I’ll gear this review to 2 types of people: current Zune owners who are considering an upgrade, and people trying to decide between a Zune and an iPod. (There are other players worth considering out there, like the Sony Walkman X, but I hope this gives you enough info to make an informed decision of the Zune vs players other than the iPod line as well.)
An interesting discussion is worth comment. I think that you should write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people are not enough to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers
>Timothy, you're right. And I realized (OK, my husband pointed out) after I asked my question that I failed to make that distinction in what I said. I'm glad Poetry Guy writes his poetry; I think it's good for him, has helped him process stuff and all, and actually when he reads it aloud his sincerity comes through so much that you kind of don't mind the writing. It's the hope of living off it (when you really can't live off ANY poetry) that worries me in his case.
And to extend that further: come to think of it, the person at her computer when she could be feeding the ducks, well, it depends whether it's life-giving for her in itself or is all hard slogging toward the goal she thinks will make her happy. Maybe she should keep writing. Maybe she should keep writing *but* learn to think of it as a hobby.
"Try quitting" is good advice, and the guest blogger post was great.
I also appreciate your saying, and think it should be said more often, that there's no shame in changing course. It also should be said more often that writers (or published writers) are not more special than other people.
PS Tim–"How to Become a Bible Character" is one of the most intriguing novel titles I've seen! Maybe I'll pick it up.
>Concerning Heather M’s question about quitting, my thought it this: We all need a hobby. I have a few. I play the piano and though I may daydream of being concert pianist, I know I never will be. I am a stained glass artist and have a window hanging in a Fort Worth church building. I’ve daydreamed of doing that fulltime, but I know it’s unrealistic to think I can make more doing that than the day job. I write books. And they’re good books or so my readers seem to think. I make money at it, but I not enough to support my lifestyle. I could quit tomorrow, if I really wanted to. For me, it isn’t a question of whether I could quit, but whether I should quit. For me, it is an escape from the stress of the day job. It gives me something to do in my free time. That’s what hobbies are for. But it also opens the door to allow me into this community of writers and agents and publishers. It gives me an excuse to blog about plot problems. I know a lot of people think writers should look at this as a business. And maybe agents would be happier if some of us would stop sending them stuff. But I look at a guy who writes terrible poetry and reads it to his writers’ group—maybe he knows he’s terrible or maybe not—and I see a guy who gets out of the house, gets to spend some time with his friends and gets to do something he enjoys. That’s worth a lot. And if someday he improves and starts making money, so much the better.
>Heather M: It's not my place to tell someone to give up on their dreams. My feeling is that if you can quit, you should. Do something else that's more rewarding and holds more promise for fulfillment.
But most writers can't quit. They may never make a lot of money through publishing their books, but they'll keep writing anyway.
I had a guest blogger who said it best: Try Quitting.
There is no shame in deciding to stop pursuing a certain path, changing direction, and pursuing a different one. But each person has to make that determination on their own.
>Thanks for offering this, Rachelle–I had a question I wished I could ask you!
It's sort of a weird fine-line question…
What are your thoughts on quitting?
I go out there in the blogosphere and everyone's saying keep writing, don't give up your dreams, etc, it's traditional of course and for some people it really hits the spot. But I think about the fact that the people who are writing the really awful stuff that overflows the slushpile are reading that advice too, and the fact that they're going to spend hours in front of the computer today, hours they could have spent getting joy out of feeding the ducks in the park or tutoring their neighbor's kid… There's a guy in my small-town writer's group who writes the worst Christian poetry you ever saw, in quatrains with rhyme but no meter, with references stuck in, and he's so sweet and sincere and his dream is to quit the job he hates and live on his poetry, and I just don't know what to say to him…
It seems like fewer and fewer people read, while more and more people want to Be A Writer. And while it's mean to tell anyone to give up their dreams, for a lot of people holding on to those dreams simply means years of continual hope and failure. (But then, maybe the guy in my writer's group *needs* his dreams. I don't know.)
You seem like a smart, sensitive, no-nonsense person; I wonder if you could offer some measured advice on when to keep writing and when to put away the manuscript and find some other way to take control of your destiny.
(This is actually not a personal question. I just got my first novel accepted; and at the same time I started feeling twinges for the people who'll slog for years and never make it this far, especially since from here it's real clear this is NOT the finish line. So I'm just… thinking about the issue. I was actually hoping you might write a post on it, if it interests you enough.)
>Thank you for the link, Rachelle! I think you posted that a couple months before I started checking your blog regularly. I've added it to my favorite posts on my own blog–for me and others to learn from! 🙂
>Rachelle,Thank you for your advice. I think I want to acquire an agent before submitting to either publisher. A person that is well known in this industry recently contacted me with an option to pay $$ to him and they would market, publish etc. They claimed to NOT be a subsidy publisher, but I want to be published the traditional way. I think my interests are best served if I have an agent. I will be sending you a query soon and will abide by the guidelines on your site. My book is a Inspirational Romance with a touch of history. Circa 1888….Talk to you soon. Tina
>Bubble's not busted, I was just curious and kind of teasing but…I think writers aren't so nice as agents then. We hope for agents to get us great deals and go to bat for us, but I'm aware that there are writers who agent-bash.It's an interesting thing. I guess because a writer only has one agent, but an agent has many clients, so writers tend to think about their agent more? To study stuff, etc? Not sure.Thanks for the link. 🙂
>I've been reading a lot of pulp lately, in the form of fifty-to-eighty-year-old paperbacks from yard sales, and I'm struck by how short they were allowed to be. (I even have several collections of two to four novellas.) Do you think the current novel length "requirements" are due to production costs, public demand, or something else?
