Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Agent Q&A

Hey there, everyone. Apologies for the lateness today. My schedule has been a bit on the insane side recently. However, I'm here and ready to answer whatever questions you feel like throwing my way.

For those of you who have not participated before, it's very simple. Post your questions about publishing, getting an agent, the agency and so on in the comments section below. I'll come back later this evening or early tomorrow and answer at least three of them--more if time allows.

So, what would you like to know? Go ahead and ask.

~Nephele

38 Comments:

Blogger Emily Casey said...

How do publishers react to "fairy tale"? (Is it archaic/on its way out? Or are fairy tale retellings an incoming trend?)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 2:31:00 PM EST  
Blogger Monica-Marie Holtkamp said...

Hi there! Thank you for taking your time to do things like this! It's really appreciated.

My question is my novel is now what I would term a "teenager" meaning it's finished, in the process of being edited, so basically I'm getting it ready to "go away for college" I'm starting the query process & I was wondering, what is the best kind of query letter to write? I've got some ideas from different people & some of them are formulaic (thanks Nathan Bransford), others are more free flowing. Which is the best kind to use? I'd most defininetly like to get this teenager it's own place to live! :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 2:34:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jamie Handling said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 2:34:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Marie R said...

Does your agency offer a summer internship? If so how would one apply for it?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 2:42:00 PM EST  
Blogger Cherise Sinclair said...

I know erotic romance is doing well in the ePub markets. What's happening with the bigger print publishers? Are they still buying or cutting back?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 2:44:00 PM EST  
Blogger Beth C. said...

My question is in regards to "The Call." Some things are obvious to bring up, like suggested revisions, commissions, etc. But what are some questions you think an author should ask that don't usually come up?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 2:52:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jessica said...

I just started reading this blog, so sorry in advance if this has been asked already.

How does an agent factor in an author's age? I'm worried that I'm 'too young' to be taken seriously as a writer. Does writing trump all or would I be better off waiting to get published until I'm older?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 3:30:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jamie Handling said...

I have written a YA Fantasy and am actively querying agents, but can't seem to get past that step - not even for a partial request. I have workshopped my query to death and finally feel pretty solid about it. Is Fantasy becoming oversaturated?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 3:53:00 PM EST  
Blogger Heather said...

There are so many great questions already! I'll throw mine into the hat though. Is your agency big on editorial type of agenting? Meaning, do you work with writers that you feel are talented and whose work has potential or do you prefer a manuscript that's ready to submit to publishers?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 3:57:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking questions! Mine is this: How do you feel about pop culture references in contemporary novels? In other words, is it ok to reference a currently popular celebrity, movie, or TV show every now and then in the course of the novel?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 4:02:00 PM EST  
Blogger LR said...

Thanks for taking questions. How do you feel about a 75,000 word novel split into five parts, with each part coming from the POV of a hero and heroine who differ each time? (10 POVS total) This differs from a collection of short stories in that the through line-the sisters' search for their missing father-holds them together. Is this kind of romance marketable? Lucy River.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 4:25:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing this :)

My question is this:
Does e-publishing (through well known e-publishers) carry any weight at the query stage? Do most agents consider it a publishing credit?

Thank you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 4:33:00 PM EST  
Blogger Bryce Daniels said...

Thank-you for taking questions.
I was wondering, with the surge of e-publishing and the elimination of shelf space, paper needs, etc...
Do you think this is going to have an effect on word count requirements from those publishers who do support or put out e-books in addition to their print models?
Thanks again!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 4:37:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Helen Keeble said...

Many bloggers in the publishing business remark wryly about "the glamour" of the writing/editing/agenting life when posting about the mundanities of the daily work. So, just for fun... what is genuinely the most glamorous thing you've ever gotten to do as part of your work? :-)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 4:58:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for offering this opportunity. I have completed two different manuscripts. Is it ok to query them separately to the same agents?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 5:16:00 PM EST  
Blogger Tamara said...

A soon-to-be author would like to blurb my book. Assuming her novel is as big as the hype around her publishing deal, should I include her offer in my query letter?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 5:36:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Nancy said...

I'm working on what will be at least a 4 book Steampunk series(light on romance). If I were to query with the first book, would you also want to know the title and a brief blurb for the subsequent books, or only if/when you ask for the full manuscript?

Thank you in advance.

~Nancy

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 6:03:00 PM EST  
Blogger Alwyn said...

Is it a faux-pas to mention in a query letter that we're a fan of some of the authors represented by an agent? Does it come off unprofessional or fangirl-ish? Or does it show solid enthusiasm and the fact that I've done my homework?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 6:14:00 PM EST  
Blogger Shalanna said...

