View Full Version : Perhaps In My Next Life...

12-03-2009, 01:30 AM

12-03-2009, 01:35 AM
I doubt you've found the one topic that's off limits everywhere. What's your subject?

Southern Girl
12-03-2009, 01:36 AM
Sorry to hear. I don't have anything to offer as far as your options, but I think it shows a great deal of love for the craft when you're willing to "just let it fly free".

Good luck with whatever you choose. :)

Kitty Pryde
12-03-2009, 01:40 AM
You forgot D: write a better book, get it published, gain a fan base, and then get your first book published (the one about the baby-eating fetish or whatever it may be) :)

PS Now I'm dying to know what this taboo topic is also.

PPS Welcome to AW!

12-03-2009, 01:44 AM
About ten of the 250 were interested enough to ask for a partial, and all of them got back to me in short order – not right for their list.

If you got that many requests for partials, it doesn't sound like the concept was turning off agents. Even though you write well (as evidenced by your post if nothing else), it's still possible that your fiction writing simply isn't engaging yet.

I don't say that to be mean; many, if not most first novels aren't (mine wasn't). Why not write another book, then revisit that one at a later date? Maybe you'll see some missing elements that make it a much stronger book.

12-03-2009, 01:50 AM
That doesn't sound controversial to me. Have you posted any of your work for critique, either in the Share Your Work forum on this board or elsewhere? Maybe someone can see something with your writing that could be improved.

(Hell, I'm writing a YA SF in which the US has become a Christian theocracy rampant with corruption, and my agent is excited to get her hands on it).

Kitty Pryde
12-03-2009, 02:00 AM

Without going into detail, it's an alternate reality that examines what life would be like for a young Christian in America if, centuries ago, Christianity had been supplanted by the "next generation" of messianic monotheism, Christians had become a small -- and often persecuted -- minority, and the new religion dominated virtually all aspects of modern American culture. In effect, it applies the Golden Rule to Christianity itself, and the resulting reflection is not very pretty.

So, Islam took over western culture? Kim Stanley Robinson managed to do it in "Years of Rice and Salt" and it was nominated for plenty of awards. I'm not quite sure how that's taboo either. If your thesis is "Christianity is bad", it's more diatribe than novel, and I think there's not much market for it. (But I can't tell if that's what you're saying or not)

12-03-2009, 02:16 AM
You might try posting your query here as well.

12-03-2009, 02:17 AM
No controversy in that at all. People play with "what if" all the time, and fantasy/sci-fi (alternate reality) has always been the place to explore the things in the real world without using the real world to do it.

12-03-2009, 02:26 AM
You might try posting your query here as well.

Sorry, I don't follow... you mean, post my query letter in this thread? Is that okay, or would I be too far off-topic for this board?

Kitty Pryde
12-03-2009, 02:29 AM
You can post your query letter over here: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=174 password is vista. Be forewarned, criticism in that particular forum can be a shock to the system, but it is very very helpful.

12-03-2009, 02:43 AM
Hi Basil. I'm sorry you're so disheartened. With 10 requests out of 250, I would say that your query letter is the problem. I don't know if your novel delivers, but I think your concept could be really interesting, but no one will find out if your query doesn't work. It's time to workshop the query...

Kitty Pryde
12-03-2009, 02:56 AM
The thing is, while nearly everyone round here has sympathy and chocolates for the Hapless Plight Of The Unsuccessful Querier, the "no one in publishing wants to buy a good book anymore" thing gets trotted out a lot around here but is not widely believed. Good books are sold all the time. Serious books, deep books, shallow books, taboo books, and frothy books. So you've reached a fairly skeptical audience in that respect. That said, if you want advice on how to improve, or improve your chances, we've got buckets of helpfulness :D

12-03-2009, 03:14 AM

I'll visit that site and take my chances -- would it be okay to post the query here as well, so that those who have responded to this thread can take a gander and provide me with some sagely (i.e: extremely useful but delicate) advice?

