Pub Rants

Looking For A Few Good Men

 57 Comments |  Share This:    

STATUS: I’m actually leaving the office before 6 pm. I know. I’m stunned too.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BLACK by Pearl Jam

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been interviewing for a new assistant. We are doing our final second round interview next week and then hopefully the new person will start. Sara and I can hardly wait I have to say. We are really missing having a right hand to help with the workload.

During one of the interviews, an applicant asked a great question. She asked if we had anything against male authors as we hardly had any on our list.

In looking at all our sales, the question is not really a surprise but the answer is that we would love to find a few good men to add to our client list. So what’s the deal?

I have a couple of hypotheses:

1. Overwhelmingly, the majority of our query letters are from women. Statistically speaking, there aren’t as many male writers out there looking for rep.

2. We don’t rep thrillers. A lot of male authors write in that genre so right there that reduces the number of inquiries we get from men.

3. A lot of the inquiries we get from male writers tend to be for literary fiction. My tastes really lean commercial in this realm. I’m more of a Jonathan Safran Foer kind of gal than an Arthur Phillips. And let me tell you, the Jonathan-type writers are hard to find and chances are my agency is not high on the radar (although I do hope Jamie’s HOTEL changes that perception some). I can make a book hit the NYT list folks.

4. Women read more and buy more books. This is why we tend to rep a lot of women’s fic and romance. We gotta pay the bills and genre writers tend to do more than one novel a year and it’s an easier sell. Imprints are always looking to fill slots in romance.

5. For whatever reason, our queries from guys in the field of YA and MG fiction is slim. Where are you? We are gamely waiting.

6. We do get a lot of fantasy queries from male writers. I’ve had some stuff come close (as in I worked with the writer on revisions etc. but so far the final connection hasn’t happened).

I have a theory that women writers tend to participate in critique groups more than male writers and subsequently, a lot of those submits aren’t as polished when the writer is first querying. This is totally a guess on my part and I could be wrong.

I probably shouldn’t say this but if you are a guy and your query is solid, chances are really good we are asking for sample pages.

We want you on our client list. Jamie Ford is lonely.


57 Responses

  1. Francis said:

    Love the timing on this entry 🙂

    When I was browsing P&E and Publishers Marketplace for a list of agencies I would want to query when I am done with the second draft, yours was high on my list, because I adore unpretentious people, and your down to earth approach (the truth is always in your face if you look for it kind of personality) in writing your blog really enticed me.

    Since the MS is a fantasy/sci-fi epic, after I noticed you had very few of these in your list, it burst my bubble a little bit. When going over your clients list, I could only find one man, and became really nervous.

    I suppose I will query nevertheless when the time comes 🙂

  2. Tawna Fenske said:

    Interesting theories about the lack of male authors querying you. I had never considered the idea that men might be less likely than women to participate in critique groups, but I can certainly see the reasoning. I’ll be eager to see what the men in the comment trail have to say.

    Tawna

  3. Jen said:

    Haha I never thought I’d say this but maybe I should have been a male… sell my book a bit faster! LOL… just teasing… it’s good to be different, so hooray for for all the males out there who write!

  4. Jeff King said:

    Wish I was ready to query; I am at least 6 months away.

    You are my argent of choice… no doubt you’ll get the male writers you’re looking for.

    Best of luck, hopefully you still need a “dude” when my time comes.
    Thx, and good luck

  5. kgborland23 said:

    Hey Kristin,

    I’m a writer, though only a 17, and I was wondering how much of a manuscript you would need for sample pages if a query letter interested you?

    Love your blog, very informative. And look forward to hearing from you.

    -Kyle-

  6. Joelle said:

    Hey Kristin! This post made me laugh. Funny, but I am the only female client in my agent’s list. She mostly does thrillers and mysteries, so I think your hypothesis is correct on why the query numbers for men are lower.

  7. r louis scott said:

    I have wondered this myself, Agent K. Are you aware that at agentquerydotcom, you come in as the top choice when the category of Historical Fiction is searched? I never would have guessed from your website that you represented my favorite genre and the one I write in. And since my critique partner is a very talented woman, I think I better finish that query letter since I’m obviously a shoe-in!

  8. Simon C. Larter said:

    Well, crud. I’m writing literary. I’m sad now. *tear* See?

    In all seriousness, I have wondered about the dearth of males in the blogosphere and Twitter writing circles. Does my gender just not participate as much? Why not?

    On the plus side, I guess being in the minority can occasionally work in one’s favor….