Are witches on the up-and-coming edge of paranormal, in line to replace vampires and werecritters? Does that mean my witch romance/screwball comedy can come out of mothballs? Where would I send it? (My mom has ALREADY read it.) *grin*

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 6:43:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diana Peterfreund said...

Alwyn, FWIW, I told my TKA agent I was querying her because I was a fan of some of her other clients (which I am!) It's nice that they know you've done your research. Be honest, though!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 6:52:00 PM EST  
OpenID sirsterling said...

Query letters, What should be in them? I have sent some out before and as one would expect I recieved rejections. So, What helps catch your eye?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 7:36:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Wendy H said...

HI there..my question..how do you get involved with book reviews. I don't have any experience with writing but I love to read and read all the time.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 8:48:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had my novel sent out by an inexperienced agent (good agency, however) in 2008 at the height of the economic downturn. My agent was not especially enthusiastic about my mss after I turned down her request to change the whole time period of the novel (though after I HAD made several of her suggested changes; this one in my mind would simply have been wrong). After 8 or 9 rejections, she "let me loose," which was fine with me b/c I wasn't feeling any love :). Unfortunately, she sent the mss. off to about everyone she could think of before ditching me, and ultimately quitting her job. She also during this time was writing her own novels, which makes me wonder how much she put effort she could possibly have put into her clients.

Is my novel's chance to be published ruined? Can I retitle it and rework a few things, then try to get another agent? At what point do I tell the other agents its history (I know I will have to do this, but when is best)? Sighhhhh. I still believe in this book, and got some fantastic responses from the editors who looked at it. It got second readings in a couple large houses, but ultimately it was turned down for all different reasons, never the same one (which would tell me it had a flaw I could fix).

What is to become of my poor novel? I would warn anyone to not leap at the first offer of representation and make sure your agent has relationships with editors, not just her boss's rolodex.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 8:59:00 PM EST  
Blogger rmasa said...

I'm a young adult writer. I struggle with the genre tag. Is it best to just say YA? Or YA fantasy, YA fantasy/romance, and all the other possibly tags. YA feels like the only genre with a cavernous void of choices. Sometimes I'm even confused about what's what. What do you prefer or is there a right way?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 9:33:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Sam said...

Hello.
I would just like to know what it means when an agency says that your novel "isn't right for us right now." Is this actually true? Do agencies really have certain genres they aren't taking right then, or is it just a nice way of saying thanks, but no thanks?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 10:05:00 PM EST  
Blogger D.C.C. Mealy said...

Hello, and thank you for answering questions!

I have the same situation as another poster. I have also sent out a fair number of queries for my YA fantasy fiction series, and have not received any positive response. I've tweaked and worked my query letter over and again.

What is a ball park number of rejections before an author begins to question the premise of their manuscript?

Thank you!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 10:07:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Angel said...

Hi : ) Thanks so much for doing this!
I was just wondering why agencies aren't taking me. Now, I know this sounds like a crazy question, and I don't want to sound conceited, but my writing doesn't suck. I just feel like agents who've been in this business for so long would be able to recognize at least a glimmer of talent and maybe give that person a chance, so why doesn't anyone want to give someone with a little HOPE of talent a chance to shine?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 10:08:00 PM EST  
Blogger Lizzie Newell said...

Nephele,
How do you feel about science fiction and science fiction romance? Do you like it or hate it? What in particular do you like or hate about science fiction?

Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 12:09:00 AM EST  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

What a lot of questions! I'm always amazed. :) I'll try to answer as much as I can. Some will be specifically to individual questions, but others more general since I've got some questions here that are similar to each other. Keep reading to the end to make sure you catch my response!

@Emily: I think it depends what you're using "fairy tale" for. There are plenty of reinventions of fairy tales out there, particularly in children's, YA and romance, but I think as a term it has certain happily-ever-after connotations. If that's what you're using it for, great. Those stories are classics, but they should also be the bones of a new work that has substance and says something fresh and original. A loosely veiled retelling of a fairy tale that doesn't really add to the classic story is probably going to be of less interest. It's all context.

@Marie: The Georgia office has an intern right now. We do that occasionally, though not just specifically in summertime. I'm not sure precisely how they found the intern, but I know Elaine Spencer was in charge. I'll try to get more information and get back with it. I don't have an intern in LA simply because it's just me here and a good deal of the mechanics of running the agency itself happens back at the main office.

