Where an undercover cupid brings writers and agents together to form magical literary connections...
I have a question regarding category. I have a completed novel (recnt historical) told in first-person narration by a twelve-year-old. (but he is looking back from an older age to WHEN he was twelve and the event happened (9-11) actually. The problem is - where to categorize it? The original intended audience was those who don't have a living memory of what the day was like for those of us who lived through it - so ages 15, 16 etc. High School teachers tell me they have nothing in the classroom about that day for the kids to read - in fiction form that is. But, how to pitch it to an agent when a 12 year old narrator is too young for YA? It is really the story of 3 brothers (12, 15 and 17 years old) - but where to put it? Adult? Should I rework it so the narrator is 15 - i.e. the middle brother instead of the younger? The thing is - 5 years from now, the people who don't have that living memory will be 20 etc..and every year as time passes the audience will get older - help!
I have a question! How do you, the agents, really feel about nudging? If you have had a partial or a full for a while, say 4+ months, would you expect to get nudged? Or is it better to simply leave it alone and continue to wait?
I think the 1st rule of thumb is to check whether the agent has posted his/her usual response times for partials/full ms. If the agent in question has had your material longer than the posted response time, you are free to follow up. If there isn't a response time posted, then I think (and other agents may disagree) that it is fair to follow up after 3 months. If they haven't read it yet, they will let you know and there is always a chance that they never received your material or they already responded and you did not receive the reply. In any case, I am never bothered if I get a nudge after a reasonable amount of time has passed (i.e. it has been longer than my posted response times). In your case, as long as that agent hasn't stated on their website that they take 6 months to respond, I'd go ahead and follow up now.
I think that sounds fair. Thank you for the answer. Much appreciated.
Lisa Marie, I can't speak for everyone, but at 4+ months, I wouldn't be annoyed if I were nudged. Things do fall through the cracks; recently I asked an author why she'd never sent me the full I'd requested back in November, and predictably, she had indeed sent it and it never got to me. So that's always a possibility. More likely, we're just swamped, but after that long, I think it's fair to send a reminder.
Thanks a bunch! I'll keep that in mind, and probably give it a little bit longer. I don't want to seem pushy. :).
I have a question related to this topic. What would be a good way to word a nudge without sounding impatient or (worse) rude? I don't want to sound like a pain in the neck. Thanks!
Lisa, I would definitely nudge if I were you. Why wait longer? :)
Thank you very much this Q&A!I was wondering what might be a reasonable time to wait on a full exclusive?
I agreed to a 30-day exclusive with an agent and waited 6 weeks with no reply. I didn't want to seem pushy, but after giving an extra 2 weeks without being able to send my ms out to any other agents, I nudged. The agent said he was not able to print out the .pdf, apologized, and asked me to send it again using a Word .doc format, starting the clock all over again. I sent it months ago and never heard back. My question to agents is this: Should I assume he read it and didn't like it enough to respond; or, Should I assume that if I must nudge AGAIN, perhaps this is not the agent for me anyway?
Thanks for the motivation, Cupid! :).
RachelMaryBean: I think you can just politely say you are following up on material sent X date and ask whether it is still under consideration.Anonymous: Re how long to wait on a full exclusive...Ideally when you agreed to give the agent an exclusive you would have discussed how long the exclusive would be. I'm not really a fan of exclusives, really. I don't think it is reasonable that they go much longer than a couple of weeks at most, certainly no longer than a month. But other agents may disagree with me. If someone has your material "on exclusive" it is important you understand how long that exclusive period should be. You should not be asked to wait indefinitely. If you never discussed the exclusivity period, I'd check in and nail that down. I think you can say something to effect of...we never discussed the length of the exclusive. Can you give me a response by X date? (Pick a REASONABLE X date, not like 2 days from when they get your email). The agent may say yes, or they may propose a different date for the response. Either way you'd know what to expect and you can then agree to it or pull the material or tell them it can no longer be theirs "on exclusive."White Gardenia: I don't like to assume when it comes to agents--unless the agent has expressly stated that no response = no. It has been long enough that a follow up is warranted. If he hasn't read it yet, then you are certainly free to pull the submission or revoke exclusivity. If you have decided that you don't care for his style, then I'd pull the submission. If you have decided you wouldn't say yes to him, even if he DID make you an offer, then I think the professional thing to do is pull the submission and not take up his time.
Thanks for answering. :) That's good to know.
Thank you so much Ms. Bradford for your wonderful advice regarding the full exclusive. I really appreciate it.
@Laura, thank you for the response. I did not break exclusivity with the agent even though the deadline elapsed months ago. I just continued to work on my current project, hoping the longer wait meant he was considering it, and maybe an R&R was coming??? Anyway, on this side of the fence, it is difficult to believe that an agent thinks that your ms is AWESOME if they haven't responded to a full in months. I would hope that if an agent was gung-ho about me and my ms, he/she would respond to me quickly as he/she did to my query letter (in this case, he asked me for a full w/in 48 hrs). Am I a nut?
P.S. I don't mean to imply I expected him to read it within 48 hours, rather, he was excited about the query and requested it so quickly that I expected to hear back from him immediately following the 30-day exclusive...
Daniel, if a story is told in the voice of an adult remembering back to a time when he was a child/teenager, it's tough to get young readers to connect with it. Is there a reason why you have to have that flashback perspective? Can't the novel just be set in 2001?
Well, it is. The only thing that makes it looking back is the opening line which says "I remember. I was twelve years old that Septmeber day." Then it is his voice as a twelve year old (albeit precocious). Over 3/4 of the book is just the first week after the attacks as he watches the effect on his family and hometown. I guess the question still stands because I just don't know the proper way to categorize it for an agent. Thank you for a reply. It is much appreciated.
Here's one for the agents,If you see an entry you like, but you fail to secure a partial or full with your arrows because others were quicker, will you still express interest so the author can send you material after the winners have had their exclusive time? I don't want to miss connecting with the agent who will end up falling in love with my work. I don't know who it is yet, but I mean to find out. ;)-Anna
I'm curious to know the answer to this too. I've always just assumed that agents who don't express interest in contests are unlikely to respond positively to the same query in slush, but maybe I'm wrong.
