Tuesday, July 03, 2007

An open call for questions

Though we’re of the opinion that any random thing we chatter about is endlessly fascinating, it occurred to us recently that it might be time to find out if there is anything in particular that you, our delightful readers, want to know from us. Or about us.

So here’s your chance: ask anything at all that you’d like an answer to. Feel free to direct questions to us en masse or individually (though this isn’t your chance to pitch us, natch). Keep in mind that with the holiday, summer vacations, and general busyness, responses will come in a bit sporadically, but you can keep an eye on this space, and we’ll try to answer as many questions as possible!

57 comments:

  1. What is the difference between chick lit, women's fiction and literary fiction that is from a woman's perspective? For example, would Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible be considered woman's fiction? And what about Susan Minot's Evening?

    Thanks!
    - Confused about Categories

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  2. For reasons that don't matter here, I'll be moving between two countries every year for three years at least, and the address I'll have in the UK will probably change every time I move back.

    What would you do if you got a query letter that asks you to email the writer if it's a request? Or should I be focusing only on agents who accept e-queries?

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  3. How does an emerging fiction writer create a market for her work? What should we do to create a sales base even before we've been picked up?

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  4. What are questions for your agent, and what are questions for your editor? I don't want to step on my agent's toes by circumventing her, but at the same time, I don't want to make her work harder for her 15% than I have to. If, for example, I want to know whether a book will be released as a hardback or a trade paperback, to whom do I direct that question?

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  5. In response to Jane Dystel's just previous post: why do so many agents seem to object to authors querying multiple agents? I queried 10 agents all of whom represent work in my genre. I researched them all and tried to personalize every query. I got six form rejections, one request for a partial which immediately turned itno a request for a full (which I am still waiting to hear about)and 3 non-responses. Are we authors supposed to put all our eggs in one basket?

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  6. Why is this latest post displayed in Times while the preceding ones are displayed in Arial?

    (It's a question!)

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  7. How long, on average, do you take to read a full? Reading comments about your agency, I have heard that some agents have responded within a week, but what is the longest you have ever taken to read a full?

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  8. Once you - or any bigger, busier agency - sign a client (like the ink is dried), what kind of general time line is it until the work goes out on submission to editors?

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  9. Not a question but a request: do you mind having all the fonts in your posts the same size? That will make the articles easier to read. Thanks.

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  10. Not a question but a request: do you mind having all the fonts in your posts the same size? That will make the articles easier to read. Thanks.

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  11. What would happen if you had a really catchy title for a non-fiction book (as catchy as "He's Just Not That Into You") but found that an obsure blog in another country had the same title? Would you still use it? Could you still use it?

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  12. Let's say one of your agents is considering a full manuscript. How often do you prefer for the writer to contact the agent to check the status (obviously not after a week, but...)? Does the writer receive any notification if months go by, but the full is still under consideration?

    Also, have any D&G agents ever had to choose a project between a client and a potential client?

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  13. >Also, have any D&G agents ever had to choose a project between a client and a potential client?

    meaning projects that are similar in premise/content. (sorry!)

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  14. What markets/genres are hot right now? Which ones are tough sells?

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  15. It would be great to see a little more info on how a regular day unfolds there at D&G...

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  16. If you're rejected by an agent at DGLM, can you query another DGLM agent with the same project or is it not allowed?

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  17. Two questions:

    1) When dealing with editors for a clients manuscript, is the time it takes them to get back to you any indication to the MS's quality?

    In other words, does a manuscript that they know they wouldn't want get a quick no, to clear their desk, and one they might want get kept for 3 months (even if they pass)?

    2) Does the agent's personality have more pull than we all realized -- I heard at a writer's conference recently that editor's pay close attention to what their favorite agents send them and have a tendency to be very critical of an abrasive agents's submissions.