>Thanks for the answer, Rachelle, I appreciate that you are taking the time to answer all of our questions!
I'd mark those constant queries as spam, too.
I also appreciate your consistent advice to me that I stop worrying about things like this.
I'm not sure I agree with the irrelevant part, but I am considering giving it a rest for awhile. Maybe it's just better to work toward building something new.
>hidenmighty: Okay, I see what you're saying, you're not going to have the help of an editor or agent. No, I don't have a book to recommend on that, I've never needed to refer to a book. First, please see my post in the comments on March 12 at 4:09 pm, my answer to Homemaker MD. I gave some specific advice, which applies to you. You can mention trademarked products, names of real towns & cities, or names of people who are public figures, as long as you don't damage their reputation through the way you portray them.
You open yourself up to a lawsuit if someone can claim that you've damaged their reputation or their livelihood through what you wrote. If you've written something that someone has good reason to object to, then I guess you're not being paranoid and you have reason to worry. In that case, I'd recommend you think carefully about what you're doing and why. But if you're writing a story that doesn't portray anyone in a negative light, don't worry about it.
If you want to read up on this, I'm sure you could find a good book on Amazon or in your local library with about two minutes' effort. But be aware that once you start getting into it, it becomes very, very complicated. I took law classes back in my college days that spent entire semesters on nothing but mass media law and things like libel and defamation. I doubt you need to get that complicated. Avoid hurting people through your words and you won't have much to worry about.
This is a big issue for people writing memoirs. You DO have to be careful what you say, and get people's written permission to appear in your book, or open yourself up to a lawsuit. But remember, there's nothing wrong with simply using a name or a town or a product. The question is whether you're doing damage by using it.
However, I am not an attorney and I cannot give you legal advice.
>"hidenmighty 6:16 am: Paranoid much? Seriously. How do you get any writing done with all this worry? If you're writing a memoir and talking about lots of other real people in your life, you'll need to be careful to avoid defamation and/or get permission to include them in your book. Other than that, chill out. Avoid libel and defamation (look up those words) and then just write your story. An agent and later an editor will surely raise a question if something seems wrong. In the editing stage with your publisher, if you have a particular concern, that's the time to bring it up. I have to be honest, whenever I see writers worrying unnecessarily about such details, I assume they're trying to think about everything except actually sitting down to write that book."
I have written my novella, but from what I read, it is hard to find someone to publish novellas for unpublished fiction authors. Your advice makes sense for someone who is indeed procrastinating or is looking to follow the traditional publishing route. I plan to self-publish my novella, and I wish to avoid legal issues. I have been around too many sue-happy individuals in my short life. Can you please recommend a book on trademark issues?
>You're right, those are the options I would expect. I guess the real question is how upset would you be with a client who refused to accept a contract from a publisher with lower standards as a matter of principle?
>I just published my first book, but did it w/o an agent. Should I consider getting an agent for my second book?
>Nice fill someone in on and this enter helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you as your information.
>Mira 1:23 am: Do agents blacklist? Well, blacklist might be too strong of a word, but some writers get themselves tagged as spam when they repeatedly send the same query despite being asked to stop, or if they are sending offensive material to our inboxes, or threatening us in any way. I recently had a guy send me the exact same (terrible) query six times in three weeks. First I passed. The second time, I asked him to remove me from his mailing list. The third time, I responded that if I received the same query again I would tag his email address as spam. The fourth time I did tag him as spam but didn't respond. I've seen the query in my spam box a couple times since then. Obviously my point is that you need to stop worrying about side issues like this that are completely irrelevant to you.
Kate 6:05 am: I'm sure you can find these stats somewhere, but since I don't rep children's, I have no idea.
Timothy 6:55 am: You've identified something very true, which is the fact that some publishers have high standards of editorial excellence and production values, while other publishers have much lower standards. But to answer your question, I think you're well aware of your options. For each offer from a publisher, you have the option to say yes or no. If you don't trust the publisher, you're free to turn down their offer. Could a good agent negotiate some kind of quality-control into the contract? Possibly, but at that point, it might be the publisher walking away from their offer. Bottom line, the choice is always either accept an offer or reject it. What else could there be?
>Patriciazell 7:06 pm: 500 to 600 blog hits a week is pretty good, especially if you're a fiction writer. But for a non-fiction author, be aware that there are many blogs getting 50,000 to over a million visits a month. Is that the expectation for your blog? No, but you need to be aware that these are the kinds of numbers we sometimes see. Bottom line for a fiction author, just keep doing the best you can. It's terrific to show agents and editors that you have a start on gathering an audience.
Rachel 8:29 pm: Already answered in one of my previous comments.
Liberty Speidel 8:33 pm: Do I like to see the existence of a theme in the query letter? Maybe one sentence, tops. Every novel has a theme. The query needs to pitch the story in such an effective way that anyone reading it would be able to surmise the theme. I wrote a whole post about it HERE. Pitch the story, not the theme.
