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AW Admin
09-28-2018, 09:30 PM
Jessica has agreed to participate in Absolute Write’s Ask an Agent forum during October of 2018. She will check in frequently throughout the month to answer any questions.

Jessica Faust (http://bookendsliterary.com/about-us/#Faust) created BookEnds Literary Agency (http://bookendsliterary.com/) with a love for discovering new books and her desire to bring them to readers. Nearly 20 years later she is still seeking out the best books and clients most specifically in mystery, suspense, thriller, women’s fiction, upmarket and literary fiction, and select nonfiction. In addition to building her own list, Jessica has built BookEnds into an agency for everyone. BookEnds now has 10 agents (http://bookendsliterary.com/about-us/) representing a range of genres in fiction and nonfiction for adult and children of all ages. If Jessica doesn’t represent it, you can almost guarantee someone else does. You can follow Jessica on Twitter as @BookEndsJessica (https://twitter.com/BookEndsJessica), her blog (http://bookendsliterary.com/index.php/category/blog/) and the new BookEnds YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/BookEndsLiteraryAgency).

Maryn
09-28-2018, 09:35 PM
It's a pleasure to have her here. Welcome, Jessica!

Maggie Maxwell
09-28-2018, 09:42 PM
Oh my, how awesome! Welcome, Jessica!

Shoeless
09-28-2018, 10:02 PM
Welcome, Jessica! I've seen your comments on social media and your videos, and my spouse is a client of one your agents. Looking forward to seeing what kind of things you have to share here.

StoryofWoe
09-28-2018, 10:19 PM
Welcome, Jessica!! Thank you for taking the time out of your undoubtedly busy schedule to review and answer questions. :) I look forward to following this thread.

Harlequin
09-28-2018, 11:16 PM
Hello Jessica, lovely to see you on AW :-)

I appreciated Bookends' policy of always answering queries. And the videos/blogs are well worth a follow.

muse
09-29-2018, 10:28 PM
Welcome, Jessica. :hi:

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.

tiddlywinks
09-30-2018, 12:16 AM
How exciting! Welcome, Jessica, and looking forward to following the discussion.

sissybaby
09-30-2018, 12:20 AM
Hello, and welcome, Jessica. I'm looking forward to reading your impressions here.

Sissy

Atlantic12
10-01-2018, 07:41 PM
Thanks for participating, Jessica! It's great to get info from the source. :welcome:

AgentJessica
10-01-2018, 09:33 PM
Thank you everyone. I'm excited to be here and dig into your questions. Fair warning, if the question is good enough I may do a spin-off on any one of our social media channels. Thanks for having me!

Maryn
10-01-2018, 10:07 PM
Okay, let me throw out an easy one I see asked all over the internet.

If I self-published my book but sold very few copies (only to friends and family), can I still submit it to your agency in hope of trade publication?

Maryn, pretty sure she knows what you're about to say

Old Hack
10-01-2018, 10:20 PM
I have a question. How important do you think social media is for writers? And what level of self-promotion do you ask your author-clients to carry out?

(Welcome to AW, by the way. It's good having you here.)

Patty
10-02-2018, 03:23 AM
Patty asks:

In YA, is 'coming of age' the same thing as 'personal growth through overcoming challenges' ... or is it different?

Deadeyemouse
10-02-2018, 03:38 AM
I'm going to have to check back in on this thread for sure, everyone of the questions so far has been something I'd like to know the answer for. Especially the "coming of age" definition.

Does a fairly frequent use of curse words in dialogue have a negative effect on your stories potential in getting picked up?

Patty
10-02-2018, 03:40 AM
Patty also asks:

When instructions for query submission says:

In the subject line, put the word "Query"

... does that mean that *only* the word "Query" goes there? Or can we add (TITLE, word count, age/genre) to the subject line too?

AgentJessica
10-02-2018, 03:55 AM
Okay, let me throw out an easy one I see asked all over the internet.

If I self-published my book but sold very few copies (only to friends and family), can I still submit it to your agency in hope of trade publication?

Maryn, pretty sure she knows what you're about to say

Maryn: Thanks for asking. Self-publishing is tricky for a number of reasons, the first is that it does give an indication of potential sales for your book and not reaching an audience bigger than your family and friends shows a bigger risk to the publisher than someone who hasn't published at all. Not only does it show that sales will be difficult, but you've already diminished part of your audience.

In addition to that though, the publisher will evaluate a self-published book in the same way that they will evaluate a book from another publisher that they might want to reprint. They will look at the book as-is, assuming it's been edited to completion. Which means, a self-published book, unlike an unpublished manuscript will be viewed as a final product, one the publisher won't likely be able to edit. Therefore, if the book needs more work, or the publisher thinks it needs more work, they might likely pass.

All that being said, you should always feel free to submit a self-published book to our agency, or any agency, but you might have better luck with your next books.

--jessica

Enlightened
10-02-2018, 03:58 AM
Hello AgentJessica

Thank you for doing this. Fantastic!

1. What makes an outstanding query letter, in your opinion?

2. If comp titles do not exactly match your manuscript, is it accepted to have comp authors (or should this be skipped if no, exact titles are found)? If skipped, and agent requires 3 comps, what might you suggest adding instead? How many years is too many for comp titles?

AgentJessica
10-02-2018, 04:01 AM
I have a question. How important do you think social media is for writers? And what level of self-promotion do you ask your author-clients to carry out?

(Welcome to AW, by the way. It's good having you here.)

Thank you for the warm welcome.

I'm going to break down your question for nonfiction v. fiction writers.

For nonfiction prescriptive writers (less so with narrative) social media is incredibly important because it's a large piece of your platform and when selling a nonfiction prescriptive book, platform is key. It's what the publisher will count on to determine your expertise in the subject as well as your ability to reach readers.

For fiction I think social media is less important prior to publishing. What's really going to matter for an unpublished author is the book. Now, once you find a publisher and your book is published you will be expected to help reach readers and promote to them. These days the best way tor reach readers and market and promote is through social media.

I ask my clients to do what works for them. Before even getting published test out different social media platforms and find out what works best for you, play around, explore, have fun and follow some of your own favorite authors. Identify who you want to be on social media (yourself of course, but we all tend not to be our whole selves) and emulate some of the accounts you enjoy and connect with. It's important to try to connect with readers without always selling to them, but if it's too difficult or doesn'rt work for you then I find it's better not to be on at all, then to be on badly.

If you're interested in more social media I interviewed our own social media manager on YouTube and he has some great tips.

AgentJessica
10-02-2018, 04:04 AM
Patty asks:

In YA, is 'coming of age' the same thing as 'personal growth through overcoming challenges' ... or is it different?

Hey Patty!

I'm going to be honest, I have no idea exactly what you're talking about. I would say they sound like exactly the same thing to me. Are you looking to categorize your book or simply determine if an agent is right? If it's categorization you're looking for I would suggest simply sticking with "YA" and if it's determining what agents might be right I would say those terms seem to be the same.

Sometimes an agent or two will further describe something that sound a bit like a sub-category. I wouldn't get hung up on it too much. No book in a bookstore is defined by either of those descriptions. They are simply called YA.

AgentJessica
10-02-2018, 04:07 AM
I'm going to have to check back in on this thread for sure, everyone of the questions so far has been something I'd like to know the answer for. Especially the "coming of age" definition.

Does a fairly frequent use of curse words in dialogue have a negative effect on your stories potential in getting picked up?

Thanks!

I had further thoughts on "coming of age" after reading your post and that's that not all coming of age will be YA. Authors like Jay McInerney and even Philip Roth might likely have been considered coming of age at one point and they would in no way be considered YA. Coming of age could be a further description of a more adult-leaning novel, but one that's too old for YA. But again, it's more of a description and not a genre.

I have no issue with curse words, although I imagine there are agents who might. One thing to consider is that if it feels like the use is too frequent or if you start to really notice them they might lose their impact and feel gratuitious. In that case, they might have a negative effect. Overall though, curse words are something an agent could help you edit out if it seems like too much.

AgentJessica
10-02-2018, 04:09 AM
Patty also asks:

When instructions for query submission says:

In the subject line, put the word "Query"

... does that mean that *only* the word "Query" goes there? Or can we add (TITLE, word count, age/genre) to the subject line too?

I would suggest adding title and/or author name or something else. The idea is usually that an email inbox is screened to deposit anything with "query" in the subject into a folder of queries. But adding a title or something identifying also makes it easier for an agent to search if need be later.

AgentJessica
10-02-2018, 04:12 AM
Hello AgentJessica

Thank you for doing this. Fantastic!

1. What makes an outstanding query letter, in your opinion?

2. If comp titles do not exactly match your manuscript, is it accepted to have comp authors (or should this be skipped if no, exact titles are found)? If skipped, and agent requires 3 comps, what might you suggest adding instead? How many years is too many for comp titles?

Thank you for the questions!

A query for me is all about the blurb. In fact, often I read the blurb before or even instead of reading anything else. An outstanding query is simple in style, short (one page), has a blurb with a hook and idea that is different and immediately grabs my attention and conveys the author's voice, which will also help grab my attention.

Comp authors are fine as far as I'm concerned and if you don't feel like you have any fair comps skip it. I guess I don't know of agents who require comps, but apparently some must. But remember you could also use movies, TV shows or other media. But there must be something that your book will appeal to fans of because that's what comp titles really are, what other books will fans of your books be reading. Who would you think belongs on the bookshelf next to your book?

Enlightened
10-02-2018, 04:20 AM
Hello Jessica.

Absolutely wonderful. Thank you for the wonderful and timely responses. Your responses helped me a great deal.

Cheers!

Patty
10-02-2018, 04:45 AM
Yes, thank you greatly.

I asked for the distinction between coming of age/etc because there is an agent that wants one and definitely NOT the other and so I am perplexed. At least we are confused together. I wondered if C.O.A. implied first sexual experience, for example.

Patty asks:

If a full is requested, is it expected within the hour, day, week? What is the standard response time of writers to agents, when fulls are requested?

I am a never-ending tinkerer, and I'd want to glance through the whole ms with spell check and so on, before sending off. A few days grace would be priceless. Is this appropriate?

Deadeyemouse
10-02-2018, 04:48 AM
Thanks!

I had further thoughts on "coming of age" after reading your post and that's that not all coming of age will be YA. Authors like Jay McInerney and even Philip Roth might likely have been considered coming of age at one point and they would in no way be considered YA. Coming of age could be a further description of a more adult-leaning novel, but one that's too old for YA. But again, it's more of a description and not a genre.



That is an interesting take, thanks Jessica! I had always thought of "coming of age" as more a descriptor than a genre classification. There are many stories that are considered "a coming of age story," that are also classified under a different genre.

When looking at how that is used in literature or towards the titles that it is often attributed to, a coming of age story is often used to describe a story about a protagonist that is a child or young adult discovering themselves and finding a path into adulthood by the end of the story. These stories are more realistic in nature and setting, though not always, just commonly, acting as a study of what it is to transition from childhood into adulthood. I hadn't really thought on it before, but was fun to consider what that genre/descriptor may actually be talking about.

New Question
Is it common to have writers with incomplete works looking for an agent? Is it preferred to have a completed story that is edited, or to a point of being what the writer would consider immediately sellable, before looking for an agent?

Harlequin
10-02-2018, 10:02 AM
A question asked to me by another writer, very recently:

As the novella market seems to be taking off again, is it now worthwhile for debut authors to query agents with novella projects?


A question of my own, maybe you can't answer though:

On submission, how do you decide how many editors to approach in the first round--does it depend on each book? If some pitches don't get an initial response, how long before 'silence' is interpreted by the agent as a 'no'?

AgentJessica
10-02-2018, 02:28 PM
Yes, thank you greatly.

I asked for the distinction between coming of age/etc because there is an agent that wants one and definitely NOT the other and so I am perplexed. At least we are confused together. I wondered if C.O.A. implied first sexual experience, for example.

