Pub Rants

Q&A—Round 4

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STATUS: Boy this flu is just hanging on. I’m counting 15 or 16 days and it’s still not completely gone.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU CAN LEAVE YOUR HAT ON by Joe Cocker

Pre-Bologna, I had not finished up our last round of questions and answers. I didn’t forget! I just haven’t had enough time to tackle them in a while. But I did save the questions and so I plan to dive right back in.

Anonymous Asked:
1) Who do you decide “gets” a project if you and Sara both want it? If someone queried “Kristin” or “Sara” and got back a partial request “from Kristin and Sara” does that mean you’ll both consider it and whoever likes it best might take it on? Or does that mean only the one it’s addressed to will consider it?
This is a good question. If the original query is addressed to Sara, then she has first dibs on it. If the query is addressed to me, then I do. We both, however, tend to read the submissions where a full is requested. Just so we can talk about the project and why one or the other might like it or want to offer representation. Sometimes, I like a project and it’s not Sara’s cup of tea and vice versa. That way if we both read the fulls requested (regardless of who asked for it), we know we won’t miss out on something that might come down to a difference in taste.

2) You are known for sending out a book until it sells, whereas some agents only send to ten or twelve and they are done. But do you have a list of favorite editors who you contact first no matter what?
Agents certainly have a list of their favorite editors. These are the people we connect with the most. We know our tastes line up etc. However, each submission is different. As an agent, we want the right editor to have it—not just a favorite editor so the answer is no, there isn’t a list of editors who get a submission no matter what.

Anonymous asked:
You seem to have a lot going on in the YA market. But as a romance writer, I wondered how many romance writers did you sign last year? And are you looking for more?

Hum…I’d say with 6 RITA nominations the week before last, we’ve got a lot going on in the romance world as well. Grin. Are we looking for more? Of course! There is always room for a good author. However, in general, I don’t sign a lot of clients in any given year. I’m very selective on who and what I take on. Last year I signed only one romance author. To put that in context, I only signed 2 authors total last year.

Katrina asked:
What are your biggest pet peeves for queries, and do you have a list of things you saw in past queries that rocked your socks off?
For queries, my only criteria be that it is well written and fit in the types of projects we currently represent. Otherwise, I don’t have any specific pet peeves. Peeves come from poorly written queries. For those, we just send the auto-rejection and move on. For queries that knocked our socks off? The writer had nailed the pitch paragraph. If you don’t know what I mean by that, check out my blog pitch workshop right here on the right sidebar of my blog.

Mechelle Fogelsong asked:
Nathan Bransford recently asked us which author’s career we’d like to mimic. I chose Jane Yolen, because her career has longevity. So my question is simple: what’s the key to becoming an author with longevity? To stay afloat for the long-haul?

The key to longevity is creating an excellent sales track record and continuing to write books that feel timely, fresh, and appeal to your established audience as well as to new fans.

Right. So much easier said than done. That’s why there is no answer to this question about what creates author longevity. It’s so many factors that come together and work. And those specific factors may differ depending on the author. In other words, what works for one career might not work for another.

Eika asked:
Going for the long shot here, but I haven’t started querying yet and I’m still feeling optimistic. What is the exact etiquette if you’re offered representation and someone else has the full? To the agent on the phone with, what do you say? And to the person with the full, do you phone them? E-mail?
The etiquette: If an agent calls and offers representation, you go through all the normal questions you should be asking an agent who has offered rep. Then you express your enthusiasm for the offer but since it’s a big decision, you want to give all agents with fulls time to respond. Set a timeline for one you will get back to the offering agent. That time frame can be one week, five full business days, over the weekend (whatever feels appropriate). Then inform all other agents with the full. I’d send an email first. If you don’t get a confirm after one day regarding your update, then I’d call to make sure the message was received. After that, I think you’ve done all the due diligence you need to.

Then stick to the timeline you had requested. And of course, if the first agent who has offered is your top candidate, there might not be any reason to go through the above. Of course if you do accept representation, then immediately inform all others with the full so they don’t waste time reading a manuscript that is no longer available. Hope this helps!

10 Responses

  1. Kristin Laughtin said:

    Random note: I must admit this post made my eyes boggle a few times, because you and Sara have the same names and spellings as me and my sister, and it was just odd to see. Also, how lucky would any writer be to be wanted by the both of you!

    Thanks for the advice on what to do if multiple agents have fulls and you get an offer of representation. Again, we should all be so fortunate…but better to be prepared just in case!

  2. Carrie Axtell said:

    Hi Ms. Nelson,

    In the spirit of questions…I have been using your blog as a source for an English 102 paper, but I was hoping you might also answer a couple of specific questions. I am writing about the Apple agency model and am supporting the argument that the Apple agency model is a better option than the current e-book retail structure. (My paper does not reveal the conclusion of the Amazon/Macmillan face-off until the end, so I refer to the Apple model only as a theoretical option and not as something that is already in use.) Yes or no answers to all of the questions are fine, but it would help me the most if you added a sentence to explain your view. I have a week (until the 20th) before I would need your response.

