Ask Jennifer Laughran! Tireless agent-in-residence!

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

Status
Not open for further replies.

sheadakota

part of the human equation
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 4, 2007
Messages
3,956
Reaction score
1,150
Location
The Void
Thank you so much, I was leaning a little toward the literary angle anyway, but was never sure. It's difficult to have have a cross genre book. I appreciate the advice and the time.
 

sissybaby

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
2,699
Reaction score
626
Location
somewhere, out there
Thanks for coming!

It's wonderful that you are taking the time to answer our questions here. Thanks so much.

I know you aren't looking for picture books at the time, but hope you are inclined to answer my questions anyway.

I either read or was told that picture book authors should submit directly to a publisher rather than an agent. Is this the general consensus?

Maybe I misunderstood the context, but knowing the closed-door policy so many publishers have right now regarding unagented submissions, I'm curious as to how one would go about accomplishing this. But it has kept me from submitting my work to agents who represent picture book texts.
 

Jennifer_Laughran

knows what she's looking for when she finds it!
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 5, 2008
Messages
696
Reaction score
183
Location
New York
Website
www.andreabrownlit.com
I either read or was told that picture book authors should submit directly to a publisher rather than an agent. Is this the general consensus?

Maybe I misunderstood the context, but knowing the closed-door policy so many publishers have right now regarding unagented submissions, I'm curious as to how one would go about accomplishing this.

Yes, some small and mid-sized publishers still accept picture books "over the transom." Get yourself a copy of the Children's Writers and Illustrator's Market, or put your research hat on, and look for publishers that accept unsolicited material. Then go to their websites, look up their submission guidelines, and follow them to the letter.

Chronicle, Tricycle, Marshall Cavendish and Charlesbridge are reputable publishers that leap immediately to mind, though I know there are many others.

Do keep in mind that you will probably be read faster and get a better deal with an agent -- but it is hard to get an agent based solely on picture books, and you don't NEED one if you are only doing picture books.

Good luck!
 

sissybaby

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
2,699
Reaction score
626
Location
somewhere, out there
More than luck needed

Thanks so much for your response.

Unfortunately, I'm not writing just picture books. And that leads to my next question, if I'm allowed another shot here.

I've written a YA novel, and am working on a very light MG fantasy. With the help of the awesom folks here I wrote a query that has resulted in multiple requests for fulls and partials. I just sent another full out today by post.

But I keep getting rejections after this point. Should I rethink my whole ms. and start over with something different, or keep plugging agents as is?

I know there could be a million reasons why I'm being rejected, but my query should be reflecting my writing style and the subject, so I haven't been able to figure it out.
 

Jennifer_Laughran

knows what she's looking for when she finds it!
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 5, 2008
Messages
696
Reaction score
183
Location
New York
Website
www.andreabrownlit.com
I wrote a query that has resulted in multiple requests for fulls and partials. I just sent another full out today by post.

But I keep getting rejections after this point. Should I rethink my whole ms. and start over with something different, or keep plugging agents as is?

I don't know. Have you gotten any feedback with the rejections? It seems to me that one of these is your problem:

1) You are targeting the wrong agents.

2) Your pages are not living up to the promise of the query letter, ie, you need to revise your manuscript.

3) Your query letter is not delivering the right message, for whatever reason, ie, you need to revise the way you are pitching the project.

Very likely it is some combo of the three. If you have had nothing but form rejections, with no feedback that might be useful, I would suggest you stop submitting for a while, take a break from it (write something else!), and come back to it later with "fresh eyes". It could be that the problem will be very obvious to you once you have a bit of perspective.
 

Madisonwrites

The Unicorn Writer
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 24, 2008
Messages
2,798
Reaction score
106
Location
Queryland
Website
madisonlovestowrite.blogspot.com
I have a 51,000 word YA fantasy that I am completing and have actually thought that one of the agents at Andrea Brown Literary might be a good fit. I am currently in the process of trying to write an enticing query letter that fits your agency's guidelines. Just so I know before I submit, what is your agency currently looking for at this time? As I said, my work is a YA fantasy, but if you don't want that then you'll have one less query to read! :D
 

sissybaby

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
2,699
Reaction score
626
Location
somewhere, out there
Thank you so very much, Jennifer, for the opportunity you have afforded everyone here!

