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Chanelley

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Hi, Jennifer. If you liked a MS, why would you ask for revisions before taking on the project and helping the client to go through the revisions together? Is there some kind of information this gives you about a prospective client by doing this? Thanks!
 

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Hi, Jennifer.

I'm about to exercise my right to terminate my contract with my agent. Under the terms of the deal, I have to give 60 days' notice to get out of it.

My question is this: After I've let my current agent know that I'm moving on (via a registered letter), is it OK to query other agents during that 60-day notice period?

Well... sigh. It isn't STRICTLY kosher, but honestly, most people do that. Considering that it might take agents months to get back to you anyway. And this is an entirely new book.

You cannot shop/sell/do anything with the mss that this former agent has been shopping, however. The 60-day notice is so that if (for example) the old agent still has the ms at Penguin and Random House, and you fire him, and then a few weeks later Penguin says that they want to buy it, the old agent will still get the commission. So this 60-days is really only important for that reason -- if you have nothing actually going with this guy, it is much less important to count the days.
 

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If I were to have a series, would agents prefer to have the series completed before asking for representation, or is only having the first book to the series good enough grounds?

Write a book. One book. Make it able to stand alone, but give it SERIES POTENTIAL (ie, characters that are still alive at the end and a conceit that readers will want more of). You can even write synopses or ideas for further books in the series - but know that virtually no publisher at this point in time, with the economy the way it is and book sales the way they are, wants to invest in a multi-book series from a newbie unless it is a guaranteed success.

They might want one book, and then if that book does well, another. It is not very sensible to keep writing books in the series if book one has no interest. I would suggest that you query with the one book (and ideas for more) - and while you are waiting, try writing something completely different.

Good luck!
 

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Hi, Jennifer. If you liked a MS, why would you ask for revisions before taking on the project and helping the client to go through the revisions together? Is there some kind of information this gives you about a prospective client by doing this? Thanks!

Well, I don't do this. I figure, it is either ready enough and something that I can fix, or it isn't, and if it is, I'll offer representation, and if it isn't, I won't.

However, I know lots of agents routinely ask for revisions before offering representation. I guess it is because they want to make sure the author CAN revise before taking them on. Some authors, sadly, are terrible revisers and actually make manuscripts worse when trying to revise them. That is something good to know pre-representation!
 

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My question: do agents prefer to have manuscripts professionally edited before they receive a query about them? I've read many times never to submit a manuscript unless a professional editor has gone through it.
 

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My question: do agents prefer to have manuscripts professionally edited before they receive a query about them? I've read many times never to submit a manuscript unless a professional editor has gone through it.


No they don't.
The Queryshark (Janet Reid) addressed this in her latest posting
http://queryshark.blogspot.com/
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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...[W]ouldn't it save time for both agents and aspiring authors if the letters at least gave reasons for the rejection? ... I know agents are very busy, but wouldn't everyone benefit if they could be just a tad more informative? ...[T]he feedback we get from agents just isn't helping.

I guess my friends on the boards here have answered this pretty thoroughly. And I do understand how you feel. Sorry.

Let me add a couple of points to their very smart responses (that you will hate me for no doubt):

I am NOT a writer. I like writers, but I am not one. So questions about the specifics of craft are not for me to answer.

I am NOT an editor. I like editors, but I am not one. I think I give good notes to my clients that help their books become more salable. But ultimately, I am giving notes for salability only, not for perfection or publishability, and editing things for strangers is not my job.

I am NOT a teacher. My job is also not to give "helpful hints" or advice or teachable moments or anything else to querants.

In fact, (this is where the hate will come in): I don't actually care whether I am being helpful to strangers with my rejection letters. I am not trying to give feedback, I am just saying "No thanks." You get feedback from other writers, from teachers, from workshops. That is absolutely not my job or responsibility.

That said, if something is very very good but I think it needs work in a specific area, I will often give quite detailed letters. Sometimes I will even prepare full editorial notes on a full if I think it is close, but not quite good enough. I don't have to do this, but it seems fair, especially if I have been on the fence about whether or not to take the thing and have held onto it for too long.