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  18. I love memoirs, particularly when they are about ordinary (or rather non-celebrity, for lack of a better term) people who have led extraordinary lives, or when they include interesting travel or cross-cultural experiences. Examples of this would be Sheila Payne's The Afghan Amulet, Mark Salzman's Iron and Silk, and Alexander Frater's Chasing the Monsoon. I love good fiction, but I love thoughtful, well-written memoirs easily as much or more.

    Am I in a minority here? And how extraordinary does a memoir have to be to be marketable, in your opinion?

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  19. Ryan Field5/7/07 11:07 AM

    I've been receiving a great deal of hints from editors lately regarding fiction with "crossover potential". Is this a trend that will last, or is it just another marketing tool that will come and go?

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  22. I'm interested in hearing an agent's take on working with an intentionally non-prolific author. I know for many writers, the hope is to write book after book after book and hopefully publish all of them. For me, I'm working on two books now (a novel and a memoir), but I look at Harper Lee and the value and reach of To Kill a Mockingbird and think that if my next project becomes my own "Mockingbird book," truly sharing my view of the world and helping to make it better (not just sharing a snippet like the memoir I'm working on, or exploring my past like my current novel-in-progress), I might feel finished as a book writer and choose to focus my future creativity towards other art forms. As an agent, when you hear this are you inclined to seek other clients instead, or are you intrigued? Do you find my approach to be unusual or surprisingly common among the "literary" writers you encounter?

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  23. Tell us the truth (as you always do) please:

    What differences do age and looks make for a novelist?

    For example, if I'm 86, but in good health, will it be harder for me to get published than if I'm a sexy young 22 year old?

    (Let's assume for the sake of discussion that my book is well-written and commercial.)

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  24. Sometimes I think the US publishing industry doesn't care as much about West Coast lifestyles or Midwestern ones. Over 75% of fiction I see takes place on the East Coast, mostly in New York. Am I imaginging this, or is it real? And if the latter, is there anything we can all do to improve the situation and make the industry more realistic/representative?

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  25. I'm one of your authors and would like to know if you think it's possible to plan a career in publishing (as an author, that is!). I've just had my seventh book published and as the years pass, it seems like it's getting harder to map out any kind of career path. Do you think it's possible?

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  26. I'm curious about how you all are as agents in relation to your clients. Are you all the hands on type of agent that gets into the editing process, helping with book ideas, etc. or are you a more hands off sort that likes to just deal with the business end of things and leave all the writing stuff to the writer? If you have different approaches, does this have any effect on how you interact amongst each other when dealing with client issues?

    Personally, I desire a hands on type who would enjoy interacting with me around writing issues. Anyway, curious how you all work in that regard, and if the agency makes any conscious effort to be one way or the other as a whole.

    JDuncan
    www.jimnduncan.com

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  27. I see a lot of internet commentary on what a writer should NEVER do (usually along the lines of bad formatting, sending bribes and/or threats along with the query, not knowing how to use the English language--or possibly any written language--etc). I'm more interested in that top 5 percent who all get full requests. Some make it and some don't. Are there any systematic characteristics you see that clearly cut off a ms from the running, once you've read the whole thing?

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  28. No burning questions, but would be interested to read your thoughts on either of the following...the influence (or lack thereof) of movies on contemporary fiction. Or, in the kids world, the seeming division between school/library and commercial markets...

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  29. In response to Jane Dystel's just previous post: why do so many agents seem to object to authors querying multiple agents?

    They don't.

    Check out the comments section of the same post, where Jane clarifies this point. What she, and other agents object to, is receiving a mass e-query, where multiple agents are listed in the same email.

    Agents know that writers send out simultaneous queries. But you want to personalize your letter to each agent.

    You may encounter an agent who requests an exclusive read of your partial or full (which means they don't want you to send your ms to anyone else during a certain time period). Exclusives don't help the writer, so it's best to avoid them. Just say you can't grant an exclusive, but will keep the agent informed of any developments.

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  30. To all the agents at DGLM...

    Really, how much - and I mean really... depends
    on a red wheel barrow
    glazed with rain
    beside the white chickens?

