Ask Ginger Clark! Guest agent arriving July 5th

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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

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kpmcneil22

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Ginger,

What advice can you give for authors attending a pitch session with an agent at a writer's conference? Anything specific you want to hear? Anything you don't? What does it take for you to request their manuscript?

Thanks so much.

Kevin
 

argenianpoet

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Credentials?

Dear Ginger:

Thank you so much for answering my questions! I will ask the said author for permission most certainly. I do have one more now that I think about it and this one has bothered me for awhile. Do agents look at credentials first, and are they necessary to get an agents attention? Every single example of a successful query letter out there on the Internet has one thing in common, outstanding credentials. Personally, I have none, except maybe a blurb; so would that be a credential? Maybe it's just me, but they never show examples of successful query letters without credentials. What is the truth about this?

One last question Ginger before I close. In your opinion, what is a good fantasy book recently published using third person omniscient that I can read for reference? If not that, what is a good book recently published that you would recommend a first time novelist to read?

I hope you have a great day Ginger!

Sincerely,
Mike
 
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Branwyn

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Ginger Clark said:
I do, and psychics are not yet overdone (I think we are seeing saturation point on vampires, potentially soon).

And please, everyone--call me Ginger.

Thank you so much, Ginger.

May I send you a query? The story involves real 'wiccans', one of which is a ghost whisperer type.

Ellen
 

Ginger Clark

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kpmcneil22 said:
Ginger,

What advice can you give for authors attending a pitch session with an agent at a writer's conference? Anything specific you want to hear? Anything you don't? What does it take for you to request their manuscript?

Thanks so much.

Kevin

Good questions! I'm about to go to my third conference this year, and this has been on my mind.
1. Be as professional and polite as possible. Please don't freak out if I say the work isn't my thing. Don't write me a letter afterwards telling me I lied to you (true story). Don't follow me into the bathroom, either (true story, too!) But feel free to ask me questions about the business and what I'm looking to represent. I am happy to answer questions.
2. I want to know specific things like: how long is the book (word count is what I want); what kind of genre is it; what is the audience for the book; what's the main character like; is it ready for me to see or are you still working on it? (If you are still working on it I'm usually a bit puzzled as to why you are pitching me on it). What are your credits/where have you been published? have any editors asked to see the book?
3. I don't want to hear a long description of the plot, unless I start prompting you with questions. I don't want to hear the backstory of how you decided to start writing this. I don't want to hear about how your family really loves it. I also really don't want to get into an argument with you over how to pitch your book (this happened to me recently--the book was clearly YA SF, and she was pitching it as a mystery. When I pointed that out to her, she snapped, "I don't want to pitch it as SF." I wrapped up our session very quickly after that). And again, please respect personal boundaries and stuff like that.
4. If it is the kind of book I am looking to represent, I almost always hand over my card and ask for the first fifty pages. It is ultimately impossible to tell from a pitch if the book is good. I have heard bad pitches for decent books; I have also left conferences excited about a few pitches only to discover the author isn't a very good writer. I need to actually look at the work to decide if I like it or not.

In general, just be a professional and treat me as such. That's how I intend to treat you.
 

Ginger Clark

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davidhburton said:
This is interesting. Is this something you'd want to know at the beginning of the query letter? I've mentioned it at the bottom of mine, but never sure if it gets read. :)

Thanks!
David

You can put it in a query letter. I don't know if it gets read--but I do read all my letters, and each one entirely.
 

Ginger Clark

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argenianpoet said:
Dear Ginger:

Thank you so much for answering my questions! I will ask the said author for permission most certainly. I do have one more now that I think about it and this one has bothered me for awhile. Do agents look at credentials first, and are they necessary to get an agents attention? Every single example of a successful query letter out there on the Internet has one thing in common, outstanding credentials. Personally, I have none, except maybe a blurb; so would that be a credential? Maybe it's just me, but they never show examples of successful query letters without credentials. What is the truth about this?

