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Jennifer_Laughran

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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?

What does he want to do with it? Translate it for his own personal use, or the use of his class? Sell it to a Chinese publisher? Publish and distribute it himself? Adapt it for Chinese television? You are quite right that you are not giving him the copyright on the work, but what rights if any you ARE giving him depend on what he wants to do with it.

I'd ask some more questions.
 

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Hello,

Thank you for taking our questions. :)

I'm sure you don't know the exact number, but by your guess, how many new authors are published a year? A guestimate percentage is fine.

Thanks!
 

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

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

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

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

This intrigued me.

I'm sitting at 141,000 words on an adult epic fantasy and that's down 25,000 words. I've been invited to submit to an editor specializing in fantasy and two agents from a writer's conference, but I'm not sure I can get it much lower without rewriting the thing.

I think I am going to follow your advice and hope for the best. Thanks for offering your opinions on these...myriad questions.

Julie
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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I'm sure you don't know the exact number, but by your guess, how many new authors are published a year? A guestimate percentage is fine.

About 172,000 new books a year are published in the US. Also, less than 1,000 of those sell more than 50k copies. So the answer is obviously TOO MANY.

But are you asking how many *debut novelists*? Sigh. I have no idea whatsoever. Google it.
 

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I'm sitting at 141,000 words on an adult epic fantasy and that's down 25,000 words. I've been invited to submit to an editor specializing in fantasy and two agents from a writer's conference, but I'm not sure I can get it much lower without rewriting the thing.

I think I am going to follow your advice and hope for the best. Thanks for offering your opinions on these...myriad questions.

Again, I was only talking about YA and children's books as that is where my area of expertise lies. I do NOT know what is normal for "adult epic fantasy" - I'd say PROBABLY between 100-150k is fine. Since "epic" is in the name of it and all.

Best of luck!
 

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Again, I was only talking about YA and children's books as that is where my area of expertise lies. I do NOT know what is normal for "adult epic fantasy" - I'd say PROBABLY between 100-150k is fine. Since "epic" is in the name of it and all.

Best of luck!

Yes, ma'am. The editor flinched a bit when I said it would probably edit down to 135,000 words, but he still handed me his card.

I believe very strongly in the, "don't give me a reason to say no," maxim. I'm just going to pretend I forgot to add the word count to the query.

Thank you.

Julie
 

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Full m/s now has lower word count than mentioned in synopsis

Great to see you on here, I just saw your post in Twitter so popping along.

An agent has requested a full for my YA novel (yay!). As I was waiting for response from agents, I stupidly looked at my m/s again and cut out some scenes that, on reflection, simply weren't working. But now the word count is down by 10k from what I said in my synopsis. I know you need to ensure your m/s is perfect before sending out but I swear I thought it was, but giving it yet another read-through highlighted some weak scenes.

Is it just better to say this in the follow up letter (eg. 'you'll notice the word count is down but I had to cut some scenes on final read-through')? Or just send it along without mentioning?

(It was 75k, now 65k). Lesson here: NEVER read through your work after you query it ;-)

Thanks in advance fellow Tweeter. :)
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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An agent has requested a full for my YA novel (yay!). As I was waiting for response from agents, I stupidly looked at my m/s again and cut out some scenes that, on reflection, simply weren't working. But now the word count is down by 10k from what I said in my synopsis. I know you need to ensure your m/s is perfect before sending out but I swear I thought it was, but giving it yet another read-through highlighted some weak scenes.

Is it just better to say this in the follow up letter (eg. 'you'll notice the word count is down but I had to cut some scenes on final read-through')? Or just send it along without mentioning?

Either way is fine. Honestly, the agent probably wouldn't have noticed the exact word count in the letter, and won't notice if the ms is different. (And to my mind, 65 is preferable to 75, so no harm done.)

Congrats and best of luck!
 

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I recently attended a couple of SCBWI conferences and left with the impression that an agent (while perhaps not absolutely necessary) was a really good idea and determined to make querying agents a priority (rather than approaching editors directly).