Several of my rejections of the full was that they liked the writing, loved the premise, but just weren't passionate enough about it in today's competitive market. Maybe that's a standard form, I'm not sure.

But I'm taking your advice and moving on. Could just be a matter of wrong place, wrong time.

Thank you again for devoting your time to this board. I'll let others have a chance, now, but I will be lurking in the background!
 

natsplat

Registered
Joined
Sep 8, 2008
Messages
17
Reaction score
1
Hi Jennifer,

You are legendary for giving up your time to offer your advice and opinions. Thanks heaps.
I have a question about picture books. I have written a children's picture book (Toddlers/First Time Readers). It is in English and Maori (New Zealand) and the English words make the Maori words clear, to teach children some basic Maori. Someone has suggested on AW that there have been other books similar in English/Spanish and the like. If I think my book has this as a selling point do I mention this in my query letters or is it for further down the track? And would it be me that submitted the other languages or do they have people that do that stuff?

I am incredibly new to the industry, although my questions may have already screamed this to you!!!!

Thanks again for your time..

Nat
 

Rolling Thunder

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 12, 2006
Messages
15,209
Reaction score
5,341
Hi, Jennifer!

I currently have a WIP I am rewriting. Basically, I'm tightening up the plot and defining the characters a bit more. I had queried a few agents last year and had one request for a full, which the agent decided to pass on. The reason given was the story wasn't fast enough so I've pared the story from 105k words to just over 85k. The story revolves around a makeshift family of farm cats, unusual cats with special traits; one can see the future; one can heal by touch; one can assume human form. This isn't particularly a high concept story but it is a blend of science fiction and fantasy. The premise is similar to Professor McGonegal in the HP series, except in reverse; the cats are distinctly animals, they know they are cats but are capable of understanding (and in one case) achieving the human condition.

My questions: am I wasting my time with the 'animal characterization' as a salable format? If not, would this type of story be more appropriately targeted towards MG?
 

caromora

Still alive. Kind of.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jan 25, 2008
Messages
705
Reaction score
166
Location
2nd Star To the Right
Website
inkstaind-stars.livejournal.com
Hi, Jennifer. Thanks for answering questions here. I've enjoyed your posts over at the Blue Boards for a while now. :)

My question is about a particular situation. I queried an agent in January, got a request for a partial and sent it along. The agent in question is known to respond very quickly to everyone, whether it's a yes or a no, but I never heard back. I sent a status query in May but didn't get a reply to that, either. At that point, I just moved on.

I'm almost ready to query a new project now, and would like to query the same agent. Should I mention that she still has a partial of the other book? Should I wait a while longer? Strike her from my list? Just not mention the other book at all? I'm leaning toward the last option, but I don't want to overstep and have her thinking, "Why is this person querying me again when I haven't even responded to her last partial yet?"

I realize I'm probably overthinking the situation (the query process has made me neurotic, I'm convinced), but any advice you can give me would be fantastic. Thanks so much! (And sorry for rambling.)
 

MsJudy

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 12, 2007
Messages
5,673
Reaction score
1,440
Location
california
Welcome to AW!

I've been to the Big Sur Children's workshop two years running, and I really, really, really appreciate all your agency does to foster beginning writers. (Anybody else reading this post: You really should go. It's intense and exciting and you learn an awful lot. And spend a lot of money in town while you're there, to help them recover from a massive fire this past summer...)

Anyway....

My writing targets third and fourth-grade readers. Humorous fantasy of about 20K, similar in length and reading level to DRAGON SLAYER'S ACADEMY or TIME WARP TRIO or SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES. Definitely longer and a bit harder to read than what I would consider a chapter book. Yet when I refer to my books as Middle Grade, people seem to expect longer, more complicated stories along the lines of GREGOR THE OVERLANDER or THE LIGHTNING THIEF. So I've taken to calling it "early middle grade."

