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MsJudy

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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!

Yes, of course. But may I say something in defense of those of us who ask this question?

I'm one of those writers who has more ideas than I can find the time to finish. Like many people, I keep a notebook of story ideas, many of which will never, ever go any farther.

Sometimes an idea is just so perfect, one has to devote the time to it. There's no question. But sometimes, there's that lull in between projects, and you just don't know which one to start....

About 6 months ago, you answered a similar question for me. You mentioned that publishers/agents were seeing a lot of YA and fantasy/adventure, but not much of what you called True MG--realistic, heartfelt stories aimed at younger readers.

That answer helped me decide which of my possible ideas to focus on. Now I'm about halfway through a mostly realistic, contemporary story focused on a boy and his family. It wasn't one of those you-have-to-write-this stories; it's been more of an I-wonder-what-would-happen-if-I-tried-this? Without your nudge, I don't know if I would have pursued it--but it's turning into something I'm very proud of.

I'm not the only writer to have been inspired by an agent or editor's comment--I wish there was more of X on the market. That doesn't mean we're trying to chase a trend, only that we are looking for a project worth all the time we're going to devote to it.

Please don't get tired of us and our repetitive questions! Your honesty and insight are very, very much appreciated, and we would hate to drive you away.

Many thanks for all you do.
 

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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.

I do not believe there is any correlation between having a website and getting an agent. In fact, if the site is as useful as you think it will be, that will be good for impressing an agent and will help book sales down the line.

Do make a forum, or blog, or post useful links, or whatever. Do NOT post extracts from your unpublished book - that looks weird and unprofessional.
 

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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?

If it was several editors, it would actually be detrimental, because the agent would probably perceive the ms as having "been around the block."

As it stands, though, this isn't a particularly helpful or harmful fact. If it is only one or two editors, it is neutral, and I wouldn't bother at the query stage. If it goes further and the agent is seriously considering your work, they will probably ask "have any editors seen this" -- or if they don't, you need to volunteer that information. This is not optional, btw - share this information or you will have one very pissed off agent.
 

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Jennifer,

Thanks so much for your continued willingness to answer our questions. My question is one of timing contact with an agent, if an editor is interested.

Specifically, at what point would a prospective agent be interested by an editor's interest. For example, if an editor looked at the first three chapters, and then requested the full, and ultimately made an offer on a manuscript.

I have been told that at the time of a serious offer, querying agents with a subject line of offer pending, or something similar, would be a good idea.

But at what point in the scenario I described would you ideally want to be contacted? When that offer has been firmly made? when the full has been requested?

Any insight would be helpful.

Thanks,
~suki
 

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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?

Hi Vickie,

Thanks for your kind words. I've answered this basic question MANY times on this thread, most recently just a few entries above your original one on the same page.

I do understand your "twist" -- let me put it to you this way. I know how many times people have queried me. I keep all my queries, and I have a really good memory. I think that most agents do. Blurring over it, mentioning it specifically or not mentioning it at all doesn't matter. I do not judge the query that I am reading based on the query I read before. In fact, I often think "OH yes, she queried before and that one was OK, but this one is much better!" -- and I have gotten clients after their second try.

That said, if you keep getting rejections from the same agents, and they are not feeling encouraging or asking you to submit further work, you MIGHT want to consider querying different ones. It could be that your particular style or sensibility is just never gonna be a match - whatever your bio says or doesn't say.

:)
 

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Jennifer,

Thanks so much for your continued willingness to answer our questions. My question is one of timing contact with an agent, if an editor is interested.

Specifically, at what point would a prospective agent be interested by an editor's interest. For example, if an editor looked at the first three chapters, and then requested the full, and ultimately made an offer on a manuscript.

I have been told that at the time of a serious offer, querying agents with a subject line of offer pending, or something similar, would be a good idea.

But at what point in the scenario I described would you ideally want to be contacted? When that offer has been firmly made? when the full has been requested?

Well, the full is requested (or at any point) you can certainly start looking for an agent, but don't expect them to jump through hoops or read more quickly because of it. They'll take as long as they normally take.

The best way to get an agent in a hurry is to have an offer in hand - do NOT accept the offer, just say "thank you, I am looking for an agent, I will be back to you in a week" or something -- then query a couple agents saying *HAVE OFFER FROM RANDOM HOUSE* or similar in the subject line -- and I assure you, you will get read quickly. (I answered a similar question on the page before this, you might get more details from that post.)