My question is this. Theoretically, if a writer has an editor interested in her work (for the sake of argument, a MG novel), but that writer is agent-less, at what point should she try to bring an agent into the process? Or does she need one in this situation? Would an agent even be interested in representing a novel that has already found a publisher? How, in this situation, would a writer query an agent? And how might the editor react to discover an agent has been added to the mix?

I appreciate any insights you might have.
 

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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?

If he translates it, then he can and does have the copyright to his translation. But he cannot share it with anyone unless he has the PUBLISHING RIGHTS to publish your story in translation. Because it's still your story.

Publishing rights are what a publisher buys from you; they do not buy the copyright from you-- indeed, they'll go ahead and file for the copyright in your name and save you a step, because it's in everyone's best interest to be clear about who has what rights. The copyright belongs to you, period.
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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If he translates it, then he can and does have the copyright to his translation. But he cannot share it with anyone unless he has the PUBLISHING RIGHTS to publish your story in translation. Because it's still your story.

Publishing rights are what a publisher buys from you; they do not buy the copyright from you-- indeed, they'll go ahead and file for the copyright in your name and save you a step, because it's in everyone's best interest to be clear about who has what rights. The copyright belongs to you, period.


Exactly what she said. Again, though, wtf does he want to do with the story once translated would be my first question.
 

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Hi Jennifer,

Toward the end of 2005, my wife and I signed with an agent for our YA novel. She sent it out to six publishers: HarperCollins, Penguin, Viking, Simon Pulse, Little,Brown and Random House. All passed and the agent quit submitting the manuscript at that point. She also quit communicating with us at that point and we dropped her in 2007.

We've since completed another manuscript and we're seeking representation for that book. But am I right to assume that our first novel is dead in the water?
 

scope

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About 172,000 new books a year are published in the US. Also, less than 1,000 of those sell more than 50k copies. So the answer is obviously TOO MANY.

But are you asking how many *debut novelists*? Sigh. I have no idea whatsoever. Google it.

Jennifer,

Are you saying that the 172,000 new books a year includes all those published for children and adults (not just novels), and that it includes works from previously published authors, including the "biggies," as well as "debut authors"?
 
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The ol' Hermit

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Hope I did this right.

Hi Jennifer. Is there such a thing as a list of agents or publihers that will take on POD's? I think I'm running around in square circles looking for one.
Thanks.
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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My question is this. Theoretically, if a writer has an editor interested in her work (for the sake of argument, a MG novel), but that writer is agent-less, at what point should she try to bring an agent into the process? Or does she need one in this situation? Would an agent even be interested in representing a novel that has already found a publisher? How, in this situation, would a writer query an agent? And how might the editor react to discover an agent has been added to the mix?

Well, you don't absolutely NEED an agent, but they are very helpful. If you are querying agents, I would avoid also querying editors at hte same time, because then the agent will have nowhere to go with your stuff if it has been shopped around. I know, though, that sometimes you meet an editor at a conference or something - so what happens if one of them wants your book?

Well, I'd keep querying while the editor looks at it - if you are unagented, that might be a lonnnnng time. Hopefully you will get an agent in the interim. But if you HAVEN'T found an agent yet and you have an editor acutally make an offer, it should be quite easy to get an agent. Put in your email something like AUTHOR WITH OFFER FROM RANDOM HOUSE (or whatever), and explain in the email all about how this editor has made you an offer, and agents will probably read it quite quickly. (Obviously they still have to connect with it and think that you have a career ahead of you, though!)

The problem with this approach is, you probably won't get much of a raise between the paltry amount the editor offered you and the amount the agent can talk them up to. An agent would have likely gotten you a higher amount if they had been working on it from the beginning.

An editor might be irritated if you bring an agent in at this point, but so what? There is no reason why you shouldn't protect your own interests.

The other option of course is to take the deal they offer and have a literary attorney look over the contract for you, and then to get an agent for the next book (which should be easier as now you have a resume). There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach either.
 

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We've since completed another manuscript and we're seeking representation for that book. But am I right to assume that our first novel is dead in the water?