I think you're right, but this event is made different. I'm talking specifically about agents who WANTED to bid but missed out. There are already two 'hits' on my entry, meaning that the other nine agents *can't* bid, even if they want to. Not unless they can spare three arrows to snag a full on Thursday. -Anna
Trust me, if an agent is interested, he/she will express that interest. We are allowed to request a ms if we miss out on it, we just don't get it until after a short exclusive with the winning agent. I, for one, plan to use that opportunity, because if another agent steals my partial, I do not plan to go quietly.
Well said Vickie. Don't worry, guys, if they want your work they'll ask for it! That's why I'm here. This is what I do. :) And I WOULD STILL query the other agents on this list. Maybe that's just me. But I would.
Anna-If I like the material, I like the material and I will ask for it no matter what. Cupid will pass along our requests, I'm sure (or else!) I actually have a whole list of mss I am interested in, far more than I have arrows for.
You bet I will, if I can figure out how - the entries don't have authors' names on them. (Or am I being dense?)
I figured you could just leave a quick comment on the relevant entry, like 'I ran out of arrows but if you query me I'll take a look.' Once the undercover names are revealed the authors would know who to contact. Or we could beg Cupid to take note of any such extra requests while she's tallying up the rest. Pretty please, Cupid? :)-Anna
I agree with Molly, I'll certainly get in touch with Cupid and provide the Blind Speed Dating # and book title and hope to see all the material that interests me! (Provided it hasn't been completely swooped up!)
I've been fretting over this a little bit too! So thanks for the response ladies!
Ditto. This is really good to know!
Yes, yes, yes, agents! When all is said and done please let me know if you are interested in seeing any works after the winning agents have their week. We aim to please here. :D
Well duh, I should have thought of just posting a request or asking Cupid. I was looking for a more complicated way to do it. Just ignore me; I'll be over here in the corner trying to get my telex machine to work.
Ha ha, Molly. Last week, I wouldn't have gotten your joke about the telex machine. Just took a tour of the USS Midway (in San Diego) and they had a telex and Morse code machine on board. Very cool.
Hi there. Three questions - first, category. My two main characters are 21 (but immortal) and 18 (mortal). He's a senior in high school. Originally it was meant to be YA but I think it falls more to New Adult. Is this really a category to query? Are people picking this up? #2 - Genre - Can you tell me what deems a book horror as opposed to just paranormal(It has paranormal elements in the story)? And lastly, in a query most agents say they do not want bunches of personal info, but they also say you need to be passionate about why you're the one to write the book...help! I can't seem to find the happy medium there. Thanks!
I'm not a massive horror fan and I'm pretty much completely over paranormal romance, so I'm going to let someone more in touch with those genres answer #2. As for New Adult, it's still early days and I think some projects can pitched as YA to publishers who aren't thinking about NA yet.I think the personal details about your passion, platform, etc. are more important if you're writing non-fiction. For me, those details don't make much of an impression unless they're especially pertinent ('I'm the one to write this story about alien abductions because I MYSELF was abducted by aliens six years ago') or funny (but that's a tough one, because humor is such a personal thing).
Thank you!Love the insights! And to clarify (for anyone stopping by) I was asking about the horror/paranormal issue because I notice a ton of violence in most YA these days, on the paranormal end at least, so I was just wondering - does horror mean it has to scare you?
I'm with Molly. I'm not a big horror fan and I think that market is somewhat limited. Plus there is a huge difference between say, psychological horror or like SLASHER horror. So is this book scary or graphically violent? I also agree with Molly on the question of YA vs NA. I think the jury is still out on whether there is a viable market for New Adult. I feel like publishers are hesitant to take on work in that gray area. As an agent, I usually feel a lot more secure about presenting something that is definitely YA with 17 year old characters than something that is more of a question mark in terms of a label with 21 year old characters. If I am not sure what to call it, how can I expect that a publisher will know how to label and market the material?As for how much personal detail to put in the query, it is a really nebulous thing to try to illustrate your passion for fiction. So much so that...I just kind of assume authors feel passionate about their work and I don't really need for them to expressly state it. Frankly I think you show that you are passionate about your work/career by not phoning in your submission. Show your passion through the care you take to present it as opposed to just saying hey, I feel passionate about writing.
Thank you for that answer! So many jewels in there. I don't think my book is horror personally and I didn't write it to be that, I just received a confusing rejection and now...I'm confused. I'll go with my gut on this one and make it what I intended it to be. So now I wonder where do you draw the line between Urban Fantasy and paranormal? Thank you for the query feedback. Good, good stuff. Right now, that is my biggest challenge.
Good morning/afternoon (to MKH and any other friends across the pond)! Here's my multifaceted agent question: What path/events led you to become an agent? Would you recommend a similar trajectory? If not, what would you change? and WHY?Thanks again to you all for sharing your time, and to Cupid for facilitating!
Hello!Here are some answers to your questions:Agenting, like most of publishing, is an apprenticeship career. Agents either come from a background in publishing houses (often in the editorial or rights departments), come up through the agent ranks as interns, are readers for agents (who read slush and give reports on mss that agents need a second read on), or are agency assistants. My foray into agenting was the latter: agency assistant at Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film Agency in London from a connection through my masters degree program.I would most definitely recommend my start: beginning my career on the agenting side of the industry (with a brief stint at a large independent publisher, Bloomsbury UK) has given me the framework to always think in ‘agent’ terms:Best interests of the authorCommercial successFamiliarity with contracts and contract negotiationTalent spottingAlways being able to question procedures and processes with hopes to improve them, which is a benefit of working for smaller companiesAgency/client relationships and communicationConstantly reading industry news, blog posts and Twitter feedsBenefit of professional international networksThe only thing that helps you as an agent is more experience: more experience working with quality authors, negotiating contracts, and the whole skill set that an agent needs. Hope that helps, Inky!
