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

  1. #151
    FJohn
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    I am a co-author of a set of two books aimed at YA. Through a bookseller friend of mine, we were able to get our manuscript in at Candlewick. The sales manager loved it but the eds were less enthused. Candlewick is associated with Walker UK, and the Candlewick sales manager--who really believes in this book-- referred us to them. Walker asked for the first 150 pages and has had it since July. We sent a query a couple of weeks ago but we have come to believe that maybe we need to get an agent involved in contacting Walker.

    Is this a good move at this point? Or should we let the process happen at Walker with the people we're currently dealing with? We don't want to be pushy but we don't want them to sit on it forever.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #152
    practical experience, FTW Bella D'Ball's Avatar
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    Thank you Jennifer for your advice-I think I will send one more simple reminder in December, and consider other agencies from there-Have a wonderful Holiday Season!

  3. #153
    knows what she's looking for when she finds it! Absolute Sage
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    Quote Originally Posted by JudScotKev View Post
    Lately I've been reading in many places--blogs, reports from conferences, etc.--that publishers are "desperate" for MG right now. I'm wondering just what that means. It sure seems like there's a lot of fabulous MG coming out these days, and there are an awful lot of us trying to get our books published....

    So what are the needs that aren't being met? Are there certain genres in MG that editors aren't seeing?
    I think that it is more that the number of YA submissions we get is approximately 9 kajillion times larger than the number of MG submissions, and most people who ARE writing for MG are either writing fantasy along the lines of LIGHTNING THIEF, or are writing glorified chapter books like CLEMENTINE.

    There is nothing wrong with either of those things, but... a good old-fashioned "true MG" - like THE PENDERWICKS, for example, or Pat Murphy's book THE WILD GIRLS, or any book by Hilary McKay - or an insanely smart and different MG like MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY -- well, both of those are very hard to come by.

    Of course there are SOME. But I think everyone would like to see MORE.

    (Also, real mysteries - not fantasy/mysteries.)
    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
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  4. #154
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    Quote Originally Posted by trickywoo View Post
    My book could arguably be classified as upper MG or lower YA. While I have found agents that are actively seeking YA work, I haven't come across as many who are specifically requesting MG work, so, up until now, I have queried it as a YA fantasy.

    I have read through your previous post about MG/YA differences, but I still find it difficult to place the book. I've also heard other agents classify MG or YA according to vocabulary/word count, and I wonder if this may be a subjective distinction. At this point, I am tempted to submit it as YA to agents seeking YA work and juvenile fiction and trust the agent's expertise in classifying the book as MG or YA.

    What I'm wondering is whether an agent would disregard my query if I've identified my work as YA instead of MG or vice versa.

    Honestly? It is hard for me to say for sure without looking at the text, but I think you are overthinking this a bit. Categorizing books CAN be rather subjective, so don't tie yourself up in knots about it.

    How old are the protagonists? If they are 14+, you can comfortably call this YA. If they are 13 or less, call it middle grade. Finer distinctions (Upper MG/Lower YA/Tween, etc) can be sorted out by the agent who falls in love with your work.

    (And most children's agents I know are mad for MG - if you are finding mostly people who only want YA, it is probably because you are looking at the wrong agencies.)
    Last edited by Jennifer_Laughran; 11-30-2008 at 04:50 AM.
    The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and are not those of my employer, or possibly anyone else. Salt to taste.

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  5. #155
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    Quote Originally Posted by FJohn View Post
    I am a co-author of a set of two books aimed at YA. Through a bookseller friend of mine, we were able to get our manuscript in at Candlewick. The sales manager loved it but the eds were less enthused. Candlewick is associated with Walker UK, and the Candlewick sales manager--who really believes in this book-- referred us to them. Walker asked for the first 150 pages and has had it since July. We sent a query a couple of weeks ago but we have come to believe that maybe we need to get an agent involved in contacting Walker.

    Is this a good move at this point? Or should we let the process happen at Walker with the people we're currently dealing with? We don't want to be pushy but we don't want them to sit on it forever.
    Hm. You're probably not going to like this, but. I think you should try to find an agent to rep you in the traditional manner to other publishers. If you get an agent, they can also drop a line to Walker - but frankly, the chances of hearing anything positive back from them, with or without an agent, seem rather slim. (6 months with no word, no response to status query, a tenuous referral from a sales rep, NOT an editor, from another country... ... ... sounds bleak to me.)

