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Thread: Ask Jennifer Laughran! Tireless agent-in-residence!

  1. #601
    Brand spanking Mia Moore's Avatar
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    Hello Jennifer,

    I sincerely hope I am not making you repeat yourself. If this has already been addressed, I missed it.
    I'm wondering what an agent has in mind for a response time frame when he/she requests specific revisions (before offering representation), expresses great interest and says to "take your time" with the process.
    Can you clarify? Is one month too long? Two weeks too quick? When would they like and or expect a writer to return the work, if such revisions include both content and some
    minor grammatical issues?
    I realize this may differ from person to person. Your opinion would be very much appreciated.
    Thanks so much for being here.
    Mia Moore
    Represented by Terrie Wolf - AKA Literary Agency
    ***************************
    "Because I said so, that's why." My mother

  2. #602
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin zuzuscrumptious's Avatar
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    Hi Jennifer! I just wanted to thank you for your rejection...seriously. You were so thoughtful and kind that I use it as my energy to keep working. I even forgot my name and personal info. on my query to you and you still sent me a personal rejection.

    I can only hope I write something you like someday, as that is pretty close to my goal. Thanks again- Colleen

  3. #603
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    Quote Originally Posted by JaimeyLeeScott View Post
    1. How often in a week's time do you come across manuscripts which have the same basic plot?
    2. How do you wind down after a weeks worth of meetings, interviews, and reviewing submissions?
    3. What inspired you to become an agent?
    4. (The random question, LoL) Does anyone ever recognize you in your proffesional capacity while your out and about?
    1. I get these daily:

    "Totally boring ordinary average kid with boring hair and boring clothes and a boring name on a boring street, nothing at all special about them, [finds an amulet / meets a demon / develops superhero powers]... get ready, cause this is going to be the WEIRDEST day ever!"

    "[Vampire / Demon / Fallen Angel / Mermaid / Superhero / Elemental] is on earth [because of an amulet / because of "blood magic" / to destroy humanity / to save humanity / for some other nebulous, never fully developed reason] -- and has enrolled in high school! [He/She/It] is not a [monster / hero] like the rest of the family -- they can't truly feel human passion like our main character can. Want proof? [His/Her/Its] lab partner is just an ordinary average kid with nothing special about them... BUT THEIRS IS A LOVE THAT WILL NEVER DIE!"

    Seriously. Every day.

    2. I sleep

    3. First I learned everything I possibly could about books by working as a buyer in a bookstore for a decade, reading a million books and talking to a million authors, publicists, marketing people, editors, etc. Then I met an agent named Barry Goldblatt and thought he was totally awesome, and decided I wanted to have a job like his! :-)

    4. Yes, sometimes - -lots of people do go to conferences, etc, and I run into them later. One time I rejected a woman via email. Later that day I was taking a bunch of stuff to the drycleaners on the corner - and a woman in a car honked at me and said "Hey Jenn! YOU REJECTED ME TODAY" -- luckily it was a nice rejection, she didn't want to run me over!
    The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and are not those of my employer, or possibly anyone else. Salt to taste.

    www.jenniferlaughran.com
    ask the agent: http://literaticat.tumblr.com/ask
    twitter: @literaticat

  4. #604
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    Quote Originally Posted by mgarwood View Post
    I have now been rejected by 130 agents. Enough of them have read 1-3 chapters and passed, that I realize that something is missing. What suggestion do you have at this point.
    I am sorry, I could not possibly comment on your actual work since I haven't read it. It could be that you are not targeting the right agents -- or it could be that your work just isn't strong enough and that author was being nice. Do you have a tough writers group that might be able to read your chapters and give unflinching critique?
    The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and are not those of my employer, or possibly anyone else. Salt to taste.

    www.jenniferlaughran.com
    ask the agent: http://literaticat.tumblr.com/ask
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  5. #605
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cricket18 View Post
    Say you read a partial, loved it, and upgraded to a full. Everything was there--you loved the story, characters etc. But perhaps you felt the latter half could use more polish in terms of writing style. i.e. She left the room vs. She glanced over her shoulder before hurrying from the room. Small things like that.

    Would you still make an offer, knowing the client is going to need a polish anyway? Or would you make them revise / resubmit?