Inky-- I was working on writing myself and joined Romance Writers of America. At my very 1st chapter meeting, the speaker was an agent--I never knew that job even existed. Within about 2 months of that meeting I had landed an internship with my 1st agency. And the rest is history. Working your way up at an agency is generally how a lot of agents get started. Or they start out as editors and then move to the agenting side.
Many thanks to you both for your insightful and detailed responses!
I just read The White Devil by Justin Evans, which is in third person and rotates between a YA POV and an adult POV. I've had a few ideas for novels that do the same, but I've never been sure which genre that kind of a thing might fall under -- is it YA? Is it adult? I've held off on writing because of how hard it might be to find the right agent. Thoughts?
That's definitely a cross-over opportunity, but a lot depends on voice and what level the voice is speaking to. Anything that bends the genre lines is going to be a bit harder to sell, but if it is executed properly can be very exciting.
The agent requests so far have been mostly for YA projects. Is this because the market is so hot for YA right now? Are any of you actually looking for fiction for an adult audience? Does it take more to impress you for an adult project?I realize there are more YA than adult entries, so that could be part of it, too..
I noticed this too. It seems the vast majority of those that made it past judging were YA with female protagonists. Although, if you look at it, that's one of the largest markets right now, so probably an easier sell than trying to get teenage boys to read. Most adults that I know (in the professional world) tend to read less fiction and are more involved in non-fiction. Not an agent, just saying.
I'm not an agent, but I just wanted to say that I saw quite a few requests for the adult entries. And, as you noted, there are also twice as many YA entries as adult, so I'd say it's just a matter of numbers here.
I think this thread might be reading too much into it. Many agents haven't posted their requests yet and remember that we're saving our full requests (Thursday) for the projects we just have to get our hands on! Sit tight and enjoy the competition!The reason that many YA projects might have been chosen so far is that the majority of the submissions in the contest were YA so we're working with what we have!Thanks!
I also think it has something to do with the fact that most(or at least half) of the participating agents in this contest rep exclusively YA. I don't think any of the agents here rep (except maybe Ms. Bradford) rep exclusively Adult
I agree with Carly! This thing is just heating up and all the full requests are coming on Thursday. Let's try not to over-stress and let's relax and have fun. I would dare say MOST of my blog readers are YA writers. I think that's just the way it is right now. We will be doing Adult only contests as well, so stay posted. I heart all the agents here! I posted all the agents and links for everyone to see what they represented before the entry windows opened, so you would all know. And btw, Ms. Bradford does not exclusively rep Adult. :)Thanks for the great questions guys!
To respond to one of the Anonymi above, I am not exclusively seeking YA. In fact, I am very hungry for adult and MG projects at the moment!I agree with Carly and Cupid: We are responding to the queries posted for the contest, quite a few of which (but not all) are for YA projects. The market itself is wide open for all categories.
After researching all 12 agents, 11 of the 12 rep YA. And only 1 adult fantasy and 1 mystery have requests, so "quite a few requests for the adult entries" is not exactly correct. Although YA is definitely tipping the scale, we should all remain patient and see where the chips fall by the end of the week. Regardless of the outcome, I am grateful for the opportunity to be participating. Thanks, Cupid. Now, I will return to the adults' table... (hah!)
For all of you YA agents who do not rep adult fiction: If you see something that looks good in here but not up your alley, will you refer it to a colleage at your literary agency?
Sure. We refer stuff to each other all the time.
White Gardenia, you missed 3 other adult requests. 5 of 21 adult requests so far18 of 44 ya requests so farOdds look fine to me, regardless of ya or adult.
Based on those numbers, that's a 40% request rate for YA and 20% for adult. Again, the contest is just getting started, so we'll see where it goes.
@Anony, 5 of 21? 18 of 44? What do these numbers mean? (Especially the 21...) Just curious cuz I'M CONFUSED! Is there a tally sheet somewhere?P.S. Just want to say thanks to all the agents involved in the Q & A as long as I'm entering a comment. ;)
5 agent requests out of 21 total adult fiction entries18 agent requests out of 44 total YA entries.As of 12:30. Could be more by now.
I handle both adult and YA material so I am weighing all the entries (except for MG, which I DON'T handle)with equal attention. I am interested in more mss than I have arrows for and the week is young, yet. I am saving a few arrows for when we can request fulls at the end of the week.
Regarding categorization: I have been calling my book Urban Fantasy, but after reading the last Q&A responses, I'm not sure it's gritty enough to truly be in that category. The characters have "psychic" abilities like telekinesis, would this be better classified under Paranormal? I've been a bit scared of putting it there because it doesn't fit my view of Paranormal (ghosts, werewolves, vampires, etc that I see in the Paranormal sections of bookstores). Any advice?
It does sound more like Paranormal given the paramaters you've denoted here. My advice: peruse Amazon.com and go into bookstores and check out the shelves to see where you best fit. Check out JJennifer Laughran's blog post on genre here: http://literaticat.blogspot.com/2010/10/big-ol-genre-glossary.html
Thanks so much! That helps. A follow-up question: I know there is Paranormal Romance burn-out among agents. When agents see the word "Paranormal" now, does that raise a warning flag from the outset? Or is it just the romance part?
The burn-out is a symptom of the books you see in stores and online now were sold a year ago which means those books were written 2 to 3 years ago. So this trend is more than likely on its way out, based on our educated guesses. Editors lists are full of it, which means agents won't be able to sell it, which means we take on less and less of it. It doesn't mean that we don't continue to try if the writing is outstanding. In a saturated market like paranormal romance/YA books need to stand out more than ever. So, bottom line is originality and quality of writing. Might not be the answer you were looking for, but that's my thought process.
I'm very particular about the definitions between UF and Paranormal. Usually, Paranormal is Paranormal Romance, so if there is a very strong Paranormal element, it'll be Paranormal Romance (Stephanie Meyer, JR Ward). Rarely is something just Paranormal (unless you have Paranormal Thriller or such). I define UF as being a very separate world, living under our radar (Harry Potter)or with our world (Sookie Stackhouse novels), with it's own rules and regulations, and romance either does not enter into the equation or is a small subplot (UF does not need a HOA ending). I'm not sure what you mean by "not gritty enough to be UF". Do you mean that your characters have these powers, but there is not a larger community to which they belong? Or that the hero/ine is not kickass wearing leather sort of gritty? Be mindful that many agents and editors can and will dispute my definitions of the genres (I haven't even touched on all the gray areas or Supernatural), it's very difficult to pinpoint these genres, and I am constantly changing my own definitions based on the more I read and encounter others' opinions. Carly has the best advice: read, read, read.