Patty asks:

If a full is requested, is it expected within the hour, day, week? What is the standard response time of writers to agents, when fulls are requested?

I am a never-ending tinkerer, and I'd want to glance through the whole ms with spell check and so on, before sending off. A few days grace would be priceless. Is this appropriate?

Well I guess my answer to dealing with an agent whose specific requests is confusing is submit anyway and let the agent decide what it is. I always suggest to authors, and even my fellow agents, our job isn't to reject the work for the agent/editor, our job is to get it into their hands and let them decide. I'd rather you try, even if you're unsure, then not try at all.

To me a full request is expected within a day or two. Exceptions would be if you're on vacation, but when I request material I assume it is completed and ready to submit. If not, even when the book comes in, I wonder if it was rushed or is even now ready to submit. I think a few days is priceless, but my recommendation is you don't even query until you're writing the next book and the book your querying is in a file called "to submit" and you are just plugging it in to Query manager (in the case of BookEnds).

AgentJessica
10-02-2018, 02:35 PM
A question asked to me by another writer, very recently:

As the novella market seems to be taking off again, is it now worthwhile for debut authors to query agents with novella projects?


A question of my own, maybe you can't answer though:


On submission, how do you decide how many editors to approach in the first round--does it depend on each book? If some pitches don't get an initial response, how long before 'silence' is interpreted by the agent as a 'no'?

Thanks for the question.

I'm not personally looking for novellas and I don't know that many agents are. That being said, it never hurts to query, but I'm not entirely sure the novella market is taking off for traditional publishing. Novella collections have always sold in literary fiction and in genre fiction when it's a collection from different authors, but typically publishers have built those themselves with authors of their choosing. Very rarely is it an option for debut authors.

As for your next question, how many editors I pitch to at once depends on the book and genre. There are some genres where I'm limited to maybe 5-10 editors and houses so I will tend to go to all of them at once. For books with a much bigger list it will depends. I can start with 5 or start with 10. There is no rule because it can be so dependent on who and what and even timing. I also never really give up on an editor, but also never stop submitting. So if I have an editor who isn't responding I'll just submit to more. I can have as many as 20 editors reading at once. My style is just to keep submitting to keep the project alive. All that being said, every agent is different and no style of submitting is exactly right or wrong.

Atlantic12
10-02-2018, 03:28 PM
Really helpful responses, Jessica!

New question from me:

Do you encourage some authors to branch out to storytelling in other media, like maybe fiction podcasts, scripts etc? And how involved would you be in the development or selling of that work?

Harlequin
10-02-2018, 03:41 PM
Thank you very much for the answers :)

Patty
10-02-2018, 06:08 PM
Thank you Jessica. I appreciate your time.

Rankin
10-02-2018, 08:03 PM
Jessica,
I'm gearing up to query a novel about a man's return to society following a prison term for a sex offense committed against his girlfriend. He's not innocent, but neither is he, I hope, beyond redemption.
The novel is primarily about the criminal-justice system. But the offense and the relationship between the protagonist and the nominal victim is a major subplot. The protagonistÂ’s culpability, the victimÂ’s reaction, and the ultimate effect on their relationship, are important but hard to summarize without context and some R- or NC-17-rated description.
I'm afraid of an agent thinking that the novel is rape apologia or includes violence against the victim or criticizes the me-too movement, none of which are true. Is there a way for me to convey the tone or my political or social viewpoint in the query, and, if so, is it helpful? I can say it, but showing is subtle and requires a lot more than 250 words. Although the story probably has some social commentary, it's a story and I'm trying to sell the story, which, I hope, stands on its own.
Thanks very much,
-Rankin Johnson

Rachel G.
10-02-2018, 09:42 PM
Welcome Jessica!

I have a question regarding an agent's rejection response. When an agent's rejection states that the manuscript just isn't right for their list at this time, is this a form letter response? Or might my submission just be put to the side if it should possibly fit the agent's list in the future? I have heard the term "we found a gem that came from our Slush Pile" before. Does the slush pile have anything to do with books that "weren't quite right for the agent" at that particular time?

Thank you for your time!

RolandWrites
10-02-2018, 09:53 PM
Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to answer questions, Jessica. :) I have three.

1. How open are you and yours at Bookends (or other agents you know) to books that an author intends to be a series/trilogy? I hear conflicting opinions on this ("Agents like debut authors to submit books that are standalone" and then other times "Agents like series potential because it lets them know you have a lot of ideas" or something along those lines.)

2. If an author writes in more than one genre or subgenre - adult fantasy and horror, or fantasy and science-fiction, for example - does that author continue to work with the same agent or does that author need a new agent for the other genre?

3. My book is #OwnVoices and #DiverseBooks and I'm weirdly hung up on how to write out the part of the query letter that lets the agent know this. Critique partners have had conflicting opinions, some saying not to bother putting it in at all or not to make it too clunky. Is it better to make a list such as "my book is #OwnVoices because it deals with topics or homosexuality and mental illness" or would you/an agent be looking for something more detailed and specific to the book such as "my book is #OwnVoices because the main character X and I are both gay and suffer from depression" just for examples.

Again, thanks so much for taking time from your schedule to answer questions. :)

MythMonger
10-02-2018, 11:53 PM
Thanks for answering our questions!

With regards to fiction writers without publishing credentials or relevant education (MFAs, etc), what would you like to see in author's bios? What would you NOT like to see?

MAS
10-03-2018, 12:16 AM
Hi Jessica. Thanks so much for coming here to answer our questions. Mine has to do with the romance market. Do you think new authors still have a shot at traditional publishing for historical romance? I notice that your listed interests no longer include romance (although IIRC they did at one time), and I have noticed in bookstores that the romance section is less than half the size that it used to be, ditto the new releases that are on the shelves there. I gather that a large portion of the market shifted to e-pubs and self-publishing. Is there still a traditional pub market for debut authors, or has it pretty much shifted to the e-pubs?

MlynnH
10-03-2018, 12:54 AM
Hi Jessica, thanks for answering questions! I was curious, how do you think a contemporary romance would be received with 3 POV characters instead of 2 (hero, heroine, and antagonist). Not a romantic suspense, but more of a contemporary with a side of rom-com. Thanks!

Fallen
10-03-2018, 01:39 PM
Hi, Jessica. Thank you for taking time out to answer us.

This might be going back a bit (a lot *winces* (2009)), but I caught BookEnds' post on #agentfails (http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2009/04/agentfail-right-here.html). Most know the pitfalls of being an author without an agent, but from an agent's pov, could you give an idea as to what makes an #agentfail in your eyes?

AgentJessica
10-03-2018, 05:04 PM
Jessica,
I'm gearing up to query a novel about a man's return to society following a prison term for a sex offense committed against his girlfriend. He's not innocent, but neither is he, I hope, beyond redemption.
The novel is primarily about the criminal-justice system. But the offense and the relationship between the protagonist and the nominal victim is a major subplot. The protagonistÂ’s culpability, the victimÂ’s reaction, and the ultimate effect on their relationship, are important but hard to summarize without context and some R- or NC-17-rated description.
I'm afraid of an agent thinking that the novel is rape apologia or includes violence against the victim or criticizes the me-too movement, none of which are true. Is there a way for me to convey the tone or my political or social viewpoint in the query, and, if so, is it helpful? I can say it, but showing is subtle and requires a lot more than 250 words. Although the story probably has some social commentary, it's a story and I'm trying to sell the story, which, I hope, stands on its own.
Thanks very much,
-Rankin Johnson

I'll be honest, I don't know how you can query this book. In today's culture I'm not sure anyone wants to read a book that sympathizes with a protagonist who, by your own characterization, is a rapist. I know I certainly don't want to read this. If it's a social commentary you're looking to make I think there's a far better way to make it. I have a hard time believing that while women are speaking out about their own horrific stories of sexual abuse you think this is a good idea.

AgentJessica
10-03-2018, 05:39 PM
Welcome Jessica!

I have a question regarding an agent's rejection response. When an agent's rejection states that the manuscript just isn't right for their list at this time, is this a form letter response? Or might my submission just be put to the side if it should possibly fit the agent's list in the future? I have heard the term "we found a gem that came from our Slush Pile" before. Does the slush pile have anything to do with books that "weren't quite right for the agent" at that particular time?

Thank you for your time!

That's typicaly a form letter. A query is meant to excite the agent enough to make her want to read it. It's also why publishers can spend days and weeks on book cover copy, it's meant to entice the reader to want to read the book. When someone says they were found in the slush pile it means the agent read the query, got super excited, requested the book and so on. It doesn't usually mean it sat there for years until it was the right time. That being said, timing can change things. A book about a #metoo event, although written years ago, could suddenly have new life today. My suggestion is move on and work on the next book.

Rachel G.
10-03-2018, 09:56 PM
Thank you so much for your time in responding to my question Jessica!

NoirSuede
10-03-2018, 10:04 PM
New Question

If a novel is exploring the inner-workings of a niche community that the agent i'm querying familiar with (for example a story that explores the differences between anime fans from Japan and anime fans who're not from Japan), how do you make sure the agents reading it don't feel alienated?

Rankin
10-03-2018, 10:41 PM
Thanks very much for your response.
My protagonist is not a rapist. He's convicted of possessing a nude picture of his underage girlfriend; she's sixteen, he's nineteen, she took the picture and it to him unrequested. And he is accused of rape by his girlfriend's father, who has some political pull, but he's not convicted of it and not guilty of it. His girlfriend does not regard him as an abuser, and I don't think the reader will either. He is older, but they're college students together and he does not manipulate her in the slightest.
The story I want to tell is about a felon's return to ordinary society and the restrictions imposed by the system. Those restrictions vary for different sorts of crimes, and a person who is in the sex-offender box, instead of the drug-offender box or the property-offender box, has a lot of restrictions even if, as in my story, they're excessive in light of the actual offense.
Does that change your view or your answer? For what it's worth, your answer persuades me that I need to figure out how to explain the degree of his culpability more in the query.
Thanks again,
-Rankin Johnson

AgentJessica
10-04-2018, 12:35 AM
New Question

If a novel is exploring the inner-workings of a niche community that the agent i'm querying familiar with (for example a story that explores the differences between anime fans from Japan and anime fans who're not from Japan), how do you make sure the agents reading it don't feel alienated?

I think it's important to remember that agents are readers first so if you're not explaining the world properly to agents you'll have the same problem with your readers. It's up to you as the writer to make sure the world is built in a way that is all-inclusive

AgentJessica
10-04-2018, 12:41 AM
Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to answer questions, Jessica. :) I have three.

1. How open are you and yours at Bookends (or other agents you know) to books that an author intends to be a series/trilogy? I hear conflicting opinions on this ("Agents like debut authors to submit books that are standalone" and then other times "Agents like series potential because it lets them know you have a lot of ideas" or something along those lines.)

2. If an author writes in more than one genre or subgenre - adult fantasy and horror, or fantasy and science-fiction, for example - does that author continue to work with the same agent or does that author need a new agent for the other genre?

3. My book is #OwnVoices and #DiverseBooks and I'm weirdly hung up on how to write out the part of the query letter that lets the agent know this. Critique partners have had conflicting opinions, some saying not to bother putting it in at all or not to make it too clunky. Is it better to make a list such as "my book is #OwnVoices because it deals with topics or homosexuality and mental illness" or would you/an agent be looking for something more detailed and specific to the book such as "my book is #OwnVoices because the main character X and I are both gay and suffer from depression" just for examples.

Again, thanks so much for taking time from your schedule to answer questions. :)

Somehow I started answering this and it disappeared so my apology if a partial answer appeared.

1. BookEnds agents are very open to series and trilogies, but I think it's a matter of you knowing your market and genre. Some genres, like YA Fantasy expects trilogies or duologies. Others, like contemporary YA or psychological suspense typically are not done as a series, but as single title. I think if you envision it as a series you tell the agent that. If you don't or don't know there's no reason to say anything. Also be aware, that sometimes an agent or publisher might have their own vision that they'll want to discuss with you.