    Does a revise/ resubmit generally involve larger structural problems? What's the line for you?
    Personally, I rarely ask authors to revise "on spec" -- I feel like, if the book is good enough for me to love, I want to sign it up - if it isn't, I don't.

    I almost always do at least one round of polishing with an author before I send stuff out -- so if there were things that needed tweaking or changing to make the book more successful, and they were things that I felt the author would be more than capable of, and the author agreed with me, I would be fine with just signing them up.

    If I like the characters and stuff but the book needs SO much tweaking that I doubt it will be possible without completely taking apart the book - that is a sign that either I don't like the book enough as-is, or the book is broken as-is, or both -- and I'd decline.
    The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and are not those of my employer, or possibly anyone else. Salt to taste.

    www.jenniferlaughran.com
    ask the agent: http://literaticat.tumblr.com/ask
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  6. #606
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thalia View Post
    I'm a Canadian author, and I have a question concerning spelling. Though US English and Canadian English are pretty much almost the same, there are a few differences in spelling- for example, in Canada we have colour, but in the US you have color. I naturally write with Canadian spelling. Would most American agents think that I was making mistakes, or is it completely fine to use Canadian or British spelling?
    We are aware that our English-speaking friends in other countries spell things differently.

    If the book is set outside the USA, by all means spell as you would. If the book is SET in the USA, I'd try to use US spelling. But either way -- that is what copyeditors are for. If THAT'S your biggest problem, you have nothing to worry about.
    The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and are not those of my employer, or possibly anyone else. Salt to taste.

    www.jenniferlaughran.com
    ask the agent: http://literaticat.tumblr.com/ask
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  7. #607
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angelique View Post
    If you've run across my question before I'm sorry to ask you to answer it again. My novel is written in first person POV, but I wrote my pitch in the third person POV. I thought this was the correct way to go about things, but when I was getting it critiqued someone mentioned that it should be written in the first person POV so that the agent can get a feel for my voice and style of writing. Is that correct?
    I don't think there is any "correct" answer here. Personally, I don't know if I've ever seen a query in first person from the character's point of view. That might be a little weird - OR it might be totally cool. Hard to say without seeing it. I'd suggest you try posting on the section of this board reserved for that purpose... or just follow your own best judgement.
    The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and are not those of my employer, or possibly anyone else. Salt to taste.

    www.jenniferlaughran.com
    ask the agent: http://literaticat.tumblr.com/ask
    twitter: @literaticat

  8. #608
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    Quote Originally Posted by euclid View Post
    I took a look at your company web site, and I thought I might send a query to Laura Rennert (My book is for adults).

    I live in Ireland. I have submitted to agents in New York before, but never to an agent in California. My feeling is that the west coast is too far away. What do you think? If I signed with an agent would I have to travel to meet them, and if so, how often?
    I believe that Laura is not really taking on new clients for adult books - but you are free to try her. Just be warned that is not her focus so she'll be VERY VERY VERY selective. We are really children's book specialists, as an agency.

    That said there are lots of great agents in California. Obviously, since I am one, I don't think that anyone should limit themselves to NYC agents only!

    There is no reason on earth why you'd ever have to travel to meet your agent -- we conduct business via email and phone. I have only met a few of my clients, and then only by happenstance (I was at a conference in their city, or they were on vacation nearby, etc) - not because we HAD to meet.
    The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and are not those of my employer, or possibly anyone else. Salt to taste.

    www.jenniferlaughran.com
    ask the agent: http://literaticat.tumblr.com/ask
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  9. #609
    Where did I put me specs? euclid's Avatar
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    Thanks, Jennifer. That was very helpful.
    My web site http://www.jjtoner.net/
    I'm on Twitter @jjtoner_YA



  10. #610
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mia Moore View Post
    I sincerely hope I am not making you repeat yourself. If this has already been addressed, I missed it.
    I'm wondering what an agent has in mind for a response time frame when he/she requests specific revisions (before offering representation), expresses great interest and says to "take your time" with the process.
    Can you clarify? Is one month too long? Two weeks too quick? When would they like and or expect a writer to return the work, if such revisions include both content and some
    minor grammatical issues?
    I realize this may differ from person to person. Your opinion would be very much appreciated.
    In my case, I mean I really really want the author to TAKE THEIR TIME. If they turned the revision around in less than a week, I would be tempted to think they had not really done much. I think most people take a few weeks to a month -- though I have certainly seen revisions six months or more later, and been happy to see them when I did. What I don't want is a rushed, sloppy job of it - - what is the point of that?

