PDA

View Full Version : Ask Jennifer Laughran! Tireless agent-in-residence!



Pages : [1] 2 3 4 5

victoriastrauss
09-11-2008, 12:02 AM
Hi, all,

I'm thrilled to announce that agent Jennifer Laughran of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency will be joining us with a regular "Ask the Agent" thread. This should be especially helpful for children's and YA writers, because that's Jenn's specialty. Please post any questions you have for her in this thread.

Jenn's bio is here (http://www.andreabrownlit.com/agents.php). Her Publishers' Marketplace page is here (http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/jennla/). An informative interview with her is here (http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/2008/06/agent-interview-jennifer-laughran-of.html).

Full info on the Andrea Brown Literary Agency can be found on its website (http://www.andreabrownlit.com/).

Please join me in welcoming Jenn to Absolute Write!

- Victoria

Tom Johnson
09-11-2008, 12:19 AM
Hi Jennifer, and welcome to AW!
I'm currently working on a young adult sci-fi about three young girls, age 16, accidentally sent back through time from the 23rd century. However, my question concerns the class situation in the 23rd century. Basically, the structure consist of the upper and leadership class, and the lower and working class population. Race is not mentioned. The girls discuss the class situation in a couple paragrapgs in the story, is this considered acceptible in YA stories? My SF usually involves Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers stuff, not YA, so I don't want to make a mistake with my first one.

"The Weed of Crime Bears Bitter Fruit!"

awatkins
09-11-2008, 12:28 AM
Hi Jennifer! How lovely of you to join us. Welcome to AW!

I'm busy thinking up my questions and will post them in a bit. :)

RLB
09-11-2008, 01:01 AM
Wow Jennifer, thanks so much for taking the time to do this. I'm writing middle grade, so I'm sure I'll pop back in with some questions for you!

C.J. Rockwell
09-11-2008, 01:06 AM
Welcome to AW, Jennifer!:D

I had two things I need insight on.

1. Of all the important information you need to include in your query letter, one thing that has confused me is the section in which you write a short bio mentioning any important credentials about yourself,

I've heard various agents say "skip it if you've got nothing." to "include something about yourself."

Since I've got nothing in the way of publishing credits or degrees that pertain to what I'm writing, should I just skip it? Or if I should say something, what could I say?

2. I read in your bio on the agency website that you adore simplicity. Could you elaborate? It's something I'm still learning.

Thanks in Advance!

I had a couple more questions, but I need think about them some more.

Alexis
09-11-2008, 01:21 AM
Hi Jennifer,

Welcome! I'm about as new here as you are!

I was just in contact with a writer named Amy Laughlin. She said she has an agent at your agency, but I didn't get the name. What a pleasant surprise to see you here today after getting that e-mail yesterday! :)

Anyway, I have just finished a Young Adult adventure-fantasy and I have a couple questions. First of all, do you think that my 124,000 word count would be seen as a problem? I have two different characters on two separate adventures until the end, where their stories converge. The fact that there are two stories going on is why the count is high, not because I have been careless with my editing... Will agents feel too daunted by the word count to notice that I mention two separate journeys in my query?

Also, I have the drive and the talent to be a very successful author. I have confidence in my work and several unbiased individuals who have responded with equal passion and positivity about what I have created. I know that I must convey this to the agents I send my work to, and I believe that I have, but I struggle with choosing the strongest presentation of my work. Would either of these openings catch your attention in a query letter?:

"It is often said that books allow us to escape into other worlds. For Kain Woodworth, the escape is literal."

__

"There are places where magic runs deeper than witches and wizards. Places where the breadth of that magic is determined by the size of the imagination. Where books are dangerous, dragons benevolent, and the races of men are not categorized by colors, but by the very nature of their souls. The most ancient of such places is where Kain Woodworth was born. He just doesn’t know it yet."

Thank you in advance for the answers you are able to give me :)

Jennifer_Laughran
09-11-2008, 02:03 AM
Basically, the structure consist of the upper and leadership class, and the lower and working class population. Race is not mentioned. The girls discuss the class situation in a couple paragrapgs in the story, is this considered acceptible in YA stories?

Perhaps I am not understanding your question correctly... but if the world you are setting your story in has class issues, and mentioning them is true to your characters and the rules of the world that you've created, then, of course, why not mention them? I can't speak to specifics of your story, obviously, but there is no reason not to mention class or race or anything else in a YA if it is something that your characters would think about.

Jennifer_Laughran
09-11-2008, 02:13 AM
1. Of all the important information you need to include in your query letter, one thing that has confused me is the section in which you write a short bio mentioning any important credentials about yourself,

I've heard various agents say "skip it if you've got nothing." to "include something about yourself."


2. I read in your bio on the agency website that you adore simplicity. Could you elaborate? It's something I'm still learning.


1. Things to mention: Publishing Credits. Major awards. Graduate studies, esp MFA in Writing for Children. PLATFORM. (ie, You have a drive-time radio show with a daily audience of 40,000 fans. Or, You are the world's foremost expert on Gorilla Habitat and the Sierra Club has offered to buy 10,000 copies of this book as a promotion. Etc.)

If you don't have any of those, skip it. Seriously. That's fine. Putting in a bunch of fluff about how you self-publish a monthly newsletter with a circulation of 20, or you went to community college for two semesters to study dental hygiene, doesn't impress me, and in fact, does the opposite. It is much better to put nothing, than to put a bunch of filler. If you have nothing to say in that paragraph, "Thank you for your time" will do.

2. I think it is funny that you've asked me to elaborate on simplicity. :-)

Jennifer_Laughran
09-11-2008, 02:29 AM
First of all, do you think that my 124,000 word count would be seen as a problem? I have two different characters on two separate adventures until the end, where their stories converge. The fact that there are two stories going on is why the count is high, not because I have been careless with my editing... Will agents feel too daunted by the word count to notice that I mention two separate journeys in my query?

Also, I have the drive and the talent to be a very successful author... ... ... Would either of these openings catch your attention in a query letter?:
:)

Hi Alexis. I think it is great that you have such confidence in your work. You need that to be a success, for sure.

1) Sure, I know Amy. She's our SCBWI regional leader, and she is a delight.

2) IMO, 124,000 words is on the long side for a YA, even a YA fantasy. The thought of that (FOR ME) is beyond daunting. If I were you, I'd make it into two books and try shopping the first one. OR, I would edit mercilessly. OR, if you absolutely must keep every speck of this tome intact, I strongly suggest you NOT mention word count in your query letter. Here's the deal - when you mention a word count above, oh, 80k, it is this automatic red flag. I start doing math in my head. The math, combined with a sickening feeling about how I will lose a weekend cause of reading this thing, combine to blind me to the rest of your query letter.

Don't give me a reason to say no. If you don't mention it, I never think about math or feel sick. I am happy, and I start reading, and the book is superb, and I don't want to stop... and then I won't care how long it is. Get it?

3) I tend to skip over showy rhetorical flourishes in letters. What I want to know is, What is this book, and Why should I care.

But I guess, between the two of them, the first doesn't really mean anything, while the second gives me some concrete information. So, that one.

Alexis
09-11-2008, 02:36 AM
Oh, wow. Thanks. Okay... that's useful. Scary... but useful. Thank you so much!

mscelina
09-11-2008, 02:37 AM
Hi, Jennifer! Thanks for allowing us to aak you questions--I know it will be a greatly valued resource.

Nope, no questions. Just wanted to get a thank you in before the inundation gets in. Oh, and by the way--you are a braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaave girl. ;) I'll just kick back and watch your post count rise.

:D

Tom Johnson
09-11-2008, 02:51 AM
Thanks, Jennifer,
That's basically what I needed to know. Never having written a YA novel before, I didn't know if everything should be all sweet and sugar coated, or if we could have social classes in the world we make up.

"The Weed of Crime Bears Bitter Fruit!"

RLB
09-11-2008, 03:30 AM
Hey Jennifer!

I'm starting the process of querying an MG novel and had a few questions about this excerpt from your agency's website:


Please DO NOT query more than one agent at our agency. We will pass your work on if we feel it is better suited to another agent. Then, if an agent is interested in your work, she will contact you, and give you specific instructions about how to send your material. You are free to submit to other agencies at the same time, but it is a professional courtesy to let us know, up front, that yours is a multiple submission. We will contact you if we want to see additional material. Please enclose a contact phone number as well as your email address.


1) How often do agents in your agency forward queries to one another, and what would make one decide she isn't interested in seeing the manuscript but a coworker might be?

2) When it states it's a professional courtesy to inform the agent yours is a multiple submission, is it referring to the query stage, or further along when an agent might be reading a partial or full? If at the query stage, are you just looking for the line "I'm querying other agents"? I'd always assumed agents assumed writers were targeting more than one agent at once, but now I'm wondering if I should include this line in all my query letters.

3) Lastly, what is your agency's policy regarding exclusives? Is it something you request often, or no?

Jennifer_Laughran
09-11-2008, 08:26 AM
1) How often do agents in your agency forward queries to one another, and what would make one decide she isn't interested in seeing the manuscript but a coworker might be?

2) When it states it's a professional courtesy to inform the agent yours is a multiple submission, is it referring to the query stage, or further along when an agent might be reading a partial or full? If at the query stage, are you just looking for the line "I'm querying other agents"? I'd always assumed agents assumed writers were targeting more than one agent at once, but now I'm wondering if I should include this line in all my query letters.

3) Lastly, what is your agency's policy regarding exclusives? Is it something you request often, or no?

1) If I LIKE it, but it is just not "my thing" - but I think it will be more to another agent's taste, I'll pass it along. I can't give a number - sometimes a week will go by with only one or two mss making the rounds, sometimes there are many in a day. And I'm afraid I have no idea how many of those get picked up by the agent they are passed to.

2) A line at or towards the end of your query letter is fine. I do always assume that everyone queries several agents at once. I think that advice is a bit formal, and perhaps even old-fashioned. But hey, at least we are not using quill pens. Anymore.

3) I can only speak for myself, but I've never asked for an exclusive. I kinda think exclusives stink for authors. I can say that I am sure IF there was a reason to ask for exclusivity, none of us would expect it to be for long.

JennaGlatzer
09-11-2008, 08:39 AM
Dear Jennifer,

I love you.

Doing this qualifies you for sainthood in some religions.

That is all.

ink wench
09-11-2008, 04:17 PM
Hi Jennifer! Thank you so much for answering our questions.

I've come to the conclusion that a fantasy novel I finished this year is probably more suitable for YA than adult. So now I'm left with a 16-year-old main character who has a relationship with a 26-year-old character. In her culture, no one would bat an eye, but I'm not sure it would fly in our's. In your opinion, could I get away with that, or would it help if I changed her age to 17 and his to 23 or so?

Valona
09-11-2008, 06:59 PM
Hi Jennifer,

Glad to see you here. I have a good writer friend who is a client of the Andrea Brown Agency, and have a lot of respect for your agency.

The question I have concerns a YA sub-genre. Is there a market for what someone called my novel as a milieu love story? I hesitate to call it a romance. Let me explain. My novel is a love story set during the Vietnam War era. The war plays a minor role, but does shape the lives of the characters, as does the time frame, being the mid-1960s.

Can such a setting (mid-1960s) sell? Is there a way I can tweak a query to interest an agent in such a novel?

Jennifer_Laughran
09-11-2008, 07:29 PM
I've come to the conclusion that a fantasy novel I finished this year is probably more suitable for YA than adult. So now I'm left with a 16-year-old main character who has a relationship with a 26-year-old character. In her culture, no one would bat an eye, but I'm not sure it would fly in our's. In your opinion, could I get away with that, or would it help if I changed her age to 17 and his to 23 or so?


I am not sure that it really matters, if this is set in an other-worldly fantasy realm, plenty of fantasy books do have a 16-17 y.o. girl MC with an age-not-specified adult man. If he is a mentor, and they are just friends, with a frisson of romance and flirting, I wouldn't see a problem. But if they are meant to be equals and there is going to be sex, yeah, I can see that age difference being a turn-off to teen girls and alarming to their parents. Yes, 17 and 23 is less squicky. But why do you need to get specific with his age, anyway? How about 17 and 20-something?


I strongly suggest that you read the book GRACELING by Kristin Cashore (brand new from Harcourt). She has an older-teen girl protag and a 20-something male love interest, and it is HOT.

Jennifer_Laughran
09-11-2008, 07:43 PM
The question I have concerns a YA sub-genre. Is there a market for what someone called my novel as a milieu love story? I hesitate to call it a romance. Let me explain. My novel is a love story set during the Vietnam War era. The war plays a minor role, but does shape the lives of the characters, as does the time frame, being the mid-1960s.

Can such a setting (mid-1960s) sell? Is there a way I can tweak a query to interest an agent in such a novel?

Historicals are a bit of a tough sell. Not IMPOSSIBLE by any means, but tough. Romance, however, is going gangbusters at the moment. It is hard to say having not read the book, but for goodness' sake don't call it a "milieu love story", half your audience will stare blankly at you.

I would probably keep it simple and say pretty much what you said: It is a YA love story set during the Vietnam War era.

Then make the novel superb!

ink wench
09-11-2008, 07:51 PM
Thanks, Jennifer! The male's age become important at one point, but I might be able to work around it when I start editing. I will check your rec.

RLB
09-11-2008, 08:01 PM
Very helpful! Thanks for answering my questions!

Seaclusion
09-11-2008, 08:10 PM
Thanks for answering questions with such frankness. Your time and effort is greatly appreciated. Now if you represented thrillers.....

Richard

Valona
09-11-2008, 09:29 PM
Historicals are a bit of a tough sell. Not IMPOSSIBLE by any means, but tough. Romance, however, is going gangbusters at the moment. It is hard to say having not read the book, but for goodness' sake don't call it a "milieu love story", half your audience will stare blankly at you.

I would probably keep it simple and say pretty much what you said: It is a YA love story set during the Vietnam War era.

Then make the novel superb!
Thanks Jennifer. I appreciate your input. I wouldn't call it a romance either. I think there's a distinct difference between a romance novel and a love story.

sheadakota
09-11-2008, 09:46 PM
Hi Jennifer and thank you in advance for answering our questions.
I have a MC that is 14, but the story is told in first person from his adult self- Would this still be considered YA? A little violence (pg stuff) Mild swearing, no adult situations. I am not entirly sure how to query this book.

Thank you so much!

Jennifer_Laughran
09-11-2008, 09:58 PM
I have a MC that is 14, but the story is told in first person from his adult self- Would this still be considered YA? A little violence (pg stuff) Mild swearing, no adult situations. I am not entirly sure how to query this book.

This would be an excellent time for me to remind everyone, for the record, that these are just my opinions. Your mileage may vary. And, since I haven't read any of your books, it is hard to speak to specifics.

Like, in a general way, I think that an adult narrator makes the book an adult book. There may be a few exceptions to this rule. Perhaps your book is one of those exceptions. But part of what makes YA, YA, is that it is very immediate. In other words, a 14 year old living right now, rather than a 40 year old looking back on his childhood with all the knowledge and hindsight that time has given him.

That is why a book like PREP by Curtis Sittenfeld is an adult book, though it is almost entirely set in a prep school and is about teenagers -- because it is really about an adult looking back on her teenhood, and the voice and understanding is very different than it would have been from the teen's direct POV.

sheadakota
09-11-2008, 10:08 PM
Thank you so much, I was leaning a little toward the literary angle anyway, but was never sure. It's difficult to have have a cross genre book. I appreciate the advice and the time.

sissybaby
09-11-2008, 11:27 PM
It's wonderful that you are taking the time to answer our questions here. Thanks so much.

I know you aren't looking for picture books at the time, but hope you are inclined to answer my questions anyway.

I either read or was told that picture book authors should submit directly to a publisher rather than an agent. Is this the general consensus?

Maybe I misunderstood the context, but knowing the closed-door policy so many publishers have right now regarding unagented submissions, I'm curious as to how one would go about accomplishing this. But it has kept me from submitting my work to agents who represent picture book texts.

Jennifer_Laughran
09-12-2008, 12:01 AM
I either read or was told that picture book authors should submit directly to a publisher rather than an agent. Is this the general consensus?

Maybe I misunderstood the context, but knowing the closed-door policy so many publishers have right now regarding unagented submissions, I'm curious as to how one would go about accomplishing this.

Yes, some small and mid-sized publishers still accept picture books "over the transom." Get yourself a copy of the Children's Writers and Illustrator's Market, or put your research hat on, and look for publishers that accept unsolicited material. Then go to their websites, look up their submission guidelines, and follow them to the letter.

Chronicle, Tricycle, Marshall Cavendish and Charlesbridge are reputable publishers that leap immediately to mind, though I know there are many others.

Do keep in mind that you will probably be read faster and get a better deal with an agent -- but it is hard to get an agent based solely on picture books, and you don't NEED one if you are only doing picture books.

Good luck!

sissybaby
09-12-2008, 01:59 AM
Thanks so much for your response.

Unfortunately, I'm not writing just picture books. And that leads to my next question, if I'm allowed another shot here.

I've written a YA novel, and am working on a very light MG fantasy. With the help of the awesom folks here I wrote a query that has resulted in multiple requests for fulls and partials. I just sent another full out today by post.

But I keep getting rejections after this point. Should I rethink my whole ms. and start over with something different, or keep plugging agents as is?

I know there could be a million reasons why I'm being rejected, but my query should be reflecting my writing style and the subject, so I haven't been able to figure it out.

Jennifer_Laughran
09-12-2008, 02:45 AM
I wrote a query that has resulted in multiple requests for fulls and partials. I just sent another full out today by post.

But I keep getting rejections after this point. Should I rethink my whole ms. and start over with something different, or keep plugging agents as is?


I don't know. Have you gotten any feedback with the rejections? It seems to me that one of these is your problem:

1) You are targeting the wrong agents.