The vast majority of querys, however, fall somewhere between "atrocious" to "meh" on the scale, and I don't have the time, energy or inclination to tell those authors anything but "no thanks."
 
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Jennifer_Laughran

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For the most part, the current system is a Catch 22, where the big publishers won't look at anyone who doesn't have an agent, and the established agents won't look at anyone who hasn't been published.

As a point of interest: More than half of my clients are debut authors with absolutely no prior publishing credentials. Some I pulled straight out of the slush, some were referrals from other clients or friends (as in "I know this great girl in my crit group who has an awesome ms...").

As of this date, I have sold about 90% of them with great success, and I have no doubt that the other 10% will follow.
 

DawnKJ

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Thank you for answering our questions.
Is a novel of 63,000 words long enough to get an agent's attention? Is that something they could really sell? Let me add that it is gay fiction and my first.
 

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My question: do agents prefer to have manuscripts professionally edited before they receive a query about them? I've read many times never to submit a manuscript unless a professional editor has gone through it.

Absolutely not. Freelance editors are very expensive, and while they MIGHT help you out, I think you could get just as good advice from a great (free) crit group and/or classes & workshops. None of my clients sent their work to a professional editor prior to sending it to me, and I would have thought it weird and questionable if they had.

The link to Janet Reid's blog is superb and I couldn't have said it better myself, SO I will quote her:

I really don't like to hear that your book has been professionally edited. For me, it's not the persuasive piece of information you think it is. You think it says "my book is polished and ready to go."

What I infer is "your book was polished by someone else and god help us when we get to the edit letter from the editor, and you don't know how to do this stuff"


Freelance editors tell you a book needs to be edited before agents will look at it. What they are doing is selling their services.

All my novelists write, revise, and edit their own books.
[...] You can employ all the editors you want, but it's best to leave it OUT of the query letter for a novel.


http://queryshark.blogspot.com/2009/04/108.html
 

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Thank you for answering our questions.
Is a novel of 63,000 words long enough to get an agent's attention? Is that something they could really sell? Let me add that it is gay fiction and my first.

Please note that I only rep children's books, so don't take this as gospel for your situation. That is a perfectly acceptable length for a book for teenagers. It might be a little on the slim side for an adult literary work, but probably not too short to get a look, especially if those 63,000 words are AWESOME.

Best of luck.
 

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Thank you very much for those answers. It was the comment on QueryShark that prompted my question. I wanted to get other opinions because after reading that, part of me felt silly for getting my ms edited...for spending that money, especially since I had worked as a copy editor for eight years at a newspaper.:cry:
However, after thinking about it, doing that made me feel better...more confident. I was wrestling with doubt despite excellent responses from acquaintances and friends. If nothing else, I learned something.:Shrug:
Thanks.
 

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Thank you very much for those answers. It was the comment on QueryShark that prompted my question. I wanted to get other opinions because after reading that, part of me felt silly for getting my ms edited...for spending that money, especially since I had worked as a copy editor for eight years at a newspaper.:cry:
However, after thinking about it, doing that made me feel better...more confident. I was wrestling with doubt despite excellent responses from acquaintances and friends. If nothing else, I learned something.:Shrug:
Thanks.


Aww, no problem. It couldn't HURT you to have seen an editor (unless they were bad!) -- and it certainly might have shown you some things that you'd never have seen on your own. But it is for YOUR benefit, and it is just not something that I would mention in my query, if I were you. It's sort of a weird red flag.

Good luck to you!
 

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I would suggest that you query with the one book (and ideas for more) - and while you are waiting, try writing something completely different.

Good luck!

I just wanted to tell you that this answer right here has helped me to focus on a single direction.

YAY!

Thank you so much for doing this.
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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OK, kids, I appreciate the dogpile on my behalf, and all your answers are very swell -- accurate and well-reasoned and entertaining -- but I am a bit worried about setting the "free-for-all" precedent here. I know how tempting it is to get into a back-and-forth like this, but let's leave the bait alone.

