Ask Jennifer Laughran! Tireless agent-in-residence!

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Jennifer_Laughran

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Jennifer,

We've been talking (again) over in the kids' section about MG word count. A few of us have heard from agents that an MG novel should be at least 30K. But I can name several Newbery winners that are much, much shorter:

Tuck Everlasting: 27K
Midwife's Apprentice: 21K
The Whipping Boy: 12K
Sarah, Plain and Tall: 8K!

Granted, none of these are recent books. Which makes me wonder...is this a post-Harry Potter trend? Are publishers seeking longer books for a reason, or are they just finding that kids really want longer stories? I can certainly see The Whipping Boy being even more delightful if it had been three times longer, but it's hard to imagine Sarah, Plain and Tall being three times longer just to sell.

And as a teacher I see a huge market for shorter books. No way could an entire class read and talk about something as long as the Mysterious Benedict Society, no matter how much fun it is. But Sarah, Plain and Tall is perfect, even for reluctant/struggling readers.

Plus there's the economy...and ebooks...both of which I imagine will have an effect on just how thick a book publishers want to take a risk on.

What do you think? Is there still a possibility for a well-written but slender book to be published these days? Or is chunky the wave of the future?

I think that short is fine. Like... in the 20's? Is OK.

REALLY short, like 8k, would probably not fly nowadays.

Then again, you write something as brilliant as SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL... talk to me, we'll make it work.
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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That makes me a little sad :(

Books like Wait Till Helen Comes were my favorites as a kid.

Sure, I loved WAIT TILL HELEN COMES. I love middle grade ghost stories. But you asked me what I am seeing in my inbox. I am not seeing them. Would they sell? Probably so. People just aren't writing them, as far as I can see.

Have you written one? Is it awesome?

Query me.
 
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MsJudy

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I think that short is fine. Like... in the 20's? Is OK.
That is very encouraging!


REALLY short, like 8k, would probably not fly nowadays.
That's what I figured.


Then again, you write something as brilliant as SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL... talk to me, we'll make it work.

Well, okay. I'll see what I can do...
 

Cyia

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Sure, I loved WAIT TILL HELEN COMES. I love middle grade ghost stories. But you asked me what I am seeing in my inbox. I am not seeing them. Would they sell? Probably so. People just aren't writing them, as far as I can see.

Have you written one? Is it awesome?

Query me.


When it's shiny, I will :D

Thanks for the answers.
 

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Jennifer,

Thank you again for all your helpful insight. I have another question.

If I had an agent and that agent got me an offer from a publisher, would there be any chance of negotiating with the publisher to use a friend (or family member) as the cover artist for the book?
Edit: He is a professional artist with 15 years experience but with no book illustration experience.

Let's say that we would have at least three different versions of the cover art ready to present to the publisher at the time the contract is presented and would be very open to creating a new cover to fit the publisher's ideas better as long as the friend was the artist.

If yes, would the cover artist friend be paid and offered his own contract from the publisher?

Thank you so much!
 
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paranormalchick

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Hi Jennifer!

I just finished reading "I Kissed a Zombie, and I Liked it" and I loooooved the snarkiness of the MC. So my question is, do you tend to gravitate toward characters like that? I'm finding that most agents hate a snarky character like Alley. Just wondering your thoughts. :)
 

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Hi jennifer... just a quick question. it's three months to the day next week that I was asked for a full after a partial from a perspective agent so I'm going to give him a bit of a poke. Only thing is, in that time I've written another novel (can't quite believe it as the one he currently has took me nearly two years). Do you reckon it's a good idea to mention this is in my status query next week?

Thanks.
 

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Short Stories

Hi,
How well do you think a book of short stories about similar girls on adventures who are conquering impossible feats would do? Sorry, that was a long description in a confusing sentence. Also, how could I maybe change the recurring theme to attract a bigger audience? One more thing, how long does a book of short stories generally have to be? I've never read a published and recognized one. Thanks for your professional advice.
 
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Nya RAyne

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Jennifer, I'm currently working on a synopsis at the request of another agent for my futuristic romance ms, and was wondering... What's the most important part of the synopsis and how many pages is too little or too much?

Also, thanks for sharing!!
 

E. S. Lark

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Jennifer, I'm currently working on a synopsis at the request of another agent for my futuristic romance ms, and was wondering... What's the most important part of the synopsis and how many pages is too little or too much?

Also, thanks for sharing!!

In most cases the synopsis of a book should read like the back cover if you saw it on the shelves. It covers the main plot only (forget about your subplots for now) and can include a few characters (only list and explain the ones most important to the main plot).

A synopsis is generally 2 pages and single spaced. It includes all details of your main plot, including the ending. Yes, agents want to know how it end. Don't leave a cliff hanger and don't ask rhetorical questions. Try and get the synopsis to match the voice of your book, just like you've done for your query.

One last thing which I was not sure of was the hook at the beginning. I thought of using the same hook in my synopsis as I did in the query letter, but changed my mind when I read it could be a possible no-no.

Here are some examples of ones that have worked for AW writers.

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=71843&highlight=writing+synopsis
 

NancyH

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Hi Jennifer,

I'm considering querying my ER with an agent that is requesting "a query letter that includes a synopsis". Is it safe to assume that in this case, a one paragraph synopsis is sufficient? And in this case, do you think it's just as important to include the ending?
(I like it better w/o giving away the ending....)
thanks,
Nancy
 

RoseMarie

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Hello Jennifer,

First, thanks for answering all of our questions...after 45 pages (and soon to be plus) of questions, I imagine it is exhausting but we're all grateful.

