Ask Jennifer Laughran! Tireless agent-in-residence!

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Jennifer_Laughran

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Hello! I have a question about querying. I have previously written and queried 2 manuscripts that have gone unagented and unpublished. Now I am getting ready to query my third ms. My question is this: should I mention that I've written 2 other ms's? I am not sure whether this will show that I am committed to being a novelist...or just that I am not a very good one! Do you see this as a plus or negative? Should I include the info or write the query as if the novel I'm pitching is my one and only? Thanks for any advice you can offer!


Pitch the newest, strongest ms. If you want to add a throwaway line in the end of the query letter like "i have other manuscripts and works in progress in various stages of development if you are interested" or something. But best not to overwhelm an agent all at once.
 

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I just finished my first novel, and I'm looking for an agent. My problem is that my book is a bit odd. I wanted to write manga, but I can't draw, so I converted my idea into a novel instead. Most manga isn't written by an American, so I'm afraid I won't be taken seriously. Where can I find an agent that specializes in my strange American-written, Japanese-based genre?


A manga - with no pictures - in novel form? Sounds like a regular novel to me.

Where would it be in the bookstore? Are you looking for this to get published as a NOVEL? If so, query fiction agents who do whatever kind of book this is (romance? fantasy? etc).

If not - if you want this published with an illustrator, as MANGA, then don't write it as a novel, write it as a script.
 

Sky Lumina

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Hi! I have a question about the payments and fees regarding agents; how does it work, and how much is it, usually?
I have a book I need to get out there and I just don't know where to start....
 

waylander

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YOU DON'T PAY AGENTS - Not ever
Agents take (usually) 15% of your earnings once they have got a publishing contract for you. If they don't find a publisher for your work they don't get paid.

Go to the Bewares and Backgrounds Checks thread here http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=22 and read the How Real Publishing Works thread then read the This is Nothing Like an Official FAQ thread then go to Agentquery.com to look for agents who represent your kind of work.
 
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Jennifer_Laughran

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Hi! I have a question about the payments and fees regarding agents; how does it work, and how much is it, usually?
I have a book I need to get out there and I just don't know where to start....

What Waylander said.

If an agent charges you upfront fees or says that they can take you on only if you spend $ getting your ms edited by such-and-such a person, RUN, don't walk, it is a scam.

How it really works: You write an awesome book. You revise said book till it is as near perfect as you can make it. You let some other folks read it, people that are good at critiquing. You revise and polish some more. You do some research and find the names of legit agents who rep the sort of book yours is.

Then you "query" them according to their submission guidelines. This will probably involve writing a letter or email and including a brief sample of your work. If they like it, they'll ask for the whole thing. If they love that, then they'll talk to you on the phone, probably. Then they'll offer you representation.

There may be a contract or "agency agreement" involved at this point. The agreement will spell out the rate of commission. Generally speaking, the rate of commission is 15%, though 20-25% is also normal for special sales (like when your book is made into a movie, or translated and sold to Slovakia).

It will also explain how to terminate the agreement - within x number of days, in writing, and what the agent still has a right to even if you end up firing them. (For ex: You don't pay an agent till your book is sold - but obviously, if an agent sells your book and then you immediately fire them - you still have to pay.)

You writers are gullible! BEWARE OF SCAMS!
 

creamofmushroom

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Hi Jennifer,

I'm a bit curious as to how you actually go through a query. Do you read a query word for word or do you skim through them and see if anything catches your eye?
Also, which do you read first? The query or the requested first ten pages?

Thank you.
creamofmushroom
 

creamofmushroom

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Also, do you have any work-related memories/incidents which stand out (are funny)?
 

Senora Verde

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Joshua, I found mine by taking creative writing classes at the local community college and attending the meetings for the local writers' club. Find like-minded people and ask them. Writers are usually looking for people to read their stuff, so most people are pretty interested.
 

suki

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How do you find a critique group?

Joshua,

You can also join a writer's organization focused on the genre you write in, like The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustators (Childrens and YA), Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), etc.

Or, you might be able to find some one-on-one critique partners in the Beta reader's forum here on AW.

good luck.

~suki
 

childeroland

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How important is it to put demographic information in a query? Reads who liked Book X will like this book as well?
 

Todd Bayliss

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Hi Jennifer. Thanks for taking the time to answer our endless questions.