Tina Roberts 8:43 pm: Whether or not to seek an agent is a personal choice. There aren't any rules. You need to decide whether you want an agent or not. If it really doesn't matter to you how you get your book deal and you don't care whether you have an agent at this point, then just submit to the publishers (and you can continue looking for an agent if you like). However, if you already know you want an agent to partner with through this journey, then there's no harm in giving the agent search a little more time before going ahead and submitting to publishers on your own.
T. Anne 9:50 pm: Yes, I work with my clients on all levels of their writing career, including brainstorming future books and plotting their course longterm.
Heather Marsten 10:41 pm It's always a good thing to have your work out there, being read by the widest possible audience.
Mechelle Fogelsong 11:31 pm: The number of agents in any genre is usually proportionate to what the industry can support. If there were a need for more agents repping children's, then there would be more agents. It's just smaller part of the industry, there's not a lot of money in it, and it's much tougher to break in a new author. Part of the problem is half the people who have ever been a parent think they can write a children's book, and they do, and they submit it, and the odds of it being saleable are very low. Much lower than in YA and adult publishing. It's just a tougher business.
Jessica Nelson: I'm sorry to burst your bubble but when agents get together to chat, we really don't waste much time complaining about our clients. Why would we talk negatively about the folks on whom we rely to make our living? I've posted before on things like How to be a dream client. But whenever I've posted about the annoying things, I get into so much trouble it's not worth it. Generally, my clients are not the least bit annoying, but there are things about the query process and the massive slush piles that are annoying.
>Okay, so I pay attention to publishers, perhaps a little more than I should. Having designed a number of books, I realize how easy it is to make a mistake, but I also notice things like page numbering, margin widths and other things. I've noticed that Thomas Nelson, for example, always seems to follow The Chicago Manual of Style when they number their pages (with the exception of WestBow Press). But some of the other publishers don't have their attention for detail. There are some other publishers, one that seem to make a habit of shody work. Some of their authors are popular, but you'll find chapter one beginning on page 11 or 17 or whatever number happens to come up after the front matter. I suppose we could overlook that, but I've also found missing chapter headings and other problems.
Suppose I am your client and you tell me that you have a publisher interested in one of my books, but it is one of these publishers that I'm not particularly impressed with because of shody work, page numbering or poor cover designs. What are my options in that situation?
>Good morning! What age-range of books is growing in published titles at the fastest rate right now? Picture Books, grades 3-5, grades 5-8, grades 6-9, highschool, emerging adult level??Do agents track these sales stats?
>This was fun to read through. Then I hit a bump.
You said to David Jarrett:
"I won't get mad, or hurt, or blacklist your name, or think less of you"
Do agents blacklist? How does this work? Have you ever blacklisted?
This is something I've wondered about alot – because the threat hangs in the air. I appreciate your honesty – and your willingness to let me discuss things honestly on your blog.
>I'm coming to the NCWriters Conference in March and can't wait to meet you.
>Thank you so much for all of your answers, to my question as well as others. You are a gem to writers!
>Wow, tons of questions. I'm really late to the party but I have a question. I love reading agent posts on the agent/client relationship (really liked your recent one too) because that part of things seems different.
I'd love to know what really annoys agents about clients. lol Like when agents get together, is there something that most clients tend to do that's super annoying and agents like to gripe about it together?
As you can see, I'm trying to prime myself to be a less-annoying client to a someday agent. *unabashed grin*
>I thought of another question.
I've read (both on your blog and elsewhere, I believe) that it is good for non-fiction writers to start blogs. Is the same true for fiction writers?
>You say you want something that surprises you in the first couple of paragraphs–fair enough–but what are some examples?
>Sorry, Rachelle- my inexperience is obvious. I am learning a lot from your blog.
>Why are there so few agents representing children's books?
What question should people be asking you about writing that they haven't asked yet? What is the answer to that question?
I am within two chapters of finishing my rough draft of a nonfiction book on lessons we can learn from Nehemiah to help us rebuild our walls in these end times. I am not a published author, so figure I need to finish the book first before sending out a query letter.
I have a blog that has had over 72,000 hits. It is a place where I put Bible study notes from my pastor's classes and some of my own Bible studies. One of my blog readers offered me a chance to put some chapters of my book on her E-zine, which has a readership of 200,000 hits. Would having a chapter published on an E-zine be seen as positive or negative by an agent?
Thanks for your time in answering these questions.Heather
>Thanks, Rachelle–that's good news since my mystery combines both of those genres. If you're interested, I may contact you soon. Have a great weekend!
>Loved the webinar! Thank you for all the hard work you put into it. I enjoyed listening while relaxing with a nice cup of coffee. =)
Rachelle, Once you take on a client do you help them in brainstorming future novels? (just wanted a peek at the guidance you offer.)
Thanx. I'm enjoying all the comments.