    In other words, I am not running a clock and don't really care how long it takes.
    The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and are not those of my employer, or possibly anyone else. Salt to taste.

    www.jenniferlaughran.com
    ask the agent: http://literaticat.tumblr.com/ask
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  11. #611
    Brand spanking Mia Moore's Avatar
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    Thank you so much for your answer, Jennifer. That's important info for anyone in the revision process. I will follow your advice accordingly!
    Mia Moore
    Represented by Terrie Wolf - AKA Literary Agency
    ***************************
    "Because I said so, that's why." My mother

  12. #612
    practical experience, FTW McMich's Avatar
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    hi Jennifer-thanks you so much for taking the time to answer our questions, so here are a few more for you. I am trying to sort out my way through the publishing process and have begun to query agents and submit partials.

    1. What is am immediate turn off in a query letter?
    2. On average how many partial or full MS per week do you request from reading query letters?
    3. Of these, how many do you actually pursue?

    thanks

  13. #613
    A Walking Contradiction Angelique's Avatar
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    Thanks so much for taking the time to answer.

  14. #614
    practical experience, FTW JamieB's Avatar
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    Hello Jennifer,

    I used the search function to see if this has been covered, if it has, I apologize. I've started a YA novel with a heavy racism theme. Think Gran Torino as an example. My MC's father and a few other characters use very derogatory names for people unlike themselves. I want to be true to the story and characters, but I'm terrified of the response I'll get from agents when I query. This may stem from a phone call I got from an agent regarding a previous manuscript where my villain was gay - and having him so was part of the plot, but not what made him the villain. I was informed that he himself was a gay man and I would never get a book published with a gay villain. Anyway, I realize that I must be true to the story or it won't work at all. Do I have legitimate concerns about offending agents with "Archie Bunker" type language in my manuscript?

    Thanks!
    Last edited by JamieB; 08-31-2009 at 06:29 PM.
    NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
    www.jamieblairauthor.com

    Young Adult
    Romance


  15. #615
    i love books....lol Mahesh's Avatar
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    Hi, I'm not realy sure how the whole selling your book phase works so do you tell your agent how many books you plan to have in the series? or do the publisher's decide that? How do Book deals work?
    WIP: Warriors Academy- Coming of age/ Fantasy novel 76k Completed (Editing now )

    Broken Kingdoms: YA Urban fantasy

  16. #616
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Erguvan's Avatar
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    I am having a problem with the categorization of my novel, a 88,000 word novel set in Istanbul, Turkey.

    It is a fantasy fiction story about a 14 year old magi girl who meets a merboy who has been sent to entrap her into an enchantment in order to secure the help of the magi. The merfolk in the Marmara Sea (one of the original sites of the sirens in ancient Greek mythology) are being poisoned out of existence by the factories that encircle the Sea and they need the help of a powerful magus to escape. The story goes from the bazaars of the old city in Istanbul to the underground cave cities of Cappadocia, and features hippogryffs and other beasts from the ancient local past.

    While fantastic, it is firmly rooted in reality. The book is also about Istanbul. There are few novels in English about Istanbul, and no fantasy fiction. I wanted to write something escapist, something light that might be read aloud. I wrote it to showcase the natural environment and the food, and go into historical details as relevant to the story (I have an MA in Ottoman history). One of my US beta-readers said, "It's James Michener meets Indiana Jones meets Splash, plus great food, when can I come." My Turkish beta-readers have been pleased with the portrayal of the place and food and customs.

    I just do not know how to present this in a query letter.

    How can I categorize my novel?

  17. #617
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    Quote Originally Posted by McMich View Post
    1. What is am immediate turn off in a query letter?
    2. On average how many partial or full MS per week do you request from reading query letters?
    3. Of these, how many do you actually pursue?
    1. Not putting my name, addressing the letter "sir", cc'ing the query to every agent, not following query directions, querying things that I have said specifically i absolutely do not represent. All of this will just make me delete.