@Cherise: I think erotica is still selling in print, but it's gone back to more normal numbers as far as what editors are buying. They have their lines that they keep filled, but there's no longer that huge demand that we saw a few years back when the e-books started seeing such popularity and NYC wanted a piece of that pie.

@Beth: I don't look for specific questions, honestly. When I call a prospective client, I have a spiel and once I'm through that I ask if there's anything else they'd like to know. Some authors want to know more about how I work or what I'd do in a specific situation, but I like to think I'm pretty thorough. Often questions come up later after we're working together. It's all a work in progress.

TBC...

Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 11:07:00 AM EST  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

@Jessica: I don't think there's really an age limit to start looking for an agent or to pursue publication. It does really come down to the writing, how polished it is and whether or not you're telling a good story. That said, it works both ways. You won't get cut slack for being young because your book is going up against every other book out there in the market. I think occasionally you get very mature, polished writing from young writers, but writing is something that takes practice so sometimes it's a matter of needing to work at it for longer to perfect your craft. It's more about time put into the work than age. But if you feel your work stands up, then you should definitely start getting it out there.

@Heather: There are 6 agents at TKA and I think we all have a different style with our clients. I'm pretty hands-on editorially, though of course even that varies from client to client. I don't think I'm the only one. Other TKA agents might make suggestions or point out issues in a more vague way. This is really an agent-by-agent thing.

@Anonymous: re: pop culture references. I'm not a huge fan, but it depends on the context and on the reference. I'd avoid obscure references that may well be forgotten by the time your book hits the stores, but time-tested references or things that are really huge I have less issue with. For instance, if you're referencing actors who are hunks, I'd prefer a George Clooney or Brad Pitt reference over someone on this year's hot teen TV show, because the latter is too vague and you may have readers in five years who have no idea who you're talking about. Also, never assume your reader watches all the same TV or reads the same books as you... For instance, I hate reality TV, so most references to that will lose me in an instant, especially if comprehension relies on my getting the reference.

@LR: 10 POVs is way too many. Romance is pretty traditional as far as what editors expect. They want two POVs, the male and the female. That's pretty much it. If you get out of the genre, then it's a different story, but I'd still find 10 POVs over just 75,000 words to be a confusing read unless you had a very literary style and each voice was extremely distinctive.

TBC...

Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 11:16:00 AM EST  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

@Anonymous re: e-pub credits: Yes, if you're e-published through a reputable publisher, that's considered being published by most agents, though as with anything your sales numbers will sway them depending on how you've done.

@Bryce: I don't think word count requirements are going to change because print books aren't going anywhere anytime soon. E-books have gotten much more popular, yes, but still account for a very tiny percentage of the market.

@Helen: LOL. You realize you can just e-mail me, right? Okay, so not a whole lot of glamor in this career, honestly. Most days I'm in front of my computer in a pair of sweats (or pajamas, even). But occasionally I go to conferences where there's a nice reception or I have lovely dinners out with clients and/or editors. A couple of years ago I attended the RWA awards reception all gussied up because my client was nominated but couldn't attend, so I had to look nice to accept on her behalf if she won. That's probably the height of glamor for me. :)

@Anonymous re: multiple submissions, I would focus on one project at a time. Most agents are constantly backed up with submissions and don't want to tackle another project from you before they've read the first one. You can mention the existence of other completed material but don't inundate anyone with it.

TBC...

Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 11:23:00 AM EST  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

@Tamara: I wouldn't worry too much about blurbs for your book if you're still at the querying stage. It's nice that you have someone who's willing to do that for you, but it's not really going to have much to do with an agent's decision to take you on. If the author in question is someone who has real name recognition, you might mention you got a favorable response from them, but I wouldn't mention blurbs at that stage unless you're pitching a nonfiction proposal and are trying to show you have a platform/marketing plan.

@Nancy: As a rule, I want first books that can stand alone, even if you intend them to be the kick off for a series. It's difficult to get anyone to commit to a multi-book series from a first-time author, though they love if you have them planned out when they fall in love with your concept. At the query stage, you don't have to go into much detail about future books. I'd just mention that the book on offer has the potential to be the first book in a series and that you have several volumes in mind or outlined.

@Alwyn: Diana's right--we always love to hear that someone loves our clients. Because we love our clients! But don't lie about it--only say it if you genuinely enjoy someone's books. We won't hold it against you if you don't (though I'd wonder why you wanted an agent whose taste didn't mesh with yours at all).

@Shalanna: I'm not sure how new witches are--they've been around for a while already. However, the screwball comedy part may cause you some problems right now as the market is still enmeshed in that love of all things dark and edgy. Not to say there aren't lighter books getting sold, but I think they're still in the minority, at least in the fantasy/paranormal arena.