Second is my question.
I am writing a query and was wondering if placing an exert from a chapter is a good thing to put in it?

Thanks!
 

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An instructor of mine said she got her agent because of her master's program in Creative Writing.

Do such programs have a way to facilitate agent to author relationships? Or is this a fluke?
 

Drachen Jager

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Hi Jennifer,

Thanks so much for answering my previous query. I have another one though...

I have three manuscripts out on requests. I am guessing, due to the timing etc. that at least two of them have made it through the reader stacks and are now in a queue on the agent's desk (those two have a good record for responding to rejected manuscripts and have had it for far longer than their normal rejection time).

I have recently found a good beta reader who is helping me improve the book. I thought I was done but now that I have a little help I'm finding there's more improvements I should have made before submitting it.

Would it bother an agent if I sent an updated version of the manuscript? I know I'm only supposed to submit my best work but in this case it was my best at the time.

Thanks in advance for any advice!
 

suki

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Hi Jennifer,

Thanks so much for answering my previous query. I have another one though...

I have three manuscripts out on requests. I am guessing, due to the timing etc. that at least two of them have made it through the reader stacks and are now in a queue on the agent's desk (those two have a good record for responding to rejected manuscripts and have had it for far longer than their normal rejection time).

I have recently found a good beta reader who is helping me improve the book. I thought I was done but now that I have a little help I'm finding there's more improvements I should have made before submitting it.

Would it bother an agent if I sent an updated version of the manuscript? I know I'm only supposed to submit my best work but in this case it was my best at the time.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Drachen,

I see that you are fairly new to AW. Welcome. Your question is one that gets asked a lot, both in this thread and on other threads on AW.

In fact, Jennifer has answered this question (more than a few times I think) in this thread - LOL. Although I think she has answered similar questions a few times, here is one of her most recent responses to a very similar question from a few pages back:


Originally Posted by Gemnyc http://absolutewrite.com/forums/imag...s/viewpost.gif
The agents have had the MS for 3 weeks, and with the holiday’s I doubt they have read it yet. Is it rude/waste of time/annoying etc etc, to email and ask to resend, explaining the situation. Or perhaps I should not bother and have confidence that it is almost there. I know I should quit tampering with the MS, but 7 drafts and 3 other beta’s, I thought it was as polished as possible when I sent.

Jennifer's Response:

Yes, it is annoying. Yes, you should not bother. Yes, you should have confidence. Yes, you should probably quit tampering with it for the time being. Try writing something else to get your mind off it.

I suggest revising manuscripts in between rounds of submissions. So if these agents come back to you with rejections but with feedback, you can incorporate that feedback before you send it out again. And that break from the ms will perhaps give you the fresh eyes you need to spot things that you couldn't before when you were in constant-tamper mode.

Now, Jennifer might come in and offer a more detailed or different response, but I thought I'd point out one of her recent responses on the topic. If you read back through the thread, you might even find her response to other similar questions, maybe even with circumstances very close to yours. happy reading and good luck.

~suki
 

Drachen Jager

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Suki:

Okay thanks! If there is a search function here I have not yet found it. I figured it might have been asked before but I had no idea where to begin looking.

Jennifer: Never mind, I think Suki's covered it... Waiting is stressful... >sigh<
 

Bookewyrme

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Suki:

Okay thanks! If there is a search function here I have not yet found it. I figured it might have been asked before but I had no idea where to begin looking.

There is Drachen. There's actually two (I just found out about the second myself). The first is at the top of the forums, on the bar between "New Posts" and "Quick Links". You can search for whole threads or single posts. It doesn't always turn up what I'm looking for and should be there, but usually it works. The second is at the bottom, in the black Google bar, and like I said I haven't used it yet, so I don't know how well it works.

Anyhow, good luck! ^_^
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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Hey guys?

I've had a lot of fun here, and I will certainly pop back in to say hi on other threads (I just can't resist giving advice!) - but, I think I've answered just about every question possible.

If you don't think I've answered your question... well, you probably aren't looking hard enough. But if you really really don't think I've answered it, please feel free to ask me on my blog: http://literaticat.blogspot.com/

Cheers,

Jenn.
 

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We're going to leave this open for a couple of days to give folks a place to say thank you to Jennifer, then we can retire the thread.

And, Jennifer? Please let me offer a HUGE thank-you both from me personally, and from all of AW, for all you've done and the many hours you've put in here answering questions for folks. You're deeply appreciated, and have become such a valued member of the community. I'm so very glad you're not leaving us entirely!

Hey guys?

I've had a lot of fun here, and I will certainly pop back in to say hi on other threads (I just can't resist giving advice!) - but, I think I've answered just about every question possible.

If you don't think I've answered your question... well, you probably aren't looking hard enough. But if you really really don't think I've answered it, please feel free to ask me on my blog: http://literaticat.blogspot.com/

Cheers,

Jenn.
 

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Thank you so much, Jenn. We appreciate all the time you put into answering our questions.
 

suki

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Jennifer, you rock hard. Thanks for all your time and patience in answering questions here. :)

~suki
 
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