  9. Haste yee back ;-) said:

    Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh… I could write a PhD Thesis on how I feel women working in publishing don’t understand the Middle Grade boy!

    Yep, the one who keeps night crawlers in his cereal bowl next to his bed, and can’t wait for Big Daddy Copperhead snake to come swimmin’ across the local pond, and catches bats at dusk with cane poles and fishing lures… Yeah, THAT ONE! The one before all the kissie-smoochy face, take a bath every night, comb your hair, high school shenanigans start!

    Good Lord, it took three movies before Harry Potter got his clothes good n’ dirty.

    But I’ll let discretion get the better part of valor and keep my mouth shut.

    Haste yee back 😉

  10. Laer Carroll said:

    I’ve been reading YA for a dozen years now. I’ve noticed that most of it is written by women for young women. This would help explain why you get so few submissions from men. Though when I submit my works they will be under a feminine pen name!

    I began reading YA by accident, trying to find good birthday presents for my three nieces. I found that most of it addresses a lot of serious issues, not just boy crushes. Also, it contains some of the best writing in any field, genre or literary.

  11. Toby Tremayne said:

    This is probably a stupid question, but would you recommend waiting until the full manuscript is completed before sending a query to you? I’m writing an “older YA” novel at the moment 🙂

  12. Tom Hart said:

    I’ve been actively reading your blog for some time now, and as a male writer currently fretting over a query letter, this post hits home.
    Mainly because I’m a male writer whos’ book is from a womans persepctive in a realistic fantasy setting. Skipping the rant to the point, I’d love to send a query letter in, and this is my shameless way of saying “hello” before hand.

  13. Eva said:

    I had never thought about this before. It is true that the number of men writing in those genres is slim. I hope you find what you’re looking for.

  14. JohnO said:

    Interesting. I’ve noticed the phenomenon from the other side, which is that the majority of agents are women. And I write straight-up commercial fiction. Who knew I was that rare?

  15. Brian Griggs said:

    For the longest time I was the only guy in the junior high English department. I helped our students challenge the stigmas about guys and reading. Also, the selection of required class novels at the junior high level is always something of a debate for what appeals to boys versus girls.

    I wonder why, like you said in your first hypothesis, there are more female writers out there than male. Finding male writers that appeal to a junior high boy’s interest is exciting. Also encouraging are the female authors that can hook both male and female readers, like a Suzanne Collins or an Ally Carter.

    I wonder why it seems that women read more, like you said in your fourth hypothesis. I agree that the perception is out there. You should see the looks I get now when I tell people that I’m a librarian, standing at 6’9″ and being one of the few guy librarians in our district. Marian the Librarian is a fun stereotype to break.

    And where are the guy MG/YA queries? I have a new one in the works that I’m excited about. (No crazy poems this time around.)

  16. Stuart said:

    Maybe a polished (and workshopped) fantasy will entice you to let me keep Jaime company. 🙂

    I’ll be ready to query in a few months.

    Stu

  17. DL Hammons said:

    *Standing on top of desk waving arms frantically*

    “Over here…over here!!!!!”

    Wait a minute…I’m one of those guys who writes Mysteries. Left out in the cold again. But my story does have a strong female character as one of its two leads, so maybe it could qualify as Womens fiction. Doubtful, but it couldn’t hurt to try. Why not give it a shot?

    But then again…does it even matter if the authors represented by an agency are male or female? A good story and solid writing is all that should really matter.

    Shut up…your shooting yourself in the foot!

  18. John M. Baron said:

    This is good to know — I’ll be querying you soon. I’m curious about your load of “fantasy queries from male writers”: is it all sword and sorcerer, or is it more varied than that?

  19. Anonymous said:

    Bah. Y’know, when I was just out of my teacher ed program, I watched all my male classmates get hired first because schools were so thrilled to get a male on staff.

    When I was in grad school the fellowships were divided equally among men and women– even though three-quarters of the students were women.

    I read in the New York Times that colleges admit males with lower qualification than females because they want to maintain a gender balance.

    Now I’m a midlist author. Most of the writers I know are women. Yet lists of Great Books and Best Books contain 90% male authors. No one can define just what makes a work “literary”, but it seems to involve the author’s plumbing.

    Okay, I’m not going to be bitter. We soldier on, right? If being a man means getting a gold star just for showing up, being a woman means smiling brightly and trying harder.

