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Thread: Ask Jenny Bent! Guest agent arriving next week...

  1. #1
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Ask Jenny Bent! Guest agent arriving next week...

    Hi folks,

    Jenny Bent, agent extraordinaire, is going to come here next week, probably Wednesday through Friday (May 24-26), to answer questions in this thread.

    She's an agent with Trident Media, and I approached her specifically because I've heard so many nice things about her over the years-- she has a reputation for really caring about writers.

    You can learn about her at her site: http://www.thebentagency.com/

    Here's her bio from there:

    Jenny Bent has ten years of experience working in the publishing industry. Currently, she is a literary agent with the firm of Trident Media Group, LLC in New York City. Prior to becoming an agent, Ms. Bent worked at Rolling Stone and Ladies Home Journal magazines. She was also an editor at Cader Books, where she was responsible for books on pop culture and the media, including The People Magazine Entertainment Almanac. She was an agent with three other literary agencies before joining Trident Media Group. She represents clients who write commercial and literary fiction as well as nonfiction on a variety of topics, including memoir, health, and women's issues.

    So! You can begin posting questions here for Jenny to answer. She won't be looking all over the forums-- I'd like to keep questions for her contained in this thread.

    Thanks, Jenny, and thanks, writers!
    Last edited by CaoPaux; 02-24-2011 at 12:18 AM. Reason: updating URL
    I am no longer here. If you'd like to visit me, please find me at www.jennaglatzer.com or on Facebook. Thanks!

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW james1611's Avatar
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    Talking jenny bent interview on POD-DY MOUTH

    hey guys Jenny bent did an interview that can be found on the POD-DY mouth website. She actually suggests that POD'S can be picked up for publication by agents like herself..see interview...and that if all else fails in the submission game...go POD and promote it like crazy, someone like her could pick it up if the sales are good enough to warrant it or if they find it and are interested in the story...its a good interview to check out...but she'll probably get asked similar things on this board as well.

    Rev. James

  3. #3
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Thanks, James! The interview he's talking about is here: http://girlondemand.blogspot.com/200...enny-bent.html
    I am no longer here. If you'd like to visit me, please find me at www.jennaglatzer.com or on Facebook. Thanks!

  4. #4
    Always a writer Daughter of Faulkner's Avatar
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    Thumbs up That's wonderful of you

    Greetings Jenna,
    That's wonderful of you to invite Jenny Bent to answer our questions!
    As always, you do a GREAT job knowing exactly what to do (and when) for your fellow writers and others.

    Keep writing!

    Always a writer,
    Eileen St. Lauren
    Author

    http://mysite.verizon.net/eileenstlauren

  5. #5
    still crazy after all these years Good Word's Avatar
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    Woohoo!

  6. #6
    Li'l Rug Bug clara bow's Avatar
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    Thank you, Jenna!

    Ms. Bent,

    Perhaps you could help settle a (friendly!) debate I have with my husband. He believes that nine times out of ten, a (great, polished) query/partial/manuscript is rejected if the writer is unpublished, even if the project is clearly marketable, well written, etc.. His favorite line is that agents always skip down to the last paragraph when reading queries. I try to tell him that the agent really has to love the story. Really and truthfully, to what extent does a lack of a publishing credential hurt the writers who pitch material that could definitely sell? (The assumption here is that there is competition from published writers who are querying an agent as well).

    Thanks for your time!

  7. #7
    Comic guy Bartholomew's Avatar
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    Dear Ms Bent,

    I've found myself in an odd situation. I pitched a friend's book at a publisher, and they've reacted in a very positive way. It feels good. Is this how YOU always feel? If that's the case, I want to become an agent!

    Starting any career off with a sale can't hurt, right? How would one go about furthering such aspirations? Would I have to work at a publishing firm first, or could I become accomplished by visiting certain conventions?

    Bart
    Last edited by Bartholomew; 05-17-2006 at 05:40 AM.