Basil, the link she provided is also on this site. It's just a different area. When you go post, you can come back here and post a link if you want. But I guarantee anyone who is interested here will pop over to Query Hell and take a look.

Kitty Pryde
12-03-2009, 03:55 AM
Our own resident brilliant author/agent Nathan Bransford on the subject of "Is My Novel Too Controversial?" (http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/05/too-controversial.html)

...One of the very most common questions I receive is about whether agents are rejecting a work because it's "too controversial." I'm always a bit mystified by this question. Since when is controversy a bad thing? Controversy = attention = curiosity = sales = have I told you lately that I love word math? Controversy can help a book rise up above the thousands of other books out there.

But most of the time when I'm asked this question, the author has either written a polemic or, very commonly, a speculative fiction novel that draws a straight line from the present to a horrific future. ... These books are political (both right and left wing) and they express their politics very very clearly.

Here's the thing. Setting aside from the fact that an intensely political novel is turning off half of its potential audience, the problem isn't that these types of novels are controversial, it's that they're not controversial at all...

Go read the whole thing. :)

Calla Lily
12-03-2009, 04:21 AM

Welcome to AW!

Without knowing your writing style, this leapt out at me:

Landing an agent is a massive task for any new author. Any agent who will stick their neck out for a novel portraying Christianity as antiquated, unenlightened and obsolete -- even in an alternate world -- is probably suicidal.

Keeping in mind I'm an evil broad, this read to me as preachy. Now, like I said, I haven't seen a sample of your writing. But if this worldview comes across stronger than telling a good story, perhaps it's one reason for the Rs.

Now that I've established myself as an Evil Goddess, I want to soften my opinionated opinion: feel free to send me your query and first chapter, if you'd like an impartial crit.


12-03-2009, 04:25 AM
We need to make a sticky cataloging threads like this so when someone else comes to say that their novel is too controversial/different/new/risky/etc. and/or better than all the other crap/dreck/kitsch/popular stuff on the market, we can point them to everyone else who says the same thing. ;)

Seriously, Basil, we've seen lots and lots of people saying exactly the same thing. Most of the time it's not true.

Calla Lily
12-03-2009, 04:26 AM
PMing you, Basil.

12-03-2009, 05:15 AM
BasilCourt, I wouldn't think the themes and analogies you've striven for would be off-putting. There are at least as many people willing to skewer Christianity as there are to defend it, and publishing isn't an industry beholden to traditional Christian sensibilities by any means.

Definitely put a sample in Share Your Work, because lofty themes still have to ride in on spoonfuls of interesting and well-told story sugar. Maybe a few storytelling tweaks will get you right back in the game.

Good luck!

Calla Lily
12-03-2009, 05:50 AM
Just send me the Q and the chapter, Basil. Don't make me bring out the Spatula o' Doom.

Ask around. I'm a scary broad.

12-03-2009, 07:01 AM
Dang it -- I KNEW that 4.0 I received in all those advanced fiction writing classes at UVA were only because the professors had the hots for me!

You, ah, do realize that university writing courses are rarely sufficient prep for the commercial market?

You also realize that many of us here on the boards have English degrees, MFAs in fiction, and, heck, publication in the actual markets you're trying to break into?

Post your query or your first chapter. Let us look at it. S'all I'm sayin.

12-03-2009, 07:03 AM
Landing an agent is a massive task for any new author. Any agent who will stick their neck out for a novel portraying Christianity as antiquated, unenlightened and obsolete -- even in an alternate world -- is probably suicidal.

Yeah. No agent would ever take on something like The Golden Compass. Never in a million years...

12-03-2009, 07:51 AM
The great irony of the story is that the protagonist is a victim by virtue of his Christian faith, and he has to come to terms with an America that treats him -- and his family, and his congregation and everyone else who shares his faith -- differently because of it.

It sounds like it could be interesting, since you're placing things that have actually happened many, many times throughout the history of Christianity into the different cultural context of a modern America.