2) Your pages are not living up to the promise of the query letter, ie, you need to revise your manuscript.

3) Your query letter is not delivering the right message, for whatever reason, ie, you need to revise the way you are pitching the project.

Very likely it is some combo of the three. If you have had nothing but form rejections, with no feedback that might be useful, I would suggest you stop submitting for a while, take a break from it (write something else!), and come back to it later with "fresh eyes". It could be that the problem will be very obvious to you once you have a bit of perspective.

Madisonwrites
09-12-2008, 02:48 AM
I have a 51,000 word YA fantasy that I am completing and have actually thought that one of the agents at Andrea Brown Literary might be a good fit. I am currently in the process of trying to write an enticing query letter that fits your agency's guidelines. Just so I know before I submit, what is your agency currently looking for at this time? As I said, my work is a YA fantasy, but if you don't want that then you'll have one less query to read! :D

sissybaby
09-12-2008, 03:29 AM
Thank you so very much, Jennifer, for the opportunity you have afforded everyone here!

Several of my rejections of the full was that they liked the writing, loved the premise, but just weren't passionate enough about it in today's competitive market. Maybe that's a standard form, I'm not sure.

But I'm taking your advice and moving on. Could just be a matter of wrong place, wrong time.

Thank you again for devoting your time to this board. I'll let others have a chance, now, but I will be lurking in the background!

Jennifer_Laughran
09-12-2008, 03:48 AM
just so I know before I submit, what is your agency currently looking for at this time?

Go to www.andreabrownlit.com and look up our bios. We are all very specific about what we like.

Good luck!

natsplat
09-13-2008, 12:47 PM
Hi Jennifer,

You are legendary for giving up your time to offer your advice and opinions. Thanks heaps.
I have a question about picture books. I have written a children's picture book (Toddlers/First Time Readers). It is in English and Maori (New Zealand) and the English words make the Maori words clear, to teach children some basic Maori. Someone has suggested on AW that there have been other books similar in English/Spanish and the like. If I think my book has this as a selling point do I mention this in my query letters or is it for further down the track? And would it be me that submitted the other languages or do they have people that do that stuff?

I am incredibly new to the industry, although my questions may have already screamed this to you!!!!

Thanks again for your time..

Nat

Rolling Thunder
09-13-2008, 05:36 PM
Hi, Jennifer!

I currently have a WIP I am rewriting. Basically, I'm tightening up the plot and defining the characters a bit more. I had queried a few agents last year and had one request for a full, which the agent decided to pass on. The reason given was the story wasn't fast enough so I've pared the story from 105k words to just over 85k. The story revolves around a makeshift family of farm cats, unusual cats with special traits; one can see the future; one can heal by touch; one can assume human form. This isn't particularly a high concept story but it is a blend of science fiction and fantasy. The premise is similar to Professor McGonegal in the HP series, except in reverse; the cats are distinctly animals, they know they are cats but are capable of understanding (and in one case) achieving the human condition.

My questions: am I wasting my time with the 'animal characterization' as a salable format? If not, would this type of story be more appropriately targeted towards MG?

caromora
09-13-2008, 09:18 PM
Hi, Jennifer. Thanks for answering questions here. I've enjoyed your posts over at the Blue Boards for a while now. :)

My question is about a particular situation. I queried an agent in January, got a request for a partial and sent it along. The agent in question is known to respond very quickly to everyone, whether it's a yes or a no, but I never heard back. I sent a status query in May but didn't get a reply to that, either. At that point, I just moved on.

I'm almost ready to query a new project now, and would like to query the same agent. Should I mention that she still has a partial of the other book? Should I wait a while longer? Strike her from my list? Just not mention the other book at all? I'm leaning toward the last option, but I don't want to overstep and have her thinking, "Why is this person querying me again when I haven't even responded to her last partial yet?"

I realize I'm probably overthinking the situation (the query process has made me neurotic, I'm convinced), but any advice you can give me would be fantastic. Thanks so much! (And sorry for rambling.)

MsJudy
09-13-2008, 09:33 PM
Welcome to AW!

I've been to the Big Sur Children's workshop two years running, and I really, really, really appreciate all your agency does to foster beginning writers. (Anybody else reading this post: You really should go. It's intense and exciting and you learn an awful lot. And spend a lot of money in town while you're there, to help them recover from a massive fire this past summer...)

Anyway....

My writing targets third and fourth-grade readers. Humorous fantasy of about 20K, similar in length and reading level to DRAGON SLAYER'S ACADEMY or TIME WARP TRIO or SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES. Definitely longer and a bit harder to read than what I would consider a chapter book. Yet when I refer to my books as Middle Grade, people seem to expect longer, more complicated stories along the lines of GREGOR THE OVERLANDER or THE LIGHTNING THIEF. So I've taken to calling it "early middle grade."

What do you think, is there a better way to make it clear the age I'm targeting?

Thanks,
Judy

MsJudy
09-13-2008, 09:38 PM
Separate question--

About querying only one agent at your agency--

Since querying one agent, I have revised both the query and the opening chapters, so the only familiar thing another agent would be seeing is the title. And of course I believe the new versions are much better and might have a good chance of earning me a request to see more of the book. (At least they have from another agent, but ABLA is still my first choice because of my experiences at Big Sur.) Is that acceptable? Of should I just move on and not query ABLA again until my next book is ready?

Jennifer_Laughran
09-13-2008, 11:48 PM
I have written a children's picture book (Toddlers/First Time Readers). It is in English and Maori (New Zealand) and the English words make the Maori words clear, to teach children some basic Maori. Someone has suggested on AW that there have been other books similar in English/Spanish and the like. If I think my book has this as a selling point do I mention this in my query letters or is it for further down the track? And would it be me that submitted the other languages or do they have people that do that stuff?


Well, first thing you need to do is go to the library or bookstore and read lots of picture books, especially bilingual ones. Yes, there are a LOT (in the USA, at least) of English/Spanish ones. Some are English Text / Same Text in Spanish, but there are definitely other ones that are English Text with words sprinkled in of Spanish, that you deduce the meaning from the context (and there is generally a glossary as well). Lovely examples: ABUELA by Arthur Dorros and LOS GATOS BLACK ON HALLOWEEN by Marisa Montes.

So get as many different ones as you can, so you can see how other people have done it. I suggest you ask your bookseller or librarian for help in this regard.

Secondly -- Without reading it, I have to say that is probably one of THE selling points. YES you mention it. But be aware that this will have limited appeal outside of Australia & New Zealand.

Thirdly -- Wait, are you saying that you don't know the Maori words? If you know the words, why wouldn't you put them in? If you DON'T know the words, why are you writing the book this way? Your job is to submit the text as you expect it to be published (and there will probably be changes and revisions along the way). Now, if the publisher decides that people in CHINA need to hear this story, they will get a translator. But the Maori words -- that is kinda the point of your book, right?

Jennifer_Laughran
09-14-2008, 12:10 AM
I had queried a few agents last year and had one request for a full, which the agent decided to pass on. The reason given was the story wasn't fast enough so I've pared the story from 105k words to just over 85k.

YAY! I love to hear about people making things shorter.


The story revolves around a makeshift family of farm cats, unusual cats with special traits; one can see the future; one can heal by touch; one can assume human form. This isn't particularly a high concept story but it is a blend of science fiction and fantasy.

Are you kidding? X-Cats? Sounds pretty high-concept to me. Have you read the WARRIORS series? It is about tribes of feral cats that are -- well, Warriors! It is one of the most popular series for middle grades.

NEVER say your book isn't high concept. Never say that it is, either - let the concept speak for itself. THIS, right here, was a fine way to pitch it: "________ is a high-action Fantasy about a makeshift family of farm cats, unusual cats with special traits: one can see the future; one can heal by touch; one can assume human form"

People who don't like animal stories won't want to read it, but there are plenty people who DO like them.


My questions: am I wasting my time with the 'animal characterization' as a salable format? If not, would this type of story be more appropriately targeted towards MG?

I am not sure that I understand what you mean by "format". "Format", to me, means the kind/style of actual book it is. Like, Picture Books are a format. Board Books are a format. Graphic Novels are a format. This is a regular novel, yes? And "animal characterization" seems pretty important if the main characters are animals.

Are you asking me if you should scrap the story entirely, or make it MG? Well, I can't say cause I haven't read it, but I can tell you that animal stories are usually geared towards MG, yep. Again, I'd look at WARRIORS and perhaps GUARDIANS OF GA'HOOLE (about Magic Owls).

Jennifer_Laughran
09-14-2008, 12:18 AM
My question is about a particular situation. I queried an agent in January, got a request for a partial and sent it along. The agent in question is known to respond very quickly to everyone, whether it's a yes or a no, but I never heard back. I sent a status query in May but didn't get a reply to that, either. At that point, I just moved on.... I'm almost ready to query a new project now, and would like to query the same agent. Should I mention that she still has a partial of the other book? Should I wait a while longer? Strike her from my list? Just not mention the other book at all?


I, personally, would assume that it is a no. If I'd done all my homework and I really, truly thought the agent would be a great fit, I'd try again fresh with the next book, mentioning nothing about the first book. But that is just what I think.

I would also be sure to have lots of OTHER agents on my list, though!

Jennifer_Laughran
09-14-2008, 12:27 AM
My writing targets third and fourth-grade readers. Humorous fantasy of about 20K, similar in length and reading level to DRAGON SLAYER'S ACADEMY or TIME WARP TRIO or SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES. Definitely longer and a bit harder to read than what I would consider a chapter book... I've taken to calling it "early middle grade."

That is just right. Early Middle Grade. Perfect for reluctant readers. Sounds great. You have done your homework!



Separate question--

About querying only one agent at your agency--

Since querying one agent, I have revised both the query and the opening chapters, so the only familiar thing another agent would be seeing is the title. And of course I believe the new versions are much better... Is that acceptable? Of should I just move on and not query ABLA again until my next book is ready?

That rule really exists so that people don't spam us, send a query to all of us, or go one-after-the-other with the same material. If you have made substantive revisions that make the chapters truly different, sure, try again with another agent. And if THAT doesn't work, then wait until the next ms.

Good luck, and hope to see you in Big Sur! :-)

Seaclusion
09-14-2008, 12:56 AM
Once again, thanks for your detailed answers to questions. Although I do not write YA I have already learned a lot from your replies. Your time and expertise is greatly appreciated.

Richard

czjaba
09-14-2008, 01:02 AM
Jennifer, thank you for taking the time to answer questions.

What is your opinion about sending the first page of the ms along with the query letter pasted into the body of the email?

Jennifer_Laughran
09-14-2008, 01:08 AM
What is your opinion about sending the first page of the ms along with the query letter pasted into the body of the email?

Every agency has a different policy on this. I always want to see pages. Our submission guidelines ask for the first 10 pages pasted into the body of the email, and I usually just delete queries that don't follow the directions.

bethany
09-14-2008, 02:08 AM
Hi Jennifer! Welcome to AW!

I don't know if you remember but you and I were part of a discussion (on the Blue Boards :))about linking to independent bookstores (as well as Amazon) on author websites. Anyway, it turns out we have one independent left in my town and they are doing a book signing and selling books at my release party!

Also when I update my website to include the amazon link I will be sure to link to an independent too!

Thanks for sharing your expertise (on both sites). I've learned a lot about independent book stores since then!

Jennifer_Laughran
09-14-2008, 05:33 AM
I don't know if you remember but you and I were part of a discussion (on the Blue Boards :))about linking to independent bookstores (as well as Amazon) on author websites. Anyway, it turns out we have one independent left in my town and they are doing a book signing and selling books at my release party!

Also when I update my website to include the amazon link I will be sure to link to an independent too!

Thanks for sharing your expertise (on both sites). I've learned a lot about independent book stores since then!


Of course I remember. Congrats on your book release, Bethany! :-)

natsplat
09-14-2008, 11:11 AM
Wait, are you saying that you don't know the Maori words? If you know the words, why wouldn't you put them in? If you DON'T know the words, why are you writing the book this way? Your job is to submit the text as you expect it to be published (and there will probably be changes and revisions along the way). Now, if the publisher decides that people in CHINA need to hear this story, they will get a translator. But the Maori words -- that is kinda the point of your book, right?

Firstly, thank you for mentioning those books, I shall head to my library tomorrow!!!!

Secondly, I haven't explained very well at all!! The book is aimed at English speakers who want to learn a few Maori nouns, in this case parts of the body. The nouns are made clear by the verbs that precede them, eg. clap your ringaringa, stamp your waewae. I was thinking if the Maori nouns were substituted for other languages but the rest of the text was still in English, so for Spanish: clap your mano, stamp your ple. (not even sure if I got those correct either, as I just had a quick look online!!) So it would read as English/Spanish, or English/any other language. I wondered if I should research the translation because it would only be the nouns? Or are all translations done by the publishers no matter how small? Obviously like you say Maori is a very location specific language so has a limited market, so that's why I got to thinking about the other language options, but not for the whole text...

Thanks again for your time,

Nat

Jennifer_Laughran
09-14-2008, 09:48 PM
Secondly, I haven't explained very well at all!! The book is aimed at English speakers who want to learn a few Maori nouns, in this case parts of the body. The nouns are made clear by the verbs that precede them, eg. clap your ringaringa, stamp your waewae. I was thinking if the Maori nouns were substituted for other languages but the rest of the text was still in English, so for Spanish: clap your mano, stamp your ple. (not even sure if I got those correct either, as I just had a quick look online!!) So it would read as English/Spanish, or English/any other language. I wondered if I should research the translation because it would only be the nouns? Or are all translations done by the publishers no matter how small? Obviously like you say Maori is a very location specific language so has a limited market, so that's why I got to thinking about the other language options, but not for the whole text...


OK. I don't know. Sounds like I misunderstood the first time round, as the advice I gave you was for picture books (with stories), but I see now you are talking about a concept book, which is usually a board book for little toddlers. I don't know much about these earliest books, sorry.

I do know that there are bilingual concept books, as well -- though I get the impression that many of these books are generated by the publishers themselves, or are work-for-hire, rather than subbed by an author or agent like a story would be. Again, though, that is my very limited experience talking.

Good luck!

AdamH
09-14-2008, 11:02 PM
Hey Jennifer, great advice so far! I'll definitely be using some of it to apply to my own writing.

My question may not necessarily apply to you but I'd like to ask it just in case:

What kind of advice can you give someone (i.e. me) who's going to be pitching a publisher in person in a couple weeks? As in, if I only had 5 minutes to sell my story, what should I focus on?

There's this writer's festival going on in town called "Word on the Street" where there's going to be a meeting of local publishers willing to sit and listen to writers and offer feedback in a public forum. Sometimes this results in some interest by the publisher but most times it's a learning experience.

I want to be the most prepared I can be going in.

As a little background, my novel (est 18K words) is a Holiday children's adventure about an elf (called the Sock King) who steals Christmas stockings and an adventure of two children and their cat as they try to stop this elf and save Christmas for everyone. Think "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" mixed with the Jim Hensen's Labyrinth but about Christmas stockings. ...if that helps.

Kirby
09-15-2008, 07:48 PM
Thank you, Ms. Laughran for answering questions. Mine is on word count. MS Word 2007 says that my YA manuscript is 79,000 words. On another writers forum, a contributing editor says to NOT use MS Word to count words. He said to use Courier New 12 pt font with one-inch margins. Once you have a page count take that number and multiply it by 250. If that's the case, my 394-page manuscript is actually 98,500 words. What word count do you recommend to use?

livingthedream
09-15-2008, 08:04 PM
Dear Ms. Laughran:

On the agency website it says that you like magical-realism and reality-based fantasy. I was wondering if the children's book I've written would fall under one of these categories. In my story Samantha, a clumsy witch, finds out about a plot that could possibly destroy her school and the world. Samantha and her best friend set out to solve the mystery. Along the way, they battle creatures such as assassin vines, dragons, giants, elves, and a sphinx. I was wondering if this story would be considered magical-realism or fantasy? I thought I would ask before I sent a query to you. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule for our questions.

Jennifer_Laughran
09-15-2008, 08:11 PM
On the agency website it says that you like magical-realism and reality-based fantasy.

Nope, it sure doesn't - - I am not usually a big fan of magical realism. That is one of my colleagues, also named Jennifer.

livingthedream
09-15-2008, 08:39 PM
Dear Ms. Laughran:

I am so sorry about that! I did read the wrong bio. Thank you for being so nice about the misunderstanding.

Jennifer_Laughran
09-16-2008, 02:52 AM
Thank you, Ms. Laughran for answering questions. Mine is on word count. MS Word 2007 says that my YA manuscript is 79,000 words. On another writers forum, a contributing editor says to NOT use MS Word to count words. He said to use Courier New 12 pt font with one-inch margins. Once you have a page count take that number and multiply it by 250. If that's the case, my 394-page manuscript is actually 98,500 words. What word count do you recommend to use?


I might be off-base, but I think the MS Word number is fine. I have always used that when sending things to editors, and nobody has ever called me out on it. I mean, it is a computer, that is the exact number of words, right? Whereas the 250 per page way is an approximation, and is the way word count was calculated when people wrote on typewriters.

That said, I would much rather authors stop thinking so hard about the number of words they have, and concentrate instead on the quality of the words they have.

Jennifer_Laughran
09-16-2008, 03:23 AM
What kind of advice can you give someone (i.e. me) who's going to be pitching a publisher in person in a couple weeks? As in, if I only had 5 minutes to sell my story, what should I focus on?


Hey Adam. I would just be personable and engaging. If it is one-on-one, make this an opportunity to chat with an editor as a person, find out what they like and what they want, not just "pitch" to them. If it is one of those awful things where you have to get up in a group of people and "pitch", well, keep it short and sweet. If I were doing it (with random occupations, etc, plugged in)

* I would introduce myself BRIEFLY: "Hi there, I'm Adam Somebody, I'm an author of books for children and young adults, as well as a 7th-grade teacher and director of a children's theatre in Scottsdale."