TBC...

Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 11:31:00 AM EST  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

@Wendy: If you want to start reviewing books, I think the easiest thing to do is to read a lot of book-review blogs and see which among them takes submissions. Most will simply ask you to write a review for a book you've read recently so they can get an idea of your writing and analysis style. It's harder to break into print reviews, mostly since many of those publications are cutting back or vanishing these days, so I'd start online. You might also consider starting your own book review blog to practice and to build up an example of your work.

@Anonymous re: agent switch: Sadly, not every new agent is going to know all the best editors for a project. In fact, most agents don't know all the editors--because there are a lot of editors in many genres and people come and go all the time. That said, of course a more experienced agent will have more contacts. The thing is that there are always going to be books that do not sell. I'm not saying your book is unsellable--possibly it just didn't connect with the right editor. But if every editor had some sort of comment there's a chance it was good but just not quite there. This is a very tough market and editors aren't looking for good anymore--they're looking for fabulous. It's true that a new agent will not be able to shop your book to the same imprints that rejected it unless you do considerable rewrites and change it a great deal. However, I sincerely hope that you've been working on your next project while all this has been going on. My recommendation is to obtain a new agent using your next book. That will give them something they can shop from scratch, and once you've established that relationship, you and your new agent can determine how best to tackle getting the older project back out there.

@rmasa: YA isn't a genre, it's your target audience. Every age group of readers has many genres to choose from: fantasy, sci-fi, thrillers, mystery, romance etc. What you need to determine is what the subject matter of your book is and describe that accordingly. Don't worry if you don't get it perfect; an agent's job is to package it that way for the editor. You just want to make sure you target agents who rep YA.

TBC...

Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 11:42:00 AM EST  
Blogger Nephele Tempest said...

@Sam: It's true that sometimes agents will stop taking a certain type of book for a while. For instance, I'm quite tired of vampire books right now, but I'm sure I'll take them again at some point. However, in most cases I would think a comment of that sort is just a nice way of saying that they didn't love your project enough to sign it on.

@Lizzie: I love science fiction, though more straight up than with romance. Not to say I dislike romance in my sci-fi, but just that an official mix of those two genres seems to be harder to pull off well than a mix of fantasy and romance, for whatever reason. Personally, I love authentic science fiction, with real science (or science-based speculation), including futuristic and space travel, end-of-the-world type stuff.

More generally, on fantasy:

Right now, urban fantasy is still popular but seems to be getting quite crowded, and that's across the board: straight urban fantasy, urban fantasy romance and urban fantasy YA. Not to say no one's taking them, but they have to be fresh, different--all those good things. It's gotten much tougher. You need to really think hard and be original. Honestly people, enough with the vampires. If you're just writing it for the first time now, you're too late.

Submissions/queries: Query letters should be short (a page or less) and include a pitch for your book, information about genre, word count etc., and a paragraph or so about you. If you're published or have won contests, include that info. If you're published in some other genre, say so; it tells us you can probably work to deadline and write a coherent sentence. Regarding the book pitch, try to match the tone of the project, but don't be cute about it. I'm personally not a fan of having the character jump out of the book and pitch it on your behalf. Also, don't be vague. Don't be afraid to give some details, names, events, etc. I'm not interested in a book "about a girl who's forced to face her inner demons when she experiences a personal tragedy." Um...who is she? What tragedy? Is this a Lifetime movie? That description doesn't actually tell me anything. Don't make your book sound like any one of fifty other projects sitting in my inbox.

If you're querying and getting no requests, rewrite the query letter. It's not doing its job. Or else you're pitching a project that is missing a hook or has been done to death or... Be honest with yourself. I know it's your baby, but at some point it's either your letter or it's the book. If you can't tell, find a friend who won't pull punches with you. Better to know the truth than to waste another six months emailing into a black hole.

And on that note, I need to go do some work now! Thanks to everyone who dropped by and asked questions. Good luck with all your projects.

~Nephele

Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 11:57:00 AM EST  
Anonymous WendyH said...

Nephele...Thank you so very much for answering my question among all the others here..I'll take your advice and run with it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 12:31:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Nancy said...

Nephele,
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question. It's very much appreciated.

~Nancy

Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 1:04:00 PM EST  
Blogger Tamara said...

Wow, you went all out! Thank you very much for answering so many questions. It's nice to have an agent who gives up precious time for us.

Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 5:18:00 PM EST  
Blogger D.C.C. Mealy said...

Thank you for answering our questions!

Monday, March 21, 2011 at 10:58:00 PM EDT  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home