Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Out of questions yet?

by Miriam

The weather in New York is beautiful today. Sunny, low humidity, none of those icky smells we’ll be subjected to once the temps start heading toward triple digits. And, I’ve got a case of spring fever--meaning that I am having a hard time wrestling my mind back to thoughts of work as it keeps veering off to fantasies of sitting in Union Square Park drinking a mid-morning latte and watching squirrels chase each other.

So, given my seasonally induced lack of intellectual wherewithal to come up with an interesting and enlightening blog topic, I thought I’d jump on Jim’s questions bandwagon and let you guys do all the work. Given what you know about us as agents, bloggers, and all-around snarks, what do you want to know that you can’t find in the submission guidelines or staff bios page of the DGLM website. Target v. K-Mart? Pynchon v. Vonnegut? Dancing with the Stars v. American Idol? Kindle v. Nook? I’ll answer to the best of my lethargic abilities….

21 comments:

  1. Who would win in a showdown, Dumbledore or Gandalf? Vador or Voldemort?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Miriam,
    Books you're accepting now won't be pubbed until... if Mike Shatzkin's correct... ebook dislocation amongst the big Six is in full swing. What's your plan for copyright and rights squabbles that ensue and the expected general traditional publishing disruptions sure to emerge?

    In other words, whadda ya gonna do when the sh*t hits the fan?

    Haste yee back ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Liesl, I'm gonna split the difference and go Gandalf and Voldemort (I love the name Voldemort).

    Haste yee back, there shouldn't be copyright squabbles as that'll always belong to the author, but I generally agree with Mike Shatzkin's take on the major disruptions that are already shaking the industry. Our sense here is that the ebook battles will continue to escalate before everyone agrees on a model that's fair(ish) to all and allows all parties to make some money and the publishing industry figures out how it will continue to be relevant in a vastly changed landscape. That said, I think that the best position to take is to be open to the possibilities this shakeout opens up, remain flexible about our notions of what a "book" is, and learn as much as we can about the issues so that we can be part of the revolution and not left behind in its wake.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for allowing this. This is a fantastic opportunity. Ive read the books, stalked the blogs, and then re-read the highlighted portions of the books, and there's no answer for this specific gray area.

    I've had a Young Adult book in the works for almost three years. I do not have an agent, although I do know of one that is perfect and in-line with everything I do. (Or, I have an odd Bro-Mance underway and if so, I'd rather not deal with it.)

    About 9 months ago, I attended an SCBWI conference and an editor of a major house went beyond expectation, providing over twenty pages of notes, then, unsolicited, asked me three different times, agent or not, to submit once I finished.

    All that to say this: I am 3/4ths of the way through another re-write, based on editor suggestions, and a piece of the puzzle is missing. Add to that my sudden inability to quit picking at the paper and the flood of fear based on my lack of a clue, and I'm lost. I'm wondering if it would prove beneficial to waste my one shot with uber-agent, and query, since there is a completed manuscript, just not THIS manuscript.

    I'm unable to see the forest for the trees...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous, after three years, I'd say your manuscript has marinated long enough. I would suggest finishing up your revisions as quickly as possible -- you can nitpick your way to utter inertia if you're not careful -- and contact that star agent. Tell him the story much as you have here (except mention the editor's name and the house s/he works at) and ask if he'll take a look. Throw in a little flattery about how much you admire his list (agents like non-stalky flattery) and when he asks for a look, send off your baby right away (don't even think about going back and tweaking some more at that point). Good luck. Let us know how it goes.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Do YOU honestly believe the saying that "everyone has a story to tell"? Why or why not?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Miriam, I'd like to know how much is the market ready for a young feminine medieval-like fantasy? Does it have legs to walk, or maybe I should work in something else? I am halfway of the book, so it should be ready (with revisions) by the beginning of the summer...

    Thank you very much,

    Veiller.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Most agents say they research a potential client on line, checking out any websites, etc. Will an agent reject a writer when they discover s/he is older and might not have as many years to write, even though that person is no longer distracted by children and career, is comfortable with public speaking, confident in his or her ability, needs little hand holding, and can devote all his or her time entirely to writing? In other words, is age taken into account when agents consider new clients?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hmmm, yes, I do think everyone has a story to tell, it's all about how well they are able to tell it.

    Veiller, I think a medieval fantasy with a strong female character could do very well. As a matter of fact, our own Jacqueline Carey has a very successful series with those specs. Again, it all depends on the storytelling and writing. Let's take a look when you're ready to show.

    Anonymous, most agents I know don't have time to research every potential client. They go on the strength of the material that's submitted to them and, frankly, I can't imagine that age would be a deterrent if someone has a great idea well executed. The only time age plays a factor in our decision making is if the material a writer submits feels dated or out of touch. For instance, if it's something that would have been at home in the 1950s but it's not a historical or satirical piece, well, that would give us pause.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I've got a picture book hitting shelves next year. Good but small publisher. New (to me) agent. I've got a few distant contacts among licensing agents, and the book is fairly 'brandable'. I've hesitated to ask my agent about licensing opportunities, because I understand that saying, 'my picture book should spawn a thousand lunchboxes and backpacks' is a Mark of Shame, but what the hell ... I can ask -you- anonymously!

