Pub Rants

Q&A 2010—Round Two

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STATUS: The pre-Bologna must-finish-all-stuff-before-I-leave-town rush has begun.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MERCY by Duffy

I thought I would have a bit more time to blog tonight so my apologies for not tackling a ton of questions this round.

kimysworld asked:
Compared to the first three months of last year, have you received more or less query letters in the first three months of 2010? What are the most common genres? What do you rarely see?

Yes, our query inbox has definitely grown from last year. This time in 2009, we were probably seeing 80 to 100 queries a day. Now it’s more like 100-150. I have no explanation for it. Perhaps we are on more people’s radar?

Most common genres? Young adult, romance, women’s fiction.

What I would like to see more of? Well written query letters. Grin. You knew I was going to say that. I’d say that easily 50% of stuff we get is for nonfiction or something else we don’t represent.

I’d love to see more queries for literary fiction with a commercial bent, middle grade, and more sf&f. I’d like to build in these areas (and yes we are still beefing our list in the above stuff as well.)

Anonymous asked:
If a writer has gained success in one genre (over twenty novels that have made money, helped build a large fan base, and five contracts for five more books) and he/she wants to switch genres after the contractual obligations have been met because he/she always wanted to write mainstream, is this writer starting from scratch again? But more than that, would this writer be taking a huge chance by walking away from a good thing and trying to pursue another?

I’m a little leery about answering this question. There are so many factors that need to be taken into consideration. Also, this is a conversation you really should be having with your current agent. Now having said that, I will try and answer—although my gut tells me that you already know the answers to your questions and perhaps you are simply looking for encouragement or validation as you walk this new path.

Of course the author would be taking a chance by walking away and starting something else. You already know that is the answer. My question is this: does it have to be one or the other? As in do you have to walk away or can you scale back the number of books in that genre in order to give yourself time to work on something mainstream?

Are you no longer passionate about the genre you are established in? If that is the case, then it may not be worth pursuing more books because your heart isn’t in it. What is your financial picture and can you afford to take a risk? Will fans of your current established genre be open to a move in a new direction? Can you live with that fact if the fans aren’t willing to follow you?

If you want to be safe, I’d keep a foot in your current genre and then test the waters with a new work that is more mainstream. If your heart isn’t in staying in the old genre than you just have to jump in and try it.

There are many stories where this has been successful for the author and I can probably highlight as many stories of where it hasn’t.

Anonymous asked:
How much of your time do you spend reading query letters versus time spent blogging? I’m just wondering because there are several agents who blog every day and I often wonder where they find the time.

I actually don’t spend a lot of time reading queries. First off, we’ve hired a wonderful assistant named Anita. Her job is to read all queries that come in as we can get up to 150 a day. She sets aside the ones that Sara and I need to review. Given that, I try and check my query email inbox once a week. It usually takes me 15 minutes to read the queries there and decide if I want to ask for sample pages or not.

As for blogging, I give myself 20 to 30 minutes a day to write my one entry. That’s it.

Constance asked:
How do you know if or when to resend something to an agent? Are you only supposed to resend a query when they ask you, or can you even when they don’t, if you’ve made extensive revisions?
Constance, I think if you extensively rework a query letter so it’s basically new, I’d resend it. My suggestion? Change the title to something new. Sometimes titles stand out and it will sound familiar. In terms of time span, if you submitted queries and have received mainly rejection responses, I’d revise significantly, wait about 3 weeks, then resend. What can an agent do? Track you down and chastise you for resubmitting? Grin. Be bold. Now if you are rejected numerous times by same agent. Move on. Lots of other agent fishes in the sea.

Alli asked:
Oh, boy, I should triple check before I press send. Here’s the real question:
Would you consider SOMEONE published if they have worked as a writer for a book packager?
Yes. Especially if the book packager is a well-known company with a strong record.

12 Responses

  1. WhisperingWriter said:

    Thank you for this.

    I sent a query to your agency awhile back and got a form rejection. I’ve gotten several of them from other agencies so I think I’ll be taking your advice and re-writting my query.

  2. Anonymous said:

    Thanks for answering the question on resubmitting. It worked for me, though I felt a bit guilty about doing it. I queried an agent twice(not Kristin or Sara), with no response. Months later, after more revision and change of title, I queried again and got a fairly quick request for a full. So I reiterate what Kristin says, ‘Be bold!’

  3. Rachelle S. said:

    Thanks, Kristin, for these answers! You mention that you are interested in seeing “literary fiction with a commercial bent.” Is the industry starting to use a more concise term for these kinds of books? I’ve heard one agent refer to the genre as “bookclub fiction.”

  4. Anonymous said:

    Why oh why do people seem to think that an agent’s job is reading queries? “Don’t blog, read queries!” Sheesh. My agent doesn’t read queries. She is completely closed to submissions and only takes clients by referral. And yet, she is an agent nonetheless.

    It’s great that other agents DO read queries, don’t get me wrong. But as soon as these agents are YOUR agent, you’ll be glad they have an assistant reading their slush and can devote their office time to taking care of YOU, their client.

  5. Anonymous said:

    “There are many stories where this has been successful for the author and I can probably highlight as many stories of where it hasn’t.”

    Thanks for taking the time to answer this for me. It helps a great deal.

  6. Sara Lou said:

    When you send manuscripts, agents ask you to enclose a SASE. Problem. For us international applicants, we cannot get American stamps. The post office won’t sell American stamps, and the UPS won’t send American stamps internationally. What are we suppose to do? I got these international voucher thingies and I highly doubt an agent is going to walk on down to the post office to get some stamps for my envelope. How would you respond if you had requested an individual’s manuscript and they sent you vouchers?

  7. Breanna Angus said:

    Here’s a question that’s been on my mind. I have chosen a pen name for my books because I want to keep my art/film stuff slightly separate from my novels (though fans can enjoy both if they wish) but I don’t know how to present that in a query letter. Do I say my real name and then just mention my author name as well in the same sentence (at the beginning)? Thanks.