>Rachelle,I am so afraid that you won't actually get to read this post. I see so many more before me. I have a manuscript that fits the genre and guidelines that Harlequin/Steeple Hill require. I am doing rewrites. I have another publisher that wants to see asap. They saw my synopsis etc. I am looking for an agent and I need to know, should I continue to look or just submit to both houses? I think that I should submit to each on at different times. I hope to get with a publisher that will work with me, I have an extensive platform in place. Thanks Tina
>Wow, thanks for this opportunity to get questions answered, Rachelle! Love, love, love your blog, and hope to submit to you one of these days, and a few of your comments earlier in today made me reconsider possibly sending you my novel–I thought maybe it was too secular, though seeing how you handled previous questions, perhaps not. My MC's have definite Christian values/worldviews, even though they're not perfect and my book's not overly "preachy". 🙂
My question is this: Do you like to see the existence of a theme in the query letter? For instance, with my book being a mystery, it was difficult for me to put my finger on what my theme was for the book until a few weeks ago, but since I've discovered it, I'm not sure if it's something an agent wants to know in the query on top of the plot, even though it's intrinsic to the development of the characters.
You have a wonderful blog here. I check in almost every day and always learn something new! Thank you for the information and feedback you give us lowly writers. 🙂
>What differentiates YA fiction from adult fiction? Is it all in the age of the protagonist/main characters?
My completed novel has a sixteen-year-old protagonist. However, she deals with heavy stuff and is in a time period and situation which calls her and others around here not to behave like, well, teenagers.
I know that you don't accept YA fiction, that's why I ask. I'm having a bit of a difficulty figuring out where it fits. I've had both teen and adult readers who have liked it.
>Loved reading the questions/answers today!! I didn't have a question to add, but enjoyed learning from everyone else's.
>Thanks for your response, Rachelle!
>My question is a little different, and I'm really curious about this. What are publishers looking for as far as blog visits are concerned? I post once a week and average between 500-600 visits every week. Is that good? I know I need to increase the traffic, but is this a good place to be in after 8 months?
>Oh! I read the updated version of the query letter post. I feel so hopeful now. Thank you!
>To my international readers: Many U.S. literary agents take on clients from other countries; some do not. The paperwork between countries, when it comes to money and taxes especially, can be a huge headache and some agents prefer not to deal with it because there are plenty of U.S.-based writers they can work with. But I believe most agents look at all submissions with the same criteria: Do I like this book? Can I sell it?
>Amanda G Stevens: Thanks for pointing that out. I have just changed that post so that it's more clear.
>Katrina 1:27 pm: I don't know. I doubt there's a book because genres are always evolving. Maybe you could find it addressed on a blog or website if you Google it.
Richard 1:38 pm: As far as I can tell, the existence of American Idol itself portends the immiment end of the world, so we'll just keep on TiVoing and enjoy it while we can.
Anon 2:06 pm: If an agent requested your full in the first place, it means they saw something worthwhile in your writing to begin with. So it should not surprise you that agents are agreeing to read a revised version. Remember, they typically request fulls on 1 to 3% of queries, so if they requested yours, there's something there.
nightwriter 2:07 pm: I think historicals and romantic suspense are doing very well. Straight mysteries are not so hot, but they work better if combined with romance and/or historical. However, I'm not the last word on mysteries.
cody tull 2:17 pm: This is much ado about nothing. You should just always assume that all agents are friends with one another, hang out together, have drinks together, and talk business with one another. The fact that you have evidence of this just means it's more out in the open. But make no mistake, this is the norm. You are not the first writer whose MS has sat in both friends' inboxes at once, and you won't be the last.
The Preyers 2:22 pm: That depends. Is it urban fantasy or paranormal romance? See, I can't answer the question. You know your story, I don't. Sit down with your critique partners and make a decision. Don't be surprised if later, when working witn an agent or editor, they advise you to change it. These genre distinctions can be fluid and changing. You just have to decide on one.
Tamika 2:52 pm: I don't know. I doubt I'll ever put a number on it.
Homemaker MD 3:03 pm: (1) If you read a lot of novels, it's pretty obvious that many novels set their entirely fictional stories and fictional characters in REAL places. You are looking for a criteria that doesn't exist, but use common sense. Don't be defamatory towards a city or a business. Don't do damage to someone's home or livelihood through your words. For example, you may not want to portray the Hooters restaurant as a front for a national chain of brothels. They might object to that. Common sense, right? (2) Never use POVs of minor characters simply as a device to convey information. It usually comes off as a cheap shortcut. Your POV characters should be the ones with whom you want your reader to engage. The characters through whose eyes we see and experience the story. Don't cheapen your story by adding POVs of minor characters for your convenience.
>Rachelle, about your response to Katharine 2:00 pm–In your (immensely helpful) blog post about "How to Write a Query Letter," you suggested that fiction queries include, "What have you done to ensure that your manuscript is publishable quality?" I thought this meant that we should mention things we've worked through such as Donald Maass's workbook, or at least the number of drafts the ms has been through to date. What does it actually mean? (Thanks again for answering!!)
>As an Australian writer I have found that our country not only has very few literary agents, but has even fewer who accept submissions in my chosen genre (only two!). Therefore my agent 'wish list' is looking very short. My next step would be to seek out agents in the US or UK, but I was wondering what your opinion is regarding queries sent from international authors? Are agents less inclined to pick up authors from overseas? Similarly, is it harder to pitch novels to publishers if the author is from another country? And what things will the author need to consider if he/she is represented by an agent from overseas? I hope I haven't bombarded you with too many questions!