* What the story is: "I've written a Holiday children's adventure about an elf called the Sock King who steals Christmas stockings. Two children and their cat go on a mission to stop the dreaded Sock King and save Christmas for everyone. "

* Comprables: "SOCK KING AND THE KIDS WHO RESCUED X-MAS" has the sweet weirdness of Suess's GRINCH mixed with a healthy dose of subversive wit a la Tim Burton's "Nightmare Before Christmas" (I'd leave out LABYRINTH, because it might just make people start thinking about David Bowie's crotch)

* Audience: "This picture book will appeal to children aged 4-7" (never say "everyone!")

* Anything special we need to know: "Though this is a holiday story, I've also completed further funny adventures of Sock King that will have year-round appeal, such as SOCK KING AND THE DRYER-SHEET MYSTERY and SOCK KING AND THE CASE OF THE EXTRA-STINKY LOCKER. I'd be pleased to show you any of these manuscripts if you are interested."

Kirby
09-16-2008, 04:49 AM
I might be off-base, but I think the MS Word number is fine. I have always used that when sending things to editors, and nobody has ever called me out on it. I mean, it is a computer, that is the exact number of words, right? Whereas the 250 per page way is an approximation, and is the way word count was calculated when people wrote on typewriters.

That said, I would much rather authors stop thinking so hard about the number of words they have, and concentrate instead on the quality of the words they have.

Thank you, Ms. Laughran. Actually, I wasn't thinking so hard about it. I had seen it brought up on another site and since I'm in the process of locating the elusive agent, I thought I should ask. Thank you for your help.

Round John Virgin
09-16-2008, 06:38 AM
Hello, Jennifer. Do you have strong feelings one way or the other about the use of a loose diary format for a YA novel? I'm working on a story about a pair of Army brats, a boy of 15 and his 12-year-old sister. At the outset the girl has vanished from her on-post school. The boy is the narrator and ultimately will solve the girl's disappearance. Only about half the chapters are written as dated journal entries in which the boy--on the advice of his high school guidance counselor--works through his feelings about the case, and also about his mother's death and his father's remarriage. But like the other chapters (which are all narrated in first person from the boy's POV), they contain plenty of dialogue and character interaction.
Can this semi-diary format be successful, or would I be better off simply using a straight first-person narrative? (Truth be told, I probably went with the diary device for the world's worst reason: I liked the sound of my working title, Diary of a Demonical Freak--"demonical freak" being an anagram for the boy's name, Frankie MacLeod.)
Thank you for any insights you can provide--and for being brave enough to start this thread!

Darzian
09-16-2008, 09:55 AM
Hi Jennifer!:welcome:

Thanks for being here! I'd just like a quick answer if you have the time.

When a publisher accepts a book you are representing (eg. YA approx 80K words), what would be the time interval from the day of acceptance by publisher and the day when the book appears on bookshelves?

Thanks so much!

Jennifer_Laughran
09-16-2008, 07:20 PM
Can this semi-diary format be successful, or would I be better off simply using a straight first-person narrative?

People are always talking about how "the diary novel is dead!"

Diary novels get published every year.

Me, I like them the same as I like anything -- great when they are well done, lousy when they aren't. The one thing is, it is hard to "zoom out" when you have a diary novel. The whole thing is, by nature, "in the head" of the main character. So that main character had BETTER be totally compelling and interesting to hang out with!

Jennifer_Laughran
09-16-2008, 07:27 PM
When a publisher accepts a book you are representing, what would be the time interval from the day of acceptance by publisher and the day when the book appears on bookshelves?


This month I've sold a book that will release in Fall '09, a book that will release in Summer 10, and a book that will release in Spring '11. Anywhere from one to three years, with one-and-a-half being average, though it could be pushed up dramatically if the book is timely (ie, if you wrote a tell-all book about Sarah Palin, it could probably be out in less than two weeks).

So, "it depends" is the answer. Depends on the publisher's schedule - they can only publish X number of books per season. They don't want to publish books during the same season that might compete with each other. Some books take longer to revise than others. Some books take longer to design than others. Etc, etc.

Round John Virgin
09-16-2008, 07:53 PM
Thanks, Jennifer!

AdamH
09-16-2008, 08:48 PM
(I'd leave out LABYRINTH, because it might just make people start thinking about David Bowie's crotch)



First off, thanks for the info. It puts everything into perspective of what I need to say. And er...not to say...

Secondly....EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

:ROFL: (but mostly...ew!)

sissybaby
09-16-2008, 09:17 PM
Jennifer - at the risk of being accused of hogging the board, I did have another question I'd like to ask you.

I know picture books should usually be fun, but is there any market for therapeutic picture books? I have been considering submitting a story I wrote for my autistic son when his grandfather passed, to help him see that his feelings were valid and that he wasn't weird or bad for being so angry.

I just don't want to waste the time in pursuing it if there is no market. It will always be special for us, whether the world shares it or not.

Thanks for all your great responses here and throughout the boards. Really appreciate you for taking the time.

Madisonwrites
09-17-2008, 12:27 AM
Ms. Laughran,

I have a YA fantasy mss. that is app. 51K. Most of my research indicates that fantasy tends to have a longer word count than most genres. I know my story is just above short for a YA novel, but because it is fantasy, would you be turned off because of the shorter word count?

Thank you for your time!

longoverdue
09-17-2008, 12:53 AM
Jennifer~
I'm wondering about the marketability of adventure/mystery series books for MG readers similar to the Gordon Korman "Chasing the Falconers" or the Spy X series, if you're familiar with those books.
Thanks for taking so much time with AW! :Hail:

Jennifer_Laughran
09-17-2008, 04:17 AM
I know picture books should usually be fun, but is there any market for therapeutic picture books?

A very very small, hard to break into market, usually put out by educational / institutional publishers, rather than regular trade publishers.

There are a few examples of absolutely superb "therapeutic" picture books - Molly Bang's WHEN SOPHIE GETS ANGRY...REALLY, REALLY ANGRY is an awesome book about anger management, and MICHAEL ROSEN'S SAD BOOK is potentially one of the most moving books about grief I've ever read. But for the most part, the books in this section of the bookstore are a bit on the schlocky side. And most are either work-for-hire, or small independent presses that you don't need an agent for.

Jennifer_Laughran
09-17-2008, 04:26 AM
I have a YA fantasy mss. that is app. 51K. Most of my research indicates that fantasy tends to have a longer word count than most genres. I know my story is just above short for a YA novel, but because it is fantasy, would you be turned off because of the shorter word count?



51k seems a touch on the short side for a typical YA fantasy.

Then again, personally, I really don't care about word count, I care that you take as many or as few words as it takes to tell the story properly.

Jennifer_Laughran
09-17-2008, 04:27 AM
I'm wondering about the marketability of adventure/mystery series books for MG readers similar to the Gordon Korman "Chasing the Falconers" or the Spy X series, if you're familiar with those books.


I am not familiar with those books in particular, but I think there is always a market for fun Alex-Rider-like, high-action thrillers for boys.

rljude
09-17-2008, 04:56 AM
Hello Jennifer,

First a big THANK YOU for taking the time to respond to all our questions. Huge commitment on your part, but much appreciated.

Your opinion please on the marketability of a middle grade novel - possible series - that takes three kids (two girls, one boy) on learning adventures. Taking a concept/subject they are learning in school and putting that right into the story with possibly a fantasy slant to make it interesting....like learning about the ocean by having an adventure there with the creatures of the sea as their teachers.

Thanks for your thoughts.
Rosa

C.bronco
09-17-2008, 05:07 AM
Hello Jennifer,
I'm so glad that you are sharing with us here! I noticed that you listed graphic novels on your Publisher's Marketplace page. What do prefer in a graphic novel query?

I plan to send a query, synopsis and the first ten illustrated pages. Am I on track?

Thank you!

Jennifer_Laughran
09-17-2008, 05:42 AM
Your opinion please on the marketability of a middle grade novel - possible series - that takes three kids (two girls, one boy) on learning adventures. Taking a concept/subject they are learning in school and putting that right into the story with possibly a fantasy slant to make it interesting....like learning about the ocean by having an adventure there with the creatures of the sea as their teachers.


This doesn't sound like fodder for a MIDDLE GRADE NOVEL. More like a chapter book (a la "Andrew Lost" series, about kids that shrink and go on funny science adventures). But having not seen your book, I could be totally wrong.

In any case, I do suggest you look up other "learning adventure" books to see if you are treading old ground or not.

Jennifer_Laughran
09-17-2008, 05:44 AM
I'm so glad that you are sharing with us here! I noticed that you listed graphic novels on your Publisher's Marketplace page. What do prefer in a graphic novel query?

I plan to send a query, synopsis and the first ten illustrated pages. Am I on track?

You know what? Nobody has ever actually SENT me a graphic novel query. But that sounds about right.

C.bronco
09-17-2008, 06:25 AM
Thank you!
You will be hearing from me by the end of October. I have a fantastic illustrator who is churning out pages as we speak.
:)

scope
09-17-2008, 07:42 AM
Hi Jennifer,

Some who post here and on other sites ask "what's the most quality you--a writer--seeks in an agent." While I believe some qualities are more important than others, I don't think one single quality is an answer. I think it's probably about 10 or so qualities. I'm interested in your take on this, and ask if you would post the qualities you believe an agent (and agency) should displsy for a writer to seek out.

Thanks.

Jennifer_Laughran
09-17-2008, 09:08 AM
Some who post here and on other sites ask "what's the most quality you--a writer--seeks in an agent." ... I'm interested in your take on this, and ask if you would post the qualities you believe an agent (and agency) should displsy for a writer to seek out.



I'd make a list of all the things an agent might be, and rank them according to which you value most. Here are some categories I can think of off the top of my head, though I am sure I am missing some:

1. Cuddly / Hand-holding
2. Market knowledge
3. Connections in the industry
4. Well-known agency
5. Experience agenting
6. Energy / Time for clients
7. Open communication
8. Lives in NYC
9. Track record of sales


Now for me, I am NOT a cuddly hand-holder. I have been an agent for less than a year. And I don't live in NYC.

However, I have a lot of market knowledge and connections in the industry, I am with a very well-known agency, I am new so I have energy/time for my clients, I place a high premium on good communication, and I have sold a good number of books so far (though my career history is not long).

So I'd be a great agent for some people -- but not a great fit for others. You have to decide what is important to YOU!

Darzian
09-17-2008, 05:47 PM
I hope you aren't sick of all the thank yous because I'm going to say it too!

Thanks a lot!

lakotagirl
09-17-2008, 05:52 PM
I am currently rewriting my (MG) WIP. It will probably be a couple of months before I get it back from my betas and complete the final fixes.

I couldn't help starting a second novel right away but have finished a couple of short stories too. I tend to love getting lost in a novel so have a lot more fun writing them.

My question is:

Before I get lost in the new novel should I be concentrating on getting a few of the short stories published so I can claim publishing credits in my query letter? Do you pay any more attention to a query letter when the writer has previously published short stories?

Thanks so much!

scope
09-17-2008, 09:22 PM
Thank you for the informative list and the addendum as it applies to you. For what it's worth, I agree with everything you said.

Teriann
09-18-2008, 02:04 AM
Hi Jennifer: I'm curious about the life of an agent. What do you find most difficult? Is there an aspect that might cause burn-out? What do you think makes an agent successful or unsuccessful? I'm struck by how young so many successful agents are. My guess is that new agents either "succeed" fairly quickly and eventually have their stable of writers, or they leave the business.

Reading agents webpages and blogs and interviews, I always get a rosy picture -- "I LOVE my job! I LOVE writers!" Is there a negative side, other than the usual -- the discomfort of giving rejections and dealing with rejection.

I went through a sales training once. Is agenting like that?

Jennifer_Laughran
09-18-2008, 05:34 AM
Before I get lost in the new novel should I be concentrating on getting a few of the short stories published so I can claim publishing credits in my query letter? Do you pay any more attention to a query letter when the writer has previously published short stories?


This is just my personal opinion, OK, so don't take it as gospel. But for me, short story writing and novel writing seem like two different skills. I really don't care AT ALL if you have short stories published, unless you are actually famous for them, have them published in the New Yorker, and have volumes of them put out by Random House. I would, for example, care if you happen to be a short story writer like Alice Munro or John Cheever or David Sedaris or James Thurber. I do NOT care if you have a story in Cricket Magazine.

The only publication credits that matter to ME are novels -- but many (if not most) of my clients are debut authors who have no publication credits at all.

Ken
09-18-2008, 03:11 PM
hi Jennifer :-)

A children's picture book has begun to materialize on my PC.
Was wondering if some of the stuff in it would fly with editors.
It centers around a young girl's revulsion to boys, which is typical to her age bracket (Too stereotypical?) and a comical step she takes to ward off future interactions with them.

Just got to thinking this morn that I might also have her take similar steps to ward off hypothetical advances from girls, which would be a reference to same-sex relationships.
I suppose this would be acceptable in theory, but would this impair its marketablity?

Thanks for any feedback.

lakotagirl
09-18-2008, 04:07 PM
Thanks so much.

brittanimae
09-19-2008, 11:38 PM
Hi Jennifer,

It's wonderful to have an agent who represents juvenile literature here! Thanks.

A couple of questions:
I've asked before but have never gotten a definitive answer (maybe there isn't one): What is the preferred format for submitting picture books? For the most part I've heard that they should be formatted just like anything else, but on the other hand suppose you have an important page turn in the middle of a sentence (for surprise effect) or something? How much is too much in the way of layout?

Second (if I can be broad here), what is the current market for chapter books like? What is selling, and what isn't?

Jennifer_Laughran
09-20-2008, 10:45 PM
I'm curious about the life of an agent. What do you find most difficult? Is there an aspect that might cause burn-out? What do you think makes an agent successful or unsuccessful? I'm struck by how young so many successful agents are. My guess is that new agents either "succeed" fairly quickly and eventually have their stable of writers, or they leave the business.

Reading agents webpages and blogs and interviews, I always get a rosy picture -- "I LOVE my job! I LOVE writers!" Is there a negative side, other than the usual -- the discomfort of giving rejections and dealing with rejection.

I went through a sales training once. Is agenting like that?

For myself, the most difficult thing is that I only have so many hours in the day, and nobody has really invented a time-turner. Since taking care of my current clients is very much my priority, that means I don't get to read new stuff nearly as much, or as quickly, as I might like. If you query me, you might notice that I return your email at 1:30 am on a weekday, or 8:am on a Sunday, or some other ridiculous hour -- well, that's because normal business hours are generally for clients and editors.

I guess I would be one of those that people would call "young", but I have been in the book industry my whole life and have a ton of relevent experience, more than many people much older than me -- so, I guess I don't consider myself particularly young. Most agents I know may be young, but have also either been in the book industry in some capacity for years or have multiple university degrees or both. I think this is a job that favors people with a lot of energy.

I do love my job, and I do love my authors. I am not usually bothered by giving or getting rejections, that's the way of the world. I AM bothered when I really really like something, but I have to reject it anyway -- because the question isn't just "do I like it" it is "can I sell it".

Jennifer_Laughran
09-20-2008, 10:59 PM
It centers around a young girl's revulsion to boys, which is typical to her age bracket (Too stereotypical?) and a comical step she takes to ward off future interactions with them.

Just got to thinking this morn that I might also have her take similar steps to ward off hypothetical advances from girls, which would be a reference to same-sex relationships.
I suppose this would be acceptable in theory, but would this impair its marketablity?


Impossible for me to say, since I haven't seen it. But from what you describe, it sounds a little odd. This little girl wouldn't be warding off "hypothetical advances" from girls -- she'd be warding off friends. Most 4-7 year olds don't spend a lot of time cruising each other. So, she's just a loner who doesn't want friends? Why? Just a misanthrope? OK, but I don't see that having anything to do with same-sex relationships.

I suppose I have misunderstood the concept. But this advice is universal: Just write a darn good book, and worry about its "marketability" later.

Jennifer_Laughran
09-20-2008, 11:10 PM
I've asked before but have never gotten a definitive answer (maybe there isn't one): What is the preferred format for submitting picture books? For the most part I've heard that they should be formatted just like anything else, but on the other hand suppose you have an important page turn in the middle of a sentence (for surprise effect) or something?

Plain text, just like anything else. Kinda like poetry, in a way.

If it is broken into rhyming lines, write it like that. If you have an important page turn in the middle of a sentence --

-- make that a new paragraph!

Whatever you do, do NOT paginate the text (ie, make it 32 pages with two lines on each). And illustration notes are frowned upon -- if there is an image that absolutely MUST exist for the story to make sense, you can add a note in italics. Agents and editors read a lot of picture books with no pictures and we are very very adept at using our own vivid imaginations to fill in the blanks.


Second (if I can be broad here), what is the current market for chapter books like? What is selling, and what isn't?

This is a bit broad. I say you take a look at Publisher's Marketplace. :)

Karen Duvall
09-21-2008, 12:35 AM
Thanks for being here at AW! It's very generous of you to donate your time and expertise.

I have a marketability question. I'm agented and have a rough draft completed of a YA paranormal mystery, but my agent and I are currently focused on marketing my adult books. I thought I'd ask my question here in case other AWers might be interested in your answer.

One way to describe my YA book is to say it's Nancy Drew meets The Ghost Whisperer. So it's not really "fantasy," but it's not a straight mystery, either. It involves four teenage girls and a treasure hunt, and is set in Hawaii. Is there much of a market for a book like this? A mystery with cross genre elements for teens?

Thanks so much!

