Pub Rants

The Client Book Mention

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STATUS: I’m hearing some interesting rumors through the romance grapevine. Nothing I can share quite yet but when I hear a confirm, I’ll fill you guys in. What are Mondays for except to set up a crisis for later in the week…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DO-RE-ME by Julie Andrews

Because I really needed to, I stayed up late last night reading about 100 queries (yes, I was a little behind). Newsflash I know. But I had an interesting thought while I was reading those queries and since that doesn’t happen often…

Okay, that was a lame joke but it is a Monday after all. I do think this is important if you are in the middle of the query process. Many times in query letters, writers will mention that they read one of my clients books and that was partly why they decided to query me.

I have to say I like that. It tells me you didn’t just do a quick research on the internet and then shoot me a query. It means that you took the time to read (or skim) a client book so as to target your query. How could an agent not be flattered?

But then I noticed something. The book mentions didn’t really hold any weight for me except when writers deliberately had cited a specific scene or something that had happened to a main character in the query letter itself. Because then I knew that they had, indeed, actually read the novel. (And even if you didn’t read the whole thing and only read let’s say the first 50 pages, well heck, I won’t call you on it. You at least made more than an effort then the general querier.) I can’t say I then ask for sample pages 100% of the time but it’s probably close.

Here’s the other thought that struck me. The read-the-client mention also only worked for me when the connection was obvious to the query project being proposed. In other words, if writers had read a client novel that didn’t really have much to do with their type of work, I have to say it confused me more than helped. I couldn’t help but think that gee, it’s interesting that the author had read Marianne Mancusi’s STAKE THAT! (for example) but I’m not sure how that YA title has anything to do with this adult horror novel (or whatever) the writer is presenting in the query.

Do you see what I mean?

Now I do give extra points to writers who creatively make the connection or just outright say that STAKE THAT! doesn’t really mesh with their proposed project but since they had read it and liked it, they thought I would be open to XYZ. That works—just as long as there is a clear enough reference to an actual scene or character in the book that demonstrates that it was read.

And speaking of… GIRLS THAT GROWL hits shelves this week as well.

Third in Mancusi’s hip, sassy vampire series, featuring the heroine of Stake That!

She’s a vampire. She’s also a vampire slayer. (It’s a long story, don’t ask.) And now Rayne McDonald, Goth girl, has to carry out her most deviant mission yet: trying out for the cheerleading squad.

Rayne already has enough on her plate: her twin keeps whining about whether or not to go all the way; her mom’s boyfriend is moving in; and her man, Jareth, who’s now allowed out in the sun, has turned from a dark, brooding hottie vamp into a surfer dude.

But this vampire slayer is still on the clock, and she has a new assignment. A member of the football team has disappeared-and her bosses at Slayer Inc. think the cheerleaders had something to do with it. Now they want her to infiltrate the squad and get the dirt. But first, she’ll need an extreme prep makeover. If only they’d let her wear fishnets under that revolting uniform…

27 Responses

  1. bran fan said:

    Another headless person book cover. I really wonder about this trend…. Am I the only one who finds it strange?

  2. Anonymous said:

    hoo boy…y’know, there is only so much room in a query letter.

    I respect the idea to mention passages from the book, but what about the time I spend on one of your client’s online group? What about the time I spend supporting her work on other sites and messageboards (truly, because I’m a fan)? What about other things that a prospective client does to show she’s done her research?

    Hm, should all of that go into the query, too?

    My point is that personalizing a query will only go so far (unless you’ve met the agent in person or are being referred). If the story doesn’t strike a chord, the personalization may just mean you get rejected faster.

    I’m just trying to be realistic.

  3. Laura Elliott said:

    How do you go about citing passages from a client’s book in your query letter?

    For example “I love Accidental Goddess by your client, Linnea Sinclair. The scene where Gillaine reveals who she is to Mack was brilliant.” Something like that?

