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Kirby

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Thanks, Jennifer. My description is pretty simplistic, true. The story's kind of dark, though, so I wouldn't call it MG. Is it good? For teenagers, yes. For adults, maybe not. Anyway, I was only curious about the market. My adult urban fantasies are my primary focus right now and the YA was a side trip for my muse. I appreciate your response. Thanks again!


Just curious, but what does "MG" stand for?
 

Kirby

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That's what I was wondering, but I wasn't sure. Thank you, Kasey. Mystery in my mind solved.
 

RLB

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Hey Jennifer!

I wonder if you could give your take on the difference between MG voice and YA voice? I recently had an agent comment that my voice was sometimes firmly MG and sometimes more YA, which confused me! I read a lot of MG since that's the genre I'm writing in (or so I thought), but not much YA. (My MC is fourteen, so I'm probably at the upper end of MG.)

Thanks!
 
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MagicMan

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Jennifer,
When I am helping people tune there query, I generally state Sell, don't Tell. A lot of queries by writers, are miniaturized stories, not the facts concerning the plot. Am I misleading them, or should the query be plot description not a tale about the story.

Also, you touched on it before; could you run down a normal agent day, in respect to time allotted to queries. I believe you have so little time, the query should be a brief but accurate account of the novel. Am I off base?

Smiles
Bob
 
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brittanimae

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Hi again!

I'm wondering about a touchy subject: read receipts. Your agency and a few others out there don't respond to queries that don't resonate with them. There is generally a time-frame, such as 6-8 weeks during which a query might be responded to.

Is it acceptable to include a read receipt when sending queries to these agents? I did this recently, and I was able to confirm that my query was read that same day, and when I didn't receive a reply in the next few days, I crossed the agent off my list. It was great for my peace of mind, but I've heard that this annoys some agents and makes them reach for the delete button that much faster. What do you think?
 

Atani

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Hey, so glad you're here offering advice :) It is much appreciated!

I have a question you might be able to answer... I have an epic fantasy series (more like an adventure-fantasy, but a long story nonetheless!) It is not YA, but if you have any idea, I'd appreciate your opinion. Word count for the first book is ~150K. I know that's long, but is it too long to get any attention?

Thanks so much!
 
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Jennifer_Laughran

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Your agency and a few others out there don't respond to queries that don't resonate with them. There is generally a time-frame, such as 6-8 weeks during which a query might be responded to.

Is it acceptable to include a read receipt when sending queries to these agents? I did this recently, and I was able to confirm that my query was read that same day, and when I didn't receive a reply in the next few days, I crossed the agent off my list.

Well, I, for one, do TRY to answer everybody, despite that "no response means no" thing. (Not always 100% successful, but I do try.)

I might be a bit irritated by a read receipt, because it is misleading. I try to open everything and look at it very quickly and tag and file it somewhere so it isn't in my inbox anymore and I can deal with it when I have time. Then a couple times a week, when I have an extra hour or two, I'll go through as many as I can. But since I get hundreds of emails a day, many of which are queries, and I try to do them approximately in chronological order, I still MIGHT not get to it immediately. So you get something that says I've opened it, but it DOESN'T say if I've filed it under "met at a conference", "requested", "sounds fun, look closer", "sounds crazy, beware!", "must ask for more", "didn't follow sub guidelines", "not a children's book", "must pass on to other agents", etc etc.

So you assume I've read it, when really I have just opened it and filed it. And then you scratch me off your list when I am in fact reading it, loving it, passing it around, deciding if it will fit on my roster, making up submission lists and practicing what I will say to you on the phone. See?

But, um, maybe that long tangent didn't really answer your question. I guess I am not offended by them, though maybe a tiny bit irritated. However I cannot speak for any other agent.
 

scope

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Jennifer,

Re the unsolicited queries and/or manuscripts you receive from from writers, and which works reject, do you keep an archive or file to indicate you have read the work? The idea being that if you receive something that sounds familiar you can look to see if it was sent to you before. Many blogs and sites state that a good number of agents and editors do this. Sounds like a very big job to me.
 

brittanimae

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Thanks so much for your answer Jennifer! I know that I (and I'm sure many others) really appreciate the time it takes to reply to so many queries.

Your anwer addressed exactly what I wondered about--personally I wouldn't immediately assume a read-receipt was a no, but it would at least give me a time-frame to work with.

Thanks again.
 

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Hi Jennifer,

I think my question got lost in the shuffle, so I'm reposting it on this page.