Jennifer_Laughran
09-21-2008, 09:56 PM
One way to describe my YA book is to say it's Nancy Drew meets The Ghost Whisperer. So it's not really "fantasy," but it's not a straight mystery, either. It involves four teenage girls and a treasure hunt, and is set in Hawaii. Is there much of a market for a book like this? A mystery with cross genre elements for teens?



Depends. Is it any good?

There is always a market for compelling and well-written. Certainly there are editors, and teenagers, who like paranormal mysteries. Go to the bookstore, see what's out there, and figure out how this story is similar and how it differentiates itself.

I will say, if it is truly YA, I would suggest you find a slightly better way to describe it. From THIS description I would think it was MG, and a bit like that one Brady Bunch episode with the Evil Tiki...

Karen Duvall
09-21-2008, 10:09 PM
Thanks, Jennifer. My description is pretty simplistic, true. The story's kind of dark, though, so I wouldn't call it MG. Is it good? For teenagers, yes. For adults, maybe not. Anyway, I was only curious about the market. My adult urban fantasies are my primary focus right now and the YA was a side trip for my muse. I appreciate your response. Thanks again!

Ken
09-22-2008, 02:52 AM
Impossible for me to say, since I haven't seen it. But from what you describe, it sounds a little odd. This little girl wouldn't be warding off "hypothetical advances" from girls -- she'd be warding off friends. Most 4-7 year olds don't spend a lot of time cruising each other. So, she's just a loner who doesn't want friends? Why? Just a misanthrope? OK, but I don't see that having anything to do with same-sex relationships.

I suppose I have misunderstood the concept. But this advice is universal: Just write a darn good book, and worry about its "marketability" later.

thanks for the advise and incentive.

ps My work isn't as hopeless as all that.
Just sorta hard to describe.
Yeah, I know, that's what they all say ;-)

brittanimae
09-24-2008, 01:05 AM
Thanks so much Jennifer--your answer covered everything I wondered about. It's great to have you here!

marie2
10-01-2008, 12:55 AM
Hi Jennifer,

I don't know if this question applies to you... but it's been in my mind for a little while. Do you think that, with the current state of the economy, it makes things even more difficult for us aspiring writers in our efforts to get our novel sold? I've been hearing stories about editors being even more selective with their lists. Anything we can do about this?

cynrad22
10-01-2008, 10:05 PM
Hi Jennifer
Once you have had a book published by a POD/vanity, does that mean an agent will not look at you? If yes, then why? What does it have to do with the current story you are trying to sell?

Brandy

Prawn
10-02-2008, 02:21 PM
Hi Jennifer!

I queried a novel last year, but I am still looking for representation. I have finished another novel involving the same character, and I want to requery those agents that requested partials and fulls of my last novel, since they have already showed an interest. Should I mention in my query that they requested the partial or full of my last novel, or will that just remind them of the rejection? Perhaps I could say something like "You requested the partial of my last novel a year ago, and I think you will find my new novel stronger and more compelling."

Thanks!

Jennifer_Laughran
10-02-2008, 06:20 PM
Do you think that, with the current state of the economy, it makes things even more difficult for us aspiring writers in our efforts to get our novel sold? I've been hearing stories about editors being even more selective with their lists. Anything we can do about this?

I have not noticed any significant slowdown in number of books sold, or advances received. Do keep in mind, though, I am only familiar with the children's market -- that might not hold true on the grown-up side of the fence, and the recent sharp downturn in the stock market MAY have consequences for large publishers that we haven't seen yet. Meantime, I am not panicked.

Editors are always selective with their lists!

Jennifer_Laughran
10-02-2008, 06:33 PM
Once you have had a book published by a POD/vanity, does that mean an agent will not look at you? If yes, then why? What does it have to do with the current story you are trying to sell?



Depends. An agent probably won't look at you if you had the book published POD/vanity and are now trying to query them with that book. We are keen to find NEW material, and you'd be surprised how many people don't get that. But you are talking about querying a brand-new manuscript... well...

You really want the brutal answer?

It is a sad truth that many agents do not consider POD books to be real. There is definitely a reason why POD exists, and it is certainly the right solution for some projects (family histories, or very regional books with limited or zero nationwide appeal, for example) -- but still, for better or for worse, it has a certain stigma about it. When somebody crows that they are a multi-published author, and then it turns out that the "publisher" is a copy machine in the garage, well -- it's laughable.

As an agent, I have had great success with debut authors. IF I were an author who had done a vanity book, I probably wouldn't mention it, and I CERTAINLY wouldn't brag about it, unless that book had sold thousands of copies -- positioning myself as a debut author would be much more likely to work out in my favor.

Jennifer_Laughran
10-02-2008, 06:38 PM
Perhaps I could say something like "You requested the partial of my last novel a year ago, and I think you will find my new novel stronger and more compelling."

Sounds to me like you just answered your own question.

Seriously, there are a couple of people I requested fulls but declined once, who later requeried with a new ms, (reminding me that I liked the first book) -- and are now clients. If someone liked your book well enough to read the whole thing the first time round, there is a very good chance that they will at least be interested to see your next book, too. So you should mention it. I am not sure if I would bother to mention it unless they read the FULL last time -- but it couldn't hurt, either way.

marie2
10-02-2008, 06:40 PM
I have not noticed any significant slowdown in number of books sold, or advances received. Do keep in mind, though, I am only familiar with the children's market -- that might not hold true on the grown-up side of the fence, and the recent sharp downturn in the stock market MAY have consequences for large publishers that we haven't seen yet. Meantime, I am not panicked.

Editors are always selective with their lists!

You do have a point. Thank you so much!

Gogirl
10-03-2008, 12:57 AM
Hi Jennifer,

I'm adding to the chorus to say that I'm so happy you're here.

Anyway, I've written a pretty dark YA novel in verse in the vein of Ellen Hopkins, Kirsten Smith, and Lisa Schroeder, and I'm wondering how you feel about these types of books? Also, is the market open to them? God, I hope so.

Many thanks for all your help.

Kirby
10-03-2008, 02:04 AM
Thanks, Jennifer. My description is pretty simplistic, true. The story's kind of dark, though, so I wouldn't call it MG. Is it good? For teenagers, yes. For adults, maybe not. Anyway, I was only curious about the market. My adult urban fantasies are my primary focus right now and the YA was a side trip for my muse. I appreciate your response. Thanks again!


Just curious, but what does "MG" stand for?

Kasey Mackenzie
10-03-2008, 02:07 AM
MG stands for Middle Grade, as opposed to YA (Young Adult.)

Kirby
10-03-2008, 02:14 AM
That's what I was wondering, but I wasn't sure. Thank you, Kasey. Mystery in my mind solved.

RLB
10-17-2008, 09:30 AM
Hey Jennifer!

I wonder if you could give your take on the difference between MG voice and YA voice? I recently had an agent comment that my voice was sometimes firmly MG and sometimes more YA, which confused me! I read a lot of MG since that's the genre I'm writing in (or so I thought), but not much YA. (My MC is fourteen, so I'm probably at the upper end of MG.)

Thanks!

MagicMan
10-17-2008, 10:23 AM
Jennifer,
When I am helping people tune there query, I generally state Sell, don't Tell. A lot of queries by writers, are miniaturized stories, not the facts concerning the plot. Am I misleading them, or should the query be plot description not a tale about the story.

Also, you touched on it before; could you run down a normal agent day, in respect to time allotted to queries. I believe you have so little time, the query should be a brief but accurate account of the novel. Am I off base?

Smiles
Bob

brittanimae
10-23-2008, 12:43 AM
Hi again!

I'm wondering about a touchy subject: read receipts. Your agency and a few others out there don't respond to queries that don't resonate with them. There is generally a time-frame, such as 6-8 weeks during which a query might be responded to.

Is it acceptable to include a read receipt when sending queries to these agents? I did this recently, and I was able to confirm that my query was read that same day, and when I didn't receive a reply in the next few days, I crossed the agent off my list. It was great for my peace of mind, but I've heard that this annoys some agents and makes them reach for the delete button that much faster. What do you think?

Atani
10-23-2008, 12:59 AM
Hey, so glad you're here offering advice :) It is much appreciated!

I have a question you might be able to answer... I have an epic fantasy series (more like an adventure-fantasy, but a long story nonetheless!) It is not YA, but if you have any idea, I'd appreciate your opinion. Word count for the first book is ~150K. I know that's long, but is it too long to get any attention?

Thanks so much!

Jennifer_Laughran
10-24-2008, 06:00 PM
Your agency and a few others out there don't respond to queries that don't resonate with them. There is generally a time-frame, such as 6-8 weeks during which a query might be responded to.

Is it acceptable to include a read receipt when sending queries to these agents? I did this recently, and I was able to confirm that my query was read that same day, and when I didn't receive a reply in the next few days, I crossed the agent off my list.

Well, I, for one, do TRY to answer everybody, despite that "no response means no" thing. (Not always 100% successful, but I do try.)

I might be a bit irritated by a read receipt, because it is misleading. I try to open everything and look at it very quickly and tag and file it somewhere so it isn't in my inbox anymore and I can deal with it when I have time. Then a couple times a week, when I have an extra hour or two, I'll go through as many as I can. But since I get hundreds of emails a day, many of which are queries, and I try to do them approximately in chronological order, I still MIGHT not get to it immediately. So you get something that says I've opened it, but it DOESN'T say if I've filed it under "met at a conference", "requested", "sounds fun, look closer", "sounds crazy, beware!", "must ask for more", "didn't follow sub guidelines", "not a children's book", "must pass on to other agents", etc etc.

So you assume I've read it, when really I have just opened it and filed it. And then you scratch me off your list when I am in fact reading it, loving it, passing it around, deciding if it will fit on my roster, making up submission lists and practicing what I will say to you on the phone. See?

But, um, maybe that long tangent didn't really answer your question. I guess I am not offended by them, though maybe a tiny bit irritated. However I cannot speak for any other agent.

scope
10-25-2008, 03:30 AM
Jennifer,

Re the unsolicited queries and/or manuscripts you receive from from writers, and which works reject, do you keep an archive or file to indicate you have read the work? The idea being that if you receive something that sounds familiar you can look to see if it was sent to you before. Many blogs and sites state that a good number of agents and editors do this. Sounds like a very big job to me.

brittanimae
10-25-2008, 08:36 AM
Thanks so much for your answer Jennifer! I know that I (and I'm sure many others) really appreciate the time it takes to reply to so many queries.

Your anwer addressed exactly what I wondered about--personally I wouldn't immediately assume a read-receipt was a no, but it would at least give me a time-frame to work with.

Thanks again.

Gogirl
10-25-2008, 11:31 AM
Hi Jennifer,

I think my question got lost in the shuffle, so I'm reposting it on this page.

I've written a pretty dark YA novel in verse in the vein of Ellen Hopkins, Kirsten Smith, and Lisa Schroeder, and I'm wondering how you feel about these types of books? Also, is the market open to them from new writers? I sure hope so.

Many thanks for all your help, and for being here!

Jennifer_Laughran
10-25-2008, 06:43 PM
I think my question got lost in the shuffle, so I'm reposting it on this page.

I've written a pretty dark YA novel in verse in the vein of Ellen Hopkins, Kirsten Smith, and Lisa Schroeder, and I'm wondering how you feel about these types of books? Also, is the market open to them from new writers? I sure hope so.


It didn't get lost in the shuffle, I just didn't answer it yet.

I'm not particularly into verse, but I like it fine if it is done well. I don't think that everything that IS in verse NEEDS to be and I wonder -- is this person just lazy and can't be bothered filling a whole page? But then, I am cynical.

Sure, there's a market for it, obviously Ellen and Lisa and etc etc are doing fine. As long as you have a REASON for writing in verse, it is done WELL, and you are differentiating yourself from the authors that have gone before. (for example there is probably no more room for a huge book in verse about the descent into methamphetamine addiction - the definitive such work has already been done in CRANK.)

Shuriken
10-25-2008, 08:15 PM
I AM bothered when I really really like something, but I have to reject it anyway -- because the question isn't just "do I like it" it is "can I sell it".

Possibly the best words I've ever seen as directed to writers. The work may be excellent, but if THAT agent can't sell it, they reject it. It's not a statement on the author's wordcraft.

Frankly, I am in awe of agents. Think of the barrage of queries, proposals, manuscripts and more that pour in daily. It must be overwhelming at times to sift all the chaff!

This is only my second post on this fine forum, and what better than to give kudos to Ms. Laughran. She responded quickly to my query some time ago, saying it wasn't quite her genre but she recommended a different agent at another firm. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and advice with all of us.

Cheers,

Dave Z

Gogirl
11-01-2008, 11:51 PM
I'm not particularly into verse, but I like it fine if it is done well. I don't think that everything that IS in verse NEEDS to be and I wonder -- is this person just lazy and can't be bothered filling a whole page? But then, I am cynical.

Sure, there's a market for it, obviously Ellen and Lisa and etc etc are doing fine. As long as you have a REASON for writing in verse, it is done WELL, and you are differentiating yourself from the authors that have gone before. (for example there is probably no more room for a huge book in verse about the descent into methamphetamine addiction - the definitive such work has already been done in CRANK.)

From one cynic to another, I hear you. I do have a reason for this novel's verse structure--because it works. It's not another take on Ellen's work, either. Many thanks for your reply. I appreciate your honesty and will try to entice you soon via a (non-verse) query.

Jennifer_Laughran
11-03-2008, 06:27 AM
I wonder if you could give your take on the difference between MG voice and YA voice? I recently had an agent comment that my voice was sometimes firmly MG and sometimes more YA, which confused me!

Hm... it is hard to say what that agent might have meant without looking at pages and hearing the comment in context. There are two different things that they might have meant, though:

TONE
Though the person said voice, they may have really meant tone. I am going to make some sweeping generalizations here. GENERALLY, middle grade books have a sweeter, more child-like tone than YA. That is NOT to say that they can't be a bit snarky (like, Roald Dahl or Lemony Snicket) - but children are very rarely physically endangered by a real thing (witches curse? yes. historical fire? maybe. school bus shooting? no.) There is nothing more than holding hands and maybe a kiss between boys and girls, if that. There is no objectionable language. The stories often feature kids trying to figure out their place within their circle of friends or family.

YA, on the other hand, CAN be sweet, but it can also have rapists, murderers, molesters, fairy drug addicts, regular drug addicts, sex-addicts, cutters, bingers, purgers, cross-dressers... need I go on? If your book contains the darkness of the human soul, the passion of the human heart, the lustfulness of the human groin, the cursing of the human mouth, or any "content" combo thereof, people will say it "feels YA". The stories often feature teens trying to figure out their place in the wide world and/or going through some major first time stuff - romance, heartbreak, friend dying, etc.

VOICE
To me, voice is what makes a great character THEM. This is a totally individual, unique thing. Junie B. Jones sounds different than Charlie Bucket who sounds nothing like Sabriel who is night and day from Fancy Nancy. It could be that they felt that your character did not sound like a 14 year old -- either too young or too old, or just not authentic.

The kind of problem with having a 14 year old protag is, they ARE so very in-between. Is it young YA or is it upper MG? Kinda depends on what you are going to put your character through.

Best of luck!

Jennifer_Laughran
11-03-2008, 06:34 AM
Re the unsolicited queries and/or manuscripts you receive from from writers, and which works reject, do you keep an archive or file to indicate you have read the work? The idea being that if you receive something that sounds familiar you can look to see if it was sent to you before. Many blogs and sites state that a good number of agents and editors do this. Sounds like a very big job to me.


I archive pretty much everything. I don't file it any special way or anything like that, but I just keep all my old emails in the archive folder rather than in my inbox. If something sounds familiar or I have to revisit it for some reason, I can search by keyword within my email.

Jennifer_Laughran
11-03-2008, 07:09 AM
Jennifer,
When I am helping people tune there query, I generally state Sell, don't Tell. A lot of queries by writers, are miniaturized stories, not the facts concerning the plot. Am I misleading them, or should the query be plot description not a tale about the story.

Also, you touched on it before; could you run down a normal agent day, in respect to time allotted to queries. I believe you have so little time, the query should be a brief but accurate account of the novel. Am I off base?


I just want to know what the book is and why I should care, in as brief and interesting a way as possible. I want the directions to be followed to the letter, because when they aren't, it adds time to my reading if I have to request pages when they should have been pasted into the body of the email, etc -- or else I just erase the query.

I have absolutely zero extra time during business hours for reading queries, so I tend to spend maybe one or two full weekend days a month going through them (along with the occasional middle-of-the-night insomnia or between-phone-meetings spare moments, in which I might do one or a few).

I am not sure if that answered your question!

Jennifer_Laughran
11-03-2008, 07:10 AM
I have a question you might be able to answer... I have an epic fantasy series (more like an adventure-fantasy, but a long story nonetheless!) It is not YA, but if you have any idea, I'd appreciate your opinion. Word count for the first book is ~150K. I know that's long, but is it too long to get any attention?


I can't answer that, sorry, I know nothing about the adult fantasy or speculative fiction market, I am only a children's & YA agent.

Sunshine13
11-03-2008, 08:59 AM
Jennifer,

First, as an echo to everyone else, thanks for your time here on AW :)

I am currently shopping my fantasy, which can be either YA or epic fantasy, or perhaps I should just call it an epic YA fantasy? It has a prologue, where the female MC is 13, and then Chapter 1 begins 3 years later. I've heard some agents frown upon prologues, and I know every agent is different, so I was just wondering if when the first 10 pages are sent per your sub guidelines, would you prefer from Chapter 1 or the prologue?

Thanks for your valuable advice and answers here, I think I may have felt my brain grow a little bigger. ;) Happy November!

Jennifer_Laughran
11-03-2008, 09:14 AM
I've heard some agents frown upon prologues, and I know every agent is different, so I was just wondering if when the first 10 pages are sent per your sub guidelines, would you prefer from Chapter 1 or the prologue?