Hi! love your blog. I am a Nigerian ( aspiring writer) that is on my second book. My books have mainly african characters ( think Half of a Yellow Sun, Things fall apart), but are Christian, with a view to glorify God with my stories….Is this something you'd look at?
>Kara 2:00 pm: There are dozens or hundreds of blogs, written by agents, editors, and writers, about how to prepare for a writers conference. Start with this post. Then refer to the photo at the top of this post. (Okay, I'm just kidding! It's not a dumb question! But yes, Google it.)
Katharine 2:00 pm: Your description isn't really a genre but it's fine as a way of describing your book. I think its unnecessary to mention Donald Maass in your query. You have the right instinct – your writing should simply demonstrate your skill. (I'm laughing imagining an Olympic gymnast standing up and explaining exactly how many hours she trained, with whom, and what techniques she used, before hopping on to the balance beam.)
>Carol Benedict 8:29 am: To determine if a writing workshop is worthwhile, try to find out the teacher's background and credentials, and try to talk to others who've taken their class. That's about all I can recommend.
Anon 8:48 am: I said above that I am not easily offended, but I have to admit, I'm sort of offended you would ask me if I only like novels in which all characters attend church. Wow. If that were the case, I would think I'd have to turn in my agent card. And I'd have no credibility whatsoever as someone who knows good fiction. Scary.
Stephanie 12:42 pm: Hot fudge with a tiny bit of caramel. No nuts, no cherry, but real whipped cream. And of course, "share."
Ron Vanderwell 12:43 pm: I believe all books are 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Get your behind in the chair and get to work. Use wisdom to determine which one to work on first. In what area is your platform the strongest? Which book has the best potential in today's market?
Anon 12:53 pm: I sign less than 10% of the writers whose full manuscripts I request.
Darby 1:08 pm: Using a freelance editor to help polish your manuscript is a good idea ONLY if you use it as a learning experience and do most of the work yourself. Have an editor make observations about your first few chapters, then rework the entire manuscript yourself according to what you learned. It's wasted money if you're just counting on someone to fix it for you.
Catherine M. 1:08 pm: Your backstory question is too involved for this blog. There are entire books that cover how to do this. You need to get yourself a good library of fiction crafting books and study it. See one of my previous comments in which I linked to one of my posts that has lots of good writing books in it.
>Rachelle, thank you so much for answering all these questions!! I've worried that my lack of bio will kill any chance of an agent reading my ms, but I will take your expert advice and stop obsessing over what I'm not. 🙂
>Aimee Laine 7:46 am: All of the questions on LOST will most definitely not be answered by the end of the final episode. I am 100% sure of that. What fun would that be anyway?
Anon 8:01 am: Regarding Christian worldview, I'm going to have to blog about this soon because I get a lot of questions about it. But let's put it this way: Very little offends me except what would offend the average American adult. Read my previous comments from today. You'll see that I read widely across fiction, and much of my purely pleasure reading is outside of CBA fiction. And "irreverent ideas"? I'm sure I have them at least eight times a day. An example of something that would be clearly outside a Christian worldview would be a book whose ultimate theme is that there is no God and that hedonism is the ultimate answer to fulfillment in life.
David Jarrett: I'm pretty sure all Christians behave in distinctly un-Christian ways sometimes, and many can also curse and be violent. Also unless I'm mistaken, many Christians have sex and not always with the benefit of marriage. I can't say I'd object to a book purely for any of those elements. It's all about the story and the writing. Does your book conclude that violence and wanton sex with multiple partners is the best way to live life? If so, I might not enjoy it. However, like I said above, I won't be offended by it. I won't get mad, or hurt, or blacklist your name, or think less of you.
>hidenmighty 6:16 am: Paranoid much? Seriously. How do you get any writing done with all this worry? If you're writing a memoir and talking about lots of other real people in your life, you'll need to be careful to avoid defamation and/or get permission to include them in your book. Other than that, chill out. Avoid libel and defamation (look up those words) and then just write your story. An agent and later an editor will surely raise a question if something seems wrong. In the editing stage with your publisher, if you have a particular concern, that's the time to bring it up. I have to be honest, whenever I see writers worrying unnecessarily about such details, I assume they're trying to think about everything except actually sitting down to write that book.
CKHB 6:16 am: Obviously I can't plan everything. Unless I'm actively pursuing a certain writer, which is a very small part of my business, I'm basically at the mercy of my incoming queries. I don't know when great things are going to come, and I don't know when there's going to be a dry spell with tons of queries but nothing good enough. I have to be flexible, making day to day decisions based on the current workload and what's in my inbox.
Timothy 6:55 am: I'm not sure what difference it makes to you as a writer. I'm part of an agency because it works for me. It's a personal decision. I prefer to be in partnership rather than a lone ranger. It serves my clients as well, by giving me other experienced agents to consult with on a daily basis.
Timothy 7:13 am: I'm a sucker for big bestseller fiction. Things that make me want to turn the page, regardless of genre. It can be literary or totally fluff. It can be serious or fun. In queries, I'm totally a sucker for a strong, unique voice that for whatever reason, makes me want to keep reading. And I love when something in the first couple of paragraphs actually surprises me (difficult to do).