  4. Morgan said:

    Yeah I’m a bit confused on how much time I need to take to actually talk about a book that the agent has already represented. Like others have said, there’s only so much room in a query letter. I can understand mentioning it, but how much detail to I need to into about another book?

  5. Anonymous said:

    This post tugged at my heart strings, probably because of my personal interest here. I received a rejection late last night on my query, and I ,too, had sited two of Kristin’s books in my opening paragraph. I read both books I referenced, and was going to mention how I thought my YA novel’s main character was similiar to witty, fashion savvy Macey (from Ally’s Carter’s book), and had humorous everything goes wrong scenes like when the entire stage that had been cleared in Coupon Girl was recluttered the next day. Then I thought, am I just wasting space and Kristin will say, “Fine, but what about your book?” So I cut the analysis and went right to my pitch.

    **Drops to knees with manuscript tightly clutched in hands.** Just kidding.

    I tried to personalize my introduction, yet not get too wordy because I know agents are so busy. Of course, I would love to change Kristin’s mind by writing a detailed five page summary on how bits of my novel are similiar to bits of both stories I referenced, with character outlines and scene contructions, but I’ll let her get back to agenting. But if you ever feel inclined, I’m always up for a partial.

    Seriously, despite the pass, I’ll continue to be a faithful reader of your blog. And I’ll be at the bookstore front and center tomorrow to pick up “Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy.”

  6. bonita said:

    I know you don’t answer these comments, but a question occurred to me while I was reading today’s post. If you thinki it relevant to your readers maybe you would consider addressing this issue on a future rant.

    I know you rep YA but not children’s novels. You also like to rep a writer’s entire body of work if possible. But I write for both children and YA. How do you handle a situation like that?

    Again, I realize you don’t repond to these comments. Might be interesting to hear your thoughts, though.


  7. Anonymous said:

    Anon 5:45, I feel your pain. I too recently received a rejection when I had personalized a query.

    The first two times I queried Ms. Nelson, I didn’t personalize. Both times she requested a partial. So go figure.

  8. H. Pinski said:

    Mine was one of the queries you stayed up late to read. My husband got to my email account before me and said “You have something from Nelson Literary, but it came in at 12:48 am(ET) and on Sunday!”

    I said, “Sounds about right.”

    And not only did you read them, you took the time to post some feedback. Thank you.

  9. Anonymous said:

    Whoa. I know that cover looks better in person, but for a split-second I saw the fishnets and thought “that dude needs to shave his legs.” Maybe it’s just me.

  10. JDuncan said:

    I’ve come to the conclusion recently that when I see these tidbits about query writing, I just need to nod sagely and then proceed to store the bit of info into the back of my brain where I can’t see it. I’ve reached this conclusion because really, the standard sort of query format works, but then sometimes it doesn’t. All sorts of queries you might decry as being about as far from format perfect as you could get, make an agent go, “hmmm, I’d like to read this.” We writers then look at these and go, “hmmm, ok. Why the hell did that work?” Of course you then take that same query to another agent, and they’ll say, “What kind of crap is this?” (ok, maybe more tactful, but still). The point of course is that query writing seems to be almost as subjective as writing itself. You write it one way and an agent tosses off a rejection in five seconds flat, but then you rewrite it in a completely different way, and suddenly they may want to consider it. It may also be due to the fact that some editor just agreed to buy another author’s book an hour earlier and they are just in a really great mood. Who knows! So, you write the damn thing the way you see fit, be respectful and polite, be sure to tell them what the heck it is, how long it is, and such and tell the agent what it is about your story that you love. Because that is likely what will turn them on more than anything. Ok, I’m rambling yet again, but queries are one of those subjects that never seem to die. They just keep going…and going…


  11. ORION said:

    It’s true there’s so much focus on the query but only so far as it gives the agent some clue what your novel is about- There’s something unquantifiable about it — some spark — some turn of phrase that grabs the agent in the same way a reader is provoked to pick up and buy a book. If it were quantifiable and not subjective then there WOULD be a formula you could follow. As it is, you have to pick and choose what to add and what to leave out so that you give it your best shot.
    My query got many requests for fulls but also got rejections. It ain’t a science, guys…

  12. Anonymous said:

    I don’t spend that much time on personalisation, if I’m brutally honest. I do a fair amount of research on all the agents I’m querying. I’ll look for interviews, clarify guidelines, dig out specific likes and dislikes, but I just don’t have the time or money to read their clients’ work in any great detail.