2. Most authors and agents will want an exclusive relationship. It is so much easier to have one person managing the bulk of your career and contracts. However, there are times when an author is writing such different things that they might want two agents. In your case I, the genres are so similar you would likely find one agent who could handle it all. My suggestion though is worry about the agent for the book you're querying. An author's path can be varied and what you think you'll be doing could change as your career goes so find the best agent for you right now and for the book you are querying and let the rest fall into place.

3. I think you can open your query with TITLE is an #ownvoices #genre of word count. If you want to get into more details you can do so in your bio with something like RolandWrites has spent years fighting the resistance. Like his protagonist is also gay and suffers from depression. Or something probably better than that.

Good luck!

AgentJessica
10-04-2018, 12:43 AM
Thanks for answering our questions!

With regards to fiction writers without publishing credentials or relevant education (MFAs, etc), what would you like to see in author's bios? What would you NOT like to see?

James and I just did a great video on this. You can find it on your youtube channel, but you don't need education or credentials to be published. If there is something about you that relates to your book (you're a doctor writing about a doctor) include that. If not, just a detail about you. Are you a member of a writing organization? Do you love dogs? Where do you live? What do you do for a living. It doesn't need to be fancy, just something that tells me a little about who you are.

AgentJessica
10-04-2018, 01:40 AM
Hi Jessica. Thanks so much for coming here to answer our questions. Mine has to do with the romance market. Do you think new authors still have a shot at traditional publishing for historical romance? I notice that your listed interests no longer include romance (although IIRC they did at one time), and I have noticed in bookstores that the romance section is less than half the size that it used to be, ditto the new releases that are on the shelves there. I gather that a large portion of the market shifted to e-pubs and self-publishing. Is there still a traditional pub market for debut authors, or has it pretty much shifted to the e-pubs?

Thanks for the question. The market for romance has certainly changed, but I think a great book always has a shot. I do think a huge number of authors have moved to self-publishing, but I also think publishing is cyclical. I think you push to try for what you want the most and shift if you feel that's what you must do. In other words, I don't have an easy answer, you need to do what's best for you.

AgentJessica
10-04-2018, 01:44 AM
Hi, Jessica. Thank you for taking time out to answer us.

This might be going back a bit (a lot *winces* (2009)), but I caught BookEnds' post on #agentfails (http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2009/04/agentfail-right-here.html). Most know the pitfalls of being an author without an agent, but from an agent's pov, could you give an idea as to what makes an #agentfail in your eyes?

Wow! you really did dig in. That post. Oh, that post.

I think most agents failing are those who just aren't doing their jobs. They aren't using contacts to submit to individual editors. They don't negotiate contracts, but accept what's offered, they don't work with an author to build a career and work with the publisher as part of the author's publishing team. They don't communicate with the author. I'm sure there are more, but I think it comes down to being a professional and doing the job you're getting paid to do.

- - - Updated - - -


Hi Jessica, thanks for answering questions! I was curious, how do you think a contemporary romance would be received with 3 POV characters instead of 2 (hero, heroine, and antagonist). Not a romantic suspense, but more of a contemporary with a side of rom-com. Thanks!

I'm not sure I would consider that romance and I think you'd have a hard time convincing romance readers that's something that could work. I'm wondering if it's really women's fiction?

AgentJessica
10-04-2018, 01:46 AM
Thanks very much for your response.
My protagonist is not a rapist. He's convicted of possessing a nude picture of his underage girlfriend; she's sixteen, he's nineteen, she took the picture and it to him unrequested. And he is accused of rape by his girlfriend's father, who has some political pull, but he's not convicted of it and not guilty of it. His girlfriend does not regard him as an abuser, and I don't think the reader will either. He is older, but they're college students together and he does not manipulate her in the slightest.
The story I want to tell is about a felon's return to ordinary society and the restrictions imposed by the system. Those restrictions vary for different sorts of crimes, and a person who is in the sex-offender box, instead of the drug-offender box or the property-offender box, has a lot of restrictions even if, as in my story, they're excessive in light of the actual offense.
Does that change your view or your answer? For what it's worth, your answer persuades me that I need to figure out how to explain the degree of his culpability more in the query.
Thanks again,
-Rankin Johnson

I guess I'm more confused and wondering if the story itself needs reworking. You say he's not convicted, but he's a felon. My sense from your pitch is you have an idea of what you want to do, but what I'm not seeing i the book is what actually happens. I'm seeing only backstory.

I hope that helps.

Night_Writer
10-04-2018, 05:56 AM
Hi, Jessica. It's great of you to take the time to answer questions for us. I have two questions for you regarding fiction, and both are multiple choice.

1 - When you say yes to a query letter, I was wondering what the reason is. Is it because you, as a reader, just really like the idea? Or is it because you feel it's something you can probably sell to a publisher? Is it pleasure or business that wins the day?

2 - Would you say that you look for story ideas that are new and different, things that haven't been done before? Or do you tend to go for the tried and true? Do you take risks, or do you prefer to play it safe?

VeryBigBeard
10-04-2018, 06:55 AM
Hi, Jessica, wonderful to have you here.

I noticed you mentioned upmarket fiction in your blurb. I see that a lot on agent profiles, sometimes even combined with other tags like "upmarket genre fiction" or "upmarket/crossover" and I can never quite pin these down well enough to satisfy my curiosity. Ordinarily I'd just assume it's a blind spot of mine but then people tell me something reads "kinda upmarket maybe" and my eyes go squiggly because possibly I've written something entirely by accident again.

The furthest I've got is thinking of it as "book-club fiction" or commercial with literary intent. I read a lot of literary/commercial hybrids, but maybe not as many of the contemporary/topical books that I's think of as conventional book club fare. Perhaps I just go to all the wrong book clubs.

But I'm finding it difficult even now to think of an author I'd immediately associate with upmarket, outside of big names who don't always mesh well with categories for query purposes. If it does include the intersection with genre fiction, I'd say maybe Gregory Maguire or Erin Morgenstern? I guess I'm curious what sorts of authors you think of when you say upmarket? And how you look at that in queries?

Thanks so much for taking the time, and thanks as well for the blog, which is a wonderful resource.

PFFlyer
10-04-2018, 04:43 PM
Hi Jessica, great thread and answers, thanks...

I'm interested to know how often and how much you work with authors on polishing a manuscript before sending it around. Are you typically working on issues of style, plot, length, something else? How long is it, on average, between the time you receive a ms. and the time it goes out? Are there issues you see frequently in manuscripts you accept that authors could address beforehand? Or does this all vary so much it's hard to generalize? Thanks, looking forward to querying BookEnds (watching for an agent to reopen).

AgentJessica
10-04-2018, 07:06 PM
Hi, Jessica. It's great of you to take the time to answer questions for us. I have two questions for you regarding fiction, and both are multiple choice.

1 - When you say yes to a query letter, I was wondering what the reason is. Is it because you, as a reader, just really like the idea? Or is it because you feel it's something you can probably sell to a publisher? Is it pleasure or business that wins the day?

2 - Would you say that you look for story ideas that are new and different, things that haven't been done before? Or do you tend to go for the tried and true? Do you take risks, or do you prefer to play it safe?

Thank you! I always did well in multiple choice.

1. I think there are many reasons why I might say yes to the query. I might be caught up in the author's voice, I might love the idea, it might have a hook that always grabs me (magical realism with food for example), it might be of personal interest, or it might be similar to a recent discussion I had with a colleague. So I guess all of the above would be the right answer.

2. Again...all of the above. I go for genres that are tried and true, like psychological suspense, but I'm looking for a new twist on the classic husband/wife story for example. One thing to remember, if readers are sick of a certain story because they see too much of it, agents have seen the story about 100x more in their inboxes so while we look for basic ideas or genres that sell, we do want a new twist on them.

Also note, every project we take on has risk to it. We never really know what will sell and what won't so just following a "sure thing" is never going to work. We are looking for fabulous books, with a market, that will blow our minds and the minds of editors.

Patty
10-04-2018, 07:08 PM
I have a question about perfection.

Every agent wants the submission to be perfect before querying, and this is both entirely understandable and also subjective. Rejection mails frequently cite subjectivity as one defining feature of the industry, and this also makes sense.

I've met a few writers who have acquired agents and they universally (the ones I know) go through additional rounds of editing with their agent before submission to editors.

I believe many of us--especially the left-hemisphere-dominant ones among us--would love to have more clarity on what is meant by 'the manuscript must be perfect before querying' since it seems likely the agent will help make it 'more perfect.' To be competitive at the 'next level.'

What are the defining hallmarks of a perfect manuscript, and what are the typical edits an agent will work through with a new client?

If it is too hard to explain what perfection is at the query stage, common imperfections you see could be helpful as an answer. In place of a definition of perfection.

(I'm certain my left-brained tendencies are fully evident. :-) )

AgentJessica
10-04-2018, 07:11 PM
Hi, Jessica, wonderful to have you here.

I noticed you mentioned upmarket fiction in your blurb. I see that a lot on agent profiles, sometimes even combined with other tags like "upmarket genre fiction" or "upmarket/crossover" and I can never quite pin these down well enough to satisfy my curiosity. Ordinarily I'd just assume it's a blind spot of mine but then people tell me something reads "kinda upmarket maybe" and my eyes go squiggly because possibly I've written something entirely by accident again.

The furthest I've got is thinking of it as "book-club fiction" or commercial with literary intent. I read a lot of literary/commercial hybrids, but maybe not as many of the contemporary/topical books that I's think of as conventional book club fare. Perhaps I just go to all the wrong book clubs.

But I'm finding it difficult even now to think of an author I'd immediately associate with upmarket, outside of big names who don't always mesh well with categories for query purposes. If it does include the intersection with genre fiction, I'd say maybe Gregory Maguire or Erin Morgenstern? I guess I'm curious what sorts of authors you think of when you say upmarket? And how you look at that in queries?

Thanks so much for taking the time, and thanks as well for the blog, which is a wonderful resource.

I think of upmarket as that place between commercial and literary. And yes, I think book club fiction is a fair synonym.

I don't think I look for upmarket in queries, I think I read a book and feel like it's upmarket, it's a book I might pitch to place like Scribner, which is more literary, but also St. Martin's which is looking for upmarket fiction, but tends to be a more commercial publishing house. It's someone like Celeste Ng or Crazy Rich Asians. They are books that have a more commercial feel, but don't quite fit into a commercial genre.

I hope that helps. These are the kind of questions that have a lot of nuances and there isn't always a straight answer. I don't think however that you need to categorize your book as upmarket. You can simply say it's fiction in the style of AUTHOR NAME.

AgentJessica
10-04-2018, 07:14 PM
Hi Jessica, great thread and answers, thanks...

I'm interested to know how often and how much you work with authors on polishing a manuscript before sending it around. Are you typically working on issues of style, plot, length, something else? How long is it, on average, between the time you receive a ms. and the time it goes out? Are there issues you see frequently in manuscripts you accept that authors could address beforehand? Or does this all vary so much it's hard to generalize? Thanks, looking forward to querying BookEnds (watching for an agent to reopen).

Thank you!

I am an editorial agent, as are most agents at BookEnds, so I definitely work on the manuscript, but how much will depend on how much work the book needs. I've had authors touch up a few things here and there and I've had some do a complete overhaul and rewrite. My philosophy is that if I see a problem, and editor will too and that problem could likely lead to a pass. So we fix it.

We are looking forward to seeing your query.

MythMonger
10-04-2018, 07:20 PM
James and I just did a great video on this. You can find it on your youtube channel, but you don't need education or credentials to be published. If there is something about you that relates to your book (you're a doctor writing about a doctor) include that. If not, just a detail about you. Are you a member of a writing organization? Do you love dogs? Where do you live? What do you do for a living. It doesn't need to be fancy, just something that tells me a little about who you are.

Thank you

writera
10-04-2018, 08:04 PM
Hi Jessica.