Thanks for your responses! Vickie, I didn't think it was gritty enough based on definitions I read which classify Urban Fantasy as tough, leather wearing, drug-addled fairies, and seedy underbelly, bookie unicorns, etc. My MC is pretty bad-ass, but thinks she's badder than she is, and while the plot revolves around stealing and murder, the MC's voice isn't dark. Is that clear as mud?"A separate world living under out radar" is close to my story, it's just a smaller world than, say, the wizarding community in HP The character with abilities all fall under the pyschokinesis umbrella, which made me consider the Paranormal classification. It's a vengeance story with a love interest, but romance doesn't carry the story, which makes me leery of calling it Paranormal.Your answers have been very helpful!
To me (and here is where you get to see illustrated how everyone defines these terms differently) Paranormal is an umbrella terms that encompasses anything that is not historical or contemporary fiction (or another genre like mystery). To me, under the paranormal umbrella, there are all kinds of subtypes, like time travel, futuristic, dystopian, steampunk as well as the themes you mentioned: ghosts, werewolves, vampires. If you are talking about a book that has a vampire as a main character, that COULD be a paranormal romance or that COULD be an urban fantasy. The difference (to me) between a vampire paranormal romance and a vampire-themed UF is a) whether or not a romance/relationship is the center of the story + an HEA ending or b) whether the world building and created universe dominate the story. If I see the word paranormal I don't assume that it means paranormal ROMANCE. I think UF is paranormal, it just implies a certain mood and level of world building. In terms of classification, most retailers consider UF to be a sub section of Science Fiction/Fantasy in terms of where the books are shelved.
Thank you Laura! Your answer helps clarify. All the answers have been immensely helpful! Thank you all for taking the time to do this.
I have a finished ms and am working on a follow-up piece. No agent, but in the meantime, I wanted to work on an ebook project. Would I be shooting myself in the foot if I published an unrepresented ebook under the same pen name I intend to use for my other works? Would publishing companies feel less compelled to publish me?
My question is along this same line. Does it hurt a writer's chances of landing an agent (or later, a publisher) if they are already self-published?
This depends on a lot of things (genre, specific publishers, time period), so I'll stamp a YMMV here.If your self-pubbed book does gangbusters, then no problem. If it tanks, then your sales record might make publishers more hesitant to take an author on. Have you ever seen the show Shark Tank? Look at the sharks' faces when they ask how many units a person has sold and the answer is something like "83." That's probably the same face a publisher will pull if they hear that about your previous book.This is not to say they won't go with you then, and the market is changing, but a sales record will stick with you, for good or ill.
It doesn't bug me. I have lots of clients who had been epublished (which is not the same thing as being self published, I know) before I signed them. As long as you are querying with a)something new b)that has not been previously published c)that is not like book 3 on a series that you started when SP'd it is fine. It gets much trickier when an author comes to me and they say that they want an agent on this ms that they already self published, which sold poorly so I can get it republished with a traditional house. Unless your SP sales were ginormous, there is not a ton of appeal. As for the question about it being a problem to use the same pen name... I suppose it depends on how poor those previous works are. If they have horrifying covers, horrifying copy, zero editing and they are out there for not only me to find but a prospective editor to find, that isn't good. Some people can self publish well and really put a good foot forward doing it. Other people do it very, very badly and shortcut all the work (and money) you need to put in to produce a good product. That was a really long answer but really it comes down to this...if you put out bad work, yes it can hurt you. But that should not be a surprise. If you don't put out bad, shoddy work, it should be fine.
My strong heroines are usually 19-20yo and their heroes are around 20-23yo ...I would like to know if you awesome agents would consider New Adult queries/manuscripts? Thanks!
Also, it would be nice to know what the agents think of NA ... if they think it'll emerge, if not, if they think it's an interesting area, etc.Thanks!
I'm not an agent, Juliana, but I just thought I'd share that I queried a manuscript with a nineteen-year-old protagonist about two years ago, and fully half of the rejections I received on my partial and full requests were simply, "I'm afraid the age of the protagonist would make this hard to sell."Now the manuscript wasn't as good as it culd have been, so this could have just been a stock phrase that those agents all fell back on. But I would give your manuscript every possible chance to succeed, and in this market, at this moment, that probably means making your protagonist either solidly YA or solidly adult based on her age. Those college years are kind of no man's land, at least in my experience.
And what a bummer, huh? Those college years were like the most exciting of MY life. haha
I, myself, am optimistic about NA and am accepting it. It is tricky though, because depending on the main character's experiences and voice, and the themes employed, it can swing harder YA or Adult. Krista has very sage advice, but be mindful that she did query her NA 2 years ago, and publishing is rapidly changing all the time. In my opinion, a good manuscript will always (not always, there are never guarantees, but hopefully you know what I mean) sell.
I'm still a bit wary about NA, but that is really only in response to the vibe I have been getting from publishers. Most of them still seem to be feeling cautious about it. I think the idea of NA has merit. I'd like to see it take off, but it doesn't really seem to have done that yet that I have seen. I'd like to echo Agent Vickie that a good ms is a good ms and we hope that it would sell no matter what. That said, the age of your characters certainly may make it HARDER to sell, even if it is great. Is there any reason why your characters can't be younger or older to more solidly swing into the adult of YA markets?
Krista - thanks for sharing. The same happened to me a couple of months ago, though I know more agents (only 3 or 4 actually) who would consider NA now.Agent Vickie - Thanks for answering my question. I do hope publishing is changing and that more doors open to NA soon.Agent Laura - Thanks for your input. The answer to your question is not a short or simple one. I guess my voice is not YA enough, but it's not adult either. I also don't feel comfortable placing myself in HS anymore. I like the feel of the NA range ... they are still discovering themselves, trying to find their place in the world, not that worried about house bills and jobs, but worried enough about grades and attendance, and usually living away from home for the first time, experiencing many firsts (sometimes even sex) ... and any other factors. Plus, usually, they are more mature than teenagers on HS, but not yet fully grown like characters on adult novels tend to be.