    My reasoning is that if they like my work enough to represent it, then in-depth personalisation won’t matter either way. Of course, it’s easy for me to say that, seeing as in the UK we are generally allowed to send partials unsolicited. The letter itself holds a lot less weight when they have your work right in front of them. Still, that doesn’t stop me from polishing my submission (letter included) in every other way possible.

  13. Anonymous said:

    Just to add, I do research their clients’ work. I’ll look on Amazon, read reviews and synopsis, familiarize with the type of work the agent represents, but it’s rare that I’ll actively buy and read their work just for the sake of a couple lines about it in a query. For me, that’s an inefficient use of time. I can’t really see it being a deal maker anyhow.

  14. Anonymous said:

    Silly me; I thought good writing was what was important, not massaging an agent’s ego.

    Either I’ve written a novel that deserves representation and publishing, or I haven’t. I’m a nice person just like you, but that doesn’t mean I intend to be unprofessional.

  15. Anonymous said:

    I am so frickin’ tired of werewolf and vampire and paranormal books. Get over it, writers, please. There are actual human beings out there in imagination-land who have stories to tell.

  16. getitwritten_guy said:

    I have to agree with anonymous 6:16AM.

    It still boils down to whether or not we’ve written a novel that’s good enough to compete in the marketplace.

    I research agents to determine if my book fits in with their expressed preferences, not to see how best to stroke them. I was a sales and marketing executive for a number of years and I can say from experience that a quality product presented in an informative way trumps flattery any day of the week.

  17. Kristin said:

    Anonymous 6:56 –

    Why would writers stop writing paranormals when that is a HUGE market right now? Paranormal is hot, and if you can write it, it would be a good place to focus your efforts.

    What I’m tired of are vampire/werewolf paranormals. I’d like to see something new & different…and I’m sure the publishing world would, too.

  18. Diana Peterfreund said:

    kristin, to echo your logic back at you — YOU may be tired of vampire books, but 3.5 million readers of Twilight and it’s sequels aren’t. That’s why they keep getting published.

  19. getitwritten_guy said:

    Anonymous 8:38 – –
    You said:
    “It’s promotion. Duh.”

    Exactly. And it should be done professionally. Always.

  20. Maureen Child said:

    Kristin…That is sooo evil to tell us about a good rumor and then make us wait, LOL!

    I’ve never read Mancuso either, but loved the blurb on the blog, so will be heading out to buy it!

  21. Anonymous said:

    As one of the people you wrote late Sunday night, I will say that I definitely read “The Book of Luke” and enjoyed it immensely. I want to see more ‘rough around the edges’ male love interests out there! I did get a rejection, but this is a learning process. Now, I know that it is okay to cite references and tie it into my pitch. Great blog!

  22. Anonymous said:

    Someone above said:
    “Why would writers stop writing paranormals when that is a HUGE market right now? Paranormal is hot, and if you can write it, it would be a good place to focus your efforts.”

    Yeah, it’s not like you would want to write anything original. Vampires are hot! Everyone write vampires! This is what’s wrong with literature today. Some people sell shoddy toys made by sweat-shop kids in China; some people sell shoddy books coughed up by unoriginal bastards in America. Both sell- but both are also, finally, proven to be toxic crap.
    What’s the difference?
    3.5 millions readers can’t be wrong! “Twilight” is going to be part of the canon, dude! All those giddy twelve-year-old girls can’t be wrong. (Cough). Wow, look, another writer spewed out a vampire book!
    The only thing great about a vampire is when it symbolizes the death of writer dignity.