I've written a pretty dark YA novel in verse in the vein of Ellen Hopkins, Kirsten Smith, and Lisa Schroeder, and I'm wondering how you feel about these types of books? Also, is the market open to them from new writers? I sure hope so.

Many thanks for all your help, and for being here!
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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I think my question got lost in the shuffle, so I'm reposting it on this page.

I've written a pretty dark YA novel in verse in the vein of Ellen Hopkins, Kirsten Smith, and Lisa Schroeder, and I'm wondering how you feel about these types of books? Also, is the market open to them from new writers? I sure hope so.

It didn't get lost in the shuffle, I just didn't answer it yet.

I'm not particularly into verse, but I like it fine if it is done well. I don't think that everything that IS in verse NEEDS to be and I wonder -- is this person just lazy and can't be bothered filling a whole page? But then, I am cynical.

Sure, there's a market for it, obviously Ellen and Lisa and etc etc are doing fine. As long as you have a REASON for writing in verse, it is done WELL, and you are differentiating yourself from the authors that have gone before. (for example there is probably no more room for a huge book in verse about the descent into methamphetamine addiction - the definitive such work has already been done in CRANK.)
 

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I AM bothered when I really really like something, but I have to reject it anyway -- because the question isn't just "do I like it" it is "can I sell it".

Possibly the best words I've ever seen as directed to writers. The work may be excellent, but if THAT agent can't sell it, they reject it. It's not a statement on the author's wordcraft.

Frankly, I am in awe of agents. Think of the barrage of queries, proposals, manuscripts and more that pour in daily. It must be overwhelming at times to sift all the chaff!

This is only my second post on this fine forum, and what better than to give kudos to Ms. Laughran. She responded quickly to my query some time ago, saying it wasn't quite her genre but she recommended a different agent at another firm. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and advice with all of us.

Cheers,

Dave Z
 

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I'm not particularly into verse, but I like it fine if it is done well. I don't think that everything that IS in verse NEEDS to be and I wonder -- is this person just lazy and can't be bothered filling a whole page? But then, I am cynical.

Sure, there's a market for it, obviously Ellen and Lisa and etc etc are doing fine. As long as you have a REASON for writing in verse, it is done WELL, and you are differentiating yourself from the authors that have gone before. (for example there is probably no more room for a huge book in verse about the descent into methamphetamine addiction - the definitive such work has already been done in CRANK.)

From one cynic to another, I hear you. I do have a reason for this novel's verse structure--because it works. It's not another take on Ellen's work, either. Many thanks for your reply. I appreciate your honesty and will try to entice you soon via a (non-verse) query.
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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I wonder if you could give your take on the difference between MG voice and YA voice? I recently had an agent comment that my voice was sometimes firmly MG and sometimes more YA, which confused me!

Hm... it is hard to say what that agent might have meant without looking at pages and hearing the comment in context. There are two different things that they might have meant, though:

TONE
Though the person said voice, they may have really meant tone. I am going to make some sweeping generalizations here. GENERALLY, middle grade books have a sweeter, more child-like tone than YA. That is NOT to say that they can't be a bit snarky (like, Roald Dahl or Lemony Snicket) - but children are very rarely physically endangered by a real thing (witches curse? yes. historical fire? maybe. school bus shooting? no.) There is nothing more than holding hands and maybe a kiss between boys and girls, if that. There is no objectionable language. The stories often feature kids trying to figure out their place within their circle of friends or family.

YA, on the other hand, CAN be sweet, but it can also have rapists, murderers, molesters, fairy drug addicts, regular drug addicts, sex-addicts, cutters, bingers, purgers, cross-dressers... need I go on? If your book contains the darkness of the human soul, the passion of the human heart, the lustfulness of the human groin, the cursing of the human mouth, or any "content" combo thereof, people will say it "feels YA". The stories often feature teens trying to figure out their place in the wide world and/or going through some major first time stuff - romance, heartbreak, friend dying, etc.

VOICE
To me, voice is what makes a great character THEM. This is a totally individual, unique thing. Junie B. Jones sounds different than Charlie Bucket who sounds nothing like Sabriel who is night and day from Fancy Nancy. It could be that they felt that your character did not sound like a 14 year old -- either too young or too old, or just not authentic.

The kind of problem with having a 14 year old protag is, they ARE so very in-between. Is it young YA or is it upper MG? Kinda depends on what you are going to put your character through.