Good Morning Everyone!!I just have a quick question - my MS is told from 4 different alternating POV's between two points in time ( it sounds confusing but it's really not. promise.) Is that something I should add to my query? I've heard mixed opinions from fellow writers.Thanks so much!!
I think you kind of answer your own question...you mentioned that it sounded confusing and felt the need to toss in a disclaimer that it isn't. A query is your foot in the door, it is the TOOL you use to get an invitation to submit. Why would you ever hand an agent a reason to hesitate to extend that invitation? Maybe most agents wouldn't be bothered by what may seem like a slightly confusing format...but some might. And what if in practice you are the most brilliant 4-different-alternating-POVs-between-two-points-of-time storyteller EVER. That agent will have missed out and will that make ANYBODY happy? I am not suggesting you misrepresent your material or lie about the content or format but do accentuate the positive. You can't possibly cover every detail about your ms in a query anyway so the nature of the beast is choosing the most compelling details to share in order to lure that agent. I will tell you that as an agent, I really don't care that much about how POV is presented in a query (alternating 1st person, 3rd person etc), I mostly want to know if the story sounds interesting regardless of the format you use to tell the story. Can you scare me off my making the story sound confusing and convoluted and overworked in the presentation? Yes. So don't do that.
I have another question!So, word count. I know it is a tough subject because it will depend on the story and audience and whatnot, but my question is this: How short is too short? And on the same note, how long is too long? Would you read anything under 50K? Over 100K? Is word count a total deal-breaker? I'm just interested in your thoughts and opinions.Thank you in advance!
Like you said, it all depends. On genre, audience, etc. I generally don't look at any YA under 60K. I find that the plot and characters aren't fully developed if it's sitting at 50K. And anything over 100K has me worried, so generally I won't look at it. Contemporary shouldn't sit too high, and Paranormal or SciFi shouldn't sit too low (to allow for world building).In adult I only look at Paranormal (and UF, SciFi, Steampunk, etc), and the wc should run a little higher, I'd say above 70K. But for debut writers, try not to go above 100K. I'd love for another agent to chime in on this one since we can have differing opinions. And I don't represent Adult contemporary or any MG.
Thanks for the insight! I write contemporary YA, and some fantasy, both of which require a totally different word count, like you said.
I'll chime in! Here are my thoughts:middle grade fiction = Anywhere from 30k to 45k, YA fiction = For mainstream YA, anywhere from about 50k to 80k; paranormal YA or YA fantasy can occasionally run as high as 120k but try to stay below 100k (big books are expensive to print and publishers take a big chance on these). paranormal romance = 85k to 100kromance = 85k to 100kcategory romance = 55k to 75kcozy mysteries = 65k to 90khorror = 80k to 100kmysteries, thrillers and crime fiction = 80 to 100kmainstream/commercial fiction/thrillers = Anything under 50k is usually considered a novella, which isn't something agents or editors ever want to see unless the editor has commissioned a short story collection. Aim for 80 to 100k.science fiction & fantasy =contemporary fantasy = 90k to 100kromantic SF = 85k to 100kurban fantasy = 90k to 100kThe trend here is nothing over 100k and nothing lower than 75k unless it's YA, MG or a category/cozy. There are differing opinions for differing books. Too short says theme/plot/subplot/characters are not fully developed. Too long says you didn't know when to stop. Let your words guide you and you'll know when you're done and how to pace it. It's an important skill to learn. Use word count guidelines to assist and help you to fall into your genre's expectations.
Sooo useful. Thank you!
This is more from a writer's side, but at what point do you think it's time to stop querying a project and focus on the next? I'm currently editing another novel and querying a first project. I've seen writers who say they sent 20 queries and then closed out a project, while others queried 200 or more. From an agent perspective, are there any indications we can look for to say "this one's not working, move on"?
This is really dependent on the feedback you are getting. Some indications are whether you are getting personalized rejections and agents are taking the time to give you personal feedback. I recently did a blog post on this topic. See it here: http://agentcarlywatters.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/when-do-you-give-up-when-it-is-time-to-retire-your-query/ Good luck! :)
Thank you for that wonderful post! I'll definitely be using your bullet points as a guideline in my query process :)
Carly, I just wanted to chime in anonymously (so I can do it without being a flagrant suck-up). And say sincerely that your blog is great. I know it's new as compared to some others and I feel like I've read every literary agent blog on the web, but yours is really good. Great information, no snark. It reminds me of the Great Nathan Bradford's blog. Also, you always link to the BEST resources (like that Jennifer L. article on genre) and articles that are always interesting. I seriously think I might even keep following you on twitter after you reject me :-P . And that's saying something...because unfollowing is my revenge of choice.
Thank you! :) I really appreciate it. It takes time and effort to write the posts, but if people are getting something out of them I'll keep at it for as long as you guys read them.
Here's a very basic question. When reading query letters, do agents prefer "Dear Ms. Lastname", or "Dear Firstname"? I've managed to go with first names without realizing it might come off as overly familiar, though I might be completely over-thinking it...
I honestly don't give a... fish. As long as you spell it correctly. I don't mind the familiarity, especially after the first email in which I sign my first name. This may be purely preference on my part and to be safe just go with Ms/Mr Lastname until that particular agent signs his/her name. Any other agents have preference? I'd love to know if this is just me, having grown up in the NW, we're not formal (at all) and I'd completely balk at being addressed as Ms Motter at, say, a conference.
I agree with Vickie. It doesn't matter as long as it's spelled correctly! You'd be amazed at how often this isn't achieved. A small note: as they are two agents (Curtis Russell and myself) it doesn't help to simply say Dear Mr and Ms./Dear Sir and Madam -- this seems to me that you just say that to all agents and it is not specific to our agency. So always use first and or last names to get that personal touch.