    So: given that the chances are that my book will fade without a ripple, is there anything I can do to promote it as a licensable property before it hits bookshelves and fails to sell? Should I talk to a licensing agent? Anything else I should or shouldn't do? Or just close my eyes and think of plush toys?

    Harrison

    ReplyDelete
  11. Miriam - I'm happy to know, according to the website sidebar, you'd like to see more historical fiction. I'm looking forward to submitting to you when my Revolutionary War-era WIP is ready.

    Do you have any tips specific to this genre? Any particular preferences in terms of setting, time period, etc.? Do you, and does the market, prefer historicals using well-known figures as characters or unknowns/totally fictional characters? Why would you like to see more from this genre?

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Miriam, thank you for doing this! I think I might be too late here, but here's my question anyway:

    When an agent requests your (full) manuscript and then responds to it, is an email always a rejection? Does this vary from agent to agent, or is there a general rule that says phone call = offer of representation, while email = the agent is going to pass? Are there exceptions or does it vary depending on whether the author is abroad, etc?

    -Emma

    ReplyDelete
  13. First of all, Harrison, stop with the defeatist attitude. Sure, merchandising for books that are not already bestsellers is a longshot, but nothing will happen for sure if you don't at least explore the possibilities. Given that you already have the licensing contacts, any agent worth his/her salt would discuss the idea with you and at least put feelers out on your behalf. Even if it's an area s/he is unfamiliar with, a phone call or e-mail might lead to a bigger discussion. Remember, the agent works for you and takes a commission for his/her efforts. You shouldn't be afraid to approach them about anything that will further your career and make you money.

    Anonymous, my big bugaboo about historicals is when they're filled with anachronisms or the voice/prose style doesn't suit the period. In terms of subject matter or era, I'm open to anything and everything -- from I, CLAUDIUS to THE ALIENIST, if it's well written and well plotted, I'm game. I personally like my historicals to be sprinkled with "real" figures. Whether it's Teddy Roosevelt or Savonarola, these celebrity cameos provide context and glamour.

    Emma, that's a good question. We do most things by e-mail these days and are just as likely to send an e-mail saying we'd like to represent something as make a call. Of course, if we're offering representation, that e-mail will be followed by a scheduled chat so that we can answer questions and just get to know the author. So, unlike the fat and skinny college acceptance envelopes, an e-mail from us doesn't necessarily mean rejection.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Miriam!

    I may be too late to the party, but if not, I'd love to ask a question! I have recently had an editor from one of the big houses take a look at some of my pages via a connection through a friend. She really liked what she read and said she wanted to see the manuscript on submission from an agent as soon as I obtained representation. She also gave me a list of names of agents she thought would be a good fit. BUT, since she hadn't read the entire novel, she said she didn't feel comfortable having her name tossed around as I seek representation. So...my question is this: When I query the agents on the list, is it worth saying something like, "An editor at such and such house recently read some of my work and suggested I contact you etc. etc." even if I can't actually name the editor? Or will that just make me look like a hack?
    Thank you for the opportunity to ask!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hopefully I'm not too late for this one. Almost all of the agents that I follow (via twitter/blogs) seem to think that the 'Vampire' boat has sailed, and seem to frown upon submissions if they mention the word vampire.

    My question is this: Given the current market, do you feel that Vampires are a trend that is fizzling out? Would you reject a query just because they have a vampire in it?

    I have always been a fan of 'Vampire Books' such as Anne Rice. She's been around for years and has seen the trends come and go, but her career remains strong.

    Any opinions on the vampire front?

    Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  16. With the full realization that I am exposing myself as a computer ignoramus--I have absolutely no idea about the first thing about turning a ms into a PDF file and how to send it. I went to Borders yesterday and there were no books on the subject and nobody could help me. (I'm old school--I have 2 manual typewriters.)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Anonymous, You should definitely mention that an editor at a major house suggested you query. Even if you don't give a name, it'll make the agent pay a little more attention. Given the volume of submission most agents receive, you should use anything that will give you an edge.

    Shelley, I love vampires -- I was telling the agents here to take on anything with vampires and Elvis years before sparkly bloodsuckers were a gleam in Stephenie Meyer's eye. Sure, the market is pretty crowded right now, but a good vampire yarn will always find a home -- given the competition, it just has to be especially fresh and compelling right now.

    Gilbert, most agents prefer MSWord documents rather than .pdfs (we find Word docs easier to manipulate especially on our Kindles and Sony readers). So, if you submit electronically, just send the Word document along unless someone specifically requests a .pdf. Unfortunately, there is a bias these days about typewritten mss. so if you can, make sure that even if submitting hard copy, you send something that looks like it was done on a computer.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Please, leave me my defeatist attitude. I have nothing else.

    Thanks for the answer.

    Harrison

    ReplyDelete
  19. Have you ever had a book change your life? Why or why not?

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thank you for answering my question, Miriam! I'd been curious about the email vs. phone call thing for ages, and it's just one of those things no one ever seems to bring up!

    -Emma

    ReplyDelete
  21. Clix that's an interesting question. I think many books have changed my life insofar as they've opened me up to new ideas and ways of thinking and exposed me to others' experiences and outlooks. Lessons I've taken from books I've applied to decisions, choices, actions... But is there one single book that changed me? Nah. They all have, a little.

    ReplyDelete