I don't have an agent (I did but we parted ways), but I have submitted my manuscript to a few publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts and also followed up with some of the ones my former agent submitted to. One major publisher contacted me directly and passed with praise. I got an offer from a very small press, interest from two new agents (who want changes I'm not sure about), and interest from a mid-size publisher. I nudged the mid-size publisher when I got interest from the agents and the small press, this was a few weeks ago (almost three) and they said they were very interested but hadn't finished reading yet and would get back to me soon. The offer from the very small press has just come in now. So my question is should I nudge the mid-size publisher again to tell them about this offer or should I leave it a while longer and wait and see? I don't want to annoy them and risk them passing, but at the same time I wonder if letting them know about the offer might incite them to offer? I really don't know what to do. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.


Cobalt Jade
10-04-2018, 08:26 PM
I am enjoying this thread. Thank you!

AgentJessica
10-04-2018, 09:20 PM
Hi Jessica.

I don't have an agent (I did but we parted ways), but I have submitted my manuscript to a few publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts and also followed up with some of the ones my former agent submitted to. One major publisher contacted me directly and passed with praise. I got an offer from a very small press, interest from two new agents (who want changes I'm not sure about), and interest from a mid-size publisher. I nudged the mid-size publisher when I got interest from the agents and the small press, this was a few weeks ago (almost three) and they said they were very interested but hadn't finished reading yet and would get back to me soon. The offer from the very small press has just come in now. So my question is should I nudge the mid-size publisher again to tell them about this offer or should I leave it a while longer and wait and see? I don't want to annoy them and risk them passing, but at the same time I wonder if letting them know about the offer might incite them to offer? I really don't know what to do. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.



Well I think you've proven why agents can be invaluable. Most agents would be able to take that first offer and submit as broadly as possible to push for an offer from as many publishers as possible. Now, of course that doesn't mean you'll get multiple offers, but an agent shouldn't be concerned with nudging and pushing and annoying. That's pretty much what we get paid for. I am curious why you wouldn't use these offers to contact the agents you would like to work with to settle into a long-term relationship and pass on this stress to someone else.

I'm also unsure of the changes that were asked for, but if they are similar, and two agents are in agreement, you might want to consider them more carefully.

As to truly answer your question. You're going to have to make a decision because I'm sure the small publisher will also eventually move on so I guess you need to decide if you push the mid-size publisher or risk losing both offers. I'm afraid I can't know whether a nudge will push them to reject since I don't know the publisher or the editor or the exact situation.

I hope that helps.

VeryBigBeard
10-05-2018, 01:19 AM
Thanks very much for your answer, Jessica, and for all the others. Clears up a lot of my confusion.

writera
10-05-2018, 04:12 PM
Well I think you've proven why agents can be invaluable. Most agents would be able to take that first offer and submit as broadly as possible to push for an offer from as many publishers as possible. Now, of course that doesn't mean you'll get multiple offers, but an agent shouldn't be concerned with nudging and pushing and annoying. That's pretty much what we get paid for. I am curious why you wouldn't use these offers to contact the agents you would like to work with to settle into a long-term relationship and pass on this stress to someone else.

I'm also unsure of the changes that were asked for, but if they are similar, and two agents are in agreement, you might want to consider them more carefully.

As to truly answer your question. You're going to have to make a decision because I'm sure the small publisher will also eventually move on so I guess you need to decide if you push the mid-size publisher or risk losing both offers. I'm afraid I can't know whether a nudge will push them to reject since I don't know the publisher or the editor or the exact situation.

I hope that helps.

Thank you for the response!

AW Admin
10-07-2018, 03:01 AM
Jessica I'm posting this for a member who wishes to remain anonymous.

_____________________________

Hi Jessica, and thanks for donating your time to us.

Brief background: Published some series books on contract (negotiated via agent). Submitted a standalone novel as the option book (in the form of sample chapters and a synopsis), which the publisher refused. Shortly afterward my agent and I parted ways. I’m now approaching the point of querying agents with the finished standalone book.

1) Is it worth querying agents with the book, given that it’s been burned with one publisher? (It hasn’t otherwise been shopped.)

2) If it is worth querying agents, do I mention in the query that this publisher is off the list for this book?

3) Does one mention a former agent in a query? Something like “amicably parted ways with former agent” just to reassure everyone that there are no toes being stepped on?

4) Slightly different topic: This may be genre-dependent, but in general, how much of a long-shot is it to try to place a series book with a different publisher? (I don’t actually know if the publisher of the first books would be interested; all discussion was through my then-agent, and I received some very inconsistent information. It’d be useful to know if they’re my only potential option outside of self-publishing.)

Filigree
10-07-2018, 04:24 AM
Hypothetical, but related to some other posts: An author has queried a genre novel (fantasy in this case, which I know you don't rep) with all the agents they thought might be the best fit (150 over two years of query rounds.) Some partial requests and fulls, but all ended up passing with personalized praise at best.

The book gets massively revised. The author then submits to the large genre publishers still accepting unagented submissions, and gets one decent offer. Knowing that having an agent is an advantage, should the author try to contract one of the rejecting-with-praise agents, or go it alone because they've already said 'No'?

ihavehorcruxes
10-08-2018, 03:05 PM
Hi, Jessica! I follow your posts on twitter and enjoy your YouTube channel, it's always informative and funny. Great thread so far. :)

1) If my main character is 18 (turns 19 in the story) and attending university (with other main characters ranging from 19-22) does that make my novel adult? I know there are some books that have university characters that are classified as YA, but mine is the first in a potential series spanning their university careers, and by the end of the series they'd be in their early/mid-twenties (Like Magicians by Lev Grossman, if they'd spent all three books at Brakebills). At the moment I have it worded as: Although an adult novel, primarily due to series potential which would see the characters age into their mid-twenties, it does have strong crossover potential for older readers of YA. Would that work? Or is it better to leave out the potential series aspect of the query and deal with that later.

2) Following on from that, if you're intending to write a series, does everything have to tie up in the first book or can some things remain open ended/act as set-up for the second book? I ask because the published fantasy I see often have cliffhangers or unresolved mysteries, yet so many people will say that the first book has to be able to stand completely alone.

3) If you're querying a fantasy, do you need to make the magic system known in the query? I worry I've focused too heavily on the mystery aspects and only briefly mentioned the magic.

4) What is the most common reason for heavy edits/rewrite that you and your agents find in your clients manuscripts?

Hope that's not too many questions! Thank you.

Night_Writer
10-08-2018, 07:03 PM
Thank you! I always did well in multiple choice.

1. I think there are many reasons why I might say yes to the query. I might be caught up in the author's voice, I might love the idea, it might have a hook that always grabs me (magical realism with food for example), it might be of personal interest, or it might be similar to a recent discussion I had with a colleague. So I guess all of the above would be the right answer.

2. Again...all of the above. I go for genres that are tried and true, like psychological suspense, but I'm looking for a new twist on the classic husband/wife story for example. One thing to remember, if readers are sick of a certain story because they see too much of it, agents have seen the story about 100x more in their inboxes so while we look for basic ideas or genres that sell, we do want a new twist on them.

Also note, every project we take on has risk to it. We never really know what will sell and what won't so just following a "sure thing" is never going to work. We are looking for fabulous books, with a market, that will blow our minds and the minds of editors.

Thanks for your response. Much appreciated.

AgentJessica
10-08-2018, 08:06 PM
Jessica I'm posting this for a member who wishes to remain anonymous.

_____________________________

Hi Jessica, and thanks for donating your time to us.

Brief background: Published some series books on contract (negotiated via agent). Submitted a standalone novel as the option book (in the form of sample chapters and a synopsis), which the publisher refused. Shortly afterward my agent and I parted ways. I’m now approaching the point of querying agents with the finished standalone book.

1) Is it worth querying agents with the book, given that it’s been burned with one publisher? (It hasn’t otherwise been shopped.)

2) If it is worth querying agents, do I mention in the query that this publisher is off the list for this book?

3) Does one mention a former agent in a query? Something like “amicably parted ways with former agent” just to reassure everyone that there are no toes being stepped on?

4) Slightly different topic: This may be genre-dependent, but in general, how much of a long-shot is it to try to place a series book with a different publisher? (I don’t actually know if the publisher of the first books would be interested; all discussion was through my then-agent, and I received some very inconsistent information. It’d be useful to know if they’re my only potential option outside of self-publishing.)

Thanks for posting on behalf of the author.

1. I think it's definitely worth querying agents. You obviously have a strong track record and one publisher is only one. Presumably there are many others interested in your genre.

2. I think you can say that your previous publisher passed on an earlier version, but I don't think it's necessary to go into too much detail.

3. I would definitely mention you've been represented before. It's not neceessary to mention who or how you parted ways.

4. It's very difficult to move a series from one publisher to another. Typically a publisher stops publishing a series because of declining sales, which is exactly why the new publisher will likely be reluctant. As for the publisher of the first books, presumably you have a relationship with the editor and could just ask her directly. But I would think, if they were interested, they would have likely reached out.

AgentJessica
10-08-2018, 08:07 PM
Hypothetical, but related to some other posts: An author has queried a genre novel (fantasy in this case, which I know you don't rep) with all the agents they thought might be the best fit (150 over two years of query rounds.) Some partial requests and fulls, but all ended up passing with personalized praise at best.

The book gets massively revised. The author then submits to the large genre publishers still accepting unagented submissions, and gets one decent offer. Knowing that having an agent is an advantage, should the author try to contract one of the rejecting-with-praise agents, or go it alone because they've already said 'No'?

I think you'll always be better off with an agent. And I would go for anyone you are intersted in working with, not just those who gave you a praise-worthy no.

Siri Kirpal
10-08-2018, 09:56 PM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Thanks so much for doing this. Your reply to the question about upmarket/book club answered a major source of puzzlement.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

AgentJessica
10-09-2018, 01:50 PM
Hi, Jessica! I follow your posts on twitter and enjoy your YouTube channel, it's always informative and funny. Great thread so far. :)

1) If my main character is 18 (turns 19 in the story) and attending university (with other main characters ranging from 19-22) does that make my novel adult? I know there are some books that have university characters that are classified as YA, but mine is the first in a potential series spanning their university careers, and by the end of the series they'd be in their early/mid-twenties (Like Magicians by Lev Grossman, if they'd spent all three books at Brakebills). At the moment I have it worded as: Although an adult novel, primarily due to series potential which would see the characters age into their mid-twenties, it does have strong crossover potential for older readers of YA. Would that work? Or is it better to leave out the potential series aspect of the query and deal with that later.

2) Following on from that, if you're intending to write a series, does everything have to tie up in the first book or can some things remain open ended/act as set-up for the second book? I ask because the published fantasy I see often have cliffhangers or unresolved mysteries, yet so many people will say that the first book has to be able to stand completely alone.

3) If you're querying a fantasy, do you need to make the magic system known in the query? I worry I've focused too heavily on the mystery aspects and only briefly mentioned the magic.

4) What is the most common reason for heavy edits/rewrite that you and your agents find in your clients manuscripts?

Hope that's not too many questions! Thank you.

Thank you! We are certainly having fun with our social media.

Once your character ages out of high school you, typically, age out of YA. There was a brief attempt to publish New Adult which targeted characters and readers in this 19-22 (or so) age group, but readers just didn't buy them. Yes, this would be primarily considered an adult novel. Keep in mind with crossover books that most YA crosses over and many, many readers crossover. So while crossover books are fantastic for sales, there isn't really a genre for them specifically.

2. With series you can definitely have continuing storylines. This depends, of course, on what genre you're writing in. With mystery, for example, each book has to have a completed mystery, although there could be a greater, long-term mystery that weaves itself throughout the series. So yes, each book needs to stand completely alone, but it is possible to weave other storylines through that are longer lasting.

3. I don't think with fantasy you need to fully explain the magic system, but you do need it to be present. Read competitive book covers for examples of what will be expected in a fantasy query.