    I sincerely hope that I am in the wrong here. Best of luck.
    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
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  6. #156
    practical experience, FTW trickywoo's Avatar
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    Thanks very much for your reply.

    My main character is 13, so right on the fringe there. I'm glad to hear that I don't have to determine the correct category. Now to find that agent who will fall in love with my book.

  7. #157
    knows what she's looking for when she finds it! Absolute Sage
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    Then call it "Upper Middle Grade." I promise, there are a ton of agents who are into that.

    Best of luck!!
    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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  8. #158
    Read. Write. Tivo. CharlieBabbitt's Avatar
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    Hi Jennifer,

    I have a quick question for you about queries for December -- do they slow down for you now? Do most agents go silent for the holidays? I'm just starting to query and I'm wondering with the holidays and all the terrible publishing news out there, if it would be better to wait until January.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  9. #159
    knows what she's looking for when she finds it! Absolute Sage
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    Quote Originally Posted by CharlieBabbitt View Post
    I have a quick question for you about queries for December -- do they slow down for you now? Do most agents go silent for the holidays? I'm just starting to query and I'm wondering with the holidays and all the terrible publishing news out there, if it would be better to wait until January.
    I am pretty much not sending any more projects out myself until January (except things that are already in the pipeline) -- but I spend most of December clearing off my desk, getting rid of old things, catching up on reading, etc. In other words, I am still working. I think that most agents are this way - we may not be actively SELLING, but we are still working.

    Somewhere in there - probably the weeks between Dec 18 or so and Jan 3 or so - lots of agents will take vacation. But so what, you can still query, they'll just respond upon their return.
    The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and are not those of my employer, or possibly anyone else. Salt to taste.

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  10. #160
    Read. Write. Tivo. CharlieBabbitt's Avatar
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    Thank you!

  11. #161
    Commonsensical Maverick scope's Avatar
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    Hi Jennifer,

    Just a quick note to let you know that you candor is greatly appreciated.

  12. #162
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Hi Jenn,

    I've been wondering how far an agent will go to help edit a book into decent shape... People online seem to be pretty focused on the pitch, the hook, the quer... , but I want to believe its as much about the writing as the plot. If you find a really good voice but a dull story, will you pursue working with that client? Do you ever take on a client with a book you can't sell, because you like the way they write? In hopes of the next draft, or even the next book?

    Please be brutally honest.

    Thanks!
    Ohmy

  13. #163
    FJohn
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer_Laughran View Post
    Hm. You're probably not going to like this, but. I think you should try to find an agent to rep you in the traditional manner to other publishers. If you get an agent, they can also drop a line to Walker - but frankly, the chances of hearing anything positive back from them, with or without an agent, seem rather slim. (6 months with no word, no response to status query, a tenuous referral from a sales rep, NOT an editor, from another country... ... ... sounds bleak to me.)

    I sincerely hope that I am in the wrong here. Best of luck.
    Thank you Jennifer. We've been thinking the same thing.

  14. #164
    Oh my...I'm a big girl now...eep? Mt. Dew Addict's Avatar
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    Hi Jennifer,

    I currently have a full ms out with an agent. The agency's site says to nudge them if I haven't heard anything for two months. At the two month mark I sent a short email asking about the status and if the file uploaded correctly; no response. I did the same two weeks later. Soon it will be three months.

    I am aware that responses on fulls take months. However, I am concerned that I have not received any response, esp considering the site's statement to follow-up. All I want is an "I got it, we're busy" so I know I do exist and haven't been gobbled by spam minions.

    My questions are: should I sit tight until January-ish, after the holiday season is over? Or, should I go ahead and start sending out more queries? Currently this agency is the only one with my manuscript. If/when I do send out queries, do I notify the agency? They did not ask for an exclusive--it's my first manuscript and I decided to take it slow. Of course, should any other agent request a partial or a full, I will notify all parties.

    Thank you so much for your opinion.
    Unseen Beauty: On submission to publishers!
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  15. #165
    knows what she's looking for when she finds it! Absolute Sage
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mt. Dew Addict View Post
    I am aware that responses on fulls take months. However, I am concerned that I have not received any response, esp considering the site's statement to follow-up. All I want is an "I got it, we're busy" so I know I do exist and haven't been gobbled by spam minions.