Good luck!
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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About 6 months ago, you answered a similar question for me. You mentioned that publishers/agents were seeing a lot of YA and fantasy/adventure, but not much of what you called True MG--realistic, heartfelt stories aimed at younger readers.

That answer helped me decide which of my possible ideas to focus on. Now I'm about halfway through a mostly realistic, contemporary story focused on a boy and his family. It wasn't one of those you-have-to-write-this stories; it's been more of an I-wonder-what-would-happen-if-I-tried-this? Without your nudge, I don't know if I would have pursued it--but it's turning into something I'm very proud of.

I'm not the only writer to have been inspired by an agent or editor's comment--I wish there was more of X on the market. That doesn't mean we're trying to chase a trend, only that we are looking for a project worth all the time we're going to devote to it.

Please don't get tired of us and our repetitive questions! Your honesty and insight are very, very much appreciated, and we would hate to drive you away.

Aw, thanks. :)

And I do understand. I just get "what is the next big thing? What about mermaids/angels/werewolves?"... constantly. Every conference. It is just maddening.

I know there are good reasons to ask this KIND of question, but at the same time, I think it is wrongheaded. IF I said "look, erotic merman fiction is really all that people are looking for in NYC!" -- would you try to write it? Would you be upset that none of your books possibly fit that category?

I know nobody wants to hear this, but really, truly, what editors say to me constantly is "I want something that is just going to blow me away - something beautifully written but with sales appeal - something I will fall in love with!"

They NEVER say "more vampires please" or "easy on the cowboys."
 

scope

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What editors say to me constantly is "I want something that is just going to blow me away - something beautifully written but with sales appeal - something I will fall in love with"


Jennifer,

Great quote, sincerely. It says it all in a few words. Thank you.
 

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Hi, Jennifer,

I’d like to add my thanks to all the others for your continued time and expertise. Both are truly appreciated.

My question may have been asked previously. I have received a couple of, what I believe, are personalized rejections. Both times the agents have told me my writing is very well done, and that the story is interesting, but it’s lacking a spark, or isn’t quite what they’re looking for. I have been invited to submit future work.

My frustration arises from no feedback on how to make the writing rise from the point of “no, thanks, I’ll pass,” to “I think this is something I can sell.” I realize agents are busy and have no obligation to us writers, but in some ways this is almost worse than a simple and curt, “not for me”. I want to be encouraged by this type of rejection, but since they aren’t helping me move forward, it’s difficult.

Any suggestions?
 

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I do not believe there is any correlation between having a website and getting an agent. In fact, if the site is as useful as you think it will be, that will be good for impressing an agent and will help book sales down the line. Do make a forum, or blog, or post useful links, or whatever. Do NOT post extracts from your unpublished book - that looks weird and unprofessional.

Thanks so much Jennifer. No extracts from the manuscript will be put on the website but I do need to post some information on my story so that people know who I am and why I have the website.
 

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I have received a couple of, what I believe, are personalized rejections. Both times the agents have told me my writing is very well done, and that the story is interesting, but it’s lacking a spark, or isn’t quite what they’re looking for. I have been invited to submit future work.

My frustration arises from no feedback on how to make the writing rise from the point of “no, thanks, I’ll pass,” to “I think this is something I can sell.” I realize agents are busy and have no obligation to us writers, but in some ways this is almost worse than a simple and curt, “not for me”. I want to be encouraged by this type of rejection, but since they aren’t helping me move forward, it’s difficult.

I have to be honest, and give you a peek behind the curtain.

These are very nice form rejections. I know because those are pretty much exact phrases that I use in my (very nice) form rejections. "Good writing", "Interesting Premise", "Doesn't have the spark", "Not quite what I am looking for".... yeah, it sounds very familiar. I have about 6 forms that I use depending on the situation, and sometimes I do change a word or phrase to suit the individual to whom I am writing... but it is still a form.

So... while it does mean that the agent is probably not a jerk, it also means the exact same as "a simple and curt not for me." It isn't meant to be writing advice or editorial work, it is meant to say NO THANK YOU.

For writing advice and real editorial notes, get thee to your crit partners and writers groups.
 

WarAndPeace

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Hi Jennifer,

I've just finished writing my four month WIP, and i was wondering a few things.
Well the genre itself is humor/satire/YA with some elements of romance for plot purposes. Would this be a hard genre to sell, without having read anything?

Also the wordcount is 106k (108 with afterword) so does length matter to the agents? is it detrimental? or does it simply come down to the quality of the writing?

