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Helene B

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Hi Jenn,

Wow, thanks so much for answering these pages and pages of questions. I've read through and didn't see this covered yet...

I'm a hoser and sadly, Canadian agents specializing in children's lit are few and far between, so I've widened my search to American agents as well.

2 Questions.

1. As an American agent, are there any differences in marketing authors from outside the US compared to American clients?

2. Some of what I write would be classified as 'Canadiana', (fiction set in Canada, leaning toward literary) though the greater portion, I'd consider more commercial and not limited to a Canadian audience. Is this a strike against me (writing in different genres for different markets) or is it realistic to think an American agent would be open to representing both?


Thanks!

Hélène Boudreau (from the blueboards)
 

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Successful French PB writer seeks English-speaking agent - help?

[copied and slightly edited from
http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=128353
as suggested by JudScotKev]

Hi Jennifer!

Er, this is a bit complicated. I'll try to be brief.

A friend of mine (in homage to Andy Stanton I'll call her Mungo Bubbles) is a French-speaking writer of picture books for children aged 3+. Her work has been translated into 11 languages, and she's a bestselling author in her category.

BUT...

- she has no agent at all,
- her work has never been published in English, and
- surprise surprise, she has the contract from hell.

Her (French) publishers are not interested in finding English-language publishers for her; they say, no doubt truthfully, that the market is saturated. She, on the other hand, would really like to give it a try, if only to maximise her pitifully meagre royalties.

Now, Mungo doesn't speak that much English, so she has asked me to look into English language agents and publishers for her. She was very enamoured of my translation of one of her books, and now wants to "adopt" me as her translator for English. I, however, am not in any sense A Translator, and have no publishing history whatsoever.

Needless to say, the first thing we need to do is take her contract to a good lawyer and find out just what she can and can't do without her publisher. But having done that, and assuming that Mungo has the right to seek an agent abroad at least for previously unpublished work, what's next?

- Ms Bubbles is a bestselling author already, so finding a good agent should be easy, right? Right?
- Should I query agents on her behalf? Given that she could only do this herself in rather broken English...
- Should I present myself as her translator, or should I present my translation as a "sample"?
- Can she expect to keep her illustrator, with whom she already has a well-established working relationship?
- Further down the line, how do royalties normally work when there's a translator involved?
- I'm overlooking something important, aren't I?
- Er, help?
 
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Jennifer_Laughran

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1. As an American agent, are there any differences in marketing authors from outside the US compared to American clients?

Hi there, Helene. Hm. I've never really had to deal with this, I guess, all my clients are American. As an agency we do have clients from places like Singapore, Australia, Bahamas, etc. (and yes, probably Canada too!) -- as far as I know, we don't do anything differently than we would for an American client, since we are trying to sell to American publishers for the most part. But perhaps I am not understanding your question quite correctly?

2. Some of what I write would be classified as 'Canadiana', (fiction set in Canada, leaning toward literary) though the greater portion, I'd consider more commercial and not limited to a Canadian audience. Is this a strike against me (writing in different genres for different markets) or is it realistic to think an American agent would be open to representing both?

I can only speak for myself here, certainly not for all American agents. :) For me, personally, I would probably decline to represent your Canadiana, because I don't think that I am in a position to do anything with it. That would not be a strike against you at all - but you'd have to know that going in (in other words, it might well be a strike against ME.)

I have clients, for example, that write children's books and adult books. I do not represent adult books. They have different agents for that adult work, or they rep it on their own (though I would be happy to take a look at their contracts if they want me to). If they want one agent to handle both, then they don't want me.

One of my clients writes very regional books for a tiny publisher in her part of the states. These are great, but they have very specific regional appeal and are not likely to sell to major US publishers. She got that gig herself, and we treat it like "work for hire" or freelance work that many authors do - that does not come under my umbrella.

I hope that helps!
 

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Lost in Translation

[copied and slightly edited from
http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=128353
as suggested by JudScotKev]
A friend of mine (in homage to Andy Stanton I'll call her Mungo Bubbles) is a French-speaking writer of picture books for children aged 3+. Her work has been translated into 11 languages, and she's a bestselling author in her category.

BUT...