    Haste yee back :-/

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  31. I could never query multiple agents; I'd be so antsy that there's be no outlet except indiscriminate road rage.

    I'm worried that I've commited several fatal faux pas. See, I queried an agent with a partial fiction manuscript, before I knew this sort of behavior was a huge no-no (according to Miss Snark). Still, I've been waiting to hear back from that agent before doing anything more to my MS--not exactly a Trollopian work ethic, but kind of how I get along.

    So, my questions are:

    1. Since it's been over 8 weeks, should I send the agent a "hey, haven't heard from you about that late Roman Empire novel set in North Africa"? Or should I assume that because I was a big dork and queried with a (not perfect) partial, the answer's going to be no anyhow?

    2. Since I haven't done diddly-squat on that MS since I queried (because I'm a neurotic little scrivener and I've been immobilized by my angst about the opinion of the agent), am I totally screwed if the agent comes back and says, "I would like to represent this--where's the rest of it, dear?"

    3. Does the fact that I even asked question #2 mean that my ego has reached megalomaniacal proportions, and that I am not able to recognize the simple and salient fact that my writing does, in fact, suck?

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  32. Let's say you're agenting a client and they say "I'd love to write a proposal for this line of books!" but you (personally) hate dealing with that particular publisher. What do you do?

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  33. Is it a death knell if your agent takes longer and longer (weeks or no response at all) to answer questions by email? At what point do you bring it up and say, Hey, have you lost passion for my book, or are you just a poor communicator?

    (two questions, I know, but I'm stealing a slot from one of the silly ones asked... :-))

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  34. Here's a question:

    Did you realize when you opened up this forum that a bunch of folks would take it as an excuse to grind their ax of choice about the publishing business? ;-)

    "Why do query letters have to be good? If I get a rejection letter it's not because it sucks, it's because query letters are a bad way to get across the marvelousness of my book." (the idea that it's more "modern" not to use them is...adjectives fail me)

    Oh yes, and "all books are set in New York." ::more eye rolling::

    "And I'm too good to write more than one book. I'm actually Harper Lee and I already know it."

    "I love memoirs... especially since I'm writing one."

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  35. What's the best way for an unpublished writer to express that they have honed their craft and are serious about it?

    Or do you care _only_ about the manuscript in front of you, not whether the writer is working on something else/developing ideas?

    There seems to be a wide range of opinions from 'the writer should work up to a high standard on their own and have a career plan' to 'a trunk under the bed implies lack of skills/lack of motivation'; I'd appreciate another opinion.

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  36. Is it a death knell if your agent takes longer and longer (weeks or no response at all) to answer questions by email? At what point do you bring it up and say, Hey, have you lost passion for my book, or are you just a poor communicator?

    Please, D&G, I hope you'll address the issue of agent/client communication, and how to know if your agent is "over you."

    I'm facing the same situation with my agent. (And I've tried so hard to be a good client, too! I'm working on a new book, which my agent has expressed interest in, email only when necessary, etc.)

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  37. Pitching at conferences:
    If you are at an RWA conference is it okay to pitch a mystery if you know the agent your interviewing with handles mysteries?

    My book is a little of both but heavier on the mystery/suspense part. I do belong to RWA but this book fell out of my head more toward the mystery genre.

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  38. Actually, I much prefer to hear all of you spout out. You're funny, you can be wise, you can be direct, and you do it all very nicely. So this? We have to ask you? As in what Miss Snark did so well?

    So you've driven me to ask the basics.


    Boxers or briefs?

    Hipsters, bikinis or thongs?

    Clooney or Jolie?

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  39. I am in the unfortunate circumstance of finding another agent. In the query process, should I mention that I had an agent but it didn't work out, or leave it out all together?

    On one hand, it shows that another agent thought my work was good enough to offer representation (assume I'm talking about a good agent, well known, not one new to the biz) but on the other, the prospective agent could wonder 'why' it didn't work out.

    I don't want to hurt my chances, but I'd like to help them, if possible. My dream agent is out there!!