    My questions are: should I sit tight until January-ish, after the holiday season is over? Or, should I go ahead and start sending out more queries? Currently this agency is the only one with my manuscript. If/when I do send out queries, do I notify the agency? They did not ask for an exclusive--it's my first manuscript and I decided to take it slow. Of course, should any other agent request a partial or a full, I will notify all parties.
    Oh goodness me. PLEASE start sending out other queries! Don't give them an exclusive -- particularly if they didn't ask for one. What happens if they hold it a year? And then reject you, and the next person you give a "mock-sclusive" to holds it for a year? Etc? You might be 103 before you'd land an agent!

    Truly, I cannot stress enough how much you should NOT be waiting on these people. Sure, you can send them a prod every month or so if you like, but do NOT wait on them. Please. Get out there!

    Also, you needn't "notify all parties" if somebody requests a partial or full. People are SUPPOSED to be requesting partials and fulls, that is not of special interest. Only notify the other people holding it if somebody actually makes you an offer.
    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
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  16. #166
    Oh my...I'm a big girl now...eep? Mt. Dew Addict's Avatar
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    Thank you Jennifer! I needed that.
    Unseen Beauty: On submission to publishers!
    Kaedra's Lament: at 75K!
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  17. #167
    practical experience, FTW emandem's Avatar
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    Jennifer: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I submitted a MG query to Andrea Brown 5 weeks ago. I believe the website states that if there is no response at six weeks to consider it a "no." Should I consider submitting to a different agent at Andrea Brown at a later date?? Just how often do queries get round-table discussions, and therefore a "group" decision by the agency as a whole?

  18. #168
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Jennifer,
    I was delighted to discover that you are participating in Ask the Agent. I'm attending the Big Sur YA writing workshop in March, and very much looking forward to interacting and working with you and other Andrea Brown agents. I'm presently working on a lower YA novel about an adolescent girl who suffers an identity crisis when her Jewish Mom and Christian Dad split up. Meanwhile I am seeking an agent for a completed adult novel (a love and coming of age story set in Cambridge, MA, mid-70s).

    I have two questions. First, given I'm straddling two genres, is it important that I find an agency that specializes in both? And is Andrea Brown such an agency?

    Second, does it make sense to hold off on querying agents about my completed adult novel until the economy, and hopefully the publishing industry, recovers a little? If publishing houses are pulling back on acquisitions, I assume agencies doing the same? I want to give my novel the best possible chance. I know it is commercially viable -- a reputable agency recently requested the full manuscript, and said it had had "positive reads" and they loved the characters, but ultimately said no.

  19. #169
    youngwriter369
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    Dear Jennifer,

    I was so glad to see you are participating in the forum. Thank you! Do you have any advice for young writers? I don't have any pervious writing credits because of my age. I am a young teenager. I did a little experiment and posted my first chapter online for 6 days now and received numerous comment of people liking it and over 200 views. is there a way i can put that info in my query and get agent's attention? It is posted here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2c69I6gNrqc
    My story is border line MG and YA.

    Thank you for your time!

    ~The Young Writer
    Last edited by youngwriter369; 12-08-2008 at 06:53 AM.

  20. #170
    keybladewielder890
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    Hey Jennifer!! Thanks for coming to the board!! I am young too (17), and I was wondering what I should put under my qualifications, etc. Thanks for any help!

  21. #171
    knows what she's looking for when she finds it! Absolute Sage
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    Quote Originally Posted by ohmylorelei View Post
    Do you ever take on a client with a book you can't sell, because you like the way they write? In hopes of the next draft, or even the next book?
    No. I take on books I think I can sell.

    However, if I think somebody has the style and just needs the chops, I will be very encouraging and hope that they try again with the next draft, or even the next book!

    (At least one of my clients, Jackie, queried me a year ago with a book that just was not ready - she queried me AGAIN with her next book, and I recently sold it in a great two-book deal to Bloomsbury. So, it happens!)
    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
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  22. #172
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    Quote Originally Posted by emandem View Post
    Jennifer: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I submitted a MG query to Andrea Brown 5 weeks ago. I believe the website states that if there is no response at six weeks to consider it a "no." Should I consider submitting to a different agent at Andrea Brown at a later date?? Just how often do queries get round-table discussions, and therefore a "group" decision by the agency as a whole?
    As our website says, you should consider all no's from ABLit as a no from the agency as a whole. Please don't query another agent at the agency until you have a new manuscript (or you've done such significant revision that the book is really not the same anymore.)