Does anyone have any actual questions for me?

JL
 

waylander

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How's the market? Have you noticed it getting harder to interest editors in projects?
 

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How's the market? Have you noticed it getting harder to interest editors in projects?

I heard an editor say recently that they were not going to take on any project unless they believed in it enough to literally risk their job for it. And most publishers have projects enough lined up for the foreseeable, so they aren't in any rush to buy.

So yeah. It is slow. BUT! WE ARE STILL SELLING. And the economy will get better, and people will get bored by pinching pennies. It's cyclical. So don't lose heart!
 

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How valuable do you think connections made at Writer's conferences are?

And do you think the smaller conferences are better for those connections than the national? Or does it just depend on the conference?
 

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Argh for the love of pete.

I am right on the edge of closing this thread forever.

TAKE IT ELSEWHERE PLEASE.
You provide a valuable service, Jennifer, for a lot of aspiring writers, which is much appreciated.

You can use the ignore button for any particular poster, thus avoiding having to deal with angry demands. Also, good for your blood pressure.
 

MacAllister

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Never hesitate to send up a flare for a mod, folks. Thread split, and please accept my apologies for the disruption.
 

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Hello! Jennifer, thank you so much for lending your thoughts and comments by answering our questions.

My questions concern the market and the following genres: sci-fi/fantasy, horror, and supernatural. These genres seem to have exploded greater in the aftermath of YA hits like Twilight - although I'm not a fan, but I respect the connection people have with it Meyers' books. I've noticed a lot of new unsigned writers are following in that trend even more now. So, I'm wondering how receptive are agencies and/or publishers to pick up authors within these categories? And are there any cliche storylines to steer clear from as of now?

Thank-You!
 
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Cyia

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I have a question concerning Picture Books. Considering the recent concerns about the safety of books printed in the early 80's and before, and the regulations about them, will publishers reprint the ones that still make them money (classics, like the Hungry, Hungry, Caterpillar) to fill their lists for the next year or so, or will they be more open to new titles to fill the spaces left?
 

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How valuable do you think connections made at Writer's conferences are?

And do you think the smaller conferences are better for those connections than the national? Or does it just depend on the conference?

Well, I think they can be very valuable. There are certainly people that I've met at conferences that I will keep my eyes peeled for in future if they decide to query me. That said, they can also be expensive and difficult to get to, so while I think that you can get a lot out of them, I don't think they are A MUST.

It totally depends on what your local conference is like. I am sure some regions have better, more extensive programming than others.
 

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Hello! Jennifer, thank you so much for lending your thoughts and comments by answering our questions.

My questions concern the market and the following genres: sci-fi/fantasy, horror, and supernatural. These genres seem to have exploded greater in the aftermath of YA hits like Twilight - although I'm not a fan, but I respect the connection people have with it Meyers' books. I've noticed a lot of new unsigned writers are following in that trend even more now. So, I'm wondering how receptive are agencies and/or publishers to pick up authors within these categories? And are there any cliche storylines to steer clear from as of now?

Thank-You!

I don't know, I think if the mss are well written, then people who represent these categories are just as likely to pick them up as ever. I personally don't, so i can't really speak to that.

I do rep YA - and I am sick of werewolves, sexy vampires, faeries, angels and mermaids. Also, gay merman sex, vampire-angels, or any other permutation of the above. (That is, of course, unless the books are UNBELIEVABLY GOOD - which does still happen - but the bar is pretty high.)
 
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Jennifer_Laughran

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I have a question concerning Picture Books. Considering the recent concerns about the safety of books printed in the early 80's and before, and the regulations about them, will publishers reprint the ones that still make them money (classics, like the Hungry, Hungry, Caterpillar) to fill their lists for the next year or so, or will they be more open to new titles to fill the spaces left?

Don't worry about it. They will always reprint classics. They will always want new books too. The lead ruling is not a problem at this time.
 
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