  8. #8
    Absolutely Fazed
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    Is there something writers do that almost guarantees a 100% rejection rate on the query?

    Second one: if the writer includes a sample of the book (whether Miss Snark's suggested five pages or something the agent specifically requests), do most agents always read that even if the query was less than stellar?

    Thanks
    Last edited by DeadlyAccurate; 05-16-2006 at 08:46 PM. Reason: The thank you wasn't actually supposed to be a question.

  9. #9
    (not his real name)
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    A timely appearance!

    1. Jenny, could you weigh in on querying multiple agents at a single agency? I know one should not query more than one agent at an agency simultaneously (and I understand why), but what about sequentially? What would you think about seeing a query on your desk for a novel that had been rejected by Scott Miller?

    2. Follow-up to Clara's question about lack of credentials: Assuming a writer has no commercially published books, short stories, or articles, is there anything you would look for that would be a positive indicator of experience and seriousness? For example: academic nonfiction? uncompensated writing (Web articles, as an example)? job-related writing? critique group membership? participation in writer's bulletin boards (heh)?

  10. #10
    Last of a Dying Breed popmuze's Avatar
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    Let me take the opposite approach. Is it possible for a writer to have too many credentials. For instance, a dozen published books (at major houses) that didn't sell over the course of several decades. Would you advise this writer (okay, me) that it's time for an alias?

  11. #11
    Barbershoppin' Harmony Whore BardSkye's Avatar
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    What a wonderful opportunity! Many thanks to both Jenna and Ms Bent for giving it to us. That being said:

    Ms. Bent, welcome. When confronted with a manuscript authored by a collaboration do you initially deal with each author or with the spokesman? Does a collaboration make you slightly hesitant to view the manuscript?

  12. #12
    Last of a Dying Breed popmuze's Avatar
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    Making the Rounds

    Jenny,
    Here's another one to file under "Published writers have problems too."

    Even though I am between agents, I had the opportunity to submit my novel to an editor at a major house, who promptly rejected it with a nice note, basically saying s/he was too young to understand most of the references.
    First, would you want to know about this in my query--or after you've fallen in love with the novel?
    Second, what if you smacked your head when I told you who read it and said, "Boy, this other editor at that house would have been perfect."
    Is there any way that you could submit the book to that editor, let's say if I changed the title of the book and my byline?
    (If you remember my previous post, I think you'll sense a theme here).

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lady of Prose
    This is great! Can you give us an educated guess as to how long the average wait is for first time authors to connect with a willing agent and or publisher?
    My own experience was about eight months total. Of those eight months, about four months were "idle" because the manuscript was out on exclusive to an agent.

    Total about one hundred fifty query letters (one hundred snail, fifty email). Five partials, none accepted. Nine full manuscript submissions with eight rejects and one acceptance (finally).

    Your mileage may vary...

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW Toni1953's Avatar
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    Hello, Ms. Bent:

    Would you (or agents in general) consider reading a work that you previously passed on, if the author has done a total rewrite and totally changed the premise of the novel?
    Toni
    Repped by Josh Getzler, HSG Literary
    Hey! My cat has his own blog! (Yes, Rocco blogs!) http://www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com
    Out now: CLAWS FOR ALARM, the second Nick and Nora mystery
    coming December 2016: OF CRIME AND CATNIP

  15. #15
    as old as time and space... argenianpoet's Avatar
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    Dear Ms. Bent:

    If a well-known published author reads your manuscript and likes it, how does that affect your outlook toward the manuscript in consideration; or representing that author?

  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW Writing Jedi's Avatar
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    I queried a couple of publishers about the same time I began querying agents. If the publishers reject my query, but I do land an agent, can the agent still pitch the book to the publishers that rejected me?

    Since the rejection is based on the query letter and if they haven't actually read a word of the story yet, could (and would) an agent be able to convince them to? Or is a rejection at the query stage their "final answer"?

    Thank you!
    There is no charge for awesomeness.