What do you think, is there a better way to make it clear the age I'm targeting?

Thanks,
Judy
 

MsJudy

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 12, 2007
Messages
5,673
Reaction score
1,440
Location
california
Separate question--

About querying only one agent at your agency--

Since querying one agent, I have revised both the query and the opening chapters, so the only familiar thing another agent would be seeing is the title. And of course I believe the new versions are much better and might have a good chance of earning me a request to see more of the book. (At least they have from another agent, but ABLA is still my first choice because of my experiences at Big Sur.) Is that acceptable? Of should I just move on and not query ABLA again until my next book is ready?
 

Jennifer_Laughran

knows what she's looking for when she finds it!
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 5, 2008
Messages
696
Reaction score
183
Location
New York
Website
www.andreabrownlit.com
I have written a children's picture book (Toddlers/First Time Readers). It is in English and Maori (New Zealand) and the English words make the Maori words clear, to teach children some basic Maori. Someone has suggested on AW that there have been other books similar in English/Spanish and the like. If I think my book has this as a selling point do I mention this in my query letters or is it for further down the track? And would it be me that submitted the other languages or do they have people that do that stuff?

Well, first thing you need to do is go to the library or bookstore and read lots of picture books, especially bilingual ones. Yes, there are a LOT (in the USA, at least) of English/Spanish ones. Some are English Text / Same Text in Spanish, but there are definitely other ones that are English Text with words sprinkled in of Spanish, that you deduce the meaning from the context (and there is generally a glossary as well). Lovely examples: ABUELA by Arthur Dorros and LOS GATOS BLACK ON HALLOWEEN by Marisa Montes.

So get as many different ones as you can, so you can see how other people have done it. I suggest you ask your bookseller or librarian for help in this regard.

Secondly -- Without reading it, I have to say that is probably one of THE selling points. YES you mention it. But be aware that this will have limited appeal outside of Australia & New Zealand.

Thirdly -- Wait, are you saying that you don't know the Maori words? If you know the words, why wouldn't you put them in? If you DON'T know the words, why are you writing the book this way? Your job is to submit the text as you expect it to be published (and there will probably be changes and revisions along the way). Now, if the publisher decides that people in CHINA need to hear this story, they will get a translator. But the Maori words -- that is kinda the point of your book, right?
 

Jennifer_Laughran

knows what she's looking for when she finds it!
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 5, 2008
Messages
696
Reaction score
183
Location
New York
Website
www.andreabrownlit.com
I had queried a few agents last year and had one request for a full, which the agent decided to pass on. The reason given was the story wasn't fast enough so I've pared the story from 105k words to just over 85k.

YAY! I love to hear about people making things shorter.

The story revolves around a makeshift family of farm cats, unusual cats with special traits; one can see the future; one can heal by touch; one can assume human form. This isn't particularly a high concept story but it is a blend of science fiction and fantasy.

Are you kidding? X-Cats? Sounds pretty high-concept to me. Have you read the WARRIORS series? It is about tribes of feral cats that are -- well, Warriors! It is one of the most popular series for middle grades.

NEVER say your book isn't high concept. Never say that it is, either - let the concept speak for itself. THIS, right here, was a fine way to pitch it: "________ is a high-action Fantasy about a makeshift family of farm cats, unusual cats with special traits: one can see the future; one can heal by touch; one can assume human form"

People who don't like animal stories won't want to read it, but there are plenty people who DO like them.

My questions: am I wasting my time with the 'animal characterization' as a salable format? If not, would this type of story be more appropriately targeted towards MG?

I am not sure that I understand what you mean by "format". "Format", to me, means the kind/style of actual book it is. Like, Picture Books are a format. Board Books are a format. Graphic Novels are a format. This is a regular novel, yes? And "animal characterization" seems pretty important if the main characters are animals.

Are you asking me if you should scrap the story entirely, or make it MG? Well, I can't say cause I haven't read it, but I can tell you that animal stories are usually geared towards MG, yep. Again, I'd look at WARRIORS and perhaps GUARDIANS OF GA'HOOLE (about Magic Owls).
 