My two cents: I prefer formality, at least initially. Also, speaking as someone whose name apparently causes much gender confusion (although I have no idea WHY), I get a little annoyed when someone starts a query with "Dear Ms. Sherman." That right there lets me know you haven't done your homework, because if you'd done a simple Google search on me, you'd know I was a guy.All the same, what matters most is the query itself. You could call me "Sissypants," and if your query rocked I'd still request to see more....But please don't call me "Sissypants."
oh...Brooks..that. is. so. tempting.
If you're not going to address me as Lord High Admiral, then Molly is fine. I do have to echo what others have said: make sure you're addressing ME, not one of our other agents, or Sir/Madam, or my least favorite, "Dear Agent." If you want me to treat your query as uniquely individual, there's an easy way you can treat me the same way, and that's getting my name right.
Hey Anon from 12:57pm, keep in mind: If you send me a bad query in which you call me "Sissypants," well...... you needn't worry about querying me again. :)
Brooks, I just want you to know that if you get any queries addressed to Mr. Sissypants this afternoon, it wasn't me (tempting as it was). Also, any queries you are planning to reject tonight aren't mine either. Mine was the "good/awesome/bad-ass" (that's a direct quote) query that you will surely be amazed by, very appropriately addressed to Mr. Sherman. regards,Anon 12:57
Dear Anon 12:57,Thank you for your very professional query. It was much appreciated! Keep up the good/awesome/bad-ass work!Best,Brooks
I don't really care if I get addressed as Laura or Ms. Bradford. I think the key is personalization in general. Agents want to know that you specifically wanted to send them a query (ideally because you researched the agency and agent and feel your work would be a good fit for them), NOT that they were just the next person on the list alphabetically and you are sending a submission to every agent in the Literary Marketplace and you can't be bothered with correct spelling. We'd like to know you did your research and aren't a sloppy lazy-ass.
Ha! I think that last line sums it up pretty well. Nicely put Laura.
No sloppy lazy-ass... got it!
Hilarious! Learning things today like, 'don't address queries to Sissypants' and 'don't be a sloppy lazy-ass.' These examples are the special types of inside information you don't find on agents' websites! :D
What makes you decide to participate in a contest like this? Do you tend to be more accepting during a contest or harsher?
Good question! The wonderful Agent Vickie had GREAT things to say about the last Cupid Contest. And as a young agent, I'm very interested in contests like this, which put me in touch with smart, internet savvy authors as I'm building my list.Now, my rule going into this contest, and I am staying firm, is that I'm only going after the entries I really really want. If I wouldn't ask for it from an email query, I wouldn't ask for it here. So there are no second choices for me. If I don't get the two or three I'm gunning for, then I'm probably not going to try to get anything else.But I WILL get the ones I’m gunning for, because I am one badass arrow launcher. :-)
First, ahhh thanks to Vickie! And thanks to Halli for participating! I agree contests do bring about some serious and internet savvy writers. And I did warn everyone that the agents did NOT have to use all their arrows. :) Sometimes I'm saddened that we are not really launching arrows. Although, not at real people. Maybe just a manuscript nailed to a tree or something. Ha!
What makes me decide to participate in a contest like this? Blackmail. You see Cupid has some dirt on me...Just kidding. It sounded fun and to be honest I am a really big believer in being a good steward of the community--no matter what community you are in. If I would like writers to be a savvy, well-educated-on-the-rules-of-the-road bunch, I better do my part to spread what information I have to share. Besides, I am looking for new authors and I am pretty sure there are some here :)
I participated in Cupid's very first contest. Her email quoted my New Years goals to "find more blog contests and conferences" I posted on my blog, and though the site wasn't "proven" yet I decided I wanted to be a test subject. I love being involved in the online community of writers, and a little competition makes it interesting for us agents (I really, really want to shoot at manuscripts at conferences, that would definitely shake things up). To echo Halli *hi Halli!*, I love internet-savvy writers, they are very involved and I love to see that dedication.Also, in that very first contest, I signed a client. So of course I'm going to be praising Cupid from the rooftops. Not to be a brown noser, but I've never had such success from an online contest before.
I have another question about New Adult. When I start to query an agent, I do my homework. I only query to people who want what I have - trouble is, I haven't seen any New Adult on a list of wants yet, although by reading through here, there is interest. So should I query to agents wanting adult or YA or both as long as the genre is right? Whew. *pauses for sip of water and gasp of breath*
Firstly, what will it hurt if an agent says no so why not query them?Secondly, as an agent, I feel obligated to tell you not to query everyone because that'll clog our in-boxes.I think I prefer my non-agent stance. Query. As long as the genre is right. I think we're not putting NA on our lists yet because it's not widely recognized as a genre (even though we all know about it). Also, look for agents who look for "older YA" and agents who have proven on top of fads in the past (as soon as NA takes off, these agents will be on top of it).
Great advice. Thank you!
I'm not expert (duh!) but I'll tell you what I do: I query agents who rep both YA and adult and I also do what Vickie said and "look for agents who look for "older YA"" ... And, of course, I take advantage of Q&A like this one and #askagent on twitter and blogs to ask if they are interested in NA or not.Hope it helps!
I'm curious. When an agent passes on your submission with a rejection but adds a line at the end that I would be interested in seeing another sub from you - or specifically mentions a WIP you mentioned in the query - is this just politeness or should I think, 'well this agent liked my writing enough to see the next project?'
I would never, ever say that in a rejection unless I truly meant it. It means I really do want to see what else you've got cooking.When it comes to submissions, I don't think any of us has time to ask for projects we don't really want to read.
If I ask you to send something else when I send you a pass note, I really mean it. I have a completely generic, though very nice form rejection I could have sent you that would have taken me less time to generate. I would not have taken the extra time just to spare some feelings. Agents send out A LOT of pass letters. Thousands every year. We have all had to make our peace with the fact that we very, VERY often disappoint querying authors.