    "The story can only have one merit: that of making the audience want to know what happens next." E.M. Forster.

    Armed with nothing but 26 little letters, I set out to conquer the world.

  17. #17
    figuring it all out
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    Dear Ms. Bent,

    Thank you for being so generous with your time.

    Iíd like to know what happens after youíve decided to represent a manuscript. How much do you vary your sales strategy by project? Do you usually send a book out right away or wait for the right window? Do you offer it to one publisher at a time or make a multiple submission to three or five or ? editors? How soon do you usually hear back from them and, if there is interest, what steps remain before an offer can be made?

    Iíve read that agents donít expect to sell every project they take on. Iím wondering about the ratio of those that sell to those that donít. Also, when/how you know itís just not in the cards....

    RC

  18. #18
    davidh_99709
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    Dear Ms. Bent,
    I don't have a question at this time, but do want to thank you for your appearance on this forum. Thank You!

  19. #19
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    querying the right agent for humorous fiction

    Thanks, Jenna.
    I've enjoyed your newletter for a long time, and am just now making it to the boards. This is wonderful!



    Ms Bent:

    Thanks so much for your time!
    What is the best way to find/target agents who love to represent humorous novels? Also, do many people shy away from references to alcohol in humorous works? (One of my characters is a Dionysian-type marital therapist, who now has to go to AA. The funny part isn't his drinking, however, but his reaction to the process of becoming sober.)


    TrulyHestia
    Last edited by TrulyHestia; 05-23-2006 at 09:51 PM.

  20. #20
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    The rest of the thread

    The rest of this thread got eaten when our site was overwritten, so I'm reposting whatever I can find of Jenny's replies here from cached files.

    -----
    Originally Posted by lauriejgs
    Hi, Jenny. If another agent at Trident rejected the full ms from an author, would you be averse to the author then querying you? Thanks!

    No, I'm fine with it, as long as you let me know.

    JennyBent

    Originally Posted by Josie
    Hi Jenny: Thanks for being here

    I notice on your website that you allow query letters to be sent via email. What length do you like the query letter to be?

    What kind of genres are you interested in seeing? Paranormal by any chance?

    What do you see as the most popular genres today? And is chicklit becoming passe?

    Sorry to ask so many questions at once

    Cheers

    Keep the query letter short and to the point. One great opening sentence that grabs me, a short description, and a short bio. No attachments please, unless I request the work.

    I represent women's fiction, including romance, quirky/funny literary fiction, dark memoir, women's lifestyle, and humor.

    Chick lit is OVER, my friend. Not just BECOMING passe, but beyond passe. Which is too bad, but it will come back. It just got over published.

    I represent some paranormal, yes. As far as popular genres, if you look at the bestseller lists, thrillers and suspense are working very well, and paranormal is still working, although I fear it's going to get over-published as well.




    Originally Posted by trmonet
    Dear Ms. Bent,

    If I were to get a 'not interested at this time' reply to my query, how much time would you consider to be acceptable to let pass before resubmitting a new query?

    Thank you for your time.

    I'm sure it's different for every agent, but I get so many queries that I really don't remember names. I think a few weeks to a month would be fine.

    Originally Posted by Josie
    Thanks Jenny about the popular genres today. So good to get the facts from an expert like you.

    I have a story which is paranormal chicklit mystery...I find it difficult to give it a label...it has a smattering of everything, including light humor in first person voice, major part is solving murder mystery...

    Is it important in the query letter to you to give it the right label, though what follows will hopefully clear that up. t: I worry I'll crash on what category to put down. Am I confusing here?

    Thanks again.

    JENNA, so sorry I called you Cathy, (blush)
    Well, definitely don't call it chick lit. I would call it paranormal mystery.


    Originally Posted by Toni1953
    Hi Ms. Bent,

    If you were sent a novel that might need a smattering of editing, but was fresh and different, would you consider representation? Would you suggest revisions on a novel you felt had promise?
    Yes, to both. And I've done both and sold the books.