4. I'm not sure there is a "most common" reason. I guess you could say it's probably plot problems.

Thanks for the questions!

gigig
10-09-2018, 03:05 PM
Yay! Thanks so much for doing this.

A question for a friend: At what point in the querying process should one reassess a query or pages?

One of my CPs has just started querying and in the first couple weeks I'd say she has about a 25% request rate. In my mind, that's a great percentage! I'd heard 10% is good and anything above that is pretty phenomenal in this industry. But she's worried that that there might be something in her first couple chapters that's putting off that other 75%.

I think that's probably pretty standard writer anxiety, but I have been wondering: at what point should an author re-assess their query or first chapters? At what percentage request rate (or what number of rejections) should we maybe go back and get another round of betas or hire an editor or otherwise reassess the book we thought was ready to query?

Jjanejayne
10-09-2018, 03:12 PM
Hi Jessica, Thanks for taking the time to answer questions.
I have a couple of agent/potential client etiquette questions.

I went through pitmad on twitter a few weeks ago. A couple of agents requested that I submit a query. I did. This led to two requests for full manuscripts. THRILLED MY SOUL! I sent in the manuscript and I haven't heard a thing. It's only been three weeks so I guess I'm just being impatient but the waiting for a response is driving me crazy I'm wondering how long is a typical turnaround on these kinds of things. Also, should I continue to query this book or just wait til I hear from these two people. I know that the answers to the first question probably varies from agency to agency but if you could just give me a ballpark figure, on how long I can expect to wait for an answer, I'd appreciate it.


Also, I've checked both agency websites. They give a time frame for response to a query but there's nothing mentioned on either about how long it will take to evaluate a manuscript once it's been requested.


THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR HELP.

ihavehorcruxes
10-09-2018, 03:19 PM
Thank you! We are certainly having fun with our social media.

Once your character ages out of high school you, typically, age out of YA. There was a brief attempt to publish New Adult which targeted characters and readers in this 19-22 (or so) age group, but readers just didn't buy them. Yes, this would be primarily considered an adult novel. Keep in mind with crossover books that most YA crosses over and many, many readers crossover. So while crossover books are fantastic for sales, there isn't really a genre for them specifically.

2. With series you can definitely have continuing storylines. This depends, of course, on what genre you're writing in. With mystery, for example, each book has to have a completed mystery, although there could be a greater, long-term mystery that weaves itself throughout the series. So yes, each book needs to stand completely alone, but it is possible to weave other storylines through that are longer lasting.

3. I don't think with fantasy you need to fully explain the magic system, but you do need it to be present. Read competitive book covers for examples of what will be expected in a fantasy query.

4. I'm not sure there is a "most common" reason. I guess you could say it's probably plot problems.

Thanks for the questions!

Thanks for answering, that's cleared up some things.

I was sad when the New Adult genre didn't take off, I would love to read more novels (esp. fantasy) about people like me that aren't primarily romance or erotica.

Harlequin
10-09-2018, 05:53 PM
Hi Jessica. Just wondering--do you make the decision to sign clients on an individual basis, or do agents consult with each other (or with you, as president) before taking someone on?

I know it's different for every agency, so my question is Bookends-specific in this case.

goddessofgliese
10-10-2018, 02:01 AM
Hi Jessica, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.

I just have one question (at this point:)): do you think it is important to personalize query letters? Thanks.

AgentJessica
10-10-2018, 04:44 PM
Yay! Thanks so much for doing this.

A question for a friend: At what point in the querying process should one reassess a query or pages?

One of my CPs has just started querying and in the first couple weeks I'd say she has about a 25% request rate. In my mind, that's a great percentage! I'd heard 10% is good and anything above that is pretty phenomenal in this industry. But she's worried that that there might be something in her first couple chapters that's putting off that other 75%.

I think that's probably pretty standard writer anxiety, but I have been wondering: at what point should an author re-assess their query or first chapters? At what percentage request rate (or what number of rejections) should we maybe go back and get another round of betas or hire an editor or otherwise reassess the book we thought was ready to query?

Congratulations to your friend!

I think any request rate, let alone 25% shows your query is working. I'm not sure I'd change things. I say you reassess if you're not getting any requests at all. I also always suggest that it might not be just the query or pages, but the overall idea that needs evaluation.

- - - Updated - - -


Hi Jessica, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.

I just have one question (at this point:)): do you think it is important to personalize query letters? Thanks.

I do. I think something personal always, always helps.

AgentJessica
10-10-2018, 04:47 PM
Hi Jessica, Thanks for taking the time to answer questions.
I have a couple of agent/potential client etiquette questions.

I went through pitmad on twitter a few weeks ago. A couple of agents requested that I submit a query. I did. This led to two requests for full manuscripts. THRILLED MY SOUL! I sent in the manuscript and I haven't heard a thing. It's only been three weeks so I guess I'm just being impatient but the waiting for a response is driving me crazy I'm wondering how long is a typical turnaround on these kinds of things. Also, should I continue to query this book or just wait til I hear from these two people. I know that the answers to the first question probably varies from agency to agency but if you could just give me a ballpark figure, on how long I can expect to wait for an answer, I'd appreciate it.


Also, I've checked both agency websites. They give a time frame for response to a query but there's nothing mentioned on either about how long it will take to evaluate a manuscript once it's been requested.


THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR HELP.

Congratulations!!! That is so exciting and that request is definitely yet another step in your publishing career. I'm glad you're celebrating.

BookEnds states that we respond to requested material in 8-12 weeks. I think 12 weeks is fairly standard. Although a lot of respond faster, and some will take longer, I don't know that I would bother checking on requested material earlier than that. Think about having a TBR pile of about 30 books (that's the number of requested manuscripts I have in my inbox right now) and how long it would take you to get to them all.

I hope that helps.

AgentJessica
10-10-2018, 04:50 PM
Hi Jessica. Just wondering--do you make the decision to sign clients on an individual basis, or do agents consult with each other (or with you, as president) before taking someone on?

I know it's different for every agency, so my question is Bookends-specific in this case.

While all agencies run differently, at BookEnds everyone is free to make their own decision when it comes to signing clients. That being said, we often do lean on each other for other opinions. Sometimes that help comes in the form of revision suggestions, other times it might be who would be perfect to submit to. BookEnds works very collaboratively, but no one's permission is needed to take on a client.

AgentJessica
10-10-2018, 04:51 PM
Good morning everyone. Thank you for the great questions. I think I am getting to them all, but if for some reason I missed yours please know it was unintentional and don't be afraid to ask again.

Have a great Wednesday!

jessica

Jjanejayne
10-10-2018, 06:30 PM
Thanks so much for the reply. I appreciate it, very much.

mafiaking1936
10-10-2018, 09:18 PM
Hi Jessica, thank you for your time. One issue I'm having (among many) with my MS is that there are several POV characters, which I think is necessary because of the sort of snowballing effects my main characters' actions have on their wider world. This seems to be a big no no, especially for a debut author. Is there a right way to pitch a multi-POV story? Is it really that hard of a sell? It's a 95K word adult fantasy, if that's relevant. Thank you!

AgentJessica
10-11-2018, 02:51 PM
Hi Jessica, thank you for your time. One issue I'm having (among many) with my MS is that there are several POV characters, which I think is necessary because of the sort of snowballing effects my main characters' actions have on their wider world. This seems to be a big no no, especially for a debut author. Is there a right way to pitch a multi-POV story? Is it really that hard of a sell? It's a 95K word adult fantasy, if that's relevant. Thank you!

Thanks for the question. I don't represent fantasy so I'm not necessarily the right person for a genre question. That being said, I don't know that multiple POV is a no-no, but I do think it can be tricky to handle which is why some people shy away from it. A question/challenge for you. Is it really necessary? If it is, then it's certainly possible to continue forward, but you do need to really look at it with an objective eye. Station Eleven was written in multiple POV and multiple timelines. It definitely worked which is proof that it can be done.

One thing I believe is there is no such thing as things that can't be done, but they need to be done well and if you're struggling it might not be because you've done something you shouldn't, but because it's not working in the way it should.

As for pitching the story I dont' see any reason to call it multiple POV. That has nothing to do with your story, but is a style of writing. I think instead you need to write a blurb about the story. Look at the cover copy for Station Eleven as an example.

gigig
10-11-2018, 03:29 PM
Thanks again for doing this!

So, #ownvoices question:

I know that you (and many other agents) are looking for more ownvoices stories. So I'm curious: how big a part of the story does the marginalization need to be in order for it to be ownvoices?

It feels clear to me that an issue book (e.g. if I'm writing a story about mental health and my experience is reflected therein) would be ownvoices, but what about when the shared characteristic is a more minor part of the story?

For example: I have Complex PTSD and so does one of my two POV characters. If the CPTSD is part of her day-to-day life but not a key theme or plot-driver in the book overall, is it worth mentioning? As an agent, at what point does that information become useful to you?

I'm not concerned about sharing my diagnosis with agents (I feel strongly about breaking the stigma and write publicly about mental health, so the right agent probably isn't someone who's going to get squeamish about it in a query), but I don't want to set the expectation that the story is going to be driven by CPTSD or even that I'm going to call it out in the text (my project is Historical Fiction and the term wouldn't have existed). So is it always worth mentioning or when you think of ownvoices as an agent, do you think of issue-driven books?

I actually sent this question over to your team for the blog/videos, but I'm getting ready to query next week, so hope it's okay to ask it here for a quick answer (since I know video and blog production probably take quite a bit more time and you likely have a queue)!

gigig
10-11-2018, 06:32 PM
Oh! One more:

Is it okay to comp across categories?

For example: If you have a Historical Mystery but its best comp is a contemporary mystery, is that okay or should you look for another comp? Likewise, if your book is YA but the best comp you can find is adult (or vice versa), can you comp across categories? Or let's say there's a non-fiction book that inspired your story, do you comp to that? Finally, do you think this varies agent by agent or is there a hard and fast rule?

Thanks so much!

Patty
10-11-2018, 11:16 PM
I'm still not clear on what the common imperfections are in submissions.

Agencies say 'be perfect' before submitting. But also say: Query in batches. If there is no interest? Tweak. Query a new batch.

OK, I'm happy to do that. Let's say I'm tweaking and introducing new elements. Enhancing 'current market' things that might make a book more easy to sell, rather than ... whatever else the book is--thought provoking or cinematic or whatever.

So this means that at any point, I might have some queries out there that haven't been responded to, because that's another variable. (Response rate -- all Rs -- is 30% for me.) It also means that my tendency to keep tweaking/shifting/alternating/questioning/adding/subtracting is actually enabled by the process. No real harm done, because no one wants the thing.

Conceivably one of the queries I sent in July could net me a request tomorrow--but I guarantee this manuscript has changed since then because of the advice that no requests=tweak further. Keep working on it.

I cannot square all of this. Add to it--'this is a subjective business.'

My question is:

What are the common (or uncommon) imperfections that agents see in submissions?

If I at least had a handle on that, then I could ensure that those were not present in my submissions.

Shoeless
10-12-2018, 12:39 AM
Hi Jessica,

I've got three questions, the first two more agency operations related.

My first is a financial question that I've been meaning to ask for a while. I've been wondering, how feasible is it for an agent to work in that professional capacity full-time? I mean, if the math holds up, and agents are getting an average of 15% per sale to a publisher, and not every acquisition is going to be a five--let alone six--figure deal, then how many sales need to go through in a year to make it possible to do it full-time? Do most agents do the job full-time, or, like a lot of writers, it's something done on the side, out of love?

My second is aside from the inherent "two/or more heads are better than one" advantage of forming an agency, are there any financial advantages to an agent deciding to found and run an agency with subordinate agents? Like is there any "tribute" to the agency founder, or are all agents completely financially independent of each other?