    2. I ask for a "partial" with every query, a 10-page sample. So I only request fulls. Maybe... two fulls a week?

    3. I offer representation on average - maybe once every three months? (I have no idea if any of these numbers are the same for other agents or not - I suspect not, as I am still actively building my list and lots of more established agents are really not.)
    The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and are not those of my employer, or possibly anyone else. Salt to taste.

    www.jenniferlaughran.com
    ask the agent: http://literaticat.tumblr.com/ask
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  18. #618
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    Quote Originally Posted by JamieB View Post
    I've started a YA novel with a heavy racism theme. Think Gran Torino as an example. My MC's father and a few other characters use very derogatory names for people unlike themselves. I want to be true to the story and characters, but I'm terrified of the response I'll get from agents when I query. This may stem from a phone call I got from an agent regarding a previous manuscript where my villain was gay - and having him so was part of the plot, but not what made him the villain. I was informed that he himself was a gay man and I would never get a book published with a gay villain. Anyway, I realize that I must be true to the story or it won't work at all. Do I have legitimate concerns about offending agents with "Archie Bunker" type language in my manuscript?
    Hmm -- it's a toughie. Some agents will be turned off, no doubt about it. I have an manuscript that takes place in an internment camp, and the Japanese people are called "Jap" and other names all the way through it -- and I have to say, I was disturbed and I had to ask the author to tone it down some even though it was historically accurate.

    There is such a thing as "a little goes a long way." I think that a few well-chosen instances of racism would be more effective than having it be wall-to-wall. Just like if a character curses on every page, his language actually LOSES emphasis cause there is noplace else for him to go if he is pissed off.

    But that is just my .02...
    The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and are not those of my employer, or possibly anyone else. Salt to taste.

    www.jenniferlaughran.com
    ask the agent: http://literaticat.tumblr.com/ask
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  19. #619
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahesh View Post
    Hi, I'm not realy sure how the whole selling your book phase works so do you tell your agent how many books you plan to have in the series? or do the publisher's decide that? How do Book deals work?
    You write a book.

    You query agents.

    An agent falls in love with your book and signs you up.

    If you plan on making it a series, you talk to your agent about it.

    Your agent approaches publishers and says "Amazing author has this book, isn't it wonderful!? It should be a series!"

    The publishers say "NO." or "Yes!"

    If the publisher doesn't want to do a series cause they are broke, or cause series don't sell well for them, they might only buy one book and see how it does before signing up more. If they are rich, or just really love the book, they might sign up more to begin with.

    Then they and your agent argue about how much you should get paid and what the terms of the agreement should be.

    When all of that is done, you get a contract.

    When the contract is signed, your editor will send you revision notes. You revise.

    When that is done, they publish the book.

    Um there are like a thousand tiny steps in between, but that is the quick version. Make sense?
    The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and are not those of my employer, or possibly anyone else. Salt to taste.

    www.jenniferlaughran.com
    ask the agent: http://literaticat.tumblr.com/ask
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  20. #620
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erguvan View Post
    I am having a problem with the categorization of my novel, a 88,000 word novel set in Istanbul, Turkey.

    It is a fantasy fiction story about a 14 year old magi girl who meets a merboy who has been sent to entrap her into an enchantment in order to secure the help of the magi. The merfolk in the Marmara Sea (one of the original sites of the sirens in ancient Greek mythology) are being poisoned out of existence by the factories that encircle the Sea and they need the help of a powerful magus to escape. The story goes from the bazaars of the old city in Istanbul to the underground cave cities of Cappadocia, and features hippogryffs and other beasts from the ancient local past.

    While fantastic, it is firmly rooted in reality. The book is also about Istanbul. There are few novels in English about Istanbul, and no fantasy fiction. I wanted to write something escapist, something light that might be read aloud. I wrote it to showcase the natural environment and the food, and go into historical details as relevant to the story (I have an MA in Ottoman history). One of my US beta-readers said, "It's James Michener meets Indiana Jones meets Splash, plus great food, when can I come." My Turkish beta-readers have been pleased with the portrayal of the place and food and customs.

    I just do not know how to present this in a query letter.