Ian 7:23 am: You're asking how to classify a book's genre if it falls into more than one genre, especially if it transitions between genres halfway through the book? Listen, you need to put your PRACTICAL cap on. Think: Where will your book sit in the bookstore? It can't sit in more than one section. So pick a genre. And yes, you can say "mystery with fantasy elements" or "suspense with romantic elements" but that first genre you mention IS your genre.
>Thanks for opening up for questions! I actually have 2 separate ones, if that's OK.
1. What is the criteria (this may echo another's question re legal issues above) regarding the use of real place names (ie restaurants, schools, hospitals) in a fictional piece?
2. My second question regards craft. My novel is in third person. How many POVs are too many? I have 2 main ones, and would like a couple scenes with minor characters as the POV but don't want to make it too broad? What do you think about this?
>Rachelle 1:10 PM,
Well, that's a little disappointing. I wish I had thought of that.
>How many clients will you take before closing your submissions? Or will you ever plug a number in place?
>Hi Rachelle,Thanks for taking the time to answer all these varied and sundry questions. In my case, I have an adult, literary fantasy novel with strong romantic elements. From a market perspective, is it better to present this ms to agents as urban fantasy or paranormal romance?Thanks!
>Agent A requested my full ms. Agent A is now an agent an Agency ABC, but used to be an assistant at Agency XYZ (this isn't a hypothetical question by the way. I just didn't want to use any names).
Then Agent B requested my full manuscript. She's an agent at Agency XYZ. Googling both agents' names led me to Author 7's blog where he has a photograph of both Agents A and B. Together. They're laughing and chumming it up. Reading the blog tells me that Agency ABC and Agency XYZ share office space and interns. Reading both agents tweets reveal that they are really good friends. They go to dinners together and movies.
I know I did nothing wrong because both agents work for different agencies. And when I queried both, I didn't know they share office space and interns.
Potentially, how awkward could this get?
>Hi Rachelle! Q: How is the mystery market doing these days (my fave)? Are any sub-genres doing better than others (thriller, cozy, historical, romantic suspense)? Mine combines elements from some of these sub-genres but it's not a cozy nor is it hard-boiled. Any thoughts or recent experience selling mysteries in the current market?
>How common is it for an agent to read a full ms, decide to pass on it (ultimately because of plot, not voice or writing), then agree to read a revised version? The reason I'm asking is because every agent who has read my full ms has agreed to read the revised version. Are they just being nice? Or do they really think my ms has a chance?
>My book is not done. It's not ready to be queried. Yet, I'm curious about your take on this description:
"A satirical contemporary family saga" is that clear as far as a genre/subgenre goes?
And. . . is it appropriate to mention in a query that you've read, and applied to the best of your ability Donald Maass' "breakout novel" principles, or should your writing just demonstrate that?
>I have written my first book, as well as its sequel. I am attending a writers' conference at the end of next month. Attendees have the opportunity to meet with several agents. What is your advice for a first-timer?
>If the end of the world was predicted to occur half-way through American Idol, would you TiVo the program just in case?
>Is there a website and/or book that details the inner workings of ALL the sub-genres in the lit world today? Every blog I read mentions a new genre, some of which sound made up. lol. I'd really like a resource for learning them all, so I don't sound like an idiot when I query.
>Raschel_[Reads it] 12:25 am: Have you ever finished a whole book? How are you with follow-through in other areas of life? Perhaps some ADD meds might help. Or just decide what you want.
Ashley 1:15 am: Why do you want to work in publishing? Are you a masochist? If so, move to New York and get an Editoral Assistant job at a publishing house, or an Assistant job at a literary agency.
M Clement Hall: I'm not going to discuss trends in YA today because it's not my area of expertise.
Lance: I am horrible with question about my single favorite anything. Food, color, book, movie, song… I can't do it because it artificially reduces my reading to one pinnacle experience, which hasn't occured for me. Every year I have new favorites. Some of my favorites the last few years have been The Forgotten Garden, The Kite Runner, Loving Frank, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Water for Elephants.
Penelope C Jordan 4:47 am: Sorry, you'll have to wait for my next Webinar. Thanks for the interest!
worstwriterever: A shining, absolute favorite moment of being an agent? Honestly, nothing comes to mind. There have been a lot of great moments. I love it when my authors sell books, of course, and when they get positive reviews. And I love when I'm able to help them have breakthroughs, whether in their writing, or in their attitude or approach. It's all about the clients.
Anon 5:31 am Jenny: I don't think I can answer that in a few words. Your voice is your voice. It will sound different depending on the kind of book you're writing, but it's still your voice, and someone who knows you would be able to detect it whether you're writing a novel or a blog post or a grocery list.
Timothy 5:53 am: Three things: Spell check, proofreading your work, hiring a copyeditor.
>Let me first thank you for the wonderful webinar you gave yesterday. You hit on some aspects of the writing and submission process that I've struggled with for some time. Here then is my first question – and I posted it at the end of the webinar, so the question may seem familiar.
You mentioned backstory, and that you feel readers prefer to get bits of information or hints as the story unfolds. This way, readers can have those 'ah-ha' moments that make reading so fun. And I agree with your comments. In a draft of my manuscript, I wove backstory throughout the novel – as well as comments about the world in which my characters exist (I mainly write urban fantasy).