I would like the first ten pages of the book. If there is a prologue, it must contain important information and is there for a reason -- so obviously, that counts as part of the book. If it is NOT important enough to count as part of the book... why is it there?

:D

Sunshine13
11-04-2008, 03:07 AM
Hey, better safe than sorry! ;) Thanks for the quick response.

scope
11-05-2008, 03:14 AM
Hi Jennifer,

I know that query letters to agents and editors are not supposed to run more than one page. If you get a query that runs-let us say-one and one quarter pages, what do you do with it. Not read it? Issue a form rejection? Be annoyed but read it? Anythng else?

Thanks.

RLB
11-05-2008, 03:32 AM
Thanks for your thorough and thoughtful response regarding voice! That's the most concise breakdown of MG vs. YA I've seen. I'm hoping in this particular agent's case, it was just a matter of personal taste, but I'm scouring the manuscript for inconsistencies and tone just in case!

Jennifer_Laughran
11-09-2008, 08:59 PM
I know that query letters to agents and editors are not supposed to run more than one page. If you get a query that runs-let us say-one and one quarter pages, what do you do with it. Not read it? Issue a form rejection? Be annoyed but read it? Anythng else?


LOL. Well, I only accept e-queries, and it is hard to tell the page length on those. I have to say, if your query letter runs more than three paragraphs ... can I just ask why? I can't imagine why you would need to say a page-and-a-half's worth.

Here are some signals that a rambling, overlong query might send out:

* this person doesn't know how to edit.

* this person doesn't know what is important and what isn't, or what the point of their story truly is.

* this is either not a good salesman, or

* this person is unable to be objective about their own work, and probably has a monster sized ego and will be difficult to work with.


Fact is, hardly anybody is at their best in a query letter. I'd read it, I guess, but I'd much rather you keep it on the brief but interesting side and let your writing speak for itself - that is why I ask that the author include a three-chapter sample of the book.

Prawn
11-09-2008, 10:43 PM
Some of the larger agencies have several agents who rep my genre but they "respond only if interested". Since that means they may never respond to me at all, how long should I give agent A before querying agent B? Is a month long enough? If the agency doesn't specifically say they don't like simultaneous submissions, can I go ahead and query two agents at the same agency?

Thanks!

P.S. I wish you handled adult fiction, so I could query you!

Jennifer_Laughran
11-10-2008, 07:38 PM
Some of the larger agencies have several agents who rep my genre but they "respond only if interested". Since that means they may never respond to me at all, how long should I give agent A before querying agent B? Is a month long enough? If the agency doesn't specifically say they don't like simultaneous submissions, can I go ahead and query two agents at the same agency?



At my agency, a "no" from one is a no from all. It is frustrating and a waste of everyone's time when someone queries us one-after-the-other, or even more tragically, all-at-the-same-time - because we work together, we share the mss between us, and when people don't follow directions, they usually wind up just getting put in the trash.

There are probably other agencies that don't mind if you query Agent B if Agent A declines. I don't know which agencies, but they are probably out there. However, I cannot imagine ANY agency that would be OK with your sending to Agents A, B & C at the same time. "Simultaneous" means "sending to more than one agency", not "sending to every agent at an agency." What if (best case) they ALL want you?? Then they have to have a fight about it and it turns into a mess. This is the same reason why, though agents certainly send things to multiple publishers, we don't send to more than one editor at a given publisher/imprint. Either it won't pan out with any of them, or it will cause bad blood with all of them. Who needs the headache?

For those who only respond if interested, if they don't give a timeline (we say 6 weeks, for example), then I would consider three months between queries at a minimum.

Prawn
11-10-2008, 08:29 PM
Thanks for the advice. Some agencies have a policy stated on their webpage, for example Writers House (Please do not query two agents within our agency simultaneously) and others say what you say, "A no from one is a no from all". The question for me was what to do with agencies that don't have a specific guideline. I appreciate your guideline of waiting 3 months between querying agents at the same agency.

Thanks!

P


At my agency, a "no" from one is a no from all. It is frustrating and a waste of everyone's time when someone queries us one-after-the-other, or even more tragically, all-at-the-same-time - because we work together, we share the mss between us, and when people don't follow directions, they usually wind up just getting put in the trash.

There are probably other agencies that don't mind if you query Agent B if Agent A declines. I don't know which agencies, but they are probably out there. However, I cannot imagine ANY agency that would be OK with your sending to Agents A, B & C at the same time. "Simultaneous" means "sending to more than one agency", not "sending to every agent at an agency." What if (best case) they ALL want you?? Then they have to have a fight about it and it turns into a mess. This is the same reason why, though agents certainly send things to multiple publishers, we don't send to more than one editor at a given publisher/imprint. Either it won't pan out with any of them, or it will cause bad blood with all of them. Who needs the headache?

For those who only respond if interested, if they don't give a timeline (we say 6 weeks, for example), then I would consider three months between queries at a minimum.

ebenstone
11-12-2008, 08:44 AM
What is the generally accepted practice for resubmitting a query to an agency? I submitted back in April to 20 plus agents and I've decided to go through a vigorous rewrite. I'm almost done and wondering could I resubmit a new query to the same agents? What is the time frame? I was thinking early 2009 or is it a faux pas?

Thanks.

natsplat
11-12-2008, 11:05 AM
Hi Jennifer,

I was wondering how to interpret my rejection letter. Do I just take it and move on or is it possible to ask for feedback? Or is the rejection letter as much feedback I can expect? Totally new to the industry and don't want to harass the publisher unnecessarily, so thought I could harass you to find out first?? :) :)

Nat
x

RLB
11-12-2008, 11:30 AM
Hi again!

I have a few questions about the agenting profession. I'm curious how many clients an agent is comfortable with. Is there an average number, or does it vary wildly from agent to agent? At what point does an agent decide her list is full? And when you are submitting projects to editors, are you focusing on one project/client at a time, or are you submitting multiple clients' projects concurrently (and even to the same editors if they're a good fit)?

Thanks for letting us pick your brain!

Suzanne Stroh
11-13-2008, 09:14 AM
Hello Jennifer,
Thanks for joining this forum. Can you help with a bizarre problem? I'm an unagented novelist. Supported by a hip NY fiction editor (who loved my work but passed) and by the executive editor of a national magazine I've written for, The Advocate, I submitted my work to Alyson Books, an affiliate of The Advocate. I followed the submission guidelines to the letter. Since Alyson requires that you send your heirloom jewelry and car title along with your submission, imagine my frustration when THE EMAIL WAS RETURNED NON DELIVERABLE TO THE PUBLISHED ADDRESS!

For two weeks now, i have been unable to contact anyone or anything at Alyson. The email addresses do not work. There is no longer any telephone listing in NY on 17th street. i can't get a land line for Shannon Berning, who used to edit fiction there, and whose spam filter has probably junked my message at Kaplan, her new workplace. I am aware that Alyson was sold by Planet Out in August, but nothing has since been printed in PW about any transition difficulties. But the new parent entity, here! Network, has disconnected its Madison Avenue telephone line. How do I get in touch with this publisher and find out what is going on? Thanks very much for your guidance. Suzanne Stroh

Alphabeter
11-13-2008, 10:24 AM
Suzanne, you might want to cross-post this in Bewares and Background Checks. Someone there might know better.

cameronknight
11-13-2008, 11:43 PM
Hey Jennifer and welcome! I haven't been here long myself and I must say, you are one in a million to come here and brave the onslaught. I do have a question about word length for YA: I notice that earlier in this thread you mentioned that you would consider anything above 80K too long. Now, the project I have in mind is for the kind of YA market that I call "the Twilight market", i.e. 17/18 year olds. I have no idea how long the Twilight series books are, but when I look at them in bookstores they seem quite fat. What kind of word count are we talking when thinking of a contemporary fantasy romance for the older teen market? 50K? 80K? I'm just trying to get a sense of what to aim for, because my 17 year old daughter remarked that Twilight was "really long."

Thanks so much for being here, we are so grateful !

A.J.

Jennifer_Laughran
11-16-2008, 08:40 AM
What is the generally accepted practice for resubmitting a query to an agency? I submitted back in April to 20 plus agents and I've decided to go through a vigorous rewrite. I'm almost done and wondering could I resubmit a new query to the same agents? What is the time frame? I was thinking early 2009 or is it a faux pas?

I don't think it is a faux pas IF you think that the book is changed so significantly as to be basically a different work. If not, they said no once already.

Jennifer_Laughran
11-16-2008, 08:56 AM
I was wondering how to interpret my rejection letter. Do I just take it and move on or is it possible to ask for feedback? Or is the rejection letter as much feedback I can expect? Totally new to the industry and don't want to harass the publisher unnecessarily, so thought I could harass you to find out first?? :) :)


Personally, if I were you, I'd take it and move on. If I think it needs work, work like x y z, and then I'd like to see it again, that is what I say. If I just don't want it, I usually say something vague and nice, but useless - and the important thing is the NO. All the rest of it is filler for the paragraph.

Jennifer_Laughran
11-16-2008, 09:05 AM
I have a few questions about the agenting profession. I'm curious how many clients an agent is comfortable with. Is there an average number, or does it vary wildly from agent to agent? At what point does an agent decide her list is full? And when you are submitting projects to editors, are you focusing on one project/client at a time, or are you submitting multiple clients' projects concurrently (and even to the same editors if they're a good fit)?



It is our agency policy not to discuss how many clients we have. If I gave a number that somebody thinks is too high, my clients or prospective clients might think I'd have no time for them. Too low, and I'm unpopular! I can just say that the number of clients an agent takes on varies wildly from agent to agent, and depends on their energy level and what KIND of clients are they taking on (is it a superstar, highly successful with million dollar deals? a picture book author that writes 15 small books a year? Somebody with a steady one-book-a-year who already has an editor they always work with? Newbie with a debut novel that needs some editing? Each of these require a different amount of work and level of time on the agents part.)

I submit multiple clients work simultaneously, but generally not to the same editors unless there is some pressing reason to do so. I don't like overloading one editor with too much at once, because I feel like that slows it down for everyone. I can't speak for anyone else on the subject, though.

Jennifer_Laughran
11-16-2008, 09:14 AM
Can you help with a bizarre problem?

In some cases, yes. Sadly, in this case, I have no idea. Best of luck, though!

Prawn
11-16-2008, 09:22 AM
If several agents have requested partials and one of them offers representation, would it be okay to e-mail the others and give them a week to make a decision?

Should I tell them who has offered representation?

Would it be rude to attach the full to the e-mail, saying, "I have included the full in case you need it to make your decision"?

Thanks for answering these delicate questions.

Jennifer_Laughran
11-16-2008, 09:47 AM
I do have a question about word length for YA: I notice that earlier in this thread you mentioned that you would consider anything above 80K too long. Now, the project I have in mind is for the kind of YA market that I call "the Twilight market", i.e. 17/18 year olds. I have no idea how long the Twilight series books are, but when I look at them in bookstores they seem quite fat. What kind of word count are we talking when thinking of a contemporary fantasy romance for the older teen market? 50K? 80K? I'm just trying to get a sense of what to aim for, because my 17 year old daughter remarked that Twilight was "really long."


You can look at "text stats" on Amazon - Twilight is about 540 pages, 115k words. The books after that are much longer.

Lots of kids like to "get lost" in a long book, but that is about 50-100 pages too long, in my personal opinion, especially for a debut novel. There are always outliers that work despite the odds - but the chances that you are another Stephenie Meyer are quite slim. So try and keep it under 100k. (50-70 is fine for realistic contemp. YA, 60-90 for fantasy is OK.)

Jennifer_Laughran
11-16-2008, 10:03 AM
If several agents have requested partials and one of them offers representation, would it be okay to e-mail the others and give them a week to make a decision?

Sure. That is nice. Unless the one who offered is your number one choice and you know you are going to say yes, in which case, write the others a polite note and withdraw.


Should I tell them who has offered representation?

Sure, if they ask. This is not a trick question - I very often ask, particularly if I also want to offer. First of all, if I like your work that much, I want to make sure you are getting a legit agent with a good rep (even if it isn't me). Also, it will let me know what kind of competition I have. Anyway, agents are generally curious people. :-)


Would it be rude to attach the full to the e-mail, saying, "I have included the full in case you need it to make your decision"?

I have no feelings about this either way, but I don't think it is RUDE.

Suzanne Stroh
11-17-2008, 11:10 PM
Thanks Jennifer. Suzanne

AdamRothstein
11-19-2008, 10:47 AM
Hey Tom,

This may not be helpful at all (in fact, I'm sure it's not) but your story sounds awesome! It could just be that I love anything to do with time travel, but it really sounds like a fantastic concept. Any chance I could read a sample chapter? I'm no one important, just an avid reader and a lover of literature.

-adam

Hi Jennifer, and welcome to AW!
I'm currently working on a young adult sci-fi about three young girls, age 16, accidentally sent back through time from the 23rd century. However, my question concerns the class situation in the 23rd century. Basically, the structure consist of the upper and leadership class, and the lower and working class population. Race is not mentioned. The girls discuss the class situation in a couple paragrapgs in the story, is this considered acceptible in YA stories? My SF usually involves Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers stuff, not YA, so I don't want to make a mistake with my first one.

"The Weed of Crime Bears Bitter Fruit!"

Bella D'Ball
11-24-2008, 08:20 AM
Hello Jennifer,

Thank you for taking the time to read through mine and other writers' questions!
I queried an agent in early August and she asked for a full within a week. I sent an email in early October just to check in and see if there was anything more I could provide to help her in her decision. I haven't heard from her since she asked (well, her assistant) for the full. Would it be wrong for me to email again for an update, say, the first week of December? Could the Holidays have anything to do with the delay, or do fulls generally take time? This Agent is from a pretty large Agency also. Could that have anything to do with it? I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing that I'm not hearing anything! Thank you in advance to your answering my questions!

MsJudy
11-24-2008, 08:42 AM
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? Too much fantasy, not enough realism? They'd love to see more fantasy, if it were something unusual? More mysteries, more sports, more humor? Or do they just mean that most of what they're seeing isn't good enough, and they're desperate for MG of a higher quality?

Any insights?

childeroland
11-26-2008, 05:26 AM
What's MG?

CharlieBabbitt
11-26-2008, 06:14 AM
MG = middle-grade (between chapter books and YA)

Alphabeter
11-26-2008, 10:45 AM
I wondered that too when I first saw the term in a YA thread.

Is there a chart somewhere that lists all these terms? Some of them are fairly recent (within last 20 years for sure) as far as being 'official' for agents/publishers/marketing.

CharlieBabbitt
11-26-2008, 06:33 PM
Here's a nice guideline on the different categories of children's books:

http://writingfiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/writing_for_children

Jennifer_Laughran
11-26-2008, 07:59 PM
I queried an agent in early August and she asked for a full within a week. I sent an email in early October just to check in and see if there was anything more I could provide to help her in her decision. I haven't heard from her since she asked (well, her assistant) for the full. Would it be wrong for me to email again for an update, say, the first week of December? Could the Holidays have anything to do with the delay, or do fulls generally take time? This Agent is from a pretty large Agency also. Could that have anything to do with it? I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing that I'm not hearing anything!

Yes, it is a long time -- but I am sorry to say, not a DREADFULLY long time. i am still sorting out a few fulls from August, and I think I am considered a pretty fast reader. A polite nudge in December would be fine.

trickywoo
11-27-2008, 06:56 AM
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.

Thanks for all your posts.

FJohn
11-27-2008, 07:49 PM
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.

Bella D'Ball
11-28-2008, 01:51 AM
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!

Jennifer_Laughran
11-30-2008, 04:09 AM
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.)

Jennifer_Laughran
11-30-2008, 04:18 AM
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.)

Jennifer_Laughran
11-30-2008, 04:33 AM
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.

trickywoo
11-30-2008, 06:20 AM
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. :)

Jennifer_Laughran
11-30-2008, 07:52 AM
Then call it "Upper Middle Grade." I promise, there are a ton of agents who are into that.

Best of luck!!

CharlieBabbitt
11-30-2008, 07:57 AM
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!

Jennifer_Laughran
11-30-2008, 08:03 AM
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.

CharlieBabbitt
11-30-2008, 08:08 AM
Thank you!

scope
11-30-2008, 10:06 AM
Hi Jennifer,

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

ohmylorelei
12-01-2008, 04:18 AM
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

FJohn
12-05-2008, 04:10 AM
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.

Mt. Dew Addict
12-06-2008, 12:37 AM
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.

Jennifer_Laughran
12-06-2008, 10:36 AM
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.

Mt. Dew Addict
12-06-2008, 07:53 PM
Thank you Jennifer! I needed that.

emandem
12-06-2008, 08:06 PM
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?

ehorwitt
12-07-2008, 03:05 AM
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.

youngwriter369
12-08-2008, 06:20 AM
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

keybladewielder890
12-08-2008, 06:31 AM
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!

Jennifer_Laughran
12-08-2008, 12:17 PM
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!)

Jennifer_Laughran
12-08-2008, 12:23 PM
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.

Jennifer_Laughran
12-08-2008, 12:25 PM
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!

Jennifer_Laughran
12-08-2008, 12:28 PM
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.

Jennifer_Laughran
12-08-2008, 12:43 PM
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. :)

youngwriter369
12-09-2008, 03:29 AM
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.

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.


Wow. Thank you. And I know. There is just something about when i write.I feel like I can be myself. It is great and different from the real world. I know I probably should wait...it is just soo hard. and it is not unfair of you to judge me. Your advice is very insightful and I would like to thank you greatly for it.