Thanks
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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Hi Jennifer,

I've just finished writing my four month WIP, and i was wondering a few things.
Well the genre itself is humor/satire/YA with some elements of romance for plot purposes. Would this be a hard genre to sell, without having read anything?

Also the wordcount is 106k (108 with afterword) so does length matter to the agents? is it detrimental? or does it simply come down to the quality of the writing?

Thanks

There is certainly a market for humorous YA, and many (if not most) YA's have an element of romance in them "for plot purposes." SATIRE is a little different from humor and it is hard to do well... I could not possibly say if this is "done well" without reading any of it.

It IS long. While I would probably still take you on as a client if I fell in love with the writing, I'd also probably make you cut 20k before I would consider submitting this.
 

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I have to be honest, and give you a peek behind the curtain.

These are very nice form rejections. I know because those are pretty much exact phrases that I use in my (very nice) form rejections. "Good writing", "Interesting Premise", "Doesn't have the spark", "Not quite what I am looking for".... yeah, it sounds very familiar.
Many writers want to know how to tell if they've gotten a form rejection or if it's an encouraging personal one. It's not always easy to distinguish them.

I thought I'd share an email rejection that I received a few years ago, which I know for a fact was not a form, (because after I sent a simple "thank you for your time" email, I received further comments) so that people can get a sense of what a non form rejection might look like.

Dear ______

Thank you so much for sending me sample pages of _______.

After a careful reading, I'm sorry to say that I don't believe I am the right agent for you. I think you have a lot of talent. I kept setting your sample pages aside to give them another look. Ultimately, the story just didn't grab me as I had hoped. I can see another agent really liking this.

Sincerely.
 

Cyia

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Many writers want to know how to tell if they've gotten a form rejection or if it's an encouraging personal one. It's not always easy to distinguish them.

I thought I'd share an email rejection that I received a few years ago, which I know for a fact was not a form, (because after I sent a simple "thank you for your time" email, I received further comments) so that people can get a sense of what a non form rejection might look like.

Dear ______

Thank you so much for sending me sample pages of _______.

After a careful reading, I'm sorry to say that I don't believe I am the right agent for you. I think you have a lot of talent. I kept setting your sample pages aside to give them another look. Ultimately, the story just didn't grab me as I had hoped. I can see another agent really liking this.

Sincerely.

Some agents use a combination, too.

I got one that was definitely of the form variety at the beginning and end, but the middle of it wasn't a form letter at all. It was specifics about the story and plot.

I assume the agent in question starts with the form for everyone and then adds things if she thinks there's reason.
 

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Some agents use a combination, too.

I got one that was definitely of the form variety at the beginning and end, but the middle of it wasn't a form letter at all. It was specifics about the story and plot.

I assume the agent in question starts with the form for everyone and then adds things if she thinks there's reason.

Yep yep. I certainly do this all the time.


Dear ______

Thank you so much for sending me sample pages of _______.

After a careful reading, I'm sorry to say that I don't believe I am the right agent for you. I think you have a lot of talent. I kept setting your sample pages aside to give them another look. Ultimately, the story just didn't grab me as I had hoped. I can see another agent really liking this.

Sincerely.

OK, one more time.

That is almost word for word a rejection that I send. I learned that wording from my old boss, and pretty much every agent I've ever worked with writes similar types of rejections. Why? Because there are a limited number of ways for a person to say No, Thank You, without seeming like a jerk.

Please remember that getting a form, or near-form letter, doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with your work necessarily, it only means that THAT AGENT is saying No, Thank You. Again: There are only so many ways to say No, Thank You.

Getting a form or near-form response also doesn't mean the agent hasn't read the pages. I read everything. I think about everything. Sometimes I personalize the letter further. But I don't write a brand new email with totally unique wording for every single rejection that I write.

These quotes are all from my form letters. I mean them sincerely. I really wrote them. But when I have to send a hundred letters a day, guess what... you are getting stock phrases like:

* "I am so sorry to have taken so long, it is unforgivable. I found myself thinking a lot about this..."

* "I think this has a great premise but sadly it is a little too close to something I already represent..."

* "This is great fun and I enjoyed reading it, but sadly is not a genre that I represent..."

* "You are a good writer and I have no doubt that you will find..."

* "You deserve an agent who is as passionate about your work as you are..."

Does the fact that I have to say these things 100 times a day make any of those statements lies? NO.

Should you feel bad if you got a letter like this? NO.
 