I sent a manuscript to a developmental editor, and one of the suggestions he made was to give the reader all this information right away. So I rewrote it, and now my second chapter is all about the myths that guide my story and some of my protag's backstory.
I like my new chapter, but still worry that it might be too much in one place. I rather like reading books that string the reader along somewhat, giving out hints here and there until things start to come together.
Do you think it's possible to do both? To sort of tell the reader 'hey, look – here are the rules of this world, how the usual myths play out in this novel'. And to do this in one chapter, but then to hold out on giving out all the information until later in the story?
Or maybe I am confused as to what backstory really means. Can you clarify this more?
Second topic – some of the other posts cover the concept of what is or isn't considered a Christian worldview. I find this topic fascinating, and one I've wondered about as well. Example – my protag is a vampire. Right off the bat (no pun intended) I'd say such creatures are contrary to a Christian perspective, yet he struggles with his faith and his place in the world given what he is and has to do to survive. He believes in God, but wonders if he's damned. And of course, he has to do things that are most certainly not considered Christian, but he does some of those things in the name of justice.
I just noted in your responses above that you are going to do another blog on this subject – I look forward to it! Again, this is really an intriguing topic.
>Terrific webinar! I learned a great deal.
What are your thoughts about using a freelance editor to help polish a new writer's manuscript?
>I've re-read your guidelines, and no, you're not looking for YA, but perhaps yo know the answer to my question of current trends, fiction and non-fiction in YA
>It's a big deal to have your full manuscript read. How many full reads do you sign? 50%? more? less?
>Valerie 12:18 pm: For lots of good books on writing, read the comments to this post:Books, Books, Books
Christ is Write: How likely is it for a teenager to get their manuscript accepted? Honestly, almost every agent who talks about this says that age makes no difference in their decision to rep a book. It's all about the book. Don't even mention your age in a query letter. Now, a different question would be, "How likely is it that a teenager has a publishable manuscript?" And we know the answer is that it's rare, because for most people, learning to become a good writer just takes time. But notice I said rare, not impossible.
Joannehuspek 12:25 pm: You will have to find out if Agent #1 wants exclusivity on that MS. If you don't know, email her and ask. If she says yes, then you can politely tell her you'll leave it with her exclusively for about a month. Let her know you have other interest, and plan to send the MS to other agents if you don't hear from her.
Preston 12:28 pm: I don't like cartoons and never did. And I never liked either Woody or Daffy.
>Where do books come from? (sounds like birds/bees question). To what extent do they need to grow inside you and to what extent do you just have to make a plan and implement it?
My situation: I have two different NF books that I have been plugging away at over the past two years, and have now developed full proposals for both. I've begun querying one and gotten some very helpful feedback. I have a third NF in a different area that I've begun to outline because it keeps kicking around inside me.
Do most writers find it more helpful to pick and horse and ride it or is there a way to seed a number of projects and let them develop organically?
>So many writing questions & this was all that popped into my mind:
Hot fudge sundae: nuts or no nuts? Cherry? Caramel instead of hot fudge? Share or "all for me?"
>Aside from great writing/story, etc., what makes you get excited enough about a novel to say YES? I've noticed that agents like to have a personal interest in the story–or maybe that's their favore genre to read for pleasure. What rings your chimes in fiction (unpublished mss.)? What do you want to see more of that you're not getting yet? Do you decide based on personal preference as well as current market conditions–what's your most important criteria?
>Who would win in a cartoon fight, Woody Woodpecker or Daffy Duck?
>Hi, and thanks for doing this.
My question is this: Let's say an agent you have queried has asked for the full MS. In the meantime, you have attended a writers conference and pitched your book to three agents (different ones from Agent #1) who are in various states of excitement over your project. All three want a query letter and the first 1-3 chapters.
Is it in poor form to query these additional agents while your book is with Agent #1?
Thanks. I just want to get the etiquette right.
>Question: How likely is it for a teenager to get their manuscript accepted by a literary agent?
Question: What would you recommend aspiring writers to bring to a writer's conference?
>Oooh, looks like I just got a little extra time in my schedule. More answers:
Josie 12:02 pm: That's a question that's well covered on this blog and most other agent blogs. Do a bit of sleuthing, you'll find what you need.
Suzannah 11:56 am: Each writer has their own area of strength. Many find first-person easier, and 3rd stretches them. I find that new authors tend to take too many shortcuts with 1st person, using too much interior monologue and telling what they should be showing. So they find it easier but they're not doing it well.
Joel Q 11:55 am: No, I don't care about that. I want to know the story and I want to see if you're a good writer.
Kerri 11:49 am: Agents typically take a long time to respond to partials. Two months isn't much. You can follow up whenever you like, but you're likely to get no response, or just "I haven't had a chance to read it yet."
Cynthia 11:47 am: Other agents might have different opinions, but for me, your publishing history would be practically irrelevant in terms of getting an agent and a contract for fiction. It will be as if you have no published books, because you won't be banking on an established readership.
Michelle 11:43 am: I'm preparing a blog post on Christian MG & YA, so I'll be able to say more later. It's experiencing a lull, yes. Not a very strong category at all.
Shawn 11:38 am: I do not know the answer to your riddle but I'd like to hear it! If I had to come up with an answer I'd say it wouldn't really matter, if I'm seeing a ghost I'm probably already dead.