And my last question is one that my spouse and I may have to tackle soon. What happens when two people, represented by two different agencies, decide to collaborate? My spouse is with an agent at Bookends, and she's an author/illustrator, but I'm with the Donald Maass agency. In the past, when we've collaborated on comics/graphic novels, there's never been an issue, because neither of us were represented, but now, if, for example, we decided to work on a picture book or a chapter book where I write and she illustrates, do our respective agents collaborate, or, because my agent is adult SFF, I would just work with her agent on this?

aus10phile
10-12-2018, 02:00 AM
Hi Jessica! Thanks so much for taking our questions! I have 2:

1.) How do you gauge the marketability of a potential project?

2.) I have heard that debut authors should try to stay under 100k words, but how short is too short? I have a sci-fi that looks like it's going to end up around 80-85k. I know you don't rep that genre, but I wondered if you knew whether that would be considered too short for a genre that tends to have a lot of long books.

MarcP
10-12-2018, 05:03 AM
Hi, Jessica. Thanks for participating. My question is about picture books. I’ve heard that, these days, slice of life books are harder sells than books with more traditional narratives. Any truth to that? Would it be advisable to try and sell a more traditionally structured book first if you’re an unpublished writer? Thanks again.

Marc

AgentJessica
10-12-2018, 09:49 PM
Thanks again for doing this!

So, #ownvoices question:

I know that you (and many other agents) are looking for more ownvoices stories. So I'm curious: how big a part of the story does the marginalization need to be in order for it to be ownvoices?

It feels clear to me that an issue book (e.g. if I'm writing a story about mental health and my experience is reflected therein) would be ownvoices, but what about when the shared characteristic is a more minor part of the story?

For example: I have Complex PTSD and so does one of my two POV characters. If the CPTSD is part of her day-to-day life but not a key theme or plot-driver in the book overall, is it worth mentioning? As an agent, at what point does that information become useful to you?

I'm not concerned about sharing my diagnosis with agents (I feel strongly about breaking the stigma and write publicly about mental health, so the right agent probably isn't someone who's going to get squeamish about it in a query), but I don't want to set the expectation that the story is going to be driven by CPTSD or even that I'm going to call it out in the text (my project is Historical Fiction and the term wouldn't have existed). So is it always worth mentioning or when you think of ownvoices as an agent, do you think of issue-driven books?

I actually sent this question over to your team for the blog/videos, but I'm getting ready to query next week, so hope it's okay to ask it here for a quick answer (since I know video and blog production probably take quite a bit more time and you likely have a queue)!

Thanks for the question. Own Voices is something we are all passionate about at BookEnds so I always love teaching people more about it.

I don't think the marginalization needs to play into the story at all frankly. Recently I read The Dime, a mystery featuring a lesbian police officer from Texas. It was really about a crime in TX, it just so happened to be that the character was a lesbian and was in a strong and solid long-term relationship. Those are the kinds of own voices stories most of us are looking for. So yes, day-to-day life, but not a key theme. I guess I could have just simplified my answer and said that in the first place.

And thank you for sending it for the blog/videos. We will definitely still answer it there.

AgentJessica
10-12-2018, 09:51 PM
Oh! One more:

Is it okay to comp across categories?

For example: If you have a Historical Mystery but its best comp is a contemporary mystery, is that okay or should you look for another comp? Likewise, if your book is YA but the best comp you can find is adult (or vice versa), can you comp across categories? Or let's say there's a non-fiction book that inspired your story, do you comp to that? Finally, do you think this varies agent by agent or is there a hard and fast rule?

Thanks so much!

Ha! I just wrote a future blog post on this very topic so your timing is perfect. I think that's the perfect comp. In fact, I sometimes think what people want is the mystery version of.... or the adult version of... And I definitely want the fiction version of Cheryl Strayed's Wild so yes, that all works great.

Thanks!

AgentJessica
10-12-2018, 09:54 PM
I'm still not clear on what the common imperfections are in submissions.

Agencies say 'be perfect' before submitting. But also say: Query in batches. If there is no interest? Tweak. Query a new batch.

OK, I'm happy to do that. Let's say I'm tweaking and introducing new elements. Enhancing 'current market' things that might make a book more easy to sell, rather than ... whatever else the book is--thought provoking or cinematic or whatever.

So this means that at any point, I might have some queries out there that haven't been responded to, because that's another variable. (Response rate -- all Rs -- is 30% for me.) It also means that my tendency to keep tweaking/shifting/alternating/questioning/adding/subtracting is actually enabled by the process. No real harm done, because no one wants the thing.

Conceivably one of the queries I sent in July could net me a request tomorrow--but I guarantee this manuscript has changed since then because of the advice that no requests=tweak further. Keep working on it.

I cannot square all of this. Add to it--'this is a subjective business.'

My question is:

What are the common (or uncommon) imperfections that agents see in submissions?

If I at least had a handle on that, then I could ensure that those were not present in my submissions.

Honestly, I don't think you should submit until the book is done. Think of it as submitting the contracted book to your publisher. While you will go through edits with your publisher, no editor wants to hear that an author has tweaked and reworked things while they were doing the copyedits on their end. My best advice is that once you start submitting it means you have started writing your next book. An agent and a publisher want to know they have a career author on their hands, one who will write books for years to come and that means putting one aside and starting on another. Take what you've learned from one book to make your next book even stronger.

As or common imperfections, I don't think it's typically tweaks. It's commonly things like the voice isn't there, the writing isn't ready for publication, the characters feel cardboard, the plotting is too linear. I mean there are a million things, but those come top of mind. Every agent will have weak spots that they'll learn to fix for years, and that's fine, I think by perfect we mean you are done and moving on to the next thing.

AgentJessica
10-12-2018, 10:05 PM
Hi Jessica,

I've got three questions, the first two more agency operations related.

My first is a financial question that I've been meaning to ask for a while. I've been wondering, how feasible is it for an agent to work in that professional capacity full-time? I mean, if the math holds up, and agents are getting an average of 15% per sale to a publisher, and not every acquisition is going to be a five--let alone six--figure deal, then how many sales need to go through in a year to make it possible to do it full-time? Do most agents do the job full-time, or, like a lot of writers, it's something done on the side, out of love?

My second is aside from the inherent "two/or more heads are better than one" advantage of forming an agency, are there any financial advantages to an agent deciding to found and run an agency with subordinate agents? Like is there any "tribute" to the agency founder, or are all agents completely financially independent of each other?

And my last question is one that my spouse and I may have to tackle soon. What happens when two people, represented by two different agencies, decide to collaborate? My spouse is with an agent at Bookends, and she's an author/illustrator, but I'm with the Donald Maass agency. In the past, when we've collaborated on comics/graphic novels, there's never been an issue, because neither of us were represented, but now, if, for example, we decided to work on a picture book or a chapter book where I write and she illustrates, do our respective agents collaborate, or, because my agent is adult SFF, I would just work with her agent on this?

Oh, these are not questions I was expecting, but as the owner of an agency I like them.

1. Well I think that depends on the agent. I've been doing this full-time for nearly fifteen years (for about the first five years I did do freelance work on the side to keep my salary livable). I think the real answer depends on the agent, how hard she is going to hustle and the kinds of books she gets. But I do think a LOT of agents do this full time and many are not supported by anyone else or do support others on what they earn. So it is feasible. Also keep in mind that the more we sell the bigger our backlist grows and that 15% also includes royalties. To be honest, royalties are the bread and butter of agents and authors. While we all want the big advance, what we truly want is to be earning off that same book for years to come.

2. I don't know if there are any advantages or disadvantages to founding an agency with others working with you. I really think it's a matter of preference. Some agents want to work for someone who can handle the business details, others are entrepreneurs at heart and want to run a business, and all that goes with it. I do know, as an agency owner, that my job is much different than that of my agents in that, in addition to representing clients, I am also running and overseeing an agency and all that goes along with that. And I guess, in the end, how much you make wholely depends on how the work is being done.

3. It is quite possible for authors with two different agents to collaborate. It happens all the time. Typically the agents will work together on submissions and negotiations and when contracts come through they come through to the respective agents.

AgentJessica
10-12-2018, 10:15 PM
Hi Jessica! Thanks so much for taking our questions! I have 2:

1.) How do you gauge the marketability of a potential project?

2.) I have heard that debut authors should try to stay under 100k words, but how short is too short? I have a sci-fi that looks like it's going to end up around 80-85k. I know you don't rep that genre, but I wondered if you knew whether that would be considered too short for a genre that tends to have a lot of long books.

Hi!

I don't know if marketability is always that easy to explain. The truth is that it comes from constantly being immersed in the business. For me it comes from reading Publishers Marketplace and PW on a daily basis. It comes from knowing what's being published and what are the big buzz books and it comes from talking about books day in and out with the group at BookEnds and editors and publishers. We know by looking at numbers what's selling, what's not, what's growing, and what seems to be leveling off. Authors can do a lot of this same stuff. Prowling bookstores on a regular basis to see what people are excited about is a big first step.

2. SFF should be in the range of 80,000-100,000. The same can be said of most adult fiction to be honest.

AgentJessica
10-12-2018, 10:16 PM
Hi, Jessica. Thanks for participating. My question is about picture books. I’ve heard that, these days, slice of life books are harder sells than books with more traditional narratives. Any truth to that? Would it be advisable to try and sell a more traditionally structured book first if you’re an unpublished writer? Thanks again.

Marc

I think you also asked this on our Twitter #askagent which I'm grateful for, because I'm going to steal Tracy's answer. Since I don't represent picture books I would have had to ask anyway,

Tracy WANTS A NAP Marchini


@TracyMarchini
1h1 hour ago
More
Tracy WANTS A NAP Marchini Retweeted Marc Poliquin
I think slice of life are (and have been) more difficult for a while now, so as a debut if you do write both character-driven narratives and slice-of-lifes, I probably would start with the character-driven book! #AskAgent #askbookendsjr #picturebooks

MarcP
10-12-2018, 10:29 PM
I did, but thanks for taking the time to respond here. I'm wondering why they're harder sells, though. Is it that publishers fear the kids won't connect to the characters as much?

Michael Myers
10-12-2018, 11:47 PM
Jessica,

Thank you for taking the time to visit with us.
No doubt you've answered this question before.

What made you want become an agent?

Laurasaurus
10-14-2018, 02:17 PM
Hi Jessica!


I'm always interested to know, is there anything you're seeing a lot of at the moment in submissions?
Maybe things that we as writers wouldn't expect or realise are cliche or common, because we don't see the huge volume of queries that agents do.

AgentJessica
10-15-2018, 05:23 PM
I did, but thanks for taking the time to respond here. I'm wondering why they're harder sells, though. Is it that publishers fear the kids won't connect to the characters as much?

Asking one of the agents from BookEnds, Jr will probably give you a more definitive answer, but typically when something is hard to sell it's because readers aren't buying them. Usually publishers have tried them and learned, from experience, that the market just isn't threre. Of course it doesn't mean they will never try one again or the market can't change, it just means lack of sales have made that particular thing more difficult to sell.

AgentJessica
10-15-2018, 05:25 PM
Jessica,

Thank you for taking the time to visit with us.
No doubt you've answered this question before.

What made you want become an agent?

Thanks Michael. I have answered that question before, but it's been a very long time. In one word, I became an agent for the freedom.

Working for a publisher means working within the confines of what that publisher does. A nonfiction only publisher isn't going to let you edit fiction and romance publishers aren't buying a lot of nonfiction. As an agent I have the freedom to represent the kinds of books I want to represent, which is ever-changing and evolving in a market that is ever-changing. I can also take risks that I wasn't always allowed at a publisher. In other words, even if I know a book is going to be a difficult sell I can still give it a shot. It's my own time and money I'm spending to do so. While every book is a bit of a risk, when you're spending someone else's money it's often harder to get the support to take the really big risks.

AgentJessica
10-15-2018, 05:30 PM
Hi Jessica!


I'm always interested to know, is there anything you're seeing a lot of at the moment in submissions?
Maybe things that we as writers wouldn't expect or realise are cliche or common, because we don't see the huge volume of queries that agents do.