    We DO consider everything submitted, even if we can't always respond. (I TRY to respond, I really do, but sometimes it just doesn't happen!) If the agent thinks something is really good or has real potential but it doesn't resonate with them personally, they'll pass it to everyone. And if another agent is interested, you'll get a note saying it is still under consideration.
    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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  23. #173
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    Quote Originally Posted by keybladewielder890 View Post
    I am young too (17), and I was wondering what I should put under my qualifications, etc. Thanks for any help!
    This goes for everyone, no matter how old: You don't need to ever mention your age, and if you don't have publication credits, just say you are a debut author. Then make sure your writing is awesome!
    Last edited by Jennifer_Laughran; 12-08-2008 at 07:08 PM.
    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
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  24. #174
    knows what she's looking for when she finds it! Absolute Sage
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    Quote Originally Posted by youngwriter369 View Post
    Do you have any advice for young writers? I don't have any pervious writing credits because of my age. I am a young teenager. I did a little experiment and posted my first chapter online for 6 days now and received numerous comment of people liking it and over 200 views. is there a way i can put that info in my query and get agent's attention? It is posted here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2c69I6gNrqc
    Oh, I have advice for young writers. KEEP READING, KEEP WRITING, HAVE FUN and don't worry about being published yet.

    I love you crazy kids. Seriously. I think the teenagers I know are funny and smart and terrific readers, and I totally enjoy hanging out with you. In my life as an agent, though, I do get a lot of queries from teenagers, and I have to say that as much as I like you, I personally don't want teen clients.

    WHY?

    1) Mostly, you aren't that good at writing. Oh, for real. Look, even if you are a freakin' GENIUS, you are going to get better. Right? Think how much better you are now than you were five years ago. Now, what do you think will happen five years from now? YOU'LL GET EVEN BETTER. And I promise, you will cringe if you re-read the stuff from today. (ETA: and don't forget, if it is published, that may well be how people judge your writing for the *rest of your life* !)

    2) Writing professionally is a big pain. You know how you have a lot of homework? Well, quadruple it. Learning to write books on time, learning to revise books, learning how to work with editors and agents and accountants and publicists and whatever? It is way harder than high school. Go have some fun instead - then you'll have even more to write about.

    3) Publishers are kinda evil. Well, maybe not evil, but they are big corporations that usually put their love of making bank way above your feelings and interests. IF one of them wants to publish you, chances are very good that the appeal for them lies in the novelty of your age. ("We have a 13-year old author!" "Oh really? Ours is 9!") So what happens when you a) can't fulfill your contract properly? b) get older and less "interesting", or c) you decide you want to move on, or change your writing style (or it just happens naturally, as it will.) Do you think that the publisher will be nurturing and kind about it? I personally feel that publishers who publish kids are very often exploiting them, and I don't want to be a part of it.

    I know this is not something you want to hear. I know you are desperate to be published. Hell, I know you've either not read this far, or you are shaking your head at how stupid I am and how if I just gave YOU a chance, I'd feel differently, and how unfair it is that I can sit here and judge you. I KNOW. Sorry.

    Lots of agents probably feel differently. So, try them if you really want to. But if you decide that a few years really isn't that long to wait, I invite you to spend this time reading and writing and living and absorbing the world, and yeah, "perfecting your craft" - and then let's talk again.
    Last edited by Jennifer_Laughran; 12-09-2008 at 04:43 AM.
    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
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  25. #175
    knows what she's looking for when she finds it! Absolute Sage
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    Quote Originally Posted by ehorwitt View Post
    I have two questions. First, given I'm straddling two genres, is it important that I find an agency that specializes in both? And is Andrea Brown such an agency?

    Second, does it make sense to hold off on querying agents about my completed adult novel until the economy, and hopefully the publishing industry, recovers a little? If publishing houses are pulling back on acquisitions, I assume agencies doing the same?
    Well, you can, or you can have different agents for adult & kids. We at ABLit really focus much more on kids. A couple of us (not me) do have some adult projects. But I think that we are really known for being a top-notch children's agency. So, you either query one of the ABLit agents that has adult work (which is indicated on our website bios - the only one I am sure of is Laura). Or you query one of us with your kids work, and if you are signed, find a different agent for the grown-up stuff.

    As far as the economy goes, it is business as usual for us, and honestly, for most publishers. We still have to take on new projects so that there will be books in the future, and publishers still have to buy them. Of course, everyone is cautious and being very picky about what they take on - but that is nothing new.
    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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