  20. Anonymous said:

    “…I can make a book hit the NYT list folks…”

    “…I probably shouldn’t say this but if you are a guy and your query is solid, chances are really good we are asking for sample pages…”

    I’m sorry, but these two statements just slugged me in the eye. Really? First, “you” cannot make a book hit the NYT bestseller list any more than an author can. Sure, you can help place a book and negotiate a good deal, and even offer comments to shape the book, but saying you have power to make a best seller isn’t true. If it were, all your books would be bestsellers.

    And second, I almost can’t believe, as an agent, let alone a woman, you’d say you’re looking for one specific gender to represent, as opposed to saying you are looking for GREAT BOOKS. Pardon me while I go barf. All those pesky female authors, Kristin, are paying your bills!!

  21. Francis said:

    [email protected]:01
    Jesus, lighten up. A sense of humor is going to be required if you wish to appeal to agents, and you seem to be so negative I very much doubt your frustration with Kristin is aimed at her joking but instead is aimed at your own struggle for success.

    Proof enough is you felt you should post this anonymously. If you felt so strongly and had confidence in your opinions, you’d have at least provided a name.

    Good luck with your writing, and remember that a smile and a laugh will make you live longer 🙂

  22. Cam Snow said:

    I think it is self-perpetuating. When I go to you “sold” list on your agency website, I see a bunch of women’s/romance novels, YA chick lit, and that’s about it. So, even as a man, if I have something that I think might be suitable, I might not query you because I have ideas for 2-3 other things, which you don’t rep.

    My other thought is that b/c you are a woman you don’t totally get what dudes want to read (little girls like kittens and little boys like attack dogs), and overwhelmingly, I think males tend to read books written by men. So, I guess what I’m saying is, it’s not your fault, you were just born that way (less inclined to rep male writers)

  23. brian_ohio said:

    Well… I’ve certainly TRIED to get on that list. 😉

    And, I must agree, you requested pages from all three of the queries I’ve sent your way over the past three years. Thank you for that!

    I hope you find those men.

  24. Giles said:

    Hey, I’m a guy, and I even submitted a query to you. In retrospect, the letter I sent you was pretty bad, but to confirm your suspicion about genres that men write, I am a YA/fantasy author. And I DO dabble in sci-fi with mystery/thriller elements.

  25. Anonymous said:

    Hallo, Kristin.

    Interesting timing, as you just asked to see the first thirty pages of my novel: a historical fiction/fantasy with a female lead character, written by a John Wayne fan type of guy!

    Thank you so much for your interest.

    John Duncan

  26. leesmiley said:

    Kristin requested the full of a manuscript I sent a couple of years ago and had many good things to say about it when, unfortunately, she rejected it.

    So close, yet so far away.

  27. wonderer said:

    Toby Tremayne – Yes, you need to finish your novel. And edit it. Preferably more than once. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news!

  28. Judy Schneider said:

    I’ve been hosting critiquing workshops and retreats for a dozen years and, you are right, more women enroll in them than men. When men do enroll, I always tell them that the male voice is selling and they need to complete/revise their manuscripts and submit. Very often, their writings have unique voices and are seemingly very marketable. I have found, however, that they often lose patience in the editing stages when it requires patience and persistence to continue with revision upon revision until the manuscript is ready. My repeat enrollees are always women. No man has ever signed up for more than one six-week session in a row.

    Interesting observation! Thanks for bringing it to the surface!

  29. Edwards said:

    Even though you were my top agent, I almost didn’t send in my query as I noticed nearly all of your authors were females. I thought perhaps I had missed something in all the reading on your blog where you mentioned that you only repped women writers…but now I am glad I did anyway! MG/YA fantasy 🙂

  30. Anonymous said:

    Agree with other Anon. So if we changed our “well written query” to a man’s name it would be given priority over a female one?

    Wow. Glad there are oodles of agents out there (also capable of reaching NYTimes) because you’re not one I’d want.

    Your argument lost merit when you suggested that more women attend critique groups. I’ve been in a number of them and that’s not the case in my experience. At all. Not even close. You are making large assumptions about the sexes and that shows a lack of insight on your part.

    A man should not have to conform to Nelson Literary standards and start delivering you cuddly vampire YA books that will make you a quick buck. Maybe you should loosen your preferences and start thinking outside the box about what projects you’ll represent, regardless of sex. You might be surprised what you find.

  31. Laer Carroll said:

    The second Anonymous post agrees with the first. And their literary voices sound very similar. And they are both critical. And dare not even give a fake name.

    Hmmm.