I have a question about proper protocol for queries. Should a query include a reason why you are submitting to that particular agent? Example: I noted on your blog that you enjoy the style of authors X Y and Z. Or,I noted on query tracker that you have a high percentage of partial or full requests and you are actively seeking X Y and Z. Or is it better to go straight into query, synopsis and first five (or whatever) pages and skip the opening "I am submitting to you because. . ."?
To piggyback this question, do agents pay less attention to queries that don't include personalized messages and specific references like Harriet mentioned? For instance if you say "Dear First-name, my book is about..." instead of "Dear First-name, I saw you on Cupid's Lit Connection and I heard you liked UF YA..." Is starting the query with the meat of the query a bad approach? Will agents pass you over because you weren't personal enough?
My rule of thumb is to only be personal if it's TRULY personal. As in you really read their blog/twitter and have some specific thought or response. Don't throw it in there because you think you have to; it's clear when a querier is faking it, and really, I'm much prefer a writer jump into the meat of the query than come off as a fake.
I agree so much with Amy I'm ready to throw a parade. I can always tell when a writer mentions my blog just because they know it exists rather than having actual knowledge and whatnot--and I remember names I see from people who comment on my blog more than once or engage me in conversation on Twitter.I so much prefer getting to the heart of the query. If it's a bad query, it doesn't matter if I went to elementary school with you. If it's a great query, it doesn't matter if you get my name wrong. I really only care that you're a real person when after I've read your ms and fallen in love.
I don't expect querying authors to suck up or kiss my ass but I do like to know that I have been specifically targeted. I think anything you do to briefly show that you have done your research is a good thing. And to echo Agent Amy, be genuine. I get queries all the time saying something to the effect of...I am querying because I know you are looking for X (when I have never in my life ever looked for submissions about X) or I am submitting to you because you rep author Y (when I don't rep author Y) or I am submitting to you because writer/editor Z recommended you to me (when I have no idea who writer/editor Z is).
Regarding guidelines for max word counts, is that based on first novels only? For example, if I were to sign with an agent and my current project is 90K, can my second novel have, say, 130K? Just wondering if max lines are drawn by publishers, or if after you are a published writer, you can have more 'leg room.' Ps Cupid: Loved your comment, "...We aim to please here."
That depends on the success of your first novel. If it tanked, the publisher isn't going to take a chance on a longer novel of yours (unless they really, really believe in it).
While it is true that you can sometimes get a bit more latitude once you get established, I don't know that you should expect that once you sell 1 book then rules will no longer apply to you anymore (not that I think that is what you implied). There are reasons for word count guidelines and not really just because editors don't feel like editing longer works. The list of authors who have published books where their second book was almost 50% longer than the previous book is pretty short. 130k is kind of an outlier word count for nearly every genre so it would have to be a really exceptional project and the publisher would have to be really behind it for that not to raise concerns. I would speculate.
Question about science fiction. Is it beginning to lean more toward space opera and space in general, or is there still a market for good ol' laboratory hijinks?
I'll go with my standby "a good manuscript will "always" sell" (always in quotes because there are no guarantees).
Works for me! Thanks for your response.
Suppose you're interested in one of the entries and shoot some arrows at it, but come Friday, it turns out that another agent at your agency is already considering the manuscript. How would you handle that?
Oh, that's a good question.
Why, find someone without a visible motive to "take care" of that other agent, of course.Nah... honestly, it depends, agency to agency. At FinePrint Lit, where I am, only one agent can be queried at a time, but we do share queries among each other if we think a colleague might be better suited to a project. At other agencies, all queries are considered en masse.Just keep us in the loop about who has requested and when, and we can take care of the rest on our side. Good question, indeed!
Er, I mean, at some other agencies, all queries are considered en masse. At even others, maybe agents don't mind competing with their in-house colleagues. But don't assume that! There are multiple systems in place.
This makes me laugh. Thanks, Brooks.
Oh darn, "MR." Sherman, can't you take on women's fiction? The more we learn about you, your "goodness/awesomeness/bad-assness" shows! And we promise not to call you 'Sissypants,' either.
There are only 2 agents at my agency so in the case that we both wanted to consider a ms, we'd do the only logical thing: strip down to our skivies, paint ourselves with pig's blood and cage-fight to the death. Or I guess we could just discuss it like adults and figure out who wanted it the most.
That was hilarious! Could you imagine....
I can't stop laughing!
What would the proper category be for an adult "fairy tale" where the characters and story are MUCH more central than the magic, which is almost incidental? Anyone? Help?
I'm dying to know this: As an agent, you read a MS, let's say you like it a whole bunch and you definitely see a market for the book - you personally think there could be a few tweaks here and there to enhance it - would you make the call to represent and then talk about some 'editing' issues/tweaking ideas, would you send it back and ask for revisions/resubmit or would you pass because it's almost there. (Again, you like this MS.) Just curious how it works.
I also want to know how an R and R is handled. If one is requested, do I let the other agents with my work know I'll be revising and send them a copy of the revised work?
I, too, am wondering about any R&R etiquette pointers!
Usually if an agent requests an R&R they will also want an exclusive for the course of the revisions, or at least an understanding that you will not send the ms to any other agent unless he/she passes first. It wouldn't be worth it to us to have another agent benefit from the work we put in. If we offer on the revised ms, you can inform other agents but they must offer based on the version they've seen. I, personally, wouldn't inform other agents of the revision, just wait on their unbiased opinion. If it's a general, "I like it, but these areas need to be worked on, if you revise I'd like to see it again," then wait on the other agents for their feedback as well, and then resubmit when you've revised.If an agent asks for an R&R, you can ask the particulars and they will be more than happy to inform you of their guidelines.
Sometimes if I like a ms but think it needs a bit more work, I make revision suggestions and invite the author to resubmit. Sometimes I just go ahead and offer rep. It depends on the nature of the revisions and whether there is other leverage (like the author has another pending agent offer). When I do invite an author to resubmit, I certainly HOPE they do but I don't know that I expect it. And I don't expect exclusivity. Everything that Agent Vickie says is true, though. It would really suck if the author took all my suggestions, improved her ms and then didn't give me a fair shot at it again and sent it to a different agent instead.
