Ask Jennifer Laughran! Tireless agent-in-residence!

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

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TrixieLox

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Hey, not sure if this topic is still open. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. I have a few, you don't need to answer all. a) How soon after giving the final 'yay, I love your m/s, it's ready to pitch out' do you start actually approaching publishers with a client's manuscript? b) What's the shortest and longest times you've had between pitching to publishers and finally getting a deal for clients (verbally), c) what 'pitch package' do you send to pubishers (bio, first 3 chapters, outline of next book if a series etc?) and d) What do you do to celebrate when you sell a client's work? :)

Apologies if this thread is long gone, am posting from the UK so not sure of times on this board etc. Cheers, T
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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Hey, not sure if this topic is still open. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. I have a few, you don't need to answer all. a) How soon after giving the final 'yay, I love your m/s, it's ready to pitch out' do you start actually approaching publishers with a client's manuscript? b) What's the shortest and longest times you've had between pitching to publishers and finally getting a deal for clients (verbally), c) what 'pitch package' do you send to pubishers (bio, first 3 chapters, outline of next book if a series etc?) and d) What do you do to celebrate when you sell a client's work? :)

a) Well, if I have signed them, we have an agency agreement, I usually read the ms one more time at least and do notes. But if they've tweaked it and I think it is ready to go, I usually work up a submission list and have it out in a few days or a week.

b) Shortest time - 24 hours. Longest time - well, forever, I guess, as there are things I haven't sold (yet).

c) I send them an email or call them or see them at lunch or whatever. I tell them a bit about the project and author, and ask if they want to see it. If they do, I send the full ms electronically. (IN the case of A FEW authors, I might do a sample of 60-100 pages and a synopsis and proposal for the rest, but only people with publishing history - for the most part it is MUCH easier to sell complete mss in the children's world. Adult NF is different.)

d) I usually do a little squeeish dance and then move on to the next thing. ;-)
 

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On the topic of "yay, I love this m/s", has there ever been a ms another agent has received that you wish you had found first? And vice versa?

Oh, and yes, thanks for being patient with us.

ETA I wanted to ask your opinion on some things, if that's alright :)

How should one format and write a bio effectively, if his/her academia background isn't in the field of English or Creative Writing? I noticed a lot of query letters given for examples online display MFAs or awards. I know the work should speak for itself, but if the query letter is a first impression, is it a bad impression if it doesn't include the background stated above?
 
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scope

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Compared to a year or two ago, how would you rate the need of children's book editors for well written, market oriented works of nonfiction -- ages 5-10? Any specific subjects in high demand?
 

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Hi, Jennifer. Would you mind commenting on the situation where an author gets interest from a publisher (say, someone they met at a conference or through another connection) and wants representation from an agent. If the publisher proposes not using an agent, is it best for the author to say they would like to have an agent rather than have the agent call and say you've chosen them to represent you? Or is it better to ask the publisher which agents they prefer to work with or otherwise make a recommendation? Would an agent accept a lower commission in this case? Any advice you have on this is much appreciated.
 

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Jennifer, it's great that you are answering our questions!
I have written several rough drafts but decided to go with the one where magic is the main aspect. Of course I have two other books that are with the series, but I have one book that I think would possibly bring about more excitment for a first time writer. It is about a girl who learns she is reincarnated from mother earth. She has talents that allow her to control the world around her. She can bring out the true beauty in any creature... human or not.
The characters in both books deals with difficulties they would not normally face.
Which do you think would be more efficent for a first time writer if either?
Thanks ahead of time!
 

mamaesme

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Thank you Ms. Laughran for answering our questions. It's always great to see the insight from someone on the other side of the query.

Question: What current theme are you seeing in books that publishing companies want? An author a book conference in Houston said that her publisher was pushing her to write a teen vampire novel, but I thought that genre's days were numbered. (and honestly, I'd LOVE to see a new genre become the next big thing)
 

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Hey guys, I'm extremely new this forum but thrilled to be among other writers:)

Quick question for Jennifer (or anyone who knows) where do I go to find a reputable agent? I just emailed a synopsis to WL and AFTER the fact realized that their promises were too good to be true. When I went online to check them out (which, I know, I should have done before) I found an alarming thread on this site that confirmed my fears. It's done though, and I'm confidant I'll grow wiser, but where do I go from here?
I write fantasy and not many agents seem to be looking for that. Help!
 

suki

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Hey guys, I'm extremely new this forum but thrilled to be among other writers:)

Quick question for Jennifer (or anyone who knows) where do I go to find a reputable agent? I just emailed a synopsis to WL and AFTER the fact realized that their promises were too good to be true. When I went online to check them out (which, I know, I should have done before) I found an alarming thread on this site that confirmed my fears. It's done though, and I'm confidant I'll grow wiser, but where do I go from here?
I write fantasy and not many agents seem to be looking for that. Help!

Raven,

Welcome to Absolute Write from someone who was a newbie 6 months ago...