    Originally Posted by Toni1953
    Another quick question:

    Are you adverse to seeing one-sentence queries emailed to you or do you prefer longer ones? For example, something like this:

    In ONYX-2097, a 70,000-word futuristic fantasy, young rock star Jazzie must defend Earth against its greatest threat Ė the evil Wizard Gwyn ApNudd.


    would a blurb like that be enough to warrant a further look or do agents prefer the traditional 3 paragraph query letter? would receiving a one-sentence query like that ruin one's chances?



    You could start out your query like that, and then segue into a longer query. That's what I would like to see. If I just got the one sentence, I probably wouldn't ask to see the material.


    Originally Posted by Toni1953
    One last one, I promise....

    I understand that you are the agent for the new book, The JOURNAL, which looks really different....is this the type of book publishers are looking for? something with a totally different approach?

    Also, is this book fiction or non-fiction.
    Well, I think JOURNAL, by Joyce and Kristine Atkinson (check out the website at www.amyzoemason.com) is one of those books that comes along once in a lifetime. It's truly so unique and special. For some publishers, who turned it down, it was TOO unique and special. Fortunately I was able to sell it to a house and an editor (Denise Roy, Simon and Schuster) who recognized its potential. But I think you are right, that in these tough economic times, when not a lot of people are buying books, publishers are certainly looking for books that bring something extra to the table--a fresh hook or idea or approach.

    Originally Posted by Memnon624
    Hi Ms. Bent,

    On another board you mentioned a resurgence in the historical novel. What are your thoughts on the ancient historical (i.e. works in the same vein as Steven Pressfield or Conn Iggulden)? Is it a hard sell?

    Thanks for your time!

    Scott

    I'm so sorry; but I don't know who those authors are. What seems to be working in the historical novel in terms of women's fiction (more my area of expertise) are novels set in England and revolving around real historical figures, like the work of Phillipa Gregory.


    Scott wrote:

    Hi again,

    Both are writers of non-romantic historicals set in antiquity -- Pressfield's best, Gates of Fire, dealt with the last stand of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae; Iggulden writes a series called Emperor, which charts the rise and fall of Caesar. As I write in the same arena (6th through the 4th centuries BC), I'd hoped your comments at Romancing the Blog might have included that segment of the genre, as well. Still, I appreciate the time you're taking to answer our questions!

    Enjoy the rest of your day!

    Scott

    Originally Posted by waylander
    Hi Ms Bent

    Firstly thank you for your time. It is very much appreciated.
    Secondly I wonder if I might seek your advice?
    A well-respected agent requested my full manuscript back in March. I duly sent it and she acknowledged receipt and said that she would need "at least 6 to 8 weeks" to review it. Having heard nothing at 13 weeks I sent a short and polite e-mail enquiring about it. I had no reply. 16 weeks have now passed and I'm wondering what I should do. I would be delighted to be represented by this agent and I do not want to annoy her. Any thoughts?
    Did she ask for an exclusive? Because 16 weeks is a very long time, particularly if she's not responding to e-mails asking about it. If it wasn't an exclusive, send it out to other agents. If it was an exclusive, send another e-mail asking for a time frame. If she still doesn't respond, send it to other agents.

    Originally Posted by Toni1953
    In your opinion, is the horror genre still "soft". I'm not talking about paranormal romances a la Love at First Bite...I'm talking about the type of novels Stephen King churned out in his heyday. Is there a market for them? Do publishers look for them? If someone had a novel that was patterned along the lines of a Dark Shadows-ish plot, would they be able to attract an agent and/or publisher, or should they concentrate on another genre.
    Literary horror is one of those evergreen genres that publishers always want. Pulp horror is much less popular, although Kensington likes it. The ironic thing is that Hollywood is always on the lookout for a good commercial horror book, even if publishers are not.

    Originally Posted by Cathy C
    Dear Ms. Bent,

    First, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer questions here. I know how much our members appreciate it!