Carly, I checked out the link for genres that you posted (which was very helpful) but I didn't seem to find what I'm looking for. I have an idea about a book that is set in the real world but has an element of magic through a lost Indian tribe plus a couple ghosts. Would this be magical realism or possibly paranormal?Thanks so much for all these Q & A's agents!
I'm no agent, but I think that'd be paranormal. Magical realism usually refers to a world that's almost exactly like our own except for the inclusion of one magical element that generally has no real explanation - its magical in the sense that its inexplicable. Additionally, in most magical realism, the magical element is usually particular to JUST the main character's life and storyline. Whereas it sounds like you're describing a magical element that's rooted in history and folklore, that seems to definitively originate somewhere and play a role in more than just the MC's life....ie, could be accessible or visible to more than just the MC - all of which says paranormal to me more than MR.
Kalen described it really well. I, personally, call native-related magic Magic Realism. My reasoning is because the magic is related to that one tribe or location and not to the world at large. However, I think you'd be pretty safe with Urban Fantasy or Paranormal. Even Supernatural (I tend to associate ghosts with supernatural rather than ParaRom or UF).
These guys beat me to it. Whatever you choose to categorize it (paranormal being the most overarching of the subgenre, but you noted magical realism as well) make sure it's tied to your hook so you can't go wrong and everyone is clear.
From what I'm hearing, I'm thinking magical realism. Thanks for the help!
This is not a question and I know I read a link you posted today about not gushing with random 'awesome' quotes on blogs and contests, but I think it's helpful to say that this Q & A today has been awesome. And amazing. And oh so very helpful. I have learned a lot, not just from my own questions, but from the others as well. It's golden to get several different perspectives and feedback all in one place. Also being able to see which stories (and synopsis)in the contest have arrows is invaluable to someone, like me, who is in that process right now. So thank you a million times over!
I second all AngiNicole said! =P
Thank you!And just to be clear I'm not against cheerleading, but I can see how in certain settings it can get out of hand. I'm all about excitement and support here, while we're doing these FUN contests. I mean it is kinda like a basketball game for writers right? Lots of excitement, anticipation, and competition. We gotta have cheerleaders. Like I said, it depends on the setting. And I don't hate the word "Awesome". Why would I? That's weird. :)
First off, thanks to Cupid and all the agents for doing this! I have a question and genre categorization. I'm working on a YA novel that takes place in a made-up place called the Paranormal Realms, which are parallel to the Human Realms. The bulk of story takes place in the made-up universe, but the MC used to live in the human one. (Confusing much? Haha.) Would this be a high fantasy? I'm reluctant to categorize it as such because there isn't a very demanding market for it, and there are some human elements as two important characters lived there before the events of the story. Your opinion is greatly appreciated! Thanks so much!
Oops...my question was answered in one of Carly's answers. Looks like I didn't look closely enough. Thanks!
I queried a book about four months ago that got quite a few rejections. I entered my query and first 150 words into a contest and got some wonderful feedback from an agent (actually one of you on here :) My question is if I have made significant changes to the manuscript (I've changed the MC's age and rewritten basically the whole story) can I requery the same agents? Or do if an agent has seen the type and quality of writing that I submitted and the idea of a book, does it not matter that my MC was 19 and the beginning of the book was slow (also the query was let's just say, not up to par)?
Some agents are open to requeries and some are not. I don't mind provided the material has undergone SIGNIFICANT changes. Unless an agent has stated that they will not accept requeries, I think it never hurts to ask. Afterall, an agent can always say no thanks. But do state that you are sending a requery and explain that you have made substantial changes, don't just try to slip one past us. We will probably remember the previous submission.
Thanks so much Ms. Bradford!!
I hate to reopen the "genre" question (he said, then proceeded to do just that) but I'd like professional advice. My story is told from both the male and female protagonists POVs. However, the story is really her journey. He is the agent of change, but the story is about her transformation. The query letter focuses on her.A couple of professional readers (one agent at a conference and one editor) said I should go with women's fiction. Others (again professional readers) have said to stick to commercial fiction/mainstream fiction because he has as large of a role in the story as she. In fact, the story opens with his POV. One went as far to say open with her POV and you can call it women's fiction.Is there a right or wrong way to approach this?Sincerely,Desperately searching for sage advice.
I know I'm getting here late (ugh, time zones!) but what is your feeling on a pseudonym? Would you rather an author query you as them or their adopted name? Or is it more a case of... You don't give a flying fig who the query is from so long as it and the writing are kick-ass? Thanks! All of the answers so far have been vastly informative! Especially the UF discussion. Thanks lovely agents!!
I don't really care what name you use on the query. If we get to the point where I offer you representation we will have discussed your real name and your pen name.
Thank you everyone who has participated!And I think I speak for everyone when I say THANK YOU to all the agents who have offered such invaluable advice here!!!!
Thank you so much for putting it on! I learned quite a bit. :) And THANK YOU to the agents who answered all of our questions!
I really enjoyed reading this Q&A. Thanks, Cupid, for putting it together!I know the agent part of this conversation is done, but in light of all the New Adult talk up top, I'm just wondering what good NA novels are already out there (you know, so we can read them for research or to cite them in our queries)? I've looked. I've read several of them, but there's just not much to choose from.I think it's evident from this conversation (and from other scuttlebutt on the Internet) that people are hungry for older YA. I just hope that when I'm ready to start pitching my novel, more agents (and editors and publishers) will be open to the genre :)These are some of the NA books I've found so far: The Ivy Series by Lauren Kunze and Rina OnurBetter Than Running at Night by Hillary FrankAn Off Year by Claire Zulkey
Here are some I've run across: Blood of Eden by Tami Dane, marketed as Adult, but I think it can be termed NA; Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfruend, marketed as YA; Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen, marketed as YA, but takes place the summer after high school; Love Story by Jennifer Echols, marketed as YA, takes place Freshman year of college. I didn't go seek these out, they just came through my reading pile and while reading I thought, "Hey, NA!". They can be argued to be not NA, just YA or A, but hey, they are out there. And most are written by proven authors already, so take that with a grain of salt.