscribed to your newsletter about a year ago and I just recently read an article about the do's and dont's of how to start your novel and I was just wondering what your advice is on how to fix the sagging middle of a novel. What's your advice on how to fix the middle of your novel so you can keep the readers interested in your work?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 6:25:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Mary Kate Leahy said...

If I was not chosen for the speed-dating contest with Deirdre can/should I query other agents at Knight, or were the submissions shared with the other agents?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 6:58:00 PM EST  
Blogger Kristen Howe said...

I have some questions.

One, when can you requery an agent, who passed on your work, with a new ms?

Two, can you requery a new agent in the same agency who passed on the work? If so, when for big or small agencies?


Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 8:52:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Brit said...

Hi, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions! I was wondering if someone was wanting to get into the literary agent and publishing industry is there anything specific you would recommend? I have seen some summer intensive programs at NYU and University of Colorado at Denver and I know NYU also offers a masters program in publishing, are any of these good to have to get into the industry? Also is there a difference between publishing in Canada vs the USA? Thanks again!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 9:54:00 PM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

In your opinion, what is the most difficult element of the English language for an author to master?

Draven Ames

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 11:35:00 PM EST  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Wow! Lots of questions. I'll try to combine a few here.

I see several questions about what sort of bio information you should include in your query/submission material and how much information you should provide. My best advice is to be honest and don't add things that have absolutely no relevance. So: if you have no publishing history of any kind, that's fine. Don't try to make something up. But you can certainly say something simple, such as you have a day job as an accountant and live with your spouse, two kids, and a dog. One line like that, just a little something about you, is fine.

If you do have some kind of writing background, but it's not specific to what you're submitting, include the information, but don't be elaborate about it. For instance, you've published four works of nonfiction and have worked as a freelancer. That's great information--it lets the agent know you've a professional level of ability with words, even if it might not have been publishing fiction. It won't hint to your storytelling abilities, but it will suggest you can string sentences together in a coherent manner. Plus you might have some readers who will cross over. If you've won recognizable awards, mention them by all means, but small-town paper stuff or local contests with no recognition value won't mean much; perhaps just note you've won several local writing awards. If you have a blog, mention it. We'll probably Google you anyway, so might as well make life easier for us.

More in my next post...

Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 1:56:00 AM EST  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Word counts. These vary by genre, and of course once you've published a few books you can get away with running longer. However, for the sake of new, unpublished writers, here are some basic ranges. Keep in mind that they are a little bit flexible, but only a little bit. Most genre fiction runs between about 75,000 and 90,000 words. If you're writing straight up fantasy with a lot of world building, you can probably get up to 100,000-110,000 or a tad more, but much longer will get tougher. Paranormal romance can hit 95,000-100,000, but that's pushing it.

Young adult runs from around 45,000 to 75,000 for the most part, a little longer in the fantasy realm again. Maybe up to 85,000. 110,000 is very, very long for YA--prohibitively so for a new author.

Literary fiction can run the whole range, anywhere from 65,000 or so up to 100,000 and over--particularly if you are writing historical fiction. But literary fiction is also a much harder sell with many other factors involved and word count is less of a factor at that point.

Send what an agent asks for, no more or less. Read those guidelines, please, because they are there for a reason. If someone does not request pages with a query, don't send them. I know I don't want pages until I request them, because once I do I request an attachment; I hate reading in the body of the email. But I don't want an attachment from everyone sending any sort of query. So follow the agency guidelines.

Generally once an agent rejects a project, that stands for the entire agency. In other words, do not query a second agent at the same agency on the original project. In the case of agency contests, there's generally some language included that states if a non-winning project may be submitted through standard channels. RE: Deidre's recent contest, I'm not sure. I'll ask her, but I would check the initial posts to see what, if anything, she said about resubmitting works that didn't make the final cut.

Publishing timeline: Generally for a new author with a completed manuscript, it takes about 18-24 months to get from offer from a publisher to the book hitting shelves. The time from an agent taking on a book to it selling to a publisher varies, of course, based on whether the agent wants you to rewrite/edit, and how much, and then how hard a well it turns out to be.

Self-publishing: I could write for a long time on this topic. Briefly, however, the thing to keep in mind is that publishers want to buy certain rights, and the agent needs those rights available to make the deal attractive to an editor. If you've self-published, regardless what level of success you've had, you've put the book out there and the publisher is not getting first crack at it. It's very rare that an agent or editor isn't going to take that into consideration. And I'm afraid there still is some assumption that if you self-published it was because you could not get anyone interested in the project through traditional means. Just because Amazon has made it easier to do, doesn't mean that the concerns regarding self-publishing aren't still valid. If you want to go the traditional route, self-publishing ahead makes it harder in most cases.

Okay, that's going to have to be it for now everyone. I know there are many questions unanswered, and I wish I had time to get to them all. I hope this was informative for everyone, and if I didn't get to your question this time around, please keep reading here and at my other blog, as we all try to throw out lots of this information on a regular basis. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 1:56:00 AM EST  
Blogger Sean Thomas Fisher said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 10:51:00 AM EST  
Blogger Sean Thomas Fisher said...

Thank you so much for the great insight! It was all very eye opening and will really help to further my project. Thanks again!

Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 10:54:00 AM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for all the wonderful information, Nephelle. That is a big variance in word counts, from genre to genre.

Yesterday, on Twitter, an agent started badgering me about how I shouldn't look for an agent. He kept talking about how ebooks brought more money and that agents are useless. This, from a former agent - supposedly. He kept talking about percentages.

What people fail to realize about ebooks is that most authors never make their advances back for a publisher. Basically, don't be lulled in by the royalties. You still have to sell your book. And if we haven't been making it through the filter of agents and writers, then we probably won't make it in ebooks.

A lot of books got passed up before they became classics. Have we ever stopped and wondered how many times the writer rewrote and had critiques done of that failed manuscript?

I believe that the trial by fire can help mold and create the classics that we still enjoy.

Very nice answers. I'm sorry if I got side tracked. Nice post!

Draven Ames

Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 12:39:00 PM EST  
Blogger Deidre Knight said...

I withnessed your interchange with that "former agent", the one who was badgering everyone on Twitter last night. I wouldn't take him very seriously. Why would anyone who used to be an agent go into a public forum like that and start hammering on people about the uselessness of agents? Not anyone who really understands the nature of what agents do or the important reasons that an author needs representation.

Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 4:17:00 PM EST  
Blogger Hope Welsh said...

Leona...congrats! Personally, if an editor asks to see something--I'd be already at the post office!

To my understanding--contracts are pretty standard for a first book.

Finding an agent can take a while--I'd be wanting to send the story before the editor forgot me.

My QUESTION: When querying an agent, is it considered poor form to send something that's sold elsewhere--when there are more books in the series? Or, should the agent be queried for an entirely new work?

Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 5:13:00 PM EST  
Blogger Leona said...

@hope LOL I did send it off. I sent it the same day!

I was curious if I should still query for the story and say that it was in a specific editor's hands, or wait until I hear back from the editor?

Thank you so much for saying something! I love the writing community.

Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 5:55:00 PM EST  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

@Mary Kate Leahy: I checked with Deidre, and yes, speed-daters who didn't continue on in her contest are welcome to requery through normal channels.

And of course you're all quite welcome to chat here about things I didn't have time to answer! Have fun.

Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 6:13:00 PM EST  

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