    One question that shows up a lot on this board has to do with genre. Since there are two different "kinds" of genre--one being what elements of the story will fit a particular publisher's line, and the other being where it will be shelved in the store, it confuses aspiring authors.

    When a book is a blend of various elements, do you prefer for an author to attempt to narrow it down in the query by telling you what genre THEY think it is, or should they simply tell the agent the plot and leave it to the agent (or, in reality to the publisher) to determine the genre?


    Thanks again!



    I'm sort of confused by this concept of two "kinds" of genre. However, I would be wary of any book which is a blend of various elements and is hard to categorize for the simple reason you raise above: bookstores don't know how to shelve it. I definitely want to be told in a query what genre of book I'm considering; it's an important and necessary piece of information which helps me determine if I want to see the project.

    Originally Posted by waylander
    This was not an exclusive and I am continuing to query other agents. I do have a phone number for the agency, but I am very wary of calling.

    That's good. Don't call.
    I am no longer here. If you'd like to visit me, please find me at www.jennaglatzer.com or on Facebook. Thanks!

  21. #21
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    (Continued... responses are from Jenny Bent)

    Originally Posted by Toni1953
    What is the distinction between Literary and Pulp horror?
    The quality of the writing.


    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cathy C
    Well, mostly it's an issue of shelving choices in stores versus the guidelines issued by the publishers. An alternate reality along the LKH or Armstrong vein might be shelved in SF/Fantasy or Horror or even in Romance as a paranormal.

    But within that overall lumping is whether to call a book of similar tone and elements a dark fantasy (probably shelved in horror), or urban fantasy (probably shelved in fantasy) or even paranormal romance (probably shelved in romance) in order to fit a particular line.

    So focusing in on the genre both entails considering the bookstore shelving to find similar books to your own, as well as whether to approach an agent who reps primarily fantasy or romance or horror to reach the lines that appear on those shelves.

    Romance is especially difficult because the same shelves might contain an historical next to a women's fiction next to a chick-lit next to a paranormal, even though the publishers only consider books fitting one or two subgenres.

    All that now said (and possibly I've confused the issue even more! ) -- would you prefer to see a simple "this could be shelved in either fantasy or romance" or a more detailed "I believe this is an alternate reality urban fantasy with X% of romance and a dark tone."

    Oh boy. Look, either your book is going to be shelved in romance, or sci/fi fantasy, or horror. I don't know what this whole "urban fantasy" genre stuff is all about--my client was mentioning that to me the other day, I have no idea what she was talking about. . The only genres I care about are the ones that the bookstores use. So figure out which your book is, and tell me, and all will be well. No one wants a cross-genre book because of the shelving problem we've been discussing.
    I am no longer here. If you'd like to visit me, please find me at www.jennaglatzer.com or on Facebook. Thanks!

  22. #22
    Ooo! Shiny new cover! Absolute Sage Cathy C's Avatar
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    (Continued...more responses from Jenny Bent)

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DeniseK
    Hi, Jenny, thanks so much for taking the time to answer all these questions. Here's mine:

    I queried 30 agents, and got two request for the full. The first agent passed, I got her snail mail rejection in two weeks, but the other, a major NY agency who strictly handles my genre, is still reading. The agent's had it for a month, but she never mentioned how long it would be before she responded. I have decided that if she doesn't take me on, I am going to look for a publisher myself--it's a middle reader, my first novel, and after some investigation, I see that this is a feasible alternative--so I don't want to query other agents but I don't want to start querying publishers until I hear from her.