Jennifer_Laughran

knows what she's looking for when she finds it!
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 5, 2008
Messages
696
Reaction score
183
Location
New York
Website
www.andreabrownlit.com
My question is about a particular situation. I queried an agent in January, got a request for a partial and sent it along. The agent in question is known to respond very quickly to everyone, whether it's a yes or a no, but I never heard back. I sent a status query in May but didn't get a reply to that, either. At that point, I just moved on.... I'm almost ready to query a new project now, and would like to query the same agent. Should I mention that she still has a partial of the other book? Should I wait a while longer? Strike her from my list? Just not mention the other book at all?

I, personally, would assume that it is a no. If I'd done all my homework and I really, truly thought the agent would be a great fit, I'd try again fresh with the next book, mentioning nothing about the first book. But that is just what I think.

I would also be sure to have lots of OTHER agents on my list, though!
 

Jennifer_Laughran

knows what she's looking for when she finds it!
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 5, 2008
Messages
696
Reaction score
183
Location
New York
Website
www.andreabrownlit.com
My writing targets third and fourth-grade readers. Humorous fantasy of about 20K, similar in length and reading level to DRAGON SLAYER'S ACADEMY or TIME WARP TRIO or SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES. Definitely longer and a bit harder to read than what I would consider a chapter book... I've taken to calling it "early middle grade."

That is just right. Early Middle Grade. Perfect for reluctant readers. Sounds great. You have done your homework!


Separate question--

About querying only one agent at your agency--

Since querying one agent, I have revised both the query and the opening chapters, so the only familiar thing another agent would be seeing is the title. And of course I believe the new versions are much better... Is that acceptable? Of should I just move on and not query ABLA again until my next book is ready?

That rule really exists so that people don't spam us, send a query to all of us, or go one-after-the-other with the same material. If you have made substantive revisions that make the chapters truly different, sure, try again with another agent. And if THAT doesn't work, then wait until the next ms.

Good luck, and hope to see you in Big Sur! :)
 
Last edited:

Seaclusion

Absolute Parsley
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 14, 2008
Messages
3,709
Reaction score
2,134
Location
Aboard
Once again, thanks for your detailed answers to questions. Although I do not write YA I have already learned a lot from your replies. Your time and expertise is greatly appreciated.

Richard
 

czjaba

dreaming of the day...
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 17, 2007
Messages
1,013
Reaction score
660
Location
Right here, in front of my computer
Jennifer, thank you for taking the time to answer questions.

What is your opinion about sending the first page of the ms along with the query letter pasted into the body of the email?
 

Jennifer_Laughran

knows what she's looking for when she finds it!
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 5, 2008
Messages
696
Reaction score
183
Location
New York
Website
www.andreabrownlit.com
What is your opinion about sending the first page of the ms along with the query letter pasted into the body of the email?

Every agency has a different policy on this. I always want to see pages. Our submission guidelines ask for the first 10 pages pasted into the body of the email, and I usually just delete queries that don't follow the directions.
 

bethany

:)
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 27, 2007
Messages
9,013
Reaction score
3,057
Location
Room two-hundred-something on the first floor
Website
www.bethanygriffin.com
Hi Jennifer! Welcome to AW!

I don't know if you remember but you and I were part of a discussion (on the Blue Boards :))about linking to independent bookstores (as well as Amazon) on author websites. Anyway, it turns out we have one independent left in my town and they are doing a book signing and selling books at my release party!

Also when I update my website to include the amazon link I will be sure to link to an independent too!

Thanks for sharing your expertise (on both sites). I've learned a lot about independent book stores since then!
 
Last edited:

Jennifer_Laughran

knows what she's looking for when she finds it!
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 5, 2008
Messages
696
Reaction score
183
Location
New York
Website
www.andreabrownlit.com
I don't know if you remember but you and I were part of a discussion (on the Blue Boards :))about linking to independent bookstores (as well as Amazon) on author websites. Anyway, it turns out we have one independent left in my town and they are doing a book signing and selling books at my release party!