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SWickham

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I just wanted to post a quick "hello Jennifer", I just found out about this thread from Twitter's #queryday, even though I've been on AW for awhile now, I hadn't seen this thread! I'll be going back to read it all asap!

Thanks!!
 

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OK, one more time.

That is almost word for word a rejection that I send. I learned that wording from my old boss, and pretty much every agent I've ever worked with writes similar types of rejections. Why? Because there are a limited number of ways for a person to say No, Thank You, without seeming like a jerk.
Perhaps we are differing on exactly what constitutes a form rejection. To me, a form rejection is just that -- boilerplate that you send with the push of a button. A personal rejection is one where the agent takes a moment to, well, personalize it.

Her follow up to my thank you email:

I only respond when I think an author actually has some good talent. Besides, your email cracked me up this morning...

...I thought the narrative was sharp from the start. For me, it basically came down to the fact that if I were at the bookstore, I'm not sure I would pick it up and read it. It's mostly a taste thing--not a talent one.


A no is a no, whatever the reasons. I certainly have received plenty of form rejections, but this was not one of them, which is why shared it.
 

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Stupid mistake when querying you

Hi Jennifer,
In October I sent you a query about a YA ms "Life was cool until you got popular" that has since been thoroughly reworked.

I submitted it to Allen & Unwin's Girlfriend Fiction collection, and the editor in charge liked it, gave me some feedback for revisions but ultimately rejected it for that series.

From looking at your profile on the Andrea Brown site, seeing the types of books you rep. and getting a gist of your personality from Twitter, I feel that you and my novel would be a good fit.

BUT.
I sent you a query, and ah-herm...wrote the wrong name at the top of the email.
I'm wondering whether you would have looked at it and said: "Pfffft - stoopid author," and deleted it without reading, or if I resubmit to you you'll get annoyed because you swear you've seen a query like this before...

I didn't receive any form of rejection from you, so I'm assuming you would have simply deleted it.

The (very) long story short is whether or not, after such a faux pas (I can't believe I did it) I could query you again without annoying the crap out of you. :)

Thanks for being so accessible to would-be published authors.

Sairz
 

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Hi Jennifer,
In October I sent you a query about a YA ms "Life was cool until you got popular" that has since been thoroughly reworked...

BUT.
I sent you a query, and ah-herm...wrote the wrong name at the top of the email.
I'm wondering whether you would have looked at it and said: "Pfffft - stoopid author," and deleted it without reading, or if I resubmit to you you'll get annoyed because you swear you've seen a query like this before...

I didn't receive any form of rejection from you, so I'm assuming you would have simply deleted it.

The (very) long story short is whether or not, after such a faux pas (I can't believe I did it) I could query you again without annoying the crap out of you. :)

Did you get an auto-response saying that it had been received? Because if you didn't, it wasn't received. I save every query and I don't see it in my inbox. Why don't you try again?
 

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The weirdness of THAT good news

Hi Jennifer,

The irony. I never would have thunk it, but having an agent tell me: "Nah, sorry, didn't get your query" was actually good news in this case.

Nope, didn't receive an autoresponse - praise you overactive spam filter!

Now we'll just forget this whole thing happened, shall we?

Thanks for checking.

Sairz
 

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Jennifer, thank you very much for parsing my convoluted question and for your informative replies.

I do want to be clear that the publisher is 1.) looking at it and hasn't yet offered anything and, therefore, 2.) has not suggested going forward w/o an agent. I just wanted to be prepared in case that happened, as I do think there is merit in having an agent.

I agree with your comment that inquiring about a lower commission would not be the best way to start a relationship. I was thinking of an agent that charges 20%, but your comment makes sense regardless.

Your guidance in how to - hopefully- handle these relationships professionally is welcome and appreciated!
 

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Agent's release form

Hello everyone, I'm new. My manuscript was requested by a fairly large agency in New York. They requested I sign a release form before they read the complete manuscript. Is this common practice?
 

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Hello everyone, I'm new. My manuscript was requested by a fairly large agency in New York. They requested I sign a release form before they read the complete manuscript. Is this common practice?


Errr... I've never heard of that. Perhaps somebody else can weigh in?
 

Cyia

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Hello everyone, I'm new. My manuscript was requested by a fairly large agency in New York. They requested I sign a release form before they read the complete manuscript. Is this common practice?


Is it an agency like William Morris that generally takes screenplays? I know some people have gotten those releases from some agents there. Though not all of their agents use them.

The rules for screenwriting submissions are a bit different and they have the releases to protect themselves in case a similar concept makes it to the screen via their agency from a different writer.
 
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