    How can I categorize my novel?
    Merhaba! Türkçe konuşıyorum (ama çok değil), which I probably didn't even type right. I used to live in Erenköy, long long ago. :-)

    Anyway, now that the reunion is over... it sounds like a Middle Grade Fantasy to me. We don't have separate subdivisions for what country a book is set in or what kind of food the characters eat or hobbies they have -- otherwise Redwall would be considered Medieval Squirrel Feast fantasy and Percy Jackson would be considered Demigod Summer Camp Fantasy. Nope, they are both just MG Fantasy.

    And though I have a ban against merpeople I am willing to lift it if you query me, as I am very interested in books set in Turkey.
    The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and are not those of my employer, or possibly anyone else. Salt to taste.

    www.jenniferlaughran.com
    ask the agent: http://literaticat.tumblr.com/ask
    twitter: @literaticat

  21. #621
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Erguvan's Avatar
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    What a surprise-- I was married in Erenköy! (but live on European side, on the Bosphorus). I have been in Istanbul since 1987.

    The novel takes place within view of Erenköy, on Büyükada, the largest of the Prince's islands.

    I can understand your ban on merpeople. I feel that way about them in general, except that in western culture (ancient Greece) they originated in the seas here and it made sense.

    Reading through the posts here, I have seen that I need to rework my first chapter or two with less description and more action. As soon as I've done that, and tested them out, I will send you a query.

    Thank you very much,

    Kathryn

  22. #622
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erguvan View Post
    I can understand your ban on merpeople. I feel that way about them in general, except that in western culture (ancient Greece) they originated in the seas here and it made sense.
    Well - it isn't a ban because I hate them, but rather because I have two merpeople manuscripts already, and I have gotten several more mer-queries! Both of mine sold, but I didn't want to press my luck. That said, they are clearly very different from yours, and I'd be happy to take a look, whenever you feel ready to query.
    The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and are not those of my employer, or possibly anyone else. Salt to taste.

    www.jenniferlaughran.com
    ask the agent: http://literaticat.tumblr.com/ask
    twitter: @literaticat

  23. #623
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    Dear Jennifer,

    I'd like to ask two questions.

    1. As my newest novel will be app. 900 pages in 6x9 format, around 300,000+ words (The novel's official website is in my signature), I'd like to ask what the publishers are used to do in this case when a novel has this length? Split the novel to two episodes or they are capable to publish it as one (I would prefer the second option, publish it as one whole as it was written, but I guess it's not going to be my decision).
    2. What is happening if I include few black and white illustrations in my novel (I'm also a graphic artist. I did all the illustrations for the website too.)? As these illustrations are essential in the novel as they're connecting to the storyline itself on a unique way, my question is; what literary agents and / or publishers' opinion and approach is used to be in this matter?

    Regards,

    Istvan
    Last edited by Freelancer; 09-03-2009 at 04:40 PM.

  24. #624
    Ah, the joys of dengue fever
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    Hi Jennifer,

    A different sort of question that isn't commonly asked of agents, as far as I know--you obviously keep up with what is being published especially in your areas of interest, but how do you do so? Do you read the majority of published novels? Peruse catalogs, absorb via osmosis from colleagues and editors, browse the professional review journals? Just curious. And thanks for your remarkable stamina and patience and humor and generosity.
    Richard Lewis
    www.richardlewisauthor.com
    MONSTER'S PROOF: A funny scary novel for everyone who hated math or loved it (Simon and Schuster July 09)

  25. #625
    A Walking Contradiction Angelique's Avatar
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    Dear Jennifer,

    I get my work critiqued on a website, reviewfuse.com, where your reviewer actually critiques your work according to a particular format. Like when I am getting a book chapter reviewed, the critique rubric includes character development, dialogue, setting, mechanics, and chapter beginning/ending.
    This website is willing to open up an area to get your actual query and book proposal reviewed, but we need to think of what to include on the rubric. My suggestions were: mechanics, author voice & style, the pitch/hook, quality of summary, professionalism, and overall appeal of the proposal.

    My question is, if you had to come up with a critique rubric for queries and book proposals would these be the types of areas you would include? Are there any that you would suggest adding?

    Thank you for your time,
    Angelique

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