- she has no agent at all,
- her work has never been published in English, and
- surprise surprise, she has the contract from hell.

Her (French) publishers are not interested in finding English-language publishers for her; they say, no doubt truthfully, that the market is saturated. She, on the other hand, would really like to give it a try, if only to maximise her pitifully meagre royalties.

Now, Mungo doesn't speak that much English, so she has asked me to look into English language agents and publishers for her. She was very enamoured of my translation of one of her books, and now wants to "adopt" me as her translator for English. I, however, am not in any sense A Translator, and have no publishing history whatsoever.

Needless to say, the first thing we need to do is take her contract to a good lawyer and find out just what she can and can't do without her publisher. But having done that, and assuming that Mungo has the right to seek an agent abroad at least for previously unpublished work, what's next?

- Ms Bubbles is a bestselling author already, so finding a good agent should be easy, right? Right?
- Should I query agents on her behalf? Given that she could only do this herself in rather broken English...
- Should I present myself as her translator, or should I present my translation as a "sample"?
- Can she expect to keep her illustrator, with whom she already has a well-established working relationship?
- Further down the line, how do royalties normally work when there's a translator involved?
- I'm overlooking something important, aren't I?
- Er, help?

(Tips hat to Jen Laughran)
Jen's asked me to pop in and offer some publisher viewpoint on this question.

I'm guessing (from the fact that her French publisher has managed to get her books published in several other languages) that her French publisher
(a) has foreign/translation rights, with no limit on the term by which they must exercise them,
(b) does a decent job of representing her work at Bologna/other international book fairs, and
(c) is quite right when they say the English language market is saturated.

Because
(d) no non-English language publisher is not interested in selling into the U.S. children's books market. It's the biggest children's book market in the world.

But let's assume for the sake of argument that this French publisher has somehow failed to find the right US publisher to send her books to.

Besides petitioning her French publisher to revert English language rights to her, there's not much she can do. No, really. It doesn't matter if she's unsatisfied with what they're not doing with those rights: she sold those rights to them and was paid. It's like selling someone a pair of earrings and then demanding the earrings back (with no refund) because that person is only wearing them in France.

This does not apply to unpublished work. She hasn't sold the rights to those, so she can do whatever she wants with them. I don't know what makes her think she wouldn't be able to... an option clause in her French contract? (If so, I have some thoughts about that, but they'll make this response even longer.)

Frankly, some specifics here would help to further answer your questions, but it does truly sound like both of you should see a literary contracts lawyer (and no other kind) since you don't seem clear about what the author signed. Fundamental rule: DO NOT SIGN CONTRACTS YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND.

--Editorial Anonymous
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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(Tips hat to Jen Laughran)
Jen's asked me to pop in and offer some publisher viewpoint on this question.

Thanks, Ed!

I also wonder, to the original poster: is there some reason why Mungo can't get an agent in France? They do exist, and they do work with US publishers or co-agents here all the time. This would eliminate her need for you as an intermediary, the language barrier, the weird royalty dilemma, etc.
 
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wordpoke

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Hi again Jennifer,

I apologize for taking so long to thank you for answering my question. I was so looking forward to your reply, but my life and computer went directions I wasn't expecting between the time I asked my question and you so graciously and thoughtfully answered it. (Death in the family out of town, no internet thanks to an ice storm when I returned.)

You've given me a lot to think about.

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

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

What kind of a beast have I got? I'm not sure. In the event it did find a publisher, I don't think you'd find it on the shelves of a Baptist or Evangelical Christian bookstore. Nor would atheists buy it for their kids. I saw children's Christmas books published by major publishers which were explicitly Christian among the top 20 on best seller lists last month. I don't know! Yikes! I suppose it's not a typical Christmas book.

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

The other books I've written are set in other countries and don't touch on Christian themes at all. In one, the MC is a Buddhist, although that is not made explicit in the book. (I lived in other countries for a good chunk of my adult life and part of my childhood, too. I hope this doesn't mean I'm out of touch with my own country.)

I really believe in my Christmas book and think it's the best I've written. I also think there is a market for it. Given what you've said here about holiday books being a hard sell and the differences between the Christian and trade markets, however, it may be more practical to sit on that one for awhile and work on my other books.