Hi Laura--

Most of my inbox is filled with women's fiction, mystery, thrillers, suspense and upmarket and literary fiction. I'm seeing a lot of psychological suspense which I want and am looking for.

I did poll the gang at BookEnds to see what everyone else is seeing. I've heard there are a ton of illness memoirs, ususally a parent or child.

There are a ton PI stories and cop stories that don't really differentiate themselves in any other way. The same holds true of serial killer stories. I see a ton, so any old serial killer isn't enough to make them stand out.

In romance we see a lot of stories where the protagonist inherits a house and ends up falling for the contractor. Another common trope is a house is given to two people who must live together for a specified period of time and fall in love.

Other things we see a lot of that we have not had good experience selling are cozy mysteries where the hook is a realtor or other professional that's not a cozy store or vocation (B&B owner, bookshop owner, knitting store owner, etc).

I'm sure there are more, but those are what we all thought of on the fly.

Thanks!

goddessofgliese
10-15-2018, 06:57 PM
Hi Jessica,

In an earlier post you mentioned that once you start submitting it means you have started writing your next book. Let's say I'm querying agents on the first book in a planned trilogy. I've heard agents say that even if you are signed by an agent, it doesn't mean he/she will be able to sell your book, so instead of writing the second book in the trilogy, you should start something completely new. But what if the agent sells the book you are signed for? Wouldn't the publisher expect to see how the story continues in the second book right away?

What's your opinion?

Thanks!

AgentJessica
10-17-2018, 08:23 PM
Hi Jessica,

In an earlier post you mentioned that once you start submitting it means you have started writing your next book. Let's say I'm querying agents on the first book in a planned trilogy. I've heard agents say that even if you are signed by an agent, it doesn't mean he/she will be able to sell your book, so instead of writing the second book in the trilogy, you should start something completely new. But what if the agent sells the book you are signed for? Wouldn't the publisher expect to see how the story continues in the second book right away?

What's your opinion?

Thanks!


Thanks for the question. At BookEnds we tend to advise against starting the next book in a series or trilogy until the first has sold. The thinking is that we don't want the author to have two unsold books under the bed instead of just one. Instead we will encourage the author to start something fresh and new so, on the chance the first book doesn't sell we are ready to go with a second. If the first book does sell, the publisher will often make a multi-book offer and at that point we can set deadlines with the author that works and the current WIP can rest a bit until the author has time to go back to it, or whenever the author has time to go back to it.

Keep in mind that publishing is a slow business so the first book will likely take almost a year from the sale to get published. That should be plenty of time to write that next book.

drose58
10-17-2018, 11:41 PM
Hello, Jessica and thank you so much for doing this.

I have a contract for a book with an indie publisher. We are in the third round of edits and I anticipate the book will be released within the first six months of next year. I have a WIP which has another few months to go, but I think the manuscript will be polished and ready soon after the holiday season, around January or February.

I would like to try the traditional agent route and start querying with the new manuscript. Obviously the book will not have a track record at that point. Should I mention in my query I have a book coming out?

Thanks so much!
Debbie Lehner Rosenberg

AgentJessica
10-18-2018, 07:07 PM
Hello, Jessica and thank you so much for doing this.

I have a contract for a book with an indie publisher. We are in the third round of edits and I anticipate the book will be released within the first six months of next year. I have a WIP which has another few months to go, but I think the manuscript will be polished and ready soon after the holiday season, around January or February.

I would like to try the traditional agent route and start querying with the new manuscript. Obviously the book will not have a track record at that point. Should I mention in my query I have a book coming out?

Thanks so much!
Debbie Lehner Rosenberg

First off, congratulations! That's very exciting news.

In situations like this you can actually try to use the contract from the indie publisher to get the agent right off the bat. The agent can negotiate, often better terms, and also, possibly, find you another publisher. However, I'm also aware that doesn't always work out. If you are choosing to seek an agent after the deal is made I would definitely mention the book. While you might not have sales yet, you do have the acknowledgement from a professional of your work.

Laurasaurus
10-19-2018, 06:35 PM
Hi Laura--

Most of my inbox is filled with women's fiction, mystery, thrillers, suspense and upmarket and literary fiction. I'm seeing a lot of psychological suspense which I want and am looking for.

I did poll the gang at BookEnds to see what everyone else is seeing. I've heard there are a ton of illness memoirs, ususally a parent or child.

There are a ton PI stories and cop stories that don't really differentiate themselves in any other way. The same holds true of serial killer stories. I see a ton, so any old serial killer isn't enough to make them stand out.

In romance we see a lot of stories where the protagonist inherits a house and ends up falling for the contractor. Another common trope is a house is given to two people who must live together for a specified period of time and fall in love.

Other things we see a lot of that we have not had good experience selling are cozy mysteries where the hook is a realtor or other professional that's not a cozy store or vocation (B&B owner, bookshop owner, knitting store owner, etc).

I'm sure there are more, but those are what we all thought of on the fly.

Thanks!

Thanks for your answer! I find this stuff so fascinating (and super helpful to know what to avoid).

EvilPenguin
10-19-2018, 08:44 PM
Hi Jessica!
Thank you so much for doing this!

My question is about pitching to agents at writer's conferences. I've been to 3 different conferences so far, and the first 2, I passed on the opportunity to pitch to an agent out of nerves and not feeling like my books was ready. However, at both of those conferences, I had a lot of people tell me I should have just taken the opportunity to pitch for practice, so when I attended my 3rd conference, I told myself I had to pitch. I had just started a brand new novel, that I'm really excited and confident about, so I decided to pitch it, just for the practice. To my surprise, the agent actually requested to see the first 50 pages. But I was so nervous and stunned, I failed to tell her that the book was not completed...

So my questions are: Should authors pitch at conferences, just for the practice, even if their books aren't completed? And if an agent requests to see pages at a conference, what is an acceptable time frame to send the pages to them?

I would still love to send my pages to the agent, but I want my book to be finished before I do and that's still a couple of months away. Should I still send them to the agent when I'm done? Or submit an actual query letter to the agent and see if she's still interested?

Again, thank you!

D. E. Wyatt
10-20-2018, 01:28 AM
Hello, Jessica!

I self-published my first book in 2013. It was a novella that was meant to be a short story but I just couldn't trim it down enough. It released to good reviews, enough that when I finished the sequel (a full-length novel) the second book was picked up by a publisher. That experience was...less than pleasant (the edit was taken out of my hands, as was, effectively, the cover). The publisher folded while I was shipping the third book to agents, with the second going out of print. Sales have been sluggish on book one, in part because I have to rely on myself for marketing and I have literally NO budget to work with. I received no help at all with marketing from the publisher of book 2, so was once again on my own, there. The third book garnered some interest and a good bit of praise from the agents I shopped it to, but was ultimately passed on.

While another, unrelated project is being beta-read, I decided to go back to the first book and do a rewrite and expansion to flesh things out into a full-length novel. It currently stands at about 60,000 words (original length about 30,000) and I'm probably about 2/3 done, so the new version — while retaining much of the original plot — is still going to be quite substantially expanded, as a few subplots and characters are better fleshed out now that I'm not trying to squeeze it into a short-format story. Book 2 will also be getting new editing pass and probably some rewrites as well to match some minor changes being introduced in the new version of Book 1.

I'm wondering how to proceed once the rewrites are completed, beta-read, and edited. Although both this book, and the project I mentioned above, are fantasy, they're in rather different subgenres (the book being rewritten is a low-fantasy swashbuckler, the other is a high fantasy epic). I'd considered focusing on using the epic to find an agent since it has not been previously published, and use the rewrites of the other series as something that could be released between books, however they're also quite difference in focus and scale.

I really like what I'm doing with the swashbuckler and I know for certain I don't want to shelve it. If I do shop the rewrite rather than wait on the other, should I approach agents as if it were a new work, especially because it's going to be something on the order of 2/3 new material, anyway? Should I make mention that it was previously self-published in a shorter format? There's also the second book to consider, however being that it's book 2 in a series, I think what I do there is going to depend on what happens with book 1.

Thanks in advance, and I appreciate any suggestions you may have.

GOTHOS
10-20-2018, 11:50 PM
Hi Jessica,
I echo members' thanks for taking out your time to do this.

I checked out your site for the first time and was impressed by the format of the submissions letter with fields pertaining to word-count, previous publications, et al, all of which I would think make it easier for you to glean substantive details about a project without having to pull them out of the query letter.

My question is, how did you decide that you wanted only to read three pages of a submission? I see that some agents may want five or more, though I personally haven't seen anyone want more than ten. I can see how you might get the author's voice from three pages, but can you get much of a grip on the plot or characters? In my case, I have two principal characters, and the reader doesn't even meet one of the two for the first three pages.

Patty
10-22-2018, 01:27 AM
Just a thank you for your help.

Thank you.

AgentJessica
10-22-2018, 09:29 PM
Hi Jessica!
Thank you so much for doing this!

My question is about pitching to agents at writer's conferences. I've been to 3 different conferences so far, and the first 2, I passed on the opportunity to pitch to an agent out of nerves and not feeling like my books was ready. However, at both of those conferences, I had a lot of people tell me I should have just taken the opportunity to pitch for practice, so when I attended my 3rd conference, I told myself I had to pitch. I had just started a brand new novel, that I'm really excited and confident about, so I decided to pitch it, just for the practice. To my surprise, the agent actually requested to see the first 50 pages. But I was so nervous and stunned, I failed to tell her that the book was not completed...

So my questions are: Should authors pitch at conferences, just for the practice, even if their books aren't completed? And if an agent requests to see pages at a conference, what is an acceptable time frame to send the pages to them?

I would still love to send my pages to the agent, but I want my book to be finished before I do and that's still a couple of months away. Should I still send them to the agent when I'm done? Or submit an actual query letter to the agent and see if she's still interested?

Again, thank you!

Congratulations on the request.

I think you'll get mixed responses from agents on whether to pitch without a book being ready. That being said, I also think most agents know from experience that very few clients are signed based on pitch sessions alone.

I have no issue with attending a pitch session without a completed manuscript, however I also don't think you need to pich in that case. I see nothing wrong with taking a pitch session time to get to know the agent, and letting that agent know that upfront. Instead of sitting down and giving a pitch, sit down and let the agent know that while you're book isn't ready you were still hoping to use the time to get to know the agent a little. Be prepared with questions (preferably that provide answers that can't be easily found on the agent's website) and maybe even questions about your book. How is the market for the type of book you're writing? That sort of thing.

In most standard pitch sessions an agent assumes the book is ready and returns to the office hoping to see it again. I'm still waiting for a book I requested at a conference in 2017. I'm honestly not sure it will ever arrive, but that's part of the business.

Whatever you do, I would wait until the book is completely finished, edited and ready before sending it. You don't want to be kicking yourself later when you realize you've sent work that isn't up to your best. And then, at that point, feel free to send whatever was requested.

However it plays out, I want to reassure you that you didn't do anything wrong and you should celebrate the request.

EvilPenguin
10-22-2018, 11:26 PM
Congratulations on the request.

I think you'll get mixed responses from agents on whether to pitch without a book being ready. That being said, I also think most agents know from experience that very few clients are signed based on pitch sessions alone.

I have no issue with attending a pitch session without a completed manuscript, however I also don't think you need to pich in that case. I see nothing wrong with taking a pitch session time to get to know the agent, and letting that agent know that upfront. Instead of sitting down and giving a pitch, sit down and let the agent know that while you're book isn't ready you were still hoping to use the time to get to know the agent a little. Be prepared with questions (preferably that provide answers that can't be easily found on the agent's website) and maybe even questions about your book. How is the market for the type of book you're writing? That sort of thing.

In most standard pitch sessions an agent assumes the book is ready and returns to the office hoping to see it again. I'm still waiting for a book I requested at a conference in 2017. I'm honestly not sure it will ever arrive, but that's part of the business.