Also when I update my website to include the amazon link I will be sure to link to an independent too!

Thanks for sharing your expertise (on both sites). I've learned a lot about independent book stores since then!


Of course I remember. Congrats on your book release, Bethany! :)
 

natsplat

Registered
Joined
Sep 8, 2008
Messages
17
Reaction score
1
Wait, are you saying that you don't know the Maori words? If you know the words, why wouldn't you put them in? If you DON'T know the words, why are you writing the book this way? Your job is to submit the text as you expect it to be published (and there will probably be changes and revisions along the way). Now, if the publisher decides that people in CHINA need to hear this story, they will get a translator. But the Maori words -- that is kinda the point of your book, right?

Firstly, thank you for mentioning those books, I shall head to my library tomorrow!!!!

Secondly, I haven't explained very well at all!! The book is aimed at English speakers who want to learn a few Maori nouns, in this case parts of the body. The nouns are made clear by the verbs that precede them, eg. clap your ringaringa, stamp your waewae. I was thinking if the Maori nouns were substituted for other languages but the rest of the text was still in English, so for Spanish: clap your mano, stamp your ple. (not even sure if I got those correct either, as I just had a quick look online!!) So it would read as English/Spanish, or English/any other language. I wondered if I should research the translation because it would only be the nouns? Or are all translations done by the publishers no matter how small? Obviously like you say Maori is a very location specific language so has a limited market, so that's why I got to thinking about the other language options, but not for the whole text...

Thanks again for your time,

Nat
 
Last edited:

Jennifer_Laughran

knows what she's looking for when she finds it!
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 5, 2008
Messages
696
Reaction score
183
Location
New York
Website
www.andreabrownlit.com
Secondly, I haven't explained very well at all!! The book is aimed at English speakers who want to learn a few Maori nouns, in this case parts of the body. The nouns are made clear by the verbs that precede them, eg. clap your ringaringa, stamp your waewae. I was thinking if the Maori nouns were substituted for other languages but the rest of the text was still in English, so for Spanish: clap your mano, stamp your ple. (not even sure if I got those correct either, as I just had a quick look online!!) So it would read as English/Spanish, or English/any other language. I wondered if I should research the translation because it would only be the nouns? Or are all translations done by the publishers no matter how small? Obviously like you say Maori is a very location specific language so has a limited market, so that's why I got to thinking about the other language options, but not for the whole text...

OK. I don't know. Sounds like I misunderstood the first time round, as the advice I gave you was for picture books (with stories), but I see now you are talking about a concept book, which is usually a board book for little toddlers. I don't know much about these earliest books, sorry.

I do know that there are bilingual concept books, as well -- though I get the impression that many of these books are generated by the publishers themselves, or are work-for-hire, rather than subbed by an author or agent like a story would be. Again, though, that is my very limited experience talking.

Good luck!
 
Last edited:

AdamH

Pumped Up Kicks
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 17, 2005
Messages
1,123
Reaction score
115
Location
Canada's Ocean Playground
Hey Jennifer, great advice so far! I'll definitely be using some of it to apply to my own writing.

My question may not necessarily apply to you but I'd like to ask it just in case:

What kind of advice can you give someone (i.e. me) who's going to be pitching a publisher in person in a couple weeks? As in, if I only had 5 minutes to sell my story, what should I focus on?

There's this writer's festival going on in town called "Word on the Street" where there's going to be a meeting of local publishers willing to sit and listen to writers and offer feedback in a public forum. Sometimes this results in some interest by the publisher but most times it's a learning experience.

I want to be the most prepared I can be going in.

As a little background, my novel (est 18K words) is a Holiday children's adventure about an elf (called the Sock King) who steals Christmas stockings and an adventure of two children and their cat as they try to stop this elf and save Christmas for everyone. Think "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" mixed with the Jim Hensen's Labyrinth but about Christmas stockings. ...if that helps.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Happy Thanksgiving

Autumn image for Thanksgiving