What you've told me confirms my own research, but hearing it from a real live person who speaks from experience makes a world of difference. I think I'll put the Christmas back in the drawer, polish up one of my other stories, and try to find an agent for it.

This leaves me with only one simple question: If I find an agent for my other books (the non-Christian ones), that still leaves me free to look for another agent for the Christmas book later on, as it would be in another category, right? Of course, I would never do such a thing without talking it over with my agent first. Wouldn't it be rather the same as authors who have one agent for their YA books and another for their adult books?

Again, my gratitude for your help. Thanks to you, I've got a clearer idea of what path to take. I'm getting off my confused behind and turning in a more practical direction. One that might lead to publication if my writing is up to snuff. I can always search for that needle in a haystack (agent who represents both Christian and children's books) later on if I still think my Christmas book is worth the effort.
 

wordpoke

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(c) is quite right when they say the English language market is saturated.

Does this mean it's nearly impossible to sell a picture book?

Other than the afore-mentioned Christmas book, I have three other books close to being ready: two are chapter books set in other countries (although I'm thinking of re-working one and bumping it up to MG), and one is a picture book (set in no particular country).

Should I also lay aside the picture book and concentrate on the chapter books?
 

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Thanks from Mungo Bubbles and friend

Thank you very much, Ed and Jennifer, for your prompt and helpful comments! Stop me if you've heard this before, but what you're doing here is really a huge service to those of us who are lost and confused in the big scary world of publishing. Extra special thanks for making such a generous effort to reply to my particularly complicated query.

Thanks, Ed!

I also wonder, to the original poster: is there some reason why Mungo can't get an agent in France? They do exist, and they do work with US publishers or co-agents here all the time. This would eliminate her need for you as an intermediary, the language barrier, the weird royalty dilemma, etc.

There's no compelling reason for her not to have an agent in France, no. I think she's just hesitant to take on more agents than she absolutely needs, given the slice each one will take of her already pitiful earnings - hence the interest in cutting out one (paid) middleman when what she really wants is an agent in the US. But you don't need to tell me agents are worth the money! Of course it would make these matters much simpler, and I'll discuss it with her.

Once again, many thanks!
 

Helene B

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I can only speak for myself here, certainly not for all American agents. :) For me, personally, I would probably decline to represent your Canadiana, because I don't think that I am in a position to do anything with it. That would not be a strike against you at all - but you'd have to know that going in (in other words, it might well be a strike against ME.)

>>>

One of my clients writes very regional books for a tiny publisher in her part of the states. These are great, but they have very specific regional appeal and are not likely to sell to major US publishers. She got that gig herself, and we treat it like "work for hire" or freelance work that many authors do - that does not come under my umbrella.

I hope that helps!

Thanks so much for your answer, Jenn. This is the scenario I imagined would be the case, though, as you say, agents differ. I've been able to place my Canadiana and WFH on my own since the market is more open to the unagented. The larger, more commercial markets are tougher, of course.

Thanks again. I've learned tonnes (Canadian tons) reading through this thread. :)
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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This leaves me with only one simple question: If I find an agent for my other books (the non-Christian ones), that still leaves me free to look for another agent for the Christmas book later on, as it would be in another category, right? Of course, I would never do such a thing without talking it over with my agent first. Wouldn't it be rather the same as authors who have one agent for their YA books and another for their adult books?

I'm afraid you've managed to confuse ME a bit as well. :)

After all that going around in circles, you seem to be telling me that you DON'T think it is a Christian market book, but rather a trade book with Christian themes. In that case, I would probably try to find a regular trade agent with a non-Xmas manuscript, and show them the Xmas ms when they have expressed interest in your work. Let THEM decide if they can sell it or not.

Does this mean it's nearly impossible to sell a picture book?

No, Ed. was answering somebody else's statement about "the market being saturated" - with a certain specific KIND of picture book. This was not a blanket statement, but a direct answer to somebody else.

But yeah, it is hard to sell picture books. Not "nearly impossible", just hard. It is probably even harder to get an AGENT if you are a debut author with only picture books. It would probably be a good idea to "diversify your portfolio."
 