Whatever you do, I would wait until the book is completely finished, edited and ready before sending it. You don't want to be kicking yourself later when you realize you've sent work that isn't up to your best. And then, at that point, feel free to send whatever was requested.

However it plays out, I want to reassure you that you didn't do anything wrong and you should celebrate the request.

Thank you, Jessica!!! This makes me feel so much better and helps alleviate a lot of the stress I've been having over this book. Knowing that an agent is interested in the premise has given me a lot of motivation to work on it, but I will definitely make sure it is in the best state I can make it before I send it off.

drose58
10-24-2018, 05:52 PM
Hi, Jessica. I have one more question.

My current WIP features several diverse characters, both ethnically and one with a disability. They are not, however, #ownvoices. I'm thinking about reaching out to sensitivity readers to ensure quality and authenticity.

Do you think that because the characters are not #ownvoices, this is an impediment to representation, regardless of the manuscript's appeal?

Thank you so much.
Debbie Lehner Rosenberg

AgentJessica
10-24-2018, 08:10 PM
Hi Jessica,
I echo members' thanks for taking out your time to do this.

I checked out your site for the first time and was impressed by the format of the submissions letter with fields pertaining to word-count, previous publications, et al, all of which I would think make it easier for you to glean substantive details about a project without having to pull them out of the query letter.

My question is, how did you decide that you wanted only to read three pages of a submission? I see that some agents may want five or more, though I personally haven't seen anyone want more than ten. I can see how you might get the author's voice from three pages, but can you get much of a grip on the plot or characters? In my case, I have two principal characters, and the reader doesn't even meet one of the two for the first three pages.

Thank you! We love using Query Manager and just recently have been hearing more and more from authors who like it too. That's terrific to know since the goal is not only to make our own query management easier, but also to make tracking and responses easier for authors.

I have to admit, I'm not sure I remember how I decided on three pages. It does seem rather arbritrary and I guess it is. It might have been the default when I first set up my forms.

i don't always read the three pages sent with the query. In fact, more often times I don't. I trust the query to entice me to want to read more in the same way I trust the cover copy to entice me to buy a book. Only if I am questioning whether I still want to read after the query (or cover blurb) do I open the pages (or book) to get a sense of the voice and writing.

AgentJessica
10-24-2018, 08:16 PM
Hi, Jessica. I have one more question.

My current WIP features several diverse characters, both ethnically and one with a disability. They are not, however, #ownvoices. I'm thinking about reaching out to sensitivity readers to ensure quality and authenticity.

Do you think that because the characters are not #ownvoices, this is an impediment to representation, regardless of the manuscript's appeal?

Thank you so much.
Debbie Lehner Rosenberg

This is certainly a conversation that needs to be had and needs to be had a lot. It's also one that any agency you submit to, who expresses interest in the book, will have. It's hard to give a solid answer without knowing more details, but I guess I would say that if you're asking the question do you already know the answer? My other question is, why the need to write diverse characters? It will also come into play are these primary or secondary characters? Are you trying to appropriate something that isn't your story to tell or is it appropriate to what you're writing?

I think if you feel you need to ask the question about sensitivity readers you probably already know the answer. As for whether or not it's an impediment to representation, it could be, but you'll only know if you try.

I hope that helps in some way.

Alan Aspie
10-26-2018, 09:01 PM
I might need an agent some day.

Can you give me tips about where and how to seek for an agent that has good understanding in literature connected to autistic spectrum and/or ADHD.

I am autistic myself. (Asperger's Syndrome.) And I did work years in developing... I don't know the right word. Rehab is a bit too heavy. Therapy is a bit too medical. How to manage with every day life.

Sorry about my lousy English.

Alan Aspie
10-26-2018, 09:57 PM
...might have a hook that always grabs me (magical realism with food for example)


Let me give you a tasting of my famous Cinnamon Chili. It contains about 70 - 80% Chocolate Habanero and some secret ingredients...

First dose is free but drinks after that are not...


(I think this is magical realism with food...)

Pampurrs
10-27-2018, 04:02 AM
Hi Jessica,

I released the first (mystery/suspense) book in a series about six weeks ago, and sales are doing fairly well on Amazon, with great reviews (all five star so far). I published it through my own publishing company, which is a remnant of my magazine publishing days; but I'm seriously considering going to a trade publisher for my subsequent works. I'm working on the second entry in the series, which I hope to have finished and polished by mid-January.

My question is, would you be willing to consider picking me up as a client, based on the merits of the first book in the series? I understand that I'd still have to go through your normal manuscript processes for the next book, but I'm just curious if reading the current "in-print" book would be helpful.

I'm not asking for a commitment, but rather just to get a general idea.

Thanks,

Pam Anders

AgentJessica
10-30-2018, 06:32 PM
I might need an agent some day.

Can you give me tips about where and how to seek for an agent that has good understanding in literature connected to autistic spectrum and/or ADHD.

I am autistic myself. (Asperger's Syndrome.) And I did work years in developing... I don't know the right word. Rehab is a bit too heavy. Therapy is a bit too medical. How to manage with every day life.

Sorry about my lousy English.

I don't know that you'll find an easy list of agents who personally connect with any marginalized community. However, there are a lot of agents out there who have their own personal connections to autisim and ADHD. My suggestion is being open in your query about being autistic and query as anyone would until you find that agent who gets it and who you connect with.

AgentJessica
10-30-2018, 06:33 PM
Hi Jessica,

I released the first (mystery/suspense) book in a series about six weeks ago, and sales are doing fairly well on Amazon, with great reviews (all five star so far). I published it through my own publishing company, which is a remnant of my magazine publishing days; but I'm seriously considering going to a trade publisher for my subsequent works. I'm working on the second entry in the series, which I hope to have finished and polished by mid-January.

My question is, would you be willing to consider picking me up as a client, based on the merits of the first book in the series? I understand that I'd still have to go through your normal manuscript processes for the next book, but I'm just curious if reading the current "in-print" book would be helpful.

I'm not asking for a commitment, but rather just to get a general idea.

Thanks,

Pam Anders

Picking up the next in a series to take it to another publisher is tricky business and often only done if the first book had outstanding sales, record-breaking. Most publishers will be pleased to see strong sales on a self-published book, but would like to use those as ammunition for something new, not for more of.

Alan Aspie
10-31-2018, 12:36 AM
I don't know that you'll find an easy list of agents who personally connect.. ..personal connections...

Thank you.

I suppose I did not make myself clear.

I did not try to ask about personal connections to autism or empathy or...

I tried to ask if you know anyone with good knowledge, understanding...


If and when I will write about things that have a connection to autistic spectrum, there will be only one important question: does this help Aspies (or ADHD:s) or not. And that day I will need a agent that can evaluate that question by his/her own knowledge and understanding.

If it helps, it sells. If it sells, some publishing house takes it.

If it does not help, it should not get published - no matter what I think and no matter if it sells or not.

Knowing things personally is ok, good. But I seek more. I seek knowledge about that field of information and literacy that is meant to help Aspies and ADHD:s.

Laer Carroll
10-31-2018, 10:02 AM
I seek knowledge about that field of information and literacy that is meant to help Aspies and ADHD:s.
An agent might not be the best person to ask this question of. People who specialize in help for those problems would seem a better source of info, as that is their area of expertise.

AgentJessica
11-01-2018, 01:48 PM
Thank you.

I suppose I did not make myself clear.

I did not try to ask about personal connections to autism or empathy or...

I tried to ask if you know anyone with good knowledge, understanding...


If and when I will write about things that have a connection to autistic spectrum, there will be only one important question: does this help Aspies (or ADHD:s) or not. And that day I will need a agent that can evaluate that question by his/her own knowledge and understanding.

If it helps, it sells. If it sells, some publishing house takes it.

If it does not help, it should not get published - no matter what I think and no matter if it sells or not.

Knowing things personally is ok, good. But I seek more. I seek knowledge about that field of information and literacy that is meant to help Aspies and ADHD:s.

My apologies. I did understand your question and I do know a number of agents, especially at BookEnds, who have personal connections and empathy (not necessarily one and the same), but the right agent will also depend on what you're writing. An agent for SFF might be different from an agent for nonfiction. Also, the editor at the publisher will come into play in a big way as well since that's the person who will ultimately work with you to make your manuscript a book. The agent is just the first step.

My suggestion is that if you feel you need an expert's opinion in any book you are writing you find the expert to work with you, either as a co-author or an editor. Fiction authors do this with sensitivity readers or experts in something like, let's say, police procedure. Part of the writing process is being the one to ensure that the information is accurate. An editor and agent will work with you to make sure your work is connecting to readers, but they are looking from a reader's perspective and would expect that the information you are writing is accurate in other ways.

I hope that helps a little more.

AW Admin
11-01-2018, 05:00 PM
Jessica thanks so much for answering our questions for a month. It's very much appreciated.

You deserve a round of thanks and many rep comments letting you know that you did make a difference.

We hope you will come back; our door is always open.

Maggie Maxwell
11-01-2018, 05:16 PM
Thank you so much, Jessica! :Clap: You took a lot of time out of your undoubtedly busy schedule to help us out, and I'm sure every single person here is grateful. :heart: I hope we'll see you around going forward. Again, thank you so much!

Alan Aspie
11-01-2018, 06:30 PM
1. My apologies. I did understand your question...

2. the right agent will also depend on what you're writing.


3. My suggestion is that if you feel you need an expert's opinion in any book you are writing you find the expert to work with you, either as a co-author or an editor.


4.An editor and agent will work with you to make sure your work is connecting to readers, but they are looking from a reader's perspective and would expect that the information you are writing is accurate in other ways.

5. I hope that helps a little more.

1. Happens all the time. No need to apologies.

I usually ask totally different questions than others. And quite often people hear the questions or type of questions they are used to hear. Then I get an answer that does not have much to do with what I asked.

2. Self help that can be partial help in professional working also.

3. I am some kind of expert.

I can't tell about this more without a risk of identifying myself here in Finland.

I will of course use other experts in their fields of wisdom and knowledge.

4. One of my biggest motivations is to help and to take care that any evil side effects of help stay down.

The way some information is presented effects really much to how it will be received.

My audiences both in writing and lecturing have been professionals, families/parents, Aspies... How to present information and methods is very delicate thing. Both the potential agent and the potential publishing house must understand that.

(Analogy: Someone writes about anorexia. Text is useful and good, but it is presented with too big promises and wrong kind of marketing. Then sad things happen. And... To me it is very, very important to avoid any risk of "sad things happening". Misunderstood good advice becomes very easily bad advice and I want to avoid that.)

5. It did. Thank you.

I hope I could make myself more clear.

muse
11-01-2018, 10:39 PM
Jessica thanks so much for answering our questions for a month. It's very much appreciated.

You deserve a round of thanks and many rep comments letting you know that you did make a difference.

We hope you will come back; our door is always open.

+1

Thanks for taking the time to answer so many questions, Jessica. The whole thread has been very informative.

Ari Meermans
11-01-2018, 10:44 PM
I add my thanks too, Jessica. I've referred to your advice a number times; it has all been quite helpful. Thank you, again.

Enlightened
11-01-2018, 10:58 PM
Thank you, Jessica. I learned a lot from this thread and the many questions you helped writers with, including my own question. It was VERY kind of you to offer your time for everyone!

GOTHOS
11-02-2018, 02:34 AM
Not sure if the thread is still going, but--

On a Youtube podcast, I heard one SF writer claim that he found his agent through following said agent via Twitter and blog.

This sounds like a long shot to me, but I suppose it's no worse than trying to make contact with an agent at a convention.

In your personal experience, Jessica, have you ever heard of people acquiring agents in this or similar manners?

Oh well, guess it ended in October like the OP said...

MTaylorUSA
12-03-2018, 02:42 AM
I just logged onto this site for the first time this week and gobbled up every post in this thread. Thanks to everyone--and especially Jessica--for contributing to such an informative discussion. It was really great!