One last question Ginger before I close. In your opinion, what is a good fantasy book recently published using third person omniscient that I can read for reference? If not that, what is a good book recently published that you would recommend a first time novelist to read?

I hope you have a great day Ginger!

Sincerely,
Mike

Credits matter--but not as much as whether the book is marketable and good, or not. One way to become a better writer is to amass credits by getting short stories published in decent magazines and publications.
 

Cathy C

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Hi, Ginger! :hi:

Thanks again for dropping by to answer people's questions! Hey, one question that arises a lot here and on other sites I visit is the concept of length of manuscript. I notice you addressed a debut Fantasy length up above, but what about other genres? Pretty much everything I've seen on the market tends to be 90-100K, but I keep seeing advice from other pubbed authors recommending a much shorter length, even as low as 70K. That seemed strange to me, but maybe I'm all wet.

In your experience, what should an author consider to be a "target length" for a saleable debut novel in fiction genres such as:

Mainstream/Contemporary
Thriller
Romance/Women's Fiction
Mystery
Historical
YA
Any others you can think of...?

Thanks again!
 
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Ginger Clark

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Cathy C said:
Hi, Ginger! :hi:

Thanks again for dropping by to answer people's questions! Hey, one question that arises a lot here and on other sites I visit is the concept of length of manuscript. I notice you addressed a debut Fantasy length up above, but what about other genres? Pretty much everything I've seen on the market tends to be 90-100K, but I keep seeing advice from other pubbed authors recommending a much shorter length, even as low as 70K. That seemed strange to me, but maybe I'm all wet.

In your experience, what should an author consider to be a "target length" for a saleable debut novel in fiction genres such as:

Mainstream/Contemporary
Thriller
Romance/Women's Fiction
Mystery
Historical
YA
Any others you can think of...?

Thanks again!

I would say that for all of these, 80K to 100K is your range--EXCEPT YA. Young adult should be between 40K and 60K. No more than that.
 

Ginger Clark

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Toni1953 said:
Hi Ginger:

Are there any markets at all for romantic suspense that comes in at around 65K, or must it be 75-80,000?

Harlequin tends to publish shorter books, but most publishers want something around 80K. I think a lot of it is cost related--a shorter book does not mean lower production bills.
 

MidnightMuse

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Hi Ginger - one quick and possibly stupid question - if someone were to query you on a humorous piece, and filled that query with the same style of humor found in the ms -- realizing gimmicks are a fools tool sometimes -- would that completely turn you off on face value? Or would it depend completely on that person's ability to capture your attention?

Thank you.
 

Ginger Clark

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MidnightMuse said:
Hi Ginger - one quick and possibly stupid question - if someone were to query you on a humorous piece, and filled that query with the same style of humor found in the ms -- realizing gimmicks are a fools tool sometimes -- would that completely turn you off on face value? Or would it depend completely on that person's ability to capture your attention?

Thank you.

Yes. Gimmicks DO NOT work with me on query letters. I find them distracting and irritating. Other agents might like them. I do not. Again, please, just be professional.
 

maestrowork

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Hi Ginger,

What excites you and makes you fall in love with a manuscript and think it's marketable? I know this is a broad question, and the answer probably is "all of the above." Still, do you pay more attention to the story/plot, characters, originality, or writing style?

The reason I am asking: I have read quite a number of novels in the past year and I could only count with one hand how many I actually liked. Either they were the same old, same old, or they had flat characters, or the writing was unexceptional. Most of them, however, had interesting premise/setup. Obviously, they're all published novels so somebody must be buying them. So what is the criterior of a "markatable, publishable manuscript" to you?

Thanks,
Ray
 

Ginger Clark

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maestrowork said:
Hi Ginger,

What excites you and makes you fall in love with a manuscript and think it's marketable? I know this is a broad question, and the answer probably is "all of the above." Still, do you pay more attention to the story/plot, characters, originality, or writing style?