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I'm afraid you've managed to confuse ME a bit as well. :)

Oh dear. I suppose that's because I've been confused. Perhaps I should have checked myself into nearest Home for the Bewildered until it passed. :)

After all that going around in circles, you seem to be telling me that you DON'T think it is a Christian market book, but rather a trade book with Christian themes. In that case, I would probably try to find a regular trade agent with a non-Xmas manuscript, and show them the Xmas ms when they have expressed interest in your work. Let THEM decide if they can sell it or not.

You are right. I have gone round in circles. I think my difficulty may have more to do with my own uncertainty and my growing understanding of the difference between what I might call a "Christian book" (meaning it might have a Christian theme) and the "Christian books" found in Christian bookstores. After living out of the country for so long, I'm struggling to catch up with all the changes in my absence. Oh, and changes in terminology, too. Sometimes, my misunderstandings are funny. Other times, they are frustrating. I regret having been frustrating here. And I admire and appreciate your patience. I think I have a better handle on the difference now, thanks to your help.

You have given me good advice and I will follow it. I will try to find an agent for one of my chapter books after they are polished up. If I find one who likes my writing, I'll show that agent the Christmas book and let that agent make the decision.

No, Ed. was answering somebody else's statement about "the market being saturated" - with a certain specific KIND of picture book. This was not a blanket statement, but a direct answer to somebody else.

But yeah, it is hard to sell picture books. Not "nearly impossible", just hard. It is probably even harder to get an AGENT if you are a debut author with only picture books. It would probably be a good idea to "diversify your portfolio."

Got it. Will do.
 

EditorialAnonymous

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Christian for trade:

Santa being jolly
Jesus being born
Easter bunnies
the spirit of giving and how you want it in you


Christian for Christians:

Santa being too commercial
Jesus doing anything else
Easter crucifixions
the spirit of god and how you want it in you
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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Christian for trade:

Santa being jolly
Jesus being born
Easter bunnies
the spirit of giving and how you want it in you


Christian for Christians:

Santa being too commercial
Jesus doing anything else
Easter crucifixions
the spirit of god and how you want it in you


Snerk!

Maybe I'll just have her answer my questions from now on.... :D
 

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Dear Jennifer,

Hi, my name is Forrest Fisher and my first question is will you have my babies?...

It’s alright to take your time and consider my request. After all, you hardly know me and are shockingly unaware of my unmatched charm, magnificent masculine beauty and incredible skill with the written word.

*cough*

You may be asking yourself, who does this blustery and arrogant upstart of an author think he is? Firstly, I’m only blustery and arrogant if I can’t back up my claims with brilliant work and… no, please, let me finish… and let me respond to your remark by stating that I may very well be the second coming of J.K. Rowling, but with a little more facial hair, on me, and some grit to my characters. I only say this because my novel has been described as,

“Harry Potter for intelligent people.” – by Shelia Hawks, the head of the Toronto Heliconian Society. This tiny and otherwise unassuming hundred year old association boasts one of the largest book clubs in the nation and is a rather well established centre for women in the arts. Referring to my initial statement, you may have guessed that I am not even a woman. I know. That’s just how good I am.

If your answer to the child birthing scenario is still no, than perhaps you could settle for critiquing my query letter and pointing me in the direction of a talented YA agent who can get things done (please feel free to include yourself in the running).

Beyond all of my attention grabbing audacity I am genuinely searching for an astute capitalistic champion to love my work and see that it gets published like crazy. After all, there are children right now, whose minds are starving for superbly written fantasy/action/adventure. However, in order for me to draw them into my worlds, on wild adventures filled with action, excitement and maybe even a little lesson on the difference between right and wrong, being true to yourself and always doing the right thing no matter what the cost, my work needs to reach them.

And all you have to do is pick up your e-mail now and call. Won’t you help feed them Jennifer?

Disclaimer: The above passage does not in any way reflect the true nature of Forrest Fisher and the way he conducts himself on a daily basis. Readers taking Forrest at his word on the immeasurable magnitude of his charm and beauty are to be forewarned of the fictitious nature of his claims. However, his writing is mad awesome good.

;)

F.F.
 