Jennifer_Laughran
12-09-2008, 04:18 AM
Wow. Thank you. And I know. There is just something about when i write.I feel like I can be myself. It is great and different from the real world. I know I probably should wait...it is just soo hard. and it is not unfair of you to judge me. Your advice is very insightful and I would like to thank you greatly for it.


No prob. And please, DO keep writing!! If I were you, though, I'd hold off on worrying about publication just yet.

(I edited my original post because I forgot to mention the other thing - that your first book very often sets the standard for the way people think about you for the rest of your career. If you really want to be a great writer, you probably don't want people thinking you've already peaked and talking about what you were like as a teenager for the rest of your life!)

Hobbes
12-09-2008, 10:19 AM
Ms. Laughran,

My first novel is being published by a small house and will be out soon. I don't have an agent at the moment but would like to be before my next book. Here's the situation: The contract I signed gives this publisher first dibs on my second book. I'm not disappointed with them, just curious how a prospective agent will look at the contract.

Thanks!

Jennifer_Laughran
12-09-2008, 12:33 PM
My first novel is being published by a small house and will be out soon. I don't have an agent at the moment but would like to be before my next book. Here's the situation: The contract I signed gives this publisher first dibs on my second book. I'm not disappointed with them, just curious how a prospective agent will look at the contract.


Well, I haven't read your contract, but that option clause probably gives them a first look for x-number of days (probably between 30 and 90). It doesn't mean that they will offer, and it doesn't mean you have to say "yes", even if they do offer. If you like the offer and think it is fair, you can take it and your agent will negotiate terms (probably better than the ones you have currently). If you don't, and the agent thinks it will sell elsewhere, you can decline.

I wouldn't worry about it.

RoccoMom
12-10-2008, 08:44 PM
Just a general question: How long do agents take to get editorial notes to thier clients? Is it a fast process, or can it take weeks or months? Just curious, as I've heard different things.

keybladewielder890
12-13-2008, 08:11 AM
Thanks for your helpful reply!

Jennifer_Laughran
12-13-2008, 10:14 PM
Just a general question: How long do agents take to get editorial notes to thier clients? Is it a fast process, or can it take weeks or months? Just curious, as I've heard different things.

I would think that it varies from agent to agent, and from week to week. I have been able to get things back to clients within a day or two, when they catch me at a time that I just happen to have a clear desk -- but if 10 clients sub their manuscripts at once, all of which need a lot of notes, AND there are three contracts on my desk, AND my phone is ringing off the hook -- well, it might take me a while, because I have to prioritize.

If it is going to be a while, though, I try to be communicative and let them know when to expect to hear from me. And I fully expect them to pester me if they haven't heard in a couple weeks.

AuthorGuy
12-13-2008, 10:50 PM
Hi Jennifer,

I just posted a new thread call 'New Story Type'. I'm hoping you can take a look at it and hopefully provide some insight. Thanks.

Jennifer_Laughran
12-14-2008, 12:50 AM
I just posted a new thread call 'New Story Type'. I'm hoping you can take a look at it and hopefully provide some insight. Thanks.

I looked. I'm afraid I am not sure what the question is. This is obviously an adult novel, right? And you are describing it as being a paranormal with romantic elements. I don't get why you need to describe the way the story is written - I'd just want to know what the story IS, and a novel, paranormal, romantic, is enough description.

Am I missing something?

scope
12-14-2008, 01:36 AM
If it is going to be a while, though, I try to be communicative and let them know when to expect to hear from me. And I fully expect them to pester me if they haven't heard in a couple weeks.

You are to be commended for your practices, truly. If other agents followed your lead it would be a far better publishing world.

Thank you.

popmuze
12-16-2008, 02:22 AM
This may have been covered in one of the first 186 posts; if so, forgive my impatience. In your experience, what are some of the reasons, assuming you're excited enough to take it on, that a novel you're sending around doesn't sell? How long do you give it before you give up?

jvc
12-16-2008, 04:21 AM
Hi Jennifer :hi:

Although this may sound like I'm sucking up (which of course I am :D ), I would like to first say thank you for taking the time to answer our members' questions, you are a hero. Don't worry, the real sucking-up (and I promise it'll be better than what I have already said above) will come later when I send you a query for my novel :D . Do you like cookies?

Anyway, I have just gone through the thread again, and although I have this niggling doubt in my mind, I can't find if you have already answered this or not.

The question on whether having a dream scene as an opener to a novel keeps coming up on this site. There are many varying answers from wannabe experts on the internet and in the forums, most saying "No, don't do it. It's a bad idea, agents hate it when you do that."

But I would like to know your view on whether it's a bad idea to open a novel (let's say a MG fantasy) with a dream/nightmare. And whether making it almost clear to the point of actually telling the reader it's a dream would make any difference?

Many thanks,

p.s. You do like cookies, right?
p.p.s. Did you ever post a Newbie Welcome Thread in the Newbie Forum? :D

Yvettesgonefishing
12-17-2008, 10:47 AM
I also posted this question on Nathan's thread. Two professional viewpoints are better than one. I'm a noob on this site, and this may very well be a stupid question. I apologize in advance if it is, or if it's been asked before.

I am 13 chapters into a YA book and believe I am within six months of possibly being able to submit the finished, edited product (and after unmangling my opening paragraph). My question regards agents.

I started this book assuming I would be hitting the slush piles (with publishers) and hoping for the best. I have heard it can be infinitely more difficult to get an agent than possibly selling that first manuscript as an unknown, unpublished writer from that pile of unrepresented hopefuls. I am willing to entertain the notion that what I've heard to date is without merit, but so far, most of what I've read indicates that it is easier to get an agent once you've proven yourself by selling that first book on your own.

On the other hand, if I can't pass muster with an agent, what hope do I have in ever selling a manuscript (from the slush pile, no less) submitted to a legitimate publisher? Either my writing is at a professional level or it isn't, and if it's just not there yet, I don't have a real shot in either direction, do I?

Is it folly to query an agent as an unpublished writer? Do I need to try to sell that first manuscript on my own or should I attempt to get representation first?

LaurieD
12-18-2008, 12:02 AM
Hi Jennifer - thanks for posting this thread.

In September, I sent a PB query and ms via email to Caryn Wiseman at Andrea Brown and haven't heard back.

To spice things up just a bit, I've had an email address change in the last 2 weeks.

The web site says 4 to 8 weeks, and I just passed a 12 week marker earlier this month without a response. Should I assume the office is swamped and resubmit with my new contact info (phone/email have changed, mailing address has not) or should I assume my query/ms hit the reject basket?

Thanks,

Laurie Dalzell

BeeBomb
12-19-2008, 12:37 AM
Hello, Jennifer, I will get straight to the point since I am not bashful and intend on finding the right agent ... I want an agent! Three of my books, I won't say were published ... printed maybe but not published. Mea culpa ... hit me with a wet noodle for being so anxious. Fourth book, yes. My fifth book is complete and submitted to a publisher, but to date, nothing has been decided. In limbo. Short stories published by Chicken Soup for the Soul and I write short stories for my local newspaper. Currently in the top 50finalists for a short story to Literary Cottage.

Are you seeking any writers / manuscripts at this time. Please let me know.

Joyce Rapier
aka Bee Bomb

jscribbles
12-19-2008, 07:10 PM
Joyce, why don't you send her a query letter? This thread is really for asking questions, not soliciting your work. Otherwise, the thread would be too clogged up to be useful.

BeeBomb
12-19-2008, 08:04 PM
You are so right, JWheeler! Will do.

Joyce

Jennifer_Laughran
12-19-2008, 09:19 PM
Are you seeking any writers / manuscripts at this time. Please let me know.



All of the agents at Andrea Brown (including me!) are accepting queries. I can tell you, like pretty much all agents, we are all extremely selective. All of our bios, including what sort of books we like, are on the website (http://www.andreabrownlit.com), as are our submission guidelines.

I only represent children's books. So if you write children's books, sure, query me.

Jennifer_Laughran
12-19-2008, 09:22 PM
The web site says 4 to 8 weeks, and I just passed a 12 week marker earlier this month without a response. Should I assume the office is swamped and resubmit with my new contact info (phone/email have changed, mailing address has not) or should I assume my query/ms hit the reject basket?


I am sorry, no response in 12 weeks you can safely assume is a no.

Jennifer_Laughran
12-19-2008, 09:34 PM
You are asking a lot of questions here, let me see:


I have heard it can be infinitely more difficult to get an agent than possibly selling that first manuscript as an unknown, unpublished writer from that pile of unrepresented hopefuls.

I don't know about INFINITELY more difficult. They are both pretty equally difficult, in my opinion. But your chances of being published well will skyrocket with an agent.


most of what I've read indicates that it is easier to get an agent once you've proven yourself by selling that first book on your own.

Certainly, you are likely to get an agent's attention right off the bat if you have an offer in hand or you had one book that was a great success. HOWEVER, the writing still has to speak to the agent. As to the question of debut status, I have never turned anyone down because they do or don't have a book out. I might rather have a brand-new author with no track record, than a previously published author with a lousy track record. Most of my authors were NOT previously published.


Either my writing is at a professional level or it isn't, and if it's just not there yet, I don't have a real shot in either direction, do I?

Correct.


Is it folly to query an agent as an unpublished writer? Do I need to try to sell that first manuscript on my own or should I attempt to get representation first?

Well, of course you have to know that an AGENT is going to suggest that having an agent is the way to go. I think that you should start your career as you mean to go on. The chances of your being published badly or never published are much higher if you "go it alone." And if you've shopped your ms to publishers, and it doesn't work, you won't be able to decide to try agents with the same manuscript.

Good luck!

popmuze
12-19-2008, 10:08 PM
I would rather have a brand-new author with no track record, than a previously published author with a lousy track record.


I hope you're going to continue answering questions today, because you skipped mine.

In the meantime, let's say I was that aforementioned previously published author (14 times) with a lousy track record--would you advise a pseudonym next time I'm in the market for an agent? (I'd hate to think those 14 poor selling books mean nothing).

Jennifer_Laughran
12-20-2008, 09:06 AM
I hope you're going to continue answering questions today, because you skipped mine.

I skipped your last one because I wanted to think about it more. Let the record show that I don't HAVE to answer everything in order, or everything period.


In the meantime, let's say I was that aforementioned previously published author (14 times) with a lousy track record--would you advise a pseudonym next time I'm in the market for an agent? (I'd hate to think those 14 poor selling books mean nothing).

No, you should be honest with your agent. If the writing sings, we'll want you no matter what your track record. If it don't, we won't. 14 lousy-selling books might affect the way and where we sub your mss, and we may well suggest that you PUBLISH under a pseudonym, but that is something to be figured out after we fall in love with your writing.

In the case you are citing, I said "I might rather have someone with no track record than a lousy track record", not to dissuade anyone with publishing uh-ohs in their past, but rather, to encourage people who are brand-new. You do NOT have to have a bestselling book published on your own to get an agent! It is all about the writing.

Jennifer_Laughran
12-20-2008, 09:10 AM
I would like to know your view on whether it's a bad idea to open a novel (let's say a MG fantasy) with a dream/nightmare. And whether making it almost clear to the point of actually telling the reader it's a dream would make any difference?

p.s. You do like cookies, right?
p.p.s. Did you ever post a Newbie Welcome Thread in the Newbie Forum? :D

I am going to waffle a bit. I think would probably be OK, if done well and there is a reason for it. (However, I can't think of an example where it is done well, and I can't think of a reason for it.)

Cookies are OK. I like florentines the best.

Yes, I think I did.

Jennifer_Laughran
12-20-2008, 09:22 AM
In your experience, what are some of the reasons, assuming you're excited enough to take it on, that a novel you're sending around doesn't sell? How long do you give it before you give up?

There are lots of reasons a book might not sell. I mean, really.

* They don't like it as much as I do (probably because they are stupid).

* The publisher already has a similar project in the works, or the season they are buying for is already too heavy on x-category. (Like, for example, they already have a bio of George Washington Carver upcoming. OR, Fall 2010 has an abundance of heavy drama and they really want light comedy.)

* List is full. (Alternately, there might be a big gaping hole that appears on a list if a book gets delayed or cancelled for some reason - this might be a reason they want to buy something else in a hurry!)

* They offer, but it isn't a good enough offer, or they offer but the author doesn't like the editorial vision of the editor and wants to decline.

But mostly #1. I only have to please myself, and I only have time invested, so I can rep whatever I like. I do my best to rep projects that I love and that I think will sell, but I can afford to gamble a bit and be wrong. An editor has to please her bosses and the marketing dept and sales dept and everyone else, and has potentially many years and hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the future of her career invested - so she really has to make sure that it is a project she HAS TO HAVE.

As for when to give up, that is on a case-by-case basis and is something that I'd discuss with the author based on how long we've been shopping it, what kind of feedback it had received, if the author is willing to revise, etc.

Ciera_
12-20-2008, 09:39 AM
Hi Jennifer! Your advice to young authors was really insightful and gave me a lot to think about, thanks!
I was just wondering, what's your stance on vampires? I know you represent children's books, but do you think that if you did YA books, you would like vampires?
If you were reading a query and saw the word 'vampire', would you immediately decide against it? Or would you try and determine whether the story would stand out in a sea of Twilight-wannabes? D'you think you might ever see the presence of vampires in a book as a good thing?

Thanks so much, it's really neat that you're here and doing this! ^.^

MsJudy
12-21-2008, 05:32 AM
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.)

Very interesting. This is not the first time I've heard "too many fantasy submissions!" And yet.... That's about all my sons read! Paolini, Riordan, John Flanagan, Funke, Suzanne Collins.... If I buy it for them, they will read some contemporary fiction--Sachar, Spinelli, Andrew Clements--but the ones they ask for are almost always fantasy. And the same is true for all their friends.

So it makes me wonder. Is the real problem not that too many people are submitting fantasy, but that too many people are writing derivative fantasy that just isn't fresh and creative enough? Or they devote so much energy to the world they've created that they forget to learn how to tell a good story?

Second question--what about books like Mary Amato's THE WORD EATER? It has a completely realistic setting that never strays into a single portal. There is only one magical element in it. How does one describe a similar book? I'm concerned that if I query my current WIP as "fantasy" it creates the expectation that I've built a separate world. Magical realism implies events that seem magical to the reader but perfectly normal to the characters. Urban fantasy implies a level of edginess and grit that seems out of place for middle grades. "Slightly fantastical?" Now that just sounds pompous.

Jennifer_Laughran
12-22-2008, 09:34 AM
Very interesting. This is not the first time I've heard "too many fantasy submissions!" And yet.... That's about all my sons read! Paolini, Riordan, John Flanagan, Funke, Suzanne Collins.... If I buy it for them, they will read some contemporary fiction--Sachar, Spinelli, Andrew Clements--but the ones they ask for are almost always fantasy. And the same is true for all their friends.

So it makes me wonder. Is the real problem not that too many people are submitting fantasy, but that too many people are writing derivative fantasy that just isn't fresh and creative enough? Or they devote so much energy to the world they've created that they forget to learn how to tell a good story?

Well, you'll note that I never said there was too many fantasy submissions. I was answering a question about why editors are clamoring for contemporary middle grade (which many, many editors say), and I said there is not enough of that. In fact, I said YA overshadows MG submissions by a significant margin, fantasy and non-fantasy - I am not suggesting there is too much YA. Just that there is not enough MG.

But sure, there are those suckiness-problems (derivitive, not fresh, not creative, not a good story) in both the fantasy world and the non-fantasy, and that is what makes up the vast majority of slush-pile. And plenty of published books as well.


Second question--what about books like Mary Amato's THE WORD EATER? It has a completely realistic setting that never strays into a single portal. There is only one magical element in it. How does one describe a similar book? I'm concerned that if I query my current WIP as "fantasy" it creates the expectation that I've built a separate world. Magical realism implies events that seem magical to the reader but perfectly normal to the characters. Urban fantasy implies a level of edginess and grit that seems out of place for middle grades. "Slightly fantastical?" Now that just sounds pompous.

Lots of MGs have just one or two weird magical elements in an otherwise straightforward world (a 75-foot chicken menacing the streets of Hoboken, a curse that gives the main character bad luck and sends him to a detention camp where the action begins, a plastic Indian toy that comes to life). In the case of Word Eater, though I haven't read it, based on the description I read I'd call it a Middle Grade novel, perhaps a "zany" or "magical" or even "zany and magical" one.

Jennifer_Laughran
12-22-2008, 09:45 AM
I was just wondering, what's your stance on vampires? I know you represent children's books, but do you think that if you did YA books, you would like vampires?
If you were reading a query and saw the word 'vampire', would you immediately decide against it? Or would you try and determine whether the story would stand out in a sea of Twilight-wannabes? D'you think you might ever see the presence of vampires in a book as a good thing?


I do represent YA books, they are part of "children's" (which is shorthand for "Books for Children and Young Adults", I just don't feel like typing all that all the time!). In fact, I mostly represent YA books.

I have nothing particularly for or against vampires. Because the market is very saturated with Twilight and its knockoffs, the book would have to be spectacular, like, knock-your-sox-off AMAZING, and in some way significantly differentiated from those other books, for me to think it would have a good chance of selling.

Yvettesgonefishing
12-23-2008, 02:26 AM
Well, you'll note that I never said there was too many fantasy submissions. I was answering a question about why editors are clamoring for contemporary middle grade (which many, many editors say), and I said there is not enough of that. In fact, I said YA overshadows MG submissions by a significant margin, fantasy and non-fantasy - I am not suggesting there is too much YA. Just that there is not enough MG.

But sure, there are those suckiness-problems (derivitive, not fresh, not creative, not a good story) in both the fantasy world and the non-fantasy, and that is what makes up the vast majority of slush-pile. And plenty of published books as well.