  32. Christi Goddard said:

    I think people are perhaps giving this way too much thought. I think you were trying to encourage more male queries incase some might have seen your lists of sales and assumed your agency was limiting itself, not that your query selection was limited by the lack of male submissions.

    In a way, I am challenged by some stereotypes, as I am a woman and my protag is a young male. I am confident that I wrote him well, regardless of my chromosome factor. Someday I hope to share him with others.

  33. D.A Ravenberg said:

    I have to admit that this post has me a little fired up. I have a great YA novel on my hands about a wheelchair bound boy who can fly. I think I’ll send it in!

  34. Anonymous said:

    This is so bogus. Thankfully, I’m represented but I’m about to make my agent put my husband’s name on my manuscript so it’ll have a better chance since it’s about a boy.

    !!!!!!!!!!!

    Thanks for setting women back centuries!!!!

  35. Douglas Hulick said:

    Interesting. My writer’s group has more men in it currently than women, and we’ve been together for years. Likewise, I know of a couple other groups locally that number men in their ranks in respectable ratios.

    I think that, like any generalization, you are going to find situations that both prove and disprove the assumption. If a writer is serious about their craft, they are eventually going to seek out feedback and criticsm, no matter what their gender. It might be that the kind of genres you represent has more of an impact on who submits to you (and thus get successful “hits”) than any kind of gender preference or avoidance towards critique groups.

  36. Lucy said:

    @ Kyle

    If an agent requests a partial, they’ll let you know at that time what they’d like to see. 25-50 pages, or first three chapters, is normal. Someone else who seems to have gotten a request from Kristin was asked to send 30 pages.

    Mostly, the length of a partial is irrelevant, because by the time you get there, you should have a completed, edited, and highly polished manuscript; and be ready to share part or all of it.

    Whatever you do, don’t query fiction until your manuscript is complete.

    Good luck to you. 🙂

    Lucy

  37. Jille said:

    kgborland 23: I think you’re asking how much of the MS you need completed before querying. the answer is it has to be complete and polished before you should even consider querying. Be patient, I know it’s hard! 🙂

  38. Carolina said:

    I found your blog listed in Writer’s Digest and thought-since I am new to Denver-that I would check it out. Nice blog.
    Black–I haven’t heard that song since I was a teen.

  39. Haste yee back ;-) said:

    I’d like to amend my above post to read “SOME” women working in publishing… it’d be foolish of me to make an all inclusive statement regarding all women working in publishing, because some women working in publishing might understand why a Middle Grade boy would prefer to smell like sweat and grass stains rather than scented soap!

    Haste yee back 😉

  40. Walt M said:

    Kristin,

    I’m late to this post, but hope you won’t mind anothe comment. I’ll definitely go through your submsson guidelies again. I write inspirational historicals. However, I hadn’t sent you a query about my work as I didn’t think you were interested in the inspirational market.

  41. Anonymous said:

    Hi Kristen,

    As a male writer of YA, I sent both yourself and Sara queries awhile back (at separate times), and on both instances was rejected with a form letter.

    I’m not bitter or anything like that (I have learnt to have a thicker skin than that), but at least I tried.

    Thank you for the opportunity to query you, though.

  42. Anonymous said:

    “I can make a book hit the NYT list folks.”

    I don’t know. . .we authors like to believe this might have something to do with the writing.

    We do invest months or years in each book, after all. We do come up with unique works that no one else could have conceived.

    When a book hits the list, does the author or the agent (or Lady Luck) deserve the majority of the credit?

    Probably you didn’t intend to make it sound as if the author was a less important part of the equation, but. . .

    sort of reads that way to me.

  43. Spuds said:

    I’m not sure if my “How To Be a Man” style of writing is what you are looking for; but I do have some finished fiction manuscripts. Just never turned them in to an agent, yet.

    Thanks!

  44. Matthew Rush said:

    I’m a male novice writer who has written a YA novel. I queried Kristin about 9 months ago and got a gentle but form rejection.

    Problem was (being a first time novelist) I queried before the novel was ready and before I knew how to write a query letter – still figuring that part out.

    So now I’m revising the book because it is far too long and have updated/improved the query several times. A few agents have asked for partials but all have said though they like the voice, it is WAY too long.

    Point taken, so I’m working on editing for length. In the meantime (hope it’s okay to link here Kristin) any other novice writers can check out my blog, a clumsy attempt at catharsis by a novice writer and blogger. I’ve posted some of the worst examples of my query blunders so feel free to laugh (or cry) along with me.