There are several books and online places to research reputable agents:

Here at AW, there are the Beware and Background Check Threads where people discuss their experiences with and information about agents:
http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=22

There's also the Publisher's Marketplace and Query Tracker sites, which both offer some free info and some info you need to subscribe to receive.

There are also a lot of agents, editors and authors who blog about their experiences - google around.

But, you will have to do the legwork to research: (i) which agents accept your genre, (ii) if they accept queries from unpublished authors and if so, how, and (iii) whether they would be a good fit for your book. No one can really do that research and make those decisions but you, as you know your book.

Also, look at books you have enjoyed or that are similar to yours - in the acknowledgments page or on the author's website they often list the author's agent.

You can also find much more info on the querying process in the AW Share Your Work section, in the Query Letters and Synopses threads - the "stickie" threads at the top of the forum page hold a wealth of info on querying agents.

Good luck.

~suki
 

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Query Tracker.net
has a great database of agents with links to AgentQuery for each along with their email addresses and websites.
 

Raven

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Thanks guys, I have done some checking around but it helps to have informed advice;)
 

lm728

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Hi, Jennifer. I read on the site that the guidelines are your query and first 10 pages. Which carries more weight, the query or the pages? If the query is not intriguing, will you scroll down for the pages?
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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On the topic of "yay, I love this m/s", has there ever been a ms another agent has received that you wish you had found first? And vice versa?

Sure, of course. I wish I was the agent for HUNGER GAMES or GRACELING or any one of my fave non-client books. There are also people to whom I've offered representation, that have gone elsewhere, and I've been bummed out by that. And I am sure there are things that I've rejected, that have gone on to sell a million copies. Oh well.


How should one format and write a bio effectively, if his/her academia background isn't in the field of English or Creative Writing? I noticed a lot of query letters given for examples online display MFAs or awards. I know the work should speak for itself, but if the query letter is a first impression, is it a bad impression if it doesn't include the background stated above?

Do you mean, in a query letter? I have answered this question several times on this thread. Basically, if you don't have a fancy degree, published books, or expertise, keep it simple. "This is my first novel. Thank you for your consideration."

A bad impression comes from trying to stuff in meaningless "credentials". Your self-published book of poems, your graduating top of your class in high school, your amateur barbershop quartet, your award-i've-never-heard-of given by the rotary club in your town... don't care.
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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Compared to a year or two ago, how would you rate the need of children's book editors for well written, market oriented works of nonfiction -- ages 5-10? Any specific subjects in high demand?

Editors are being very very very picky, even more so than in the past. Editors for nonfiction & picture books, perhaps especially so.

That said, if your book is really "well written" and (I am not 100% sure what this term means, but I can guess) "market oriented", there are still people who want nonfic.

Subjects, I wouldn't know. Someone who works at an educational publisher would probably want things that are curriculum based. Someone who works at a trade publisher would probably want things that are "cool" - gross animals, spies, etc. or else "cute" - a turtle & a hippo who become bffs, etc.

I am guessing.
 

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Hi, Jennifer. Would you mind commenting on the situation where an author gets interest from a publisher (say, someone they met at a conference or through another connection) and wants representation from an agent. If the publisher proposes not using an agent, is it best for the author to say they would like to have an agent rather than have the agent call and say you've chosen them to represent you? Or is it better to ask the publisher which agents they prefer to work with or otherwise make a recommendation? Would an agent accept a lower commission in this case? Any advice you have on this is much appreciated.

This is a lot of questions mashed together. Let's parse, shall we?

* The publisher wants to publish the book. Neat, congrats.

* The author wants an agent.
Good idea, though a literary lawyer can also help you if all you need is a contract looked at. For a small publisher, that would be fine. I would strongly suggest you get an agent if the offer is from one of the large Big Six publishers, however.

* The publisher "proposes not using an agent" Woah there, nelly. Why would the publisher propose this? It isn't because they are doing you a favor.

* Does the author say "I want an agent" or does the agent call? Does the author ask the publisher for advice?
If the author decides to get an agent, the author says to the publisher, "I'd like to get an agent, I just feel more comfortable that way, as I am planning to make this a career! :) Are there any agents you recommend?"

The author adds these names to the list of agents that he/she has already researched, and queries all, making it clear (like in the email subject line) that there is an offer already on the table, and if they were recommended by the editor. IF/when one of them makes an offer, the AUTHOR tells the editor "Hi, I have an agent now, it is so-and-so", and then the agent takes it from there.

* Would the agent take a lower commission?
Mmmm - probably not. First of all, they will be NEGOTIATING your contract, and will probably get you at least a bit more money, enough to cover their commish, and better terms. And I don't think that trying to be a cheapskate is a great way to start a business relationship.
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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Jennifer, it's great that you are answering our questions!
I have written several rough drafts but decided to go with the one where magic is the main aspect. Of course I have two other books that are with the series, but I have one book that I think would possibly bring about more excitment for a first time writer. It is about a girl who learns she is reincarnated from mother earth. She has talents that allow her to control the world around her. She can bring out the true beauty in any creature... human or not.
The characters in both books deals with difficulties they would not normally face.
Which do you think would be more efficent for a first time writer if either?
Thanks ahead of time!

