Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Agent Q&A Day!

Happy hump day, everyone! Aside from being Wednesday, it's also the second Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for me to answer a few of your burning questions.

For those of you who haven't played along before, you all post your questions about getting an agent, publishing, writing and so on in the comments of this thread. Then I'll come back some time later tonight or early tomorrow morning and answer a few of them--at least three, more if I can. If you're new to this, you might also like to check the blog archives for the last couple of Q&As, since your question might already have been answered.

So, let me have them? What would you like to me to chat about to kick off this brand new year? (And don't forget to check back for answers!)

~Nephele

21 Comments:

Blogger Scooter Carlyle said...

I know that genre is is important. My story is solidly in the fantasy realm, and in form and function I believe it is closest to urban fantasy. There's one problem. It takes place in an extremely rural area.

Given the murky nature of the definition of urban fantasy, I'm not entirely sure where it fits best. Most people I've talked to has said it sounded most like urban fantasy, but to a few others, the urban part was critical.

How critical is this at the query stage? I know it will be critical at the marketing stage, but if I label it as urban fantasy, but the agent feels it's closer to something else, will it sink my chances with the agent? I'm afraid that will happen if send it to someone who represents urban fantasy ONLY, not fantasy in general.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 1:06:00 PM EST  
Blogger meradeth said...

I doubt I am the only one who wonders what ever happened to all the In The Mood For Love submissions. It has been a while, but would it be possible to get an update? :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 1:26:00 PM EST  
Blogger Braden said...

If an agent has requested a full or a partial, is no news good news? Is there a general rule of thumb on whether it takes longer for them to accept or pass?

Thanks for doing this!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 1:26:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jamie - I'm a guy, btw! said...

If someone passes on your work but says please submit future works, would a total rewrite of the rejected MS be resubmittable, or do you just move on to the next project?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 2:01:00 PM EST  
Blogger Kirk K said...

If you see promising work from an unpublished writer, will you take them on as a client? How much will you work with them to improve craft? Would there be a time you would ask for revisions before offering representation?

Thanks,
Kirk

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 2:07:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jennifer Leeland said...

This is a genre mash question.
I run into the problem that I write two different genres mashed together (Erotic Science Fiction Romance) and often find Agents will take erotic romance but say "no" to sci fi.

Is it "bad manners" to send to an agent that takes erotic heat levels, but says no science fiction?

And if you got a book in a genre (say a futuristic) that normally didn't fall in your categories, but was mashed with one you DID take, would you still read it?

What about if that author had a deal on the table already?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 2:09:00 PM EST  
Blogger Gabriela Lessa said...

I know I wasn't supposed to, but back then I didn't know better, so I did what I shouldn't have done: queried when I was still on the early stages of my manuscript.
Of course, I got a whole bunch of rejections.
Since then, I've changed a lot in the story (title, part of the plot, some characters, most of the structure).
When I'm done with it (yes, now I know I should finish it, revise, revise again, completely polish it and then revise once more), can I query the same agents I queried before I knew better? Would most agents give me a second chance or not even remember I even submitted a long time ago and treat this as a first submission? Or do agents usually remember and ignore re-submissions? And, when I do query, should I act like this is a first query and hope they don't remember the one from over a year ago, or should I mention I've queried before?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 2:12:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Deb said...

I have written a four part romance series. It's contemporary romance, modern setting, with a little bit of suspense and mystery in the second and third volume. The length would fit for a category romance line- between 60 and 70 k. The second story does not have an HEA, but that gets resolved in the third story.

I have heard that querying for a series is the kiss of death in most genres, but it looks like it might not be the case for romance. Is this "done"?

Thank you!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 2:28:00 PM EST  
Blogger Dawn Brazil said...

What is clunky writing exactly. I've heard the term used a lot but with no clear definition of what it is. I want to ensure I'm not doing it...whatever it is.