The reason I am asking: I have read quite a number of novels in the past year and I could only count with one hand how many I actually liked. Either they were the same old, same old, or they had flat characters, or the writing was unexceptional. Most of them, however, had interesting premise/setup. Obviously, they're all published novels so somebody must be buying them. So what is the criterior of a "markatable, publishable manuscript" to you?

Thanks,
Ray

For me, it's a combination of compelling characters and interesting plot. Originality is also there, and the person has to have a clear, clean writing style (at least). But I usually fall in love with a character in a book and that's why I end up representing it.
 

jvc

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Hi Ginger, thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions.

You said you need to fall in love with the character. What kid of characters do you fall in love with?
 

waylander

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May I add my voice to those thanking you for answering questions here.

I wonder if you could offer me any advice in the following situation?
A long-established US agent with a good track record in fantasy, who is a lone operator, asked to see the full manuscript of my novel on a non-exclusive basis back in February. I sent it and she acknowledged receipt at the beginning of March saying she would need 'at least 6-8 weeks' to review it. Having heard nothing after 13 weeks, I sent a short and polite status query by e-mail. She did not reply. I have continued to send out queries to other agents. 18 weeks have now passed and I would appreciate your advice on what I should do. I do have a phone number for her, but calling seems like the absolute last resort.
 

argenianpoet

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Submission Guidelines?

When agents ask for a query letter do they mean exactly that, or do they want you to send a one page synopsis with the query, or the first five double-spaced pages of the manuscript? The reason I ask is because I have heard people say it was both ways and I am confused as to which way is right. I would not want to send more and offend an agent, but is a one page query really enough? Some really good books have poor query letters and some really bad books have a great queries. What is your take on this, and would you throw a submission away if the writer added a little more than what was posted in the guidelines, (say a one page synopsis, and first five pages of the manuscript)?
 

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If they want just a query letter, send just that. If you aren't getting positive responses from the query letter, re-write it. You can post query letters here in <Share Your Work> there's a forum just for that purpose.

Regards,
Scott
 

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Hi, Ginger:

I have a formatting question.

In a manuscript, is it better to start every new chapter at the top of a page, or should the writer just space down about three lines and start there? (With a header, of course.) I've heard that spacing down three gives an illusion of quickly turning pages.

Thanks.
 

Ginger Clark

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jvc said:
Hi Ginger, thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions.

You said you need to fall in love with the character. What kid of characters do you fall in love with?

Anything compelling.
 

JohnSilver

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Hi Ginger,

Thanks for helping us all out!

Up until this point I have only been querying agents.

My dream agent is currently looking at my MS.

If I queried publishers and got a request for a full, would this be enough to mention to the agent? Or is this simply not impressive enough?
 

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You're taking the time to answer all our questions is like a dream come true. I have two version of a query. One is the standard one-page version that, to me, simply can't reveal the narrator's voice; the second is almost two pages in the form of a series of personal challenges to the reader (i.e. agent) that echoes what the protagonist goes through. The book is a combination of of absurdist, humor, and serious themes interwoven in a coming-of-age genre. I've been sending out both versions, but am I making a mistake with the second? Thanks for your time...I know how precious it is for you.
 

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Questions about literary agent career

Hi Ginger,

Is it possible for a person who did not live their former life as an editor to "break into" the world of literary agency? Separate from my aspirations as a writer, I was hoping to switch day jobs and see about working my way up the ladder to be a literary agent.

My challenge is that I can't afford to actually give up the current day job without a comparable reasonable salary. I'm willing to do grunt work to get my feet wet, but I don't know what kind of grunt work an agent has nor if it is something that I can do off hours and from home.

My plan was to contact a local agent for an informational interview over coffee to see if they needed help with some job that would help me understand the agent side of the world.

Can you tell me if I'm offbase or even in another ballpark to think that breaking into this field is possible?

Thanks!
 
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