Not necessarily -- when you get your new agent, make sure to let them read it and give them the detailed list of who rejected it (which editors at those houses). There are still lots of places it might go - but perhaps it is in need of some tweaking?

Good luck.
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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Hi Jennifer. Is there such a thing as a list of agents or publihers that will take on POD's? I think I'm running around in square circles looking for one.
Thanks.

I don't know any agents or publishers who would take on a title that had been self-published (or POD) unless it had significant sales history.
 

chequa

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Thanks very much, Jennifer. I think I have a better sense of how to proceed. I absolutely agree that agent first, publisher second is a better way to go -- but then (as you guessed) something good came of a conference critique and one thing is apparently leading to another (although what kind of another is as yet unclear) so now I'm in this murky limbo. We'll see, eh? (I see no chickens, no chickens at all. Only unhatched eggs.)
 

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Dear Jennifer,

Thank you for taking your time to post here.

I have written a manuscript on a compelling topic and I can honestly say that it will be the "first book to..." I have queried about thirty agents and received requests for the first two chapters from three of the agents. After reading the chapters, all three said that they were not the best agent to represent me, but two of them did mention how compelling my material was.

My manuscript is part memoir, part research-based material, and part self-help (the self-help portion is both personal experience and research based). Do you think that that I need to consider revising my query letter, or is three agents showing interest (out of thirty) not bad?

Do you think that my combination of genres is hurting me? I believe that if an agent were to see my entire manuscript, or at least the proposal with all of the chapter titles and layout of the book, they would show more interest. My problem is getting the entire manuscript or the proposal past the guard gate. Most agents only want a query letter.

Thank you for any help you can provide.
Marina
 

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Jennifer,

Everyone seems to worry about going over the desired word count, but what if a book is shorter? Is it just as bad, better, or maybe even good? :)

Thanks.
 

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Jennifer and Editorial Anonymous, Thank you VERY much. In this case, the professor wants to have the class translate my novel into Chinese as a training exercise in learning English. The finished project would not be sold. I've given permission under those limitations. RRM
 

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Hello Jennifer,
Thanks for being here today. My question is what is the best way to contact celebrities? I am working on a collection of stories and my editor suggests I get high profile folks to contribute, to make my book more marketable. The bigger the star the harder they are to get a hold of. Do you know of any shortcuts I should use?
 

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"No email queries" ???

I am going to ask this of both agents currently fielding questions in here. I've already considered the wisdom of posing this question on a public forum--I know agents read this board, and I'm none too keen on rubbing anyone the wrong way--however, I believe the question is important, particularly in an age when recycling is huge concern.

I am currently compiling my list of agents and agencies to query, since my story is completed and heavily revised/edited. I am coming across a lot of agents lined up on both sides of the fence--either only accepting email queries or refusing all email queries. Whuh?

I am wondering if you know of the reasons some agents refuse email queries.

I do have a serious problem with people resistant to technology. Every time I see "Does not accept email queries," I immediately think "If I have to drag this person kicking and screaming into the 21st century, what are they going to be able to do for me?"

The agencies I've seen that specify queries by email only, always state why--they're not killing trees. It's environentally friendly. It cuts down on paper usage. The agencies whose policies reject email queries don't say why. I can't imagine.

This is the way it looks to me: back in the days when paper was the new, big thing, there were a few clinging to the old ways. They rejected paper in all its forms and insisted all correspondence be submitted carved on stone tablets. What is the logic behind insisting on doing things the old, slow, inefficient way?

Huh?

The internet's been up and accessible by the public for what, 20 years? What is the logic behind resisting a technology that is 1) free [when was the last time you had to put a stamp on an email?], 2) time efficient ['immediate' beats '3 to 7 business days'], and 3) environmentally friendly [no dead trees, landfills, or recycling needed].

Oh, and did I mention the internet's been up and accessible by the public for about 20 years?

Are they just trying to keep the US Postal Service going or is there a method to the madness?

That's all for now. I have a load of clothes coming out of the washer and it takes about a half hour to feed each article through the ringer. It's still faster than before, though. Why, just last week, I was beating them on a rock. :D
 
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