I originally thought it was bad sentence structure - run-on sentences, lenghty sentences, wordiness...but alas I don't know. Thanks!!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 3:33:00 PM EST  
Blogger Sean said...

I have just finished revising my ms for what seems like the millionth time and have become satisfied with calling it good. Last week, I began the querying process with agents I follow online. I also have a short list of solicitable publishers I want to query as well, but would prefer an agent first. If those publishers went on to reject my query - w/o an agent -, how much could that fact play into an agent's decision to rep my book down the road - assuming I've been lucky enough to get that far with said agent to begin with?

I'm not planning to fail here, just want inside the agent's head so I can set a better trap. Need to make my bait look as good as possible.

Thank you!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 5:36:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Jacqui Pirl said...

Some people golf or play chess in their free time. I write. All the time. It's an addiction.

I have written a novel that falls solidly into the nebulous “women's fiction” genre.

This is the first novel I have written that I would (maybe) consider showing an agent. (Lot's of "practice" novels sitting in the drawer.)

While editing (and re-editing, and re-working) the W.F. manuscript, I had an idea for a children's mystery series (ages 10-13 roughly) and began books one and two of those.

I love my W.F. story, but I suspect the mystery series might have a better chance of seeing the light of day first. (There are more books to the series to be written.)

Do I send out, simultaneously, different queries to different agents (even within the same agency) based on what each represents? (For instance would I send Deidre Knight a query for my women's novel and at the same time send Elaine Spencer a query for my middle school series?)

Do I send out queries on one book and wait six months to send out the queries on the other?

Do I shove them all back into “the file” and go back to the solitude of writing?

I love reading the Q&A forums. Thanks.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 5:53:00 PM EST  
Anonymous jacqui pirl said...

Two more quick questions.

If you had to pick one, what genre would you personally would like to see more of this year in queries?

And while we're on the subject, what genre/story type do you not want to see more (or any) of in 2011?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 6:27:00 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, January 12, 2011 at 8:54:00 PM EST  
Blogger Empress Awesome said...

Will you please be my agent? You're so cool!

Actually, I was just wondering: if the first page of your manuscript doesn't introduce the protagonist, should you rewrite to make it so (number one!Haha! Couldn't resist.)?

Also, would you like to be my agent? That is all.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 9:45:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Megan said...

I live in California and I think it would be great to be represented by agent I could actually meet with occasionally in person. Is this a realistic desire or do agents generally prefer to work with clients over the phone and though email? Nephele and Elaine, for example, both accept women’s fiction manuscripts, but from a geographical standpoint, Nephele is only 60 miles away.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 10:12:00 PM EST  
Blogger Draven Ames said...

Thank you for having these questions. When is the soonest event that allows us to pitch our ideas to agents?

Can we pitch 'ideas' to you?

What stories would you like to see written?

What is your favorite style of writing? Which POV?

If it was pitched to you today and with only the first three chapters, what horror book would you represent without knowing the author?

What book had the most shocking ending you have ever read?

If you could rename 'Ladlit,' what would it be?

What do you love about language?

What do you wish you wrote?

Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 6:49:00 AM EST  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Good morning, everyone! Back with some responses for you...

Scooter Carlyle: Good question. There's a lot of confusion about what "urban fantasy" really means. The truth is it has nothing to do with whether your story takes place in a city or the country, suburbs or on the farm. Urban fantasy encompasses those stories that take place in the real world as we know it, but with the added fantastical elements that usually involve magical or paranormal creatures/beings of some sort. So if you have vampires wrecking havoc on the ski slopes in Stowe, Vermont, it's still an urban fantasy.

As for labeling at the query stage, it's only a problem if you're far off the mark and the agent in question doesn't represent what you actually have written. If you called something urban fantasy and it was actually science fiction--and the agent only works with fantasy authors and not sf authors, for instance. Otherwise, it's more our jobs to position your work than it is yours, so don't worry about it.