OpheliaRevived

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Ms. Laughran:

What makes you "pass" on a project and what do you *have* to love to pick it up?
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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However, his writing is mad awesome good.

Prove that your attention to detail is as "mad awesome good". I am open to unsolicited queries when they are submitted properly, following the directions found at www.andreabrownlit.com.

"Queries" sent via facebook, twitter, myspace or anyplace else will be ignored. Queries that do not follow the directions will be deleted. Paper queries will be recycled.
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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What makes you "pass" on a project and what do you *have* to love to pick it up?

Well, to begin with, I am not starting in a neutral place where I am looking for things to like or dislike. I am starting in a very negative place. The default answer is always "NO" to queries. So the question is really, what turns that NO into a yes.

It isn't any one thing in particular. If I start reading when I am tired and irritated (which is always when I start reading queries, btw), but somehow despite my tiredness and irritation I CANNOT STOP, I become invigorated and I don't stop reading until I finish the book - either because it is so beautiful or so funny or so thrilling or so WHATEVER - that is a book I will want to represent.

Another sign: If I dream about the book when I sleep. Another sign: I have to stop reading to do some crazy little dances of joy. Another sign: I am making lists of editors who will love it while I am still reading.

All sorts of different books have provoked these reactions in me. What they have in common whatever the genre is strong unique characters, a compelling plot, clarity.... and something totally indefinable that I can only classify as "x-factor."

:)
 

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Christian for trade:

Santa being jolly
Jesus being born
Easter bunnies
the spirit of giving and how you want it in you


Christian for Christians:

Santa being too commercial
Jesus doing anything else
Easter crucifixions
the spirit of god and how you want it in you

Ha! Make that "Aha!" My understanding is now perfected! Thank you!

Now back to paring away superfluous backstory and other tiresome tasks for me. It's a chapter book without any Christmas or Christians in it at all. The Christmas manuscript stays in the drawer for now.
 

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Thanks for your reply. It's easy for me as an unpublished writer to assume that agents have nothing but time for my work. (I envision them taking time to relax and getting a good cup o' Joe before looking at my query or samples. :ROFL: If I don't have time for that, I should know agents don't.) It is your job, after all, and I think that if I keep that in mind, I would take future rejections less personally and use them to better my writing.
 

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I have a question. If you got a query and sample pages from an author, and was intrigued, so then asked for the whole manuscript to begin reviewing that night (for whatever reason), why would it take longer than a month for a response? Would this be because you weren't interested in the end? Or because you wanted to talk it over with another agent? Or simply that you hadn't finished reading?
But if you started that night, would it take you longer than 4 weeks to get through the rest? I'm curious :D
 

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Translation Rights Question

Hi Jenn,

Thank you for helping all of us with our questions.

Here's mine:

I had a novel published several years ago. The book is no longer in print. I own the copyright. I've posted the full text of my novel online, on my site, with a copyright notice.

I've been contacted by a professor at a university in mainland China who has been using my novel in his EFL (English as a foreign language) class for the past two years. He's asked permission to translate the novel into Chinese, which is great, but in his request he asks for the copyright to the novel. I'm certainly not going to give up my copyright, but what exactly is the procedure regarding rights when it comes to translation?

I really appreciate any guidance you can give me.

Rob
 

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I have a question. If you got a query and sample pages from an author, and was intrigued, so then asked for the whole manuscript to begin reviewing that night (for whatever reason), why would it take longer than a month for a response? Would this be because you weren't interested in the end? Or because you wanted to talk it over with another agent? Or simply that you hadn't finished reading?
But if you started that night, would it take you longer than 4 weeks to get through the rest?

Well, I probably wouldn't do that. Usually when I request a full, I don't start it that night, I start it when I have time to spend reading it . My priority is my existing clients, so if I have manuscripts to read from them they will always go ahead of requested fulls.

But let's say for the sake of argument I DID start it that night. I'd probably read it once, take a few days, read it again, make notes, let my reader read it and make notes, go to a meeting (which might be one, two, three weeks away) and talk to the other agents and my boss about it, let them read parts of it, think about it, and THEN talk to the author.
 

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Thank you Jennifer. In your experience of starting it that night, does longer reponse times usually mean a more positive answer?
 
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