I agree with several other posters in that I don't think the subject matter by itself is going to turn either an agent or a publishing house off. The really great thing about having another writer look at your query letter is that you can take or leave the advice you're given--there's no harm in opening yourself up to criticism that may be helpful to the way you pitch this.

12-03-2009, 09:56 AM
Basil, I am sorry to hear about the rejections. However, I would not want to jump to the "my novel must be too controversial since nobody wants it" opinion so quickly. First off, did any of those 250 rejections include such a message? Second, it is a nightmare trying to find an agent. Some writers have had to go through hundreds of them.

I hope that SYW will offer some guidance and a better idea of what's wrong with your query and/or material.

And controversial books may be risky, but they DO sell.

Good luck.

12-03-2009, 11:18 AM
Basil, I'm not going to critique this here because it'll just make everything confusing and mods will have to move stuff, etc. Please do post in query hell, which was already linked for you earlier in this thread. As I said, it is part of this forum. The password is vista.

12-03-2009, 11:27 AM
Please disregard my previous post -- is there a way to delete it?

You can hit the edit button on that post, Basil, and one of the options will be delete.

12-03-2009, 11:35 AM
Thanks very much, Clovia -- I found it!

I think that's going to come in very useful.

:D I love me some Edit Button, I really do.

12-03-2009, 11:50 AM
I know I'm going to regret asking this, but what is the "Spatula 'o Doom"?

That's a special tool of our Miss Lily's. If you're wangsting about and not doing anything to make it better, the Spatula o' Doom comes out. If you've promised you're going to work on something, and she senses your presence in the forum--Spatula o' Doom. Think like a nun's ruler across the knuckles, only infinitely more...Lily.

12-03-2009, 02:17 PM
Pullman and Lewis may be engaged in an ongoing battle over the pomposity/salvation of the Catholic Church, but neither of their series deal with real and modern events, or portrays a world in which Jesus is dismissed as nothing more than a link in the evolutionary chain -- a precursor to the True Messiah.

THAT is touchy stuff.

Not at all. I'm wondering if you come from a particularly religious area. One where many people would be outraged by an unorthodox portrayal of Jesus. In the UK -- and I'm sure in many other countries -- it's been at least twenty years since the public got outraged about depictions of Christ. I'm not saying it's a bad idea for a book, because that's going to depend on how you write it. But I can't believe a mainstream agent would reject it on controversy grounds.

Calla Lily
12-03-2009, 04:53 PM
That's a special tool of our Miss Lily's. If you're wangsting about and not doing anything to make it better, the Spatula o' Doom comes out. If you've promised you're going to work on something, and she senses your presence in the forum--Spatula o' Doom. Think like a nun's ruler across the knuckles, only infinitely more...Lily.

:D I haz me a reputation!

12-03-2009, 07:15 PM
I suppose it isn’t the agents’ fault – after all, they are in the business of marketing a proven commodity and making a safe buck. This means concentrating on well-established genres with formulaic plots and popular themes. While it could be reasonably argued that controversy sells, no one on Fifth Avenue or even Main Street in Poughkeepsie wants to take the risk.

-- Basil

You will find more people here willing to help you if you can word your posts so it doesn't sound as if you are putting down existing published works. Many people here have worked very hard to get published, and while their books may not be to your taste, at least respect the fact that they are professionals in their craft.

Calla Lily
12-03-2009, 07:27 PM
Poughkeepsie's not that bad. :D It's near where I grew up.

I write beach reads and I'm not ashamed of it. I'm a determined publication whore. *searches for Christmas-themed fishnets and mini-skirt*

12-05-2009, 08:50 AM
Okay, I posted my query for critique in Query Hell, I think. I didn't have to input any password -- "vista" or otherwise -- so I don't know if my query ended up in the right place.

And I have absolutely no idea how to post a link back to it in this thread.

No worries on linking--anyone who wants to find it can look at your post history if it's unclear which section of QLH you posted in.