Meradeth: I'm actually still reading all the manuscripts for the contest. There were a lot of them (mixed in with regular submissions, of course) and some came in earlier than later. But I haven't signed anyone from that group as of yet. I'll update on my blog if/when I do.

Braden: I think it depends on the agent, of course, as everyone has their own level of busyness etc. But generally no news just means they haven't read it yet, it's not good or bad. I think a pass might be faster in coming only from the standpoint that it doesn't always require reading the full manuscript. You read to the point where you're sure it's not doing it for you and stop. With an acceptance, you obviously finish the manuscript and then sometimes even read it again if you're on the fence.

TBC...

Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 11:21:00 AM EST  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

Dawn Brazil: The fastest way to identify clunky writing is to read something aloud. If it isn't easily understandable, if you lose track of whose POV it is, if you have backward sentence structure over and over, if the rhythm of the sentences is repetitive, if the dialogue is stilted or has too much filler (banal chatter that doesn't move the story forward)...any and all of these can be clunky writing. You're correct that it's more about the nuts and bolts of word choice than about story. It's grammar and such, but also just sentences that sound awkward or that don't flow, repeat words over and over and so on.

Sean: If you submit directly to an editor and they reject the material, an agent cannot resubmit the same work later on to the same imprint. Not just to that editor, to the entire publishing unit. So yes, if you do that repeatedly, you make the project less attractive to agents, because it's difficult to take on a project when a few of the (already limited) options for publication have been ruled out entirely.

Megan: Location of an agent doesn't matter. We really work almost entirely by email and phone. That said, it's always nice to meet your clients. We often do, at conferences or if we're traveling near where they live or vice versa.

Draven Ames: Wow. You could be your own Q&A day by yourself! Just briefly... No, you can't pitch ideas to us. We deal with finished projects, not ideas; pitching ideas is a Hollywood thing. My existing clients will discuss ideas with me sometimes, but that's more in line with trying to figure out what they want to work on next.

I don't rep horror.

I love the versatility of language. It amazes me how many different ways you can say the same thing, and that given the same prompt or idea, ten writers in a room can come up with ten very different stories.


To wrap up, a few basic things:

On querying agents: Don't query more than one agent at the some agency unless the agency website specifically allows it. And if you do, don't do it simultaneously on different projects. You should query agents who rep everything you are interested in writing to the best of your ability. So if you write women's fiction and also young adult, find an agent who reps both, not one for each project.

Only query an agent again on a project they have previously rejected if A)they asked for specific changes and mentioned they'd like to see it if they were made (and you've made them) or B)you have rewritten a significant portion of the story since they last saw it. In both cases, mention the previous query and the response and explain why you're resubmitting, and understand that there's a good chance (at least in case B) that they won't want to see it again.

You should target agents who rep what you write, even if it's a mix of genres. If someone queries me on an erotic romance with paranormal elements, I'm going to say no because I don't rep erotica. Be aware that some mixes are also far less popular and marketable than others. While fantasy elements in romance have done very well, science fiction elements in romance rarely seem to sell. Yes, there are exceptions, and I'm not saying you shouldn't write something simply because it's not a best-selling type of genre at the moment, but be aware that agents need to take these things into consideration when taking on clients. This is a business, after all.

Series. The best series is one where you pitch the first book as a stand alone novel with series potential. Don't write a whole series before shopping the first book. Write book one, outline your future ideas, and move on to another project. If you can't sell the first book, chances are good you'll have wasted your time writing any subsequent volumes.

Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 11:31:00 AM EST  
Blogger Braden said...

Thanks so much for doing this! I appreciate your time.

Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 2:51:00 PM EST  
Blogger Dawn Brazil said...

Thanks for your response to my question. I want to produce the best possible manuscript I can. So, that means - no clunky writing!

Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 2:59:00 PM EST  
Blogger xiaoxia said...

The Movado Bold wristwatch is something that you need to check out. It comes in an assortment of colors and will deck out any outfit. See it at The Swag Mag.

Monday, January 17, 2011 at 3:13:00 AM EST  

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