I'm in the process of submitting my first novel to various agencies, and I've begun my rejection letter collection. My question is: What is agent-speak for "your writing stinks beyond all comprehension"?

In the business world, we all know that "thank you for applying, we'll keep your resume on file" actually means "what made you think you were remotely qualified." Is there an agent equivalent?
 

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Jennifer, thanks. I have learned a lot already from reading through this thread.

I recently attended the NESCBWI, and have a question.

At the conference, it was mentioned that it is not necessary to have an agent in the children's writing market to submit to publishing houses. In fact, most people said that since it was the same work to query editors and agents, wouldn't it be better to spend the time working on getting published rather than getting an agent? I left with a list of people, including editors at publishing houses, who would accept subs from people who attended the conference, for a limited time.

Now, after reading this thread and doing other research, I am choosing to focus on my agent search. Am I missing an opportunity?

Thank you.
Heather
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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Jennifer_Laughran

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At the conference, it was mentioned that it is not necessary to have an agent in the children's writing market to submit to publishing houses. In fact, most people said that since it was the same work to query editors and agents, wouldn't it be better to spend the time working on getting published rather than getting an agent? I left with a list of people, including editors at publishing houses, who would accept subs from people who attended the conference, for a limited time.

Now, after reading this thread and doing other research, I am choosing to focus on my agent search. Am I missing an opportunity?

It depends on what you write. IF you write only picture books, or some types of educational material, those people are probably right and you don't need an agent. IF however you mostly write YA or Middle Grade fiction, almost all doors will be closed to you without an agent (or you'll have to keep attending conferences for those little windows where editors accept unsolicited mss).

I was at that conference too - and I didn't hear anyone say that people oughtn't query agents. But maybe they wouldn't say that around me! ;-)
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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Hi Jennifer. Thanks for taking the time to answer our endless questions.

I'm in the process of submitting my first novel to various agencies, and I've begun my rejection letter collection. My question is: What is agent-speak for "your writing stinks beyond all comprehension"?

In the business world, we all know that "thank you for applying, we'll keep your resume on file" actually means "what made you think you were remotely qualified." Is there an agent equivalent?

I don't think so, not really. I use the same basic wording for "you are a psychopath" as I do for "nice try, but not quite". Keeps me from getting killed by somebody.

I do attempt to make rejections for the psycho or completely off-base ones as kind but totally generic as possible, whereas I try to make the good-writing-but-not-for-me ones a bit more personal. But... at the end of the day, it isn't a science, and I am trying to get through all the slush as quickly as possible.
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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I'm a bit curious as to how you actually go through a query. Do you read a query word for word or do you skim through them and see if anything catches your eye?
Also, which do you read first? The query or the requested first ten pages?

Skim. But I am a VERY good skimmer.

Query, cause it is first. Then pages, which I read a bit more carefully. Then maybe back to the query again to see if something does/doesn't make sense.

Synopsis I skip all together, hate them.
 

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How important is it to put demographic information in a query? Reads who liked Book X will like this book as well?

Depends on if it is true or not.

I think to use this tactic, you'd better have a VERY good sense of what those other books are and how your book is like or not-like them. And you'd better be VERY well read and give me something actually useful and accurate for a comp. I know pretty much every book in the kids section -- I don't want to hear that your book is like HARRY EFFING POTTER, cause that is a joke, every bozo says that.

NEVER say "my book is the next xyz". Better is to be specific. These are sorta lame examples but:

"Teen readers who like the cyber-punk sensibility of Doctorow's LITTLE BROTHER will be drawn to Main Character X's predicament."

"Such-and-such is a filled with enough romance and magic to please fans of GREAT & TERRIBLE BEAUTY"

"This is a YA about an art hoax and a heist gone wrong -- if you can imagine the savvy kids in CHASING VERMEER grown into teenage hoodlums, you have a sense of what XYZ is all about!"
 

RoccoMom

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Jennifer, in your opinion, in today's cautious market, what is a reasonable length of time for a publisher to say yay or nay to a submission? One month? Two?

I imagine it depends on how fast they read and how many other submissions they are considering, but I could be wrong. :)
 

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Dear Jennifer,

Would you say that most (or many) literary agents in the USA shy away from representing international writers in favour of keeping their list domestic?

I’m from Canada, and while I have queried domestically, there are some agents in the USA that I feel would be a better fit for my writing.

I really appreciate you taking the time to offer your advice.

Kind regards,

David
 
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