I am sorry, but I don't understand what the question is here.
 

Marina Snow

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Greetings Jennifer. Thank you for your time.

I have been struggling with wanting to have a website and wondering if I should first wait until I find an agent or editor. I have written a non-fiction self-help book for survivors of child sexual abuse.
A website has several advantages:
  • Some of those survivors, whom I wish to help, will find some relief now (Instead of when my book is published). The website will not give away the contents of the book, just some helpful things.
  • The website can help predict the interest in me and my book.
  • I can gain interest from an agent or editor if the website develops a lot of hits and activity.
  • I can generate chatter about the book and bring people to the website by having a blog.
The only disadvantage that I see is that a website might turn an agent or editor off. Would you say this could be true? Should I be very careful of what I put on the website? What would you suggest that I do not put on the website? Or do you suggest that I wait on it all together?

Thank you,
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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Question: What current theme are you seeing in books that publishing companies want? An author a book conference in Houston said that her publisher was pushing her to write a teen vampire novel, but I thought that genre's days were numbered. (and honestly, I'd LOVE to see a new genre become the next big thing)

This question actually makes me want to stab myself.

AUTHORS: Please stop thinking this way!

You are asking the WRONG QUESTIONS.

Publishers are looking for something AWESOME that will KNOCK THEIR SOX OFF and SELL LOTS OF COPIES. They don't know what that is any more than you do!

So stop STOP PLEASE GOD STOP trying to write to trends. Don't think about it that way. Just write what you want to write. Write what you love. Write what you are GOOD at writing. Make your writing and your story unforgettable. Start your own trend for crying out loud!

That will be a lot more interesting than trying to churn out yet another godforsaken cookie-cutter "paranormal" that you are not really into just because you heard they are popular. And interesting and fresh is what will sell.

Yes, this is the post where I finally snapped.

*deep breathing*
 
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MacAllister

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:Hands Jennifer a martini and chocolate:

There's also a thing that the hot vampire or whatever trend we're reading right now? Those books were bought a couple of years ago, generally.
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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Hi, Jennifer. I read on the site that the guidelines are your query and first 10 pages. Which carries more weight, the query or the pages? If the query is not intriguing, will you scroll down for the pages?

We ask for the pages because we know that most people either suck at writing queries, or else their queries have been workshopped to death. I skim the query, but I actually read the pages.
 

DawnKJ

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This question actually makes me want to stab myself.

AUTHORS: Please stop thinking this way!

You are asking the WRONG QUESTIONS.

Publishers are looking for something AWESOME that will KNOCK THEIR SOX OFF and SELL LOTS OF COPIES. They don't know what that is any more than you do!

So stop STOP PLEASE GOD STOP trying to write to trends. Don't think about it that way. Just write what you want to write. Write what you love. Write what you are GOOD at writing. Make your writing and your story unforgettable. Start your own trend for crying out loud!

That will be a lot more interesting than trying to churn out yet another godforsaken cookie-cutter "paranormal" that you are not really into just because you heard they are popular. And interesting and fresh is what will sell.

Yes, this is the post where I finally snapped.

*deep breathing*

Hahaha! Brilliant!;)
 

Cyia

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If you had a near miss with an editor from one (or two) of the "big" houses and reworked a MS according to their suggestions, should you mention this in a query? I know it's best to tell a prospective agent that a particular editor has seen a MS, but would mentioning the revisions be relevant?

(I was too green at the time to realize I probably could have resubbed to the same editors with those changes, and now it's been a ridiculous amount of time since I last spoke with the editor.)

ETA: Clarification-

What I mean is, does it hold any weight at all to say "Last year _____, editor for _____ looked at this, and liked it but said it needed [specific changes]" now that I've made those changes?
 
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Hi Jenn,

Thank you for doing this, as an unpublished writer I do appreciate all the little extras you do here and on the Blue Boards. My question is similar to others, but I hope you will still answer it as it has a bit of a twist:

When I write my bio information, I usually don't say much, but have heard many suggestions: comment on my current WIP, mention you're a debut author, etc. I am new to all this but have now written quite a few YA's. I am going through the typical process of learning, which until recently meant I didn't spend much time on revision, rather I'd start on my next idea. I am learning to overcome that hurdle and have started subbing my new MS. Obviously, I won't mention the others that were queried to a few agents and rejected, but as I tend to re-query the same agents (my dream list), how do I handle it? Do I say "I'm unpublished" since it's not my first book written? Or just skip over it? With such a small amount of space to present myself, I want to make a good impression and am hopeful the agents don't see my name and assume if they didn't like my previous idea, they won't like my new one. Or should I NOT sub another work to the same agent, but find new ones?
 
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