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  40. Is a historic setting for a first book (in this case, it's a thriller) an automatic minus?

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  41. I just read on another blog that no manuscripts sell during the summer months because all the decision-makers are on vacation. Is that true, even for agented submissions?

    Thanks very much for taking the time to answer our questions.

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  42. How did you discover the Kushiel books? Was it a gem in the slush, or is there some grand series of coincidences?

    I really love Ms. Carey's books, and I'm interested to know if she had to go through the slush pile too, or if things just happen when you've got something that good.

    Thank you!

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  43. Do you prefer email query or snail mail? Some agents specify but most list both options. Does one have a better chance? Is there a different evaluation process for each?

    thanks,

    John C

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  44. Could you provide a rough breakdown of where you found your current clients? It seems from reading blogs and listening to agents at conferences that only a very small percentage of clients are actually found via the slush pile or conference pitch.

    Thanks!

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  45. I read on another lit agent blog that, while he is open to queries, he has in his entire career only picked up two authors out of his slush pile. This made me wonder is the problem isn't that he has a full slate of books to take out at all times and is rarely hungry for someone/something new. Sort of like having 3 square meals before heading out to the buffet. Might this mean that perhaps someone starting at a new agency, who states he or she is looking to build their list, might be more receptive to slush pile queries?

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  46. This summer I've begun to query my big, serious literary novel, got a dozen requests. Most have come back with personal notes: "beautiful poetic prose" "I think it's very good" "I like the voice" but they always reject it. Some hate the voice, some say the plot is too thin. I know it's not your average book, it's old-fashioned and big and not like anything that's out there. At this point is it advisable to keep querying for that right agent, or is it time for something else?

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  47. How often does a publisher change the title of a book, and do you try and lobby for the author's original title so that the publisher won't change it? I had that done to me, and my agent at the time didn't care.

    Also, what about the "last minute" calls, where the editor attempts to make changes hours before your book goes to the printer. I know two authors that threatened retraction if the changes were made. Only then did the editor back off.

    In my case error was added to my nonfiction book despite my protest (and some things added without my review that were wrong).

    G

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  48. At what point do you decide to retire a book (even one that you love, love. love) that you are shopping? After 10 rejections? 20? 50? How do you break it to your client?

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  49. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum18/7/07 1:11 AM

    For reasons unknown, you are drawn to a specific envelope waiting patiently in the slush queue. You open it, begin to read and...become giddy with joy! It's your ideal middle grade novel!

    What is it about? Why is it the answer to the childrens market's dreams?

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  50. What percentage of submissions do you wind up selling? And what percentage would be considered excellent, good, competent or awful? I know there's no exact science here, but your thoughts on this would be great to hear. Thanks.

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  51. Are any agents interested in authors who only write short stories, and if so, how is the query process different?
    Thanks!

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  52. How would I go about approaching agents with a proposal for a series of nonfiction how-to books that would require a team of a ghost writer and the how-to expert? I, personally, am not qualifed to write the book. Will agents consider a query requiring multiple writers?

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  53. I am a member of a writers group and when I happen to read for critique, I am constantly told to remove all of the following: was, words ending in ly and limiting my use of ing words.

    I'm confused because all of my books that I love to read are chock full of those words. Feedback from the group is great but I always feel uneducated and disheartened by those comments. What are the rules for writing and can you recommend a good editor that will tell you the truth and not what they want to see or what they would write. Please help me clear the fog.

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  54. I often see the term Adult fiction. Is this based on language, sex and/or violence?

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  55. When I look at Publishers Marketplace I see a huge (impressive) number of deals by Jane Dystel but not a one by Miriam Goderich. Why is this?

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  56. Comment to Anonymous of 8/23 by another wannabe: I agree, it is absolutely exasperating to read all this how-to dogma (and attempt to follow it) and then read many, many--oh so many--books out there which seem to successfully ignore these "rules." In the book "On Writing" Stephen King says "most writing books are full of bullshit..." I agree fully.

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