I hope I am not violating protocol by jumping in line twice, but your response to this poster has me looking at my story from a different angle. I think it would be about three miles south of 'flakey' for me to jump from YA to MG simply because there's more demand and less supply in that genre, but I'm wondering now if I don't have my story in the wrong category to begin with. It has a lot of elements that work well in either genre, but perhaps one or two that would work better with MG.

My two main characters are eleven and nine years old. There are no coming-of-age sub-themes. There is no violence. There are many moments of discovery and self-discovery. Words which may be beyond some readers' level are introduced and explained in fun ways and through creative, humorous dialogue--just a very few, but it's a conscious effort. There are a few dark aspects but they are not what I would call morbidly so, and I think they work in either genre. There's a lot of humor in the story that just may not dazzle the older kids--cutesy and light.

My thinking at this point is that my story could be nudged in either direction with just a few small changes. One thing that may be a snag: as a story that is adventure from page one nearly through the ending, there are a few moments of peril. Is this too intense for MG?

This story is my first attempt at anything of this length--a novel. I've only written shorts before this. Forgive me if I appear stupid, but in your opinion/experience, how much peril will an MG story tolerate?




Lots of MGs have just one or two weird magical elements in an otherwise straightforward world .


This is another concern of mine. My story begins in a 'straightforward world" and then transitions to a fantasy setting in chapter 3. I surpassed "one or two weird magical elements" by the end of chapter 4. There is no wand-waving magic in my story--no witches, warlocks, or sorcerers--but there are a lot of fantasy characters and creatures throughout. Does your statement above suggest a trend with most MG stories currently being submitted/published, or is it a hard, fast rule? Is it a breach of etiquette to have far more than one or two such elements in an MG? Yes, I see the word "lots" up there--it's not an absolute but is it an expectation? Something I dare not stray from as a newbie?

Jennifer_Laughran
12-23-2008, 07:13 AM
My two main characters are eleven and nine years old. There are no coming-of-age sub-themes. There is no violence. There are many moments of discovery and self-discovery. Words which may be beyond some readers' level are introduced and explained in fun ways and through creative, humorous dialogue--just a very few, but it's a conscious effort. There are a few dark aspects but they are not what I would call morbidly so, and I think they work in either genre. There's a lot of humor in the story that just may not dazzle the older kids--cutesy and light.

Sounds like a MG to me. In fact, based on what you describe here, I don't see how you could possibly think otherwise.


There are a few moments of peril... how much peril will an MG story tolerate?

IMO, fantasy-type violence is OK, like in an action movie. Swords & sorcerors, pirates, villains, killer robots, ninjas, are all OK. Realistic violence -- school shootings and the like -- not OK. Additionally, anything realistic and perilous that might compel a child reader to copycat is probably not going to work.


Does your statement above suggest a trend with most MG stories currently being submitted/published, or is it a hard, fast rule? Is it a breach of etiquette to have far more than one or two such elements in an MG? Yes, I see the word "lots" up there--it's not an absolute but is it an expectation? Something I dare not stray from as a newbie?

I think you are thinking waaay too hard about this. I was telling him that it is OK to mix fantastic and realistic elements. In my opinion it is. Some may disagree with me, but some of my favorite books are a mix of fantastic and realistic. It works when it works, and there are plenty of examples of it working in MG. When done badly, it is like an awful trainwreck. I haven't read your book, so I can't tell you on which side of the divide you fall! But write the book you want to write, make it great, and figure out this other stuff afterwards.

PurpleClover
12-24-2008, 03:04 AM
Hi Jennifer,

It's nice to meet you and I appreciate you taking the time to answer questions.

My questions are more specific to your agency then writing in general.

I queried an agent around 3 weeks ago on two picture book manuscripts. It was exclusive and I stated so in the email. However, I've just finished another early middle-grade MS and was wondering if I need to wait to hear from her on the other query before submitting the new one? If I do wait and it ends up being a rejection should I assume the new manuscript should not be submitted with your agency (once rejected always rejected)? Also, if you do suggest I submit it to her now, should I mention the other MS? I'm not sure if that would sound pushy since it's only been 3 weeks and your website advises writers of a 4-8 week response time.

On a side note, is 3 weeks on a picture book an indication of no interest since the full MS is in the email? (I believe your website also says they don't get back to everyone that they have no interest, so I'm not sure if I'm waiting on the new MS for no reason or if it really does take the full 4-8 weeks regardless of the MS)

Many, many thanks to you in advance. I appreciate your time and have the utmost respect for your agency. I apologize for so many questions and I'm sure its obvious that I'm new to this. Hopefully my questions aren't absurd. :)

Regards,
Jenn

Jennifer_Laughran
12-26-2008, 11:51 PM
I queried an agent around 3 weeks ago on two picture book manuscripts. It was exclusive and I stated so in the email. However, I've just finished another early middle-grade MS and was wondering if I need to wait to hear from her on the other query before submitting the new one?

We don't expect manuscripts to be submitted to us exclusively unless we've specifically requested that of you. I think it is polite to do one query at a time -- myself, I get confused when I have lots of different projects from one person to look at. Personally, I would wait.


If I do wait and it ends up being a rejection should I assume the new manuscript should not be submitted with your agency (once rejected always rejected)?

You can consider a rejection from one agent as a rejection from all, on that manuscript. So if she rejects your picture books, you can either query her again with the MG, or you can pick a different agent to query on the MG.


On a side note, is 3 weeks on a picture book an indication of no interest since the full MS is in the email? (I believe your website also says they don't get back to everyone that they have no interest, so I'm not sure if I'm waiting on the new MS for no reason or if it really does take the full 4-8 weeks regardless of the MS)

It makes no difference if it is PB, MG, YA, NF or whatever. We look at things in the order we get them, we take the amount of time we take, and you should follow the submission guidelines and give it the amount of time we ask for.

Also, just so you know, the agency (like most of the publishing world) is closed for the holidays. :)

PurpleClover
12-27-2008, 12:03 AM
We don't expect manuscripts to be submitted to us exclusively unless we've specifically requested that of you. I think it is polite to do one query at a time -- myself, I get confused when I have lots of different projects from one person to look at. Personally, I would wait.



You can consider a rejection from one agent as a rejection from all, on that manuscript. So if she rejects your picture books, you can either query her again with the MG, or you can pick a different agent to query on the MG.



It makes no difference if it is PB, MG, YA, NF or whatever. We look at things in the order we get them, we take the amount of time we take, and you should follow the submission guidelines and give it the amount of time we ask for.

Also, just so you know, the agency (like most of the publishing world) is closed for the holidays. :)

Thank you so much for your response. I really appreciate it. I've had a few people tell me that usually the agent asks for the piece to be exclusive (not the other way around). I thought I had read somewhere that your agency prefers exclusives or maybe that is just a general preference of all agents.

I honestly didn't think twice about closure for the holidays until I read it on another agency and thought - duh!

At least knowing they read them in order makes me feel there is still an opportunity. Gives me another couple weeks of daydreaming! ;)

Thanks again!

MsJudy
12-27-2008, 06:11 AM
Me again....

First, thanks for the earlier response. I just finished THE PENDERWICKS and found it very delightful--not only the book, but also the fact that it was published recently. It's so Little Women in its sweetness; I'm glad it's still possible to bring out a book that is that innocent, that not everything has to be edgy and cool.

It got me thinking.... I moonlight working with at-risk 3rd through 6th graders. There's such a gap between the books their teachers make them read--WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS, ELIJAH OF BUXTON--and the books they choose to read--GOOSEBUMPS, DIARY OF A WIMPY KID. I know with adult books, there's that distinction between "literary" and "mass market," and that literary carries the prestige but mass market gets all the money. (Well, the lion's share, anyway.)

Does the same hold true for children's books? Do agents and editors talk in terms of literary quality vs. mass appeal? Or does the fact that grown-ups do so much of the book-buying even things out and give a quiet book a better chance of succeeding?

Thanks again,
Judy

Peej
12-27-2008, 07:45 AM
Jennifer,

Thanks for being here and doing this. I just joined and am enjoying this cool world here, where I can ask my beginner questions without looking (too much) like a moron.

I have finished my first children's novel (under 23,000 words), which is in the same vein as the Ramona Quimby or Anastasia books. I do plan on creating a series with my character, which should follow her through elementary and beyond. I have based the main character physically from my oldest child, and some of her antics from children in my life or my own childhood memories. My current line of work is as a Realtor, and my published articles have to do with real estate, not children per se, and are in small local magazines where I have paid to advertise and write.

What is your professional opinion on including my real estate articles as part of my personal info on the query? And on including a blurb about my character being partially based on my oldest child? Leave it out or go ahead?

Since this isn't a picture book, do I need to limit my query submissions solely to those who have handled similar books or go for all who represent children's books in all forms?

Thanks, Peej

AdamRothstein
12-28-2008, 05:58 AM
Jennifer,

My name is Adam P. Rothstein. I am a debut author trying to figure out how this crazy publishing world works.

I have very eclectic taste when it comes to what I read, and my writing reflects that. Therefore, I have written in a number of different genres, as well as different mediums (i.e. poetry, screenplays, novels, short stories, etc.)

My question is this-

Should I talk about all of the different kinds of things I like to write in my query letter to agents, or should I just focus on one project? I've stated in a number or queries that my main focus right now is my novel, but I feel like I just sound as if I'm a little too all over the place. What do you think?

Happy Holidays!

-adam

Jennifer_Laughran
12-28-2008, 07:01 AM
Do agents and editors talk in terms of literary quality vs. mass appeal? Or does the fact that grown-ups do so much of the book-buying even things out and give a quiet book a better chance of succeeding?


Of course they do. That is why some books sell for a million dollars and some books sell for five thousand. That is why some books have full page ads in the New York Times, and some books have a sixteeth of a page in the publisher's catalogue. That is why so very, very often, you've never heard of the book that wins the Newbery award until the award is announced.

That isn't to say that there is no room at the table for highly literary children's books. Of course there is. There are certain books that scream "award winner! librarian fave!" and those will get published - after all, librarians and schools do buy a lot of books. (Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy; Kira-Kira)

There are other books that scream "glitter cover! kids fave!" and those will also get published. (Rainbow Magic, Captain Underpants)

Parents, meanwhile, usually want something that looks substantial and smart and nice, something that reminds them of what a Good Children's Book Ought To Be.

The sweet spot is right where those categories meet -- things that are good enough to win awards, fun enough for kids not to hate them, AND charming enough for parents to want to buy loads of copies. Examples include the Penderwicks, Mysterious Benedict Society, Rules by Cynthia Lord, Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko, and Tale of Desperaux.

Jennifer_Laughran
12-28-2008, 07:06 AM
What is your professional opinion on including my real estate articles as part of my personal info on the query? And on including a blurb about my character being partially based on my oldest child? Leave it out or go ahead?

Since this isn't a picture book, do I need to limit my query submissions solely to those who have handled similar books or go for all who represent children's books in all forms?


Congrats on finishing your book. I would leave the real-estate articles out of the personal info, as it has no bearing at all on writing for children. I would not put anything about the character being based on your own kid, as it detracts from whatever this story might be -- this is the sort of info you can give in a witty and warm interview after the book is published and you are famous.

You should be looking for agents who rep chapter books and/or middle grade. Good luck! :)

Jennifer_Laughran
12-28-2008, 07:10 AM
Should I talk about all of the different kinds of things I like to write in my query letter to agents, or should I just focus on one project?

Focus on the project you are pitching. Good luck!

AdamRothstein
12-28-2008, 07:18 AM
That's what I figured, but it's nice to have my beliefs confirmed by a professional...thanks!

One more quick question-

What is the age group classified as young adults? Because I'm not quite sure which group my novel caters to. I think it would be a range of about 13-30.

Happy Holidays!

-adam

PurpleClover
12-28-2008, 08:20 AM
Is there a preference for past or present tense in MG's? I found that present kind of comes out automatically when I write that age group but have read that it can be distracting for agents. Should we try to stick to past tense?

Also you may have addressed this (I'm still going thru the posts so if you did feel free to ignore this question) but is there a greater need for early middle grade or middle grade? I'm finding I'm in a position to revise my MG ms and not sure if I should go for either direction based on demand.

Thanks, thanks, thanks!

Oh and do you blog? I would love to subscribe if you have a public blogspot. (Like you have time for one more thing right?)

Peej
12-28-2008, 11:55 AM
Thanks, Jennifer. I appreciate the quick response!

ellisnation
12-28-2008, 05:57 PM
Hello Jennifer,

I apologize if someone has already asked you this question, but is it harder to get an agent to rep a PB than other types of children's books? I realize there are many agents out there that are very passionate about picture books. However, I have heard it is better for a writer to go directly to a publisher than to try and find an agent with their first PB.

Thanks a bunch :)

Jennifer_Laughran
12-30-2008, 11:33 PM
What is the age group classified as young adults? Because I'm not quite sure which group my novel caters to. I think it would be a range of about 13-30.


LOL. Well, realistically, that is the age range that is READING young adult books. But think "high school", 14+, as the goal. Yes some skew a bit younger and some a bit older - 14-16 is about right, IMO.

(There is a new trend of books being labeled "16+" -- that have much more graphic content -- but those are still not the norm)

Jennifer_Laughran
12-30-2008, 11:40 PM
Is there a preference for past or present tense in MG's? I found that present kind of comes out automatically when I write that age group but have read that it can be distracting for agents. Should we try to stick to past tense?

I am sorry, I have truly never thought about this. I don't care what tense you write in as long as it is a natural fit for the story and the voice - I would only ever notice tense if it is awkwardly done.


Is there a greater need for early middle grade or middle grade?

Hmmm -- I personally am not seeing enough true MG. Lots of chapter books and early MG, not enough true MG. I don't know if that is just me, though.


Oh and do you blog? I would love to subscribe if you have a public blogspot.

I have had a livejournal forever. I really hardly ever have time to update it, and I tend to not friend people unless I know them personally, but it is Literaticat. Also, my YA book group has an LJ community: notyourmothers - at which I talk about, well, YA books and upcoming events.

Jennifer_Laughran
12-30-2008, 11:44 PM
I apologize if someone has already asked you this question, but is it harder to get an agent to rep a PB than other types of children's books? I realize there are many agents out there that are very passionate about picture books. However, I have heard it is better for a writer to go directly to a publisher than to try and find an agent with their first PB.


Hi there. I think I answered this question on the second page, #28 or so. The short version is, you don't need an agent if you only write picture books (and you only intend to write picture books), because there are still publishers that take pb's over the transom. HOWEVER, if you have bigger goals and want to make a career of this, I would still advise an agent - you just may have to have more than one idea to show them.

wordpoke
12-31-2008, 12:07 AM
Hi Jennifer,

Thank you for taking time to answer our questions. I have learned much from your thoughtful and candid answers here. I have just begun looking for an agent, and your agency is at the top of my list. What a wonderful surprise to find you here!

My question: Do I simply look for an agent who handles MG, or do I need to find that needle in a haystack, an agent who handles Christian MG? My MG novel is an Advent and Christmas book and is, of course, Christian in content and outlook. Although classed as MG, the book is arranged so that it can be read chapter-by-chapter to younger children and is appropriate for them as well.

Thank you again for being here.

snook
12-31-2008, 02:19 AM
Yeah, kudos on the insights.

scope
12-31-2008, 02:24 AM
Jennifer,

If you have answered this question before, please excuse me -- I can't find it.

When do you think a published author should create a website and/or blog? I don't have either, but since my latest book will be out in about one year (I hope) I have decided to turn a new leaf and create same for exposure about six months before its release. I'll pitch the upcoming book and will also have several links, including "other works". Also, what about an unpublished authors with no book yet sold? How useful do you think a site an/or blog would be for them?

In the past I have written a fair amount of published nonfiction books for children and adults. With the exception of creating a site and/or a blog to announce the release of an upcoming book, my belief is that one is more likely to draw to their site if it is "theme" oriented, as opposed to general in nature (writer thoughts). What you think?

scope
12-31-2008, 03:05 AM
Hi Jennifer,

Just curious, given with the voluminous, almost daily changes at publishing houses-editors, consolidations, liquidations, etc.- during the past several months, what method do you use to keep your records current? It seems like an overwhelming, time consuming task, although necessary.

MacAllister
12-31-2008, 10:12 AM
Since Jennifer keeps coming back like some kinda masochist, to very kindly answer questions and play with us, I'm adding her to the august group of "Absolute Sages" -- you know, those folks who wear a sticker under their name tag that tells you they know what they're talking about? This is a milestone, because she's the first AW Sage I've ever added. Heh.

And Jennifer? Thank you so very much. You're not only amazingly patient and helpful, you're funny as hell. We very much appreciate the time you spend here.

Exir
12-31-2008, 03:32 PM
Dear Jennifer Laughran,

I'd first like to thank you for patiently answering all our questions. I certainly learned a lot from your answers!

I'll just add a question of my own: how much is the Middle Grade readership demanding for stories set in a foreign country/culture? (Or, in my case, contemporary China?)

I have written two very different versions of my story: same story, but one set in the USA, and one set in contemporary China. So far, I am finding the story set in China to be fuller and richer in detail, as the opportunity to present the many interesting (almost quirky) aspects of Chinese culture gives me lots of material.

I have noticed that since the Beijing Olympics, the foreign media had been much more interested in China, although I feel as though the western press isn't doing China and its culture justice. There hasn't been many stories in the market set in China, I have noticed; those which are published seem to be either written by foreigners (journalists mostly) who happened to live in China, or Chinese immigrants in the western world (and the second type of stories seem to be more about immigrants trying to fit into the western culture, than about the lives of Chinese people IN China). Perhaps a story written by someone who had lived in China all his life would fill this void.