    Do you feel that the Apple agency model sets prices that are realistic and fair (a sufficient compromise between publishers and customers)?

    Do you believe that the Apple agency model is a better option than a relatively unregulated e-book retail structure in which Amazon has a clear advantage?

    (Also, if you have time to answer my questions, could you please email the answers to me at ? This helps me with the citation part.) Thank you very much for your time!

  3. Simon Hay Soul Healer said:

    I was surprised that you only signed 2 authors last year. Is that because you don’t want to take on too many authors, or because of the quality of queries?

    Thanks for all the information. Cheers, Simon.

  4. Erin Edwards said:

    There is an interesting contrast here.

    Of course all authors about to start submitting dream of getting more than one offer. And authors have pretty good imaginations, so we’re all good at dreaming. 🙂

    But oh, the harsh reality of an agent only signing two clients in a year!

    Now, back to dreaming and working hard to make those dreams come true.

  5. Anonymous said:

    Thanks for answering my question — I was the Anons at the beginning.

    It’s a moot point now, however, my YA partial was passed on by Sara, so if you both only read fulls I’m outta luck, I guess.

    Thanks anyway. 🙂

  6. Mechelle Fogelsong said:

    Ms. Nelson,

    Thank you very much for answering my question.

    It’s obvious why one of my BETA readers and fellow authors considers you one of the “rock star” literary agents. This Q&A has been utterly cool and terribly helpful.

    Mechelle Fogelsong

  7. Laura said:

    “You are known for sending out a book until it sells, whereas some agents only send to ten or twelve and they are done.”

    I worked with four literary agents before finally deciding it was a business model that didn’t work for me. (I’ve been making my full-time living as a novelist for 22 years.) One of the reasons it didn’t work was that they typically gave up on a project after ONE-TO-FOUR submissions.

    About 45% of my book sales were projects I never showed to an agent. About 10% of my book sales were projects an agent handled and sold. And about 45% of my book sales have been projects that agents either refused to send out at all, or sent out for 1-4 submissions and then declared unsaleable.

    And talking with many other professional writers about their agents for years, that low threshhold for quitting on a project is surprisingly common among agents.

    Certainly I’ve never had an agent who’d stick with a project for 10-12 submissions, let alone just stick with it until it sells. A number of my projects have only sold because -I- stick with them until they sell; no agent ever did. (And, to be frank, I also then found it very expensive to be required to pay 15% of the money to someone who, er, had declined to send out the book.) My agent sales were all made strictly by an agent selling a book to the first place the agent sent it; in most of those cases, to a house where I was already under contract and the submission was an option proposal.

    Bravo to Kristin if she sends out projects until they sell! That’s often exactly what it takes -to- sell a writer’s work–finding the one editor who loves it and who’s in a position to make an offer on it. And it’s astounding how many agents WON’T do that–and who, indeed, won’t send out a project at all (a project which the writer often then sells on her own, if she sends it out herelf) or who quit a project and declare it unsaleable after 1-4 rejections. After all, one of the reasons I had to stop working with literary agents was that I can’t keep making a living at this if my work is submitted, or if submission stops abortively after a tiny handful of rejections.

    Laura Resnick

  8. Anonymous said:

    I have a question that I hope you might help me answer. I consider myself extremely lucky to have my literary agent, because as a first-time author with an above-average length (135,000 words) fantasy novel, I doubt that many other agents would be interested in taking me on.

    However, there are some problems. My agent usually does not answer my emails, and when she does, it takes a few weeks. Also, she recently asked me to write a pitch letter for my book for her to give to prospective publishers – something I’d always thought the agent does herself. (Correct me if I’m wrong about this – obviously I’m no expert, so I can’t be sure.)

    Lastly, and perhaps worst of all, I don’t believe she has actually read more than the first three chapters of my novel, though she has had my full manuscript for about five months now. I don’t know for sure, but I’m a bit embarrassed to actually ask. (How could I phrase such a question without sounding as though I’m accusing her of something – for example, being a bad agent?)

    So my question is this: would you suggest that I stay with my agent? On the one hand, I feel that she is not interested enough in my work – or in the industry itself – to really be able to sell it. On the other, I fear not being able to find someone else to represent me.

  9. Therese said:

    Don’t know if you’re still taking questions! But here’s mine. Suppose you have an client and can’t manage to sell her manuscript to one of the big publishers. Would you then consider submitting that manuscript to smaller and indie publishers? Or would that be too little money to be worth the effort?

    (I feel like someone somewhere on one of the publishing industry blogs I read must have answered that question already, but I can’t find it and am curious, since Pimp My Novel recently had an interesting post about the “Middle Way” of going with an indie publisher instead of self-publishing.)