    When do you think I should be looking for her response? She asked me to email her the manuscript, and being green, I thought I would hear back quickly.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    Denise Kincy
    You're right that it's a good idea to wait to hear from her before trying on your own. Can you send her an e-mail asking how long she thinks she will have it? A month really isn't that long in agent-land, sadly.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by popmuze
    Jenny,
    Thanks so much for answering my other questions. Unfortunately, your answer leads me to believe that after twelve books I need a new name-- for my novel and for myself.
    When pitching my revised query to agents, how then should I frame my background?
    Should I completely lie about my past credentials and say I'm a 25 year old first novelist?
    Should I list only my last three books?
    Should I say something like "Jim Smith is the alias for a long-time veteran of the field who dare not use his real name for fear of mass retaliation..." or something like that?
    Should I tell the truth about my career but say I'm willing to use an alias and let the agent worry about it?
    As you can see, it's a potentially life-altering (and jail welcoming) move.
    Popmuze (Hey, maybe that's what I'll call myself)
    Hey Popmuze,
    OK, you should be totally honest. Just explain the situation, say that you've written what you consider to be a break-out book, and that given that your past sales are not strong, you would like to use a pseudonym. Agents will understand.
    J.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Toni1953
    Hi Ms. Bent:
    If you have asked for one partial from an author, is it good policy for the author to send in a query for a different work before he/she hears back from you on the requested material?
    No, in fact, it is a bad policy, and will annoy the agent.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kpmcneil22
    I suppose I'll ask this now, as long as I'm here:

    I'll be attending a writer's conference in September and have the opportunity to pitch my completed mainstream/contemporary novel during a 5-minute session with an agent. What does it take from a pitch session to catch an agent's interest?

    Thank you for taking time out for questions, Ms. Bent, any advice would be appreciated.

    Kevin
    Well, any impressive awards you have won, or quotes from very famous authors. A good title or a great one sentence pitch also gets my attention, so really work on that great title and great ONE SENTENCE (no longer) pitch.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DeadlyAccurate
    What sort of things are writers expected to do regarding self-promotion when they have a publisher and/or agent? I can't imagine what I could do, especially as an unknown author, that would amount to any significant increase in sales.
    Go directly to my website and read WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE GETTING PUBLISHED to disabuse yourself of the idea that 1. agents promote books once they are published and 2. publishers do a good job promoting books.

    There are many, many good books and websites out there which explain how you can promote your book. I think Rick Frish has written several. Basically, you want a great website which attracts a lot of traffic and has good information which is regularly updated, and you want to get friendly with every bookseller within a 100 mile (give or take 99 miles) in your area. Signing stock all over the DC area, and convincing booksellers to carry his book put my author Michael Farquhar on the Washington Post bestseller list for months.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by allenparker
    Thank you for your time in answering our questions. I have found this thread to be extremely fascinating and I have been taught much.

    My question has to do with the humor genre. Is humor becoming full. Is there a place in commercial publishing for niche humor in today's market?


    It seems many places that deal with humor are saying they are full and can not take submissions at this time.

    I am not sure that you will be here to answer this. If not, perhaps someone else might have an answer.

    awp
    I think to sell a humor book these days you need either a really good platform (like your own show on NPR) or successful self-publication. That's what most of my humor writers have done.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by writermom
    Thank you Ms. Bent for doing this!

    My question is how useful is it to pitch to an agent? Are you more likely to ask for a partial out of a pitch session than not? And would you have requested that partial based on a query letter if the Author hadn't met you?
    I always ask for material that is pitched to me at a conference. My feeling is that it's almost impossible to tell if material is good or not from a pitch. Sometimes someone has a great pitch and a not so good manuscript, and sometimes vice versa. So it's just worth it to ask to see everything. With a query letter, it's a lot easier to judge quality of writing, pitch, plotting, etc., so you actually have less of a chance that I'll ask to see your material based on a query letter.

    ****************
    6-26-06, 04:39 PM
    OK guys, once again I am out of here. It's been great chatting with you and I wish you all the best of luck.
    Last edited by Cathy C; 07-08-2006 at 06:09 AM.
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  23. #23
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Thanks, Cathy! I'm going to close down this thread now so people don't continue asking questions.
    I am no longer here. If you'd like to visit me, please find me at www.jennaglatzer.com or on Facebook. Thanks!

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