Best of luck!
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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Re the unsolicited queries and/or manuscripts you receive from from writers, and which works reject, do you keep an archive or file to indicate you have read the work? The idea being that if you receive something that sounds familiar you can look to see if it was sent to you before. Many blogs and sites state that a good number of agents and editors do this. Sounds like a very big job to me.


I archive pretty much everything. I don't file it any special way or anything like that, but I just keep all my old emails in the archive folder rather than in my inbox. If something sounds familiar or I have to revisit it for some reason, I can search by keyword within my email.
 

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Jennifer,
When I am helping people tune there query, I generally state Sell, don't Tell. A lot of queries by writers, are miniaturized stories, not the facts concerning the plot. Am I misleading them, or should the query be plot description not a tale about the story.

Also, you touched on it before; could you run down a normal agent day, in respect to time allotted to queries. I believe you have so little time, the query should be a brief but accurate account of the novel. Am I off base?

I just want to know what the book is and why I should care, in as brief and interesting a way as possible. I want the directions to be followed to the letter, because when they aren't, it adds time to my reading if I have to request pages when they should have been pasted into the body of the email, etc -- or else I just erase the query.

I have absolutely zero extra time during business hours for reading queries, so I tend to spend maybe one or two full weekend days a month going through them (along with the occasional middle-of-the-night insomnia or between-phone-meetings spare moments, in which I might do one or a few).

I am not sure if that answered your question!
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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I have a question you might be able to answer... I have an epic fantasy series (more like an adventure-fantasy, but a long story nonetheless!) It is not YA, but if you have any idea, I'd appreciate your opinion. Word count for the first book is ~150K. I know that's long, but is it too long to get any attention?

I can't answer that, sorry, I know nothing about the adult fantasy or speculative fiction market, I am only a children's & YA agent.
 

Sunshine13

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Jennifer,

First, as an echo to everyone else, thanks for your time here on AW :)

I am currently shopping my fantasy, which can be either YA or epic fantasy, or perhaps I should just call it an epic YA fantasy? It has a prologue, where the female MC is 13, and then Chapter 1 begins 3 years later. I've heard some agents frown upon prologues, and I know every agent is different, so I was just wondering if when the first 10 pages are sent per your sub guidelines, would you prefer from Chapter 1 or the prologue?

Thanks for your valuable advice and answers here, I think I may have felt my brain grow a little bigger. ;) Happy November!
 

Jennifer_Laughran

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I've heard some agents frown upon prologues, and I know every agent is different, so I was just wondering if when the first 10 pages are sent per your sub guidelines, would you prefer from Chapter 1 or the prologue?

I would like the first ten pages of the book. If there is a prologue, it must contain important information and is there for a reason -- so obviously, that counts as part of the book. If it is NOT important enough to count as part of the book... why is it there?

:D
 

scope

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Hi Jennifer,

I know that query letters to agents and editors are not supposed to run more than one page. If you get a query that runs-let us say-one and one quarter pages, what do you do with it. Not read it? Issue a form rejection? Be annoyed but read it? Anythng else?

Thanks.
 

RLB

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Thanks for your thorough and thoughtful response regarding voice! That's the most concise breakdown of MG vs. YA I've seen. I'm hoping in this particular agent's case, it was just a matter of personal taste, but I'm scouring the manuscript for inconsistencies and tone just in case!
 

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I know that query letters to agents and editors are not supposed to run more than one page. If you get a query that runs-let us say-one and one quarter pages, what do you do with it. Not read it? Issue a form rejection? Be annoyed but read it? Anythng else?

LOL. Well, I only accept e-queries, and it is hard to tell the page length on those. I have to say, if your query letter runs more than three paragraphs ... can I just ask why? I can't imagine why you would need to say a page-and-a-half's worth.

Here are some signals that a rambling, overlong query might send out:

* this person doesn't know how to edit.

* this person doesn't know what is important and what isn't, or what the point of their story truly is.

* this is either not a good salesman, or

* this person is unable to be objective about their own work, and probably has a monster sized ego and will be difficult to work with.


Fact is, hardly anybody is at their best in a query letter. I'd read it, I guess, but I'd much rather you keep it on the brief but interesting side and let your writing speak for itself - that is why I ask that the author include a three-chapter sample of the book.
 

Prawn

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Some of the larger agencies have several agents who rep my genre but they "respond only if interested". Since that means they may never respond to me at all, how long should I give agent A before querying agent B? Is a month long enough? If the agency doesn't specifically say they don't like simultaneous submissions, can I go ahead and query two agents at the same agency?

Thanks!

P.S. I wish you handled adult fiction, so I could query you!
 
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