My question here is, how much does the MG market demand for this kind of story? On the one hand, many MG readers will be interested to read about a totally different culture. However, will the reader really resonate with the story as well as they would if it was set in their own culture? By setting the story in a foreign culture, would I make the reader feel a bit -- I don't know -- alienated? If a child were to see two stories, with one set in their own culture, and another set in a foreign country, which one will he/she pick? Will he/she be willing to step out of their comfort zone by choosing the second option?

I'd like to hear your opinion on this subject. Having lived in China all my life, I can't really see the Chinese culture as a "foreign" culture, despite the fact that my story, if published, would certainly be read exclusively by an audience who DOES consider it as "foreign." Having someone from outside answering my questions would be nice.

Thanks in advance!

FancyPants
01-02-2009, 10:59 PM
Jennifer, great to have you here! Thanks for taking the time.

I have a couple questions.

1. How do you know when you are ready to find an agent?

2. Which is most important: cover letter or submission?

Thanks!

Jennifer_Laughran
01-03-2009, 03:30 AM
My question: Do I simply look for an agent who handles MG, or do I need to find that needle in a haystack, an agent who handles Christian MG? My MG novel is an Advent and Christmas book and is, of course, Christian in content and outlook.



Hmmm -- this is a tough one, actually. First of all, a holiday book is a tough sell in any case. But the question of whether you go with a Christian agent* or not depends on if your book will sell to the regular trade market or Christian market. Yep, there is a difference. I could rep a basically secular book with potential Christian interest, for example -- (I probably WOULDN'T, but that's a different story) -- but I couldn't rep a Christian book.

Why? Cause the Christian book market is actually quite different from the regular trade market. I honestly wouldn't know how to sell the Christian book, or to whom. So I guess you have to figure out what sort of a beast you've got.

Also, if this is not the only book you plan to write, will your future books also be Christian-themed? If you have other, more secular projects to shop as well, you will probably have a better shot at landing a regular trade agent.

* ETA - for anyone that is unclear - by "Christian Agent" I am not implying the actual religion of the agent themselves, but rather, what market they sell to. There are plenty of agents, who are Christian, who do not rep Christian Market books. There are probably lots of agents who are Zoroastrians or Jews or Hindus or something else, who DO rep Christian Market books. (Well, maybe not "lots", but SOME.) So don't write me weird mail about it!

Jennifer_Laughran
01-03-2009, 03:39 AM
Just curious, given with the voluminous, almost daily changes at publishing houses-editors, consolidations, liquidations, etc.- during the past several months, what method do you use to keep your records current? It seems like an overwhelming, time consuming task, although necessary.

We have a database.

But it becomes a lot easier to remember when the people losing their jobs are your friends.

Jennifer_Laughran
01-03-2009, 03:52 AM
When do you think a published author should create a website and/or blog? I don't have either, but since my latest book will be out in about one year (I hope) I have decided to turn a new leaf and create same for exposure about six months before its release. I'll pitch the upcoming book and will also have several links, including "other works". Also, what about an unpublished authors with no book yet sold? How useful do you think a site an/or blog would be for them?

In the past I have written a fair amount of published nonfiction books for children and adults. With the exception of creating a site and/or a blog to announce the release of an upcoming book, my belief is that one is more likely to draw to their site if it is "theme" oriented, as opposed to general in nature (writer thoughts). What you think?

I think that a website is as important as a business card. If you are a professional writer, ie, you are being published by a legit publisher, IMO, you need a website.

People might disagree with me, but I don't think you really need one until you actually have a book deal and a release date. At that point, a clean, professional website is in order so that people can see what you've got coming out, you can list personal appearances, etc.

I do know unpublished writers who have personal websites and blogs, and that is fine -- I do, however, find it weird when people have links or post material from unpublished work online. If any of my clients have that kind of thing up, I ask them to remove it before we begin shopping the manuscript.

I do NOT think it is a must to have a blog unless you are a natural blogger. If you are writing a blog because "it is good marketing", I have news for you, nobody will want to read it. The blogs that are interesting are about subjects that the author is passionate about, and that are funny and relaxed and only occasionally and tangentially about the book. Some people are good at this. Some people aren't. If you are one of the ones who isn't, I strongly suggest you NOT get a blog!

Jennifer_Laughran
01-03-2009, 03:57 AM
Since Jennifer keeps coming back like some kinda masochist, to very kindly answer questions and play with us, I'm adding her to the august group of "Absolute Sages" -- you know, those folks who wear a sticker under their name tag that tells you they know what they're talking about? This is a milestone, because she's the first AW Sage I've ever added. Heh.

And Jennifer? Thank you so very much. You're not only amazingly patient and helpful, you're funny as hell. We very much appreciate the time you spend here.

Aww, thanks, it is a pleasure.

Somebody asked me WHY I agreed to do this, and it is pretty straightforward: I see SO many writers getting screwed over with bad advice, or wandering around lost and stumbling into scam artists, etc, that it bums me out. I hope that I can at least help SOME people avoid those traps!

Oh and also, it is a way to feel semi-productive, and procrastinate at the same time. ;)

Jennifer_Laughran
01-03-2009, 04:08 AM
I'll just add a question of my own: how much is the Middle Grade readership demanding for stories set in a foreign country/culture?

Well, I don't know how much middle graders themselves care, but there are certainly loads of agents and editors who are very interested in authentic stories set in non-US cultures.

We have plenty of books set in the USA, and very few set outside of it. Certainly, we need more!

scope
01-03-2009, 05:07 AM
Jennifer,

Once again, thanks for the great insight and the time you devote to all of our questions.

Jennifer_Laughran
01-03-2009, 05:30 AM
1. How do you know when you are ready to find an agent?

2. Which is most important: cover letter or submission?


1. "When your book is ready to be published" sounds like a kinda pat answer. So I will go further. You want to be a professional writer and you have done all the right things, everything you can do under your own steam: read a ton of children's books, written a lot, shown your work to other people, learned to revise, and you really think that the book you have in your hand is a polished gem and, well, ready to be published. Now you can look for an agent.

But if you HAVEN'T done that stuff yet - ie, if you don't read children's books regularly, if you don't know how to revise, if you have never written more than a rough draft, or not even finished that, if you don't have a critique group or someone to at least objectively look at your work... please don't bother.

2. The cover/query letter should be interesting, professional, and simple. I am certainly more interested in the submission itself. You do yourself a disservice by rambling, but also by being curt - the cover letter should just be a nice intro to who you are and what this thing that I am holding in my hands might be. I kinda think people get too wound up about these things!

Yvettesgonefishing
01-04-2009, 01:49 AM
I kinda think people get too wound up about these things!


Yes, that's an accurate impression. Count me among those quaking in their boots. It seems even more important than the actual submission are all those things spinning in orbit around it: cover letter, synopsis, and the dreaded query.

I went into this thinking that if the story was strong, I'd have no problems. Ack. All these other things can sink you, even before anyone takes peek number one at your actual story. Personally, I'm petrified. A sure sign of a noob, but there ya go! We're all frightened! :)

Red.Ink.Rain
01-08-2009, 12:06 AM
Hi Jennifer! Thanks for coming.

I had an agent interested in reading my manuscript recently. Because her agency was very new and her publishing background seemed vague, I posted several threads on forums like Absolute Write, asking for any more information about her. I mentioned that she was brand new and had no client sales yet, so I was debating on whether it was even a good idea to send her my manuscript. Today she sent me the link with one of those threads and a short note explaining she was no longer interested in taking me on as a client because of this.

My question is, did I say or do something rude? I asked this agent my questions directly, but never received an answer for some of them. I felt like it was just unprofessional on her part, but I wanted to make sure that this wasn't some taboo thing on my part.

Second question: What projects have you been most excited about recently, whether you actually took on the client or not?

Jennifer_Laughran
01-08-2009, 12:36 AM
My question is, did I say or do something rude?

I am a little stunned that you have to ask this. I can presume based on the information that you have given me here that I know who you are talking about, and I saw those posts too. In a thread with her name on it, you copied and pasted pieces of her correspondence, presumably without permission. You also said that you were going to use her potential offer as a "sneaky" way to get your top agents to look faster or offer rep. Then said, quote, "I think I'm going to try to find some way to NOT send her my manuscript, lol." You also called her "fishy" and suggested that she might be a "scammer".

Well, I'd be offended, too! I can guarantee you that if one of my potential clients posted anything like what you posted about her, about me, or indeed posted any of my emails in public without my permission, I would drop them like a hot potato.

Posting questions on a public forum is not the same thing asking a confidante for advice. Posting libel on a public forum is not the same thing as gossiping or talking smack with your best friends. It kills me when I see writers posting the gorey details about their agent search, or delicate information about offers and negotiations. Ugh, STOP! EVERYONE reads these forums. EVERYONE has google alerts. EVERYONE knows how to look up your old posts, and even if you use a pseudonym, your identity isn't so secret if you post info like private emails online!

It is important for new writers to have people to vent with and learn the ropes from, I totally get that -- but you still have to be professional (ie, discreet) in public.

I know it might sound harsh, and I am sorry, but I am not trying to be mean. This case aside, you might think before you post in future.


Second question: What projects have you been most excited about recently, whether you actually took on the client or not?

Mmmm - good question, but I can't tell. I am excited by all the stuff that my clients are working on! :)

Red.Ink.Rain
01-08-2009, 01:40 AM
No, it's okay, you're probably right. I was essentially just trying to be thorough, but I obviously got carried away. Thank you for the advice.

ixchel
01-08-2009, 10:35 PM
Hi, Jenn! This is Ixtumea! I finally got in!

I have a few questions. When you query agents should you mention that you are also querying others? Or only do this if they ask?

What is your take on exclusives? Should a writer say no? Or if they do decide to do this, to give the agent a timeline?

On the bio part of your query, should you only put down any publishing credits that are with traditional presses?

Also I'm interested in how much you should reveal if you do blog about the whole querying journey. A few writers have listed which agents have turned them down and whether or not it was with a form 'no' or more personal. I'm curious about your take on this.

Once again, you rock! Thanks for taking the time to answer questions.

Jennifer_Laughran
01-10-2009, 06:49 AM
When you query agents should you mention that you are also querying others? Or only do this if they ask?

I have answered this before, I think, but basically: Sure. I mean, I assume that everyone is querying others, but I guess it doesn't hurt to mention it.


What is your take on exclusives? Should a writer say no? Or if they do decide to do this, to give the agent a timeline?

LOL, IX! I answered this too! Briefly: I don't believe in exclusives personally, but I know there are a few agents who insist on them. If someone does request an exclusive and you want to give it, do set a short timeline and stick to it.


On the bio part of your query, should you only put down any publishing credits that are with traditional presses?

Well, you can put whatever you want, it is your call, but I would probably not put anything that might make me look "small-time". Like, I might put that I have had stories in the New Yorker, but I probably wouldn't put that I have stories in the Lafayette Advertiser. I would certainly put that I had a book published by Random House - I might skip that I had an e-book published by Randim-Hauze.com. You know what I mean? Matter of personal preference, I suppose...


Also I'm interested in how much you should reveal if you do blog about the whole querying journey. A few writers have listed which agents have turned them down and whether or not it was with a form 'no' or more personal. I'm curious about your take on this.

Well, I don't know. Again, my personal thought on this is, the less said the better. I don't blog about the houses I am submitting my clients work to. I don't blog about it when I am in the midst of courting a potential client and trying to woo her away from all the other agents, nor do I blog about rejecting people. I feel like work-life and blog-life ought to have a bit of distance between them, and just because you are thinking something doesn't mean you HAVE to blog about it.

I know that plenty of people want to do this, though, so whatever. As long as you are polite about it and you don't post their rejection letters online. I also have no problem with putting response times on sites like Absolute Write and Verla Kay.

Thanks, hope that answered your questions.

HappyToWrite
01-11-2009, 03:15 AM
Hello Ms. Laughran! I'm HappyToWrite and I'm a freshly picked newbie.


Here are my questions.



1. Does an unpublished writer's age affect wether or not the agent decides to represent them?

and

2. I have heard over and over again, what a writer should include in a query letter, but one thing bothers me. I am constantly told that a writer must include their prior experiences with Writing. IE, workshops, critique groups, college degrees, and any other writing "credits". But, what if you don't have any of these? What if for whatever reason, be it financial or lack of transportation, all of the knowledge about writing that you were only able to acquire was through Creative writing books, reading, and occasionally seeking advice from older Writers when you were given the chance.

Will that deter an agent from wanting to represent me?

Jennifer_Laughran
01-11-2009, 03:46 AM
1. Does an unpublished writer's age affect wether or not the agent decides to represent them?

Hi, Happy. There are other posts sort of answering this earlier in the thread, but. If the book is truly outstanding, it doesn't matter how old you are or how much experience you have. There is no reason that a minor can't have an agent, they would just need to have their parents involved if they are under 18. That said, it is really hard to GET outstanding without a certain amount of experience.

Speaking only for myself: I have never read a manuscript or a book by a teenager that has made me say "I WISH I REPRESENTED THEM!" Never. And that includes teen authors that have been published for millions. By all means try to make me change my mind.


2. I am constantly told that a writer must include their prior experiences with Writing. IE, workshops, critique groups, college degrees, and any other writing "credits". But, what if you don't have any of these?

I disagree. I think you need only include those items if they are relevant. If not, close with: "This is a debut novel. Thank you for your time."

Best of luck!

Wizard1
01-12-2009, 03:40 AM
I see at your agency, as well as many others, there are various titles attached to agents, such as senior agent, agent, associate agent, etc. I assume that these titles convey different levels of experience and seniority with the firm. My question is how important is this to a new writer looking at which agents to submit work to within an agency. Do we have a better chance at getting looked at by a less experienced agent with fewer clients? Does the more experienced agent tend to get bigger deals? etc. Thank you in advance for your response.

Jennifer_Laughran
01-12-2009, 09:38 AM
I see at your agency, as well as many others, there are various titles attached to agents, such as senior agent, agent, associate agent, etc. I assume that these titles convey different levels of experience and seniority with the firm. My question is how important is this to a new writer looking at which agents to submit work to within an agency. Do we have a better chance at getting looked at by a less experienced agent with fewer clients? Does the more experienced agent tend to get bigger deals? etc.

Yes, you assume correctly. I can't speak for any other agency, but at mine, there are Associate Agents, Agents, a senior agent and the president. Though as an agency we work collaboratively on just about everything, Associate agents are "partnered" and work very closely with more senior agents. This is good because our clients have the expertise of the senior agents and the enthusiasm and energy of the junior -- we are actively building our lists!

I think there are good points to having either a senior or junior agent. Senior agents do tend to have more "Big Deals" -- but a lot of this has to do with the fact that they have "Big Clients". Most new agents don't START with huge multi-million-dollar authors on their lists, we build up to that. :-)

Senior agents also tend to have less bandwidth for new clients - it is just a fact. Especially if they have lots of big-time famous people, or rising stars, as clients! Clients just have to take priority over reading slush, so for that reason, a newer agent is more likely to discover a newbie author and give them a chance.

The most important thing, though, in my opinion, is that you find the agent that is going to be the best champion for your work. When I started, I had just a few clients, but I really, really clicked with their work and was passionate about it, and even though I was new, I don't think that any other agent would have been able to do as good a job for them, quite frankly. At the same time, agents with decades of experience have been able to do extraordinary things for their clients, and I might not have even looked at those submissions twice if they came across my desk.

What I am saying is, do a little research and sub to reputable agents that you think will really "click" with your work - that is more important than their title. Good luck!

zanizh
01-12-2009, 07:17 PM
Hi, Jennifer. Thank you for being here and answering questions.

I've gotten a lot of advice from fellow writers on the subject of what is and what isn't relevant in a query to an agent or publisher. On my queries, I used to list how many articles I've written online whether it was an open content site like Helium and Associate Content, to articles I was hired to write for other sites. How relevant is that information when I'm querying for a fiction novel? Many people advise me not to list any credentials because it's not fiction. What are your thoughts?

I'm also asked Nathan this question and to see if the consensus is the same.

Bella D'Ball
01-12-2009, 08:17 PM
Hello Jennifer-thank you for your time in answering my question-I have a solid query I'm ready to send out-it's one page and very informative about the book-but I was told I should write a much shorter query with just the basics-which is more preferred, a short query with basic information, or a longer query (both fit on one page) with deeper information? Would a shorter basic sabatoge the book by not including all the aspects of the story, or would a long one be too much information? Thank you again for your time :)

Ralph Pines
01-14-2009, 06:46 AM
Hi Jennifer

A query question(s).

How important is for a writer to have or pad their writer's resume?

What is the best way to do it for a first time writer, contests or magazines?

Thank you for your time.

Rafael

Sweetleaf
01-14-2009, 09:24 PM
I have a question about query letters.

Can I put in a Maori language thank you and farewell to an American agent (with or without translation)? Or would that just sound pretentious?

Thank you!

Jennifer_Laughran
01-14-2009, 09:29 PM
I am happy to answer questions, but I do encourage all potential questionees to read the thread first. All of the following have been answered - so forgive me if I get a bit terse.


On my queries, I used to list how many articles I've written online whether it was an open content site like Helium and Associate Content, to articles I was hired to write for other sites. How relevant is that information when I'm querying for a fiction novel? Many people advise me not to list any credentials because it's not fiction.

Yup, they are correct. Don't care, not relevant.



How important is for a writer to have or pad their writer's resume?

What is the best way to do it for a first time writer, contests or magazines?


I would rather you not. See posts #8 (first page), #81, and #243 (THIS page) for more.


I have a solid query I'm ready to send out-it's one page and very informative about the book-but I was told I should write a much shorter query with just the basics-which is more preferred, a short query with basic information, or a longer query (both fit on one page) with deeper information? Would a shorter basic sabatoge the book by not including all the aspects of the story, or would a long one be too much information?

Personally, I prefer short. All I want to know is what this book is and why I should care. Anything more than a paragraph, I will probably skip and get right to the writing sample.