Anon 11:38 am: Cake or fish? Are you kidding me? Do you know ANYTHING about me?
>Do you know of a helpful how-to book on the construction of a novel?
>hi,i suppose this is an elementary question & you may have answered it elsewhere, but could you explain the specific procedure for querying?thanks!
>Moses 11:10 am: That would have no bearing whatsoever on my decision to represent or not. I still have to make decisions based on what I know of publishers and what they're looking for, plus my own preferences.
Shannon Dittemore 11:05 am: Women who are always crying. Ugh.
Anon 10:59 am WHICAA: I think you know there's no answer to your question. You can only do your due diligence in researching an agent, then asking them a lot of questions, perhaps talking with a few of their clients. But you take the same risk we all take in life everyday. How do we know the contractor we hired will do a good job on the kitchen remodel? How do we know the babysitter won't be texting her friends the whole time she's supposed to be watching our kids? How do we know the school we send our kids to will teach them anything? Do your best, take your chances, and keep a keen eye on results.
Amanda G Stevens 10:05 am: If you have no credentials, then stop stressing about it. Write a nice closing sentence, perhaps mentioning that you're a first-time author, or that you read the agent's blog or something, and that you look forward to hearing from them, and leave it at that. You have WAY more important things in life to worry about than the 3rd paragraph of the query.
jhutcheson 9:38 am: It's a personal choice whether to write YA or women's fiction, and you should read widely in both categories so you'll know the difference. It's not always cut and dried, but the themes in women's fiction will generally be more mature and the voice, even if it's a young protagonist, will probably have a maturity and sophistication beyond her years. However, there's no cut and dried answer. As you know, plenty of adults read YA fiction, and plenty of teens read adult fiction.
Beth S 9:35 am: I think it's perfectly acceptable to follow up after five or six months. I certainly don't like to wait people wait that long, but I know I have partials that have been in my stack for longer than that. I don't mind an email.
Andrew 9:33 am: It's not an either/or answer. Profanity, when used correctly, can be a powerful way to convey character. I prefer it used sparingly, and I definitely notice when a writer is simply using it for effect, which is plain bad writing. But there are definitely a few writers who use a great deal of profanity and they do it well, and it suits their novels.
Anon 9:31 am: Confessing to a crime in a book? Is that a real question? Why would I have an opinion on that?
James Castellano 9:25 am: I've never read an Og Mandino book, but I think it's inspirational self-help.
Francis 9:17 am: I have no answer for the question, "How often do you visit an author's website when the query sounds enticing?" Whenever I feel like I want to know more, I guess. But I don't judge them based on their website or blog. I'm just trying to find out more, and I think it's cool when I find a page dedicated to their (unpubbed) book.
Okay, that's all I have time for right now!
Which, in your experience, is more difficult to do well–first or third-person point of view?
>For agents who rep Spec Christian Fiction, do you think the query should include a biblical reference for anything paranormal in the manuscript.
For example: an over-the-top character or situation based off angels/ demons/ miracles/ etc. from the Bible, should the query include a Bible verses…"similar to the guy in Mark 5" or something to show how the writer amplified or embellished the manuscript.
Does that make sense?
I sent a query letter to an agent in January. She very kindly responded within a couple days that it would be okay for me to send a full manuscript via email to her and her assistant. It's been two months now and I haven't heard anything. I looked on her website to see if she had any kind of time reference but there wasn't any.
Should I contact this agent or her assistant to ask the status of my manuscript?
>Hi Rachelle, I'm a newbie on twitter and I've only been following you for a short time. I really like what I see and appreciate the honesty you appear to have. My situation is unique, I think. I sent out submissions for my first book, a biography, and it was published without a rep with a small press. I have published 8 more books on Canadian History and biography through publishers who have asked me to write for them on their series. So I have never had an agent and I've never needed to find a publisher.
I'm now wanting to switch genres. I am now writing a novel/Literary Fiction. Sorry for the long explanation. My question: is it going to be harder to find an agent since my publishing history is in a different genre than my present project?
Thank you for your time.
>Thanks for doing this!
I write MG fiction, which I know you currently do not represent. But I wonder if you would comment on the present state of the market for Christian MG and YA. I've heard people say it's "dead." Do you agree? (My work is targeted to mainstream.)
>You are being chased by a bear when a ghost appears and offers you one of the following — a hatchet, a bottle of gin, or a harmonica — to get yourself out of the situation. Which do you take, and why?
Also, it's not a black bear, so you can't just punch it in the face to make it run away.
>Which is better: cake or fish?
>Here's something I tweeted a couple days ago:
#askagent A new author with a successful novel in the Kindle store: Would this make you more or less likely to want to represent that title?
I haven't gotten any responses to the question, so I'd be thrilled and very thankful to hear from you!
>Everybody has automatic turn-offs when reading. For me, stories about irredeemable characters are worthless. You?
>Wonderful. I have a question that came up recently, so I hope you'll answer this one.
How do you find out if an agent would be a good fit, particularly if you've heard negative things about them (not that they're doing something illegal or unethical, just things that indicate they might not have the best attitude).
I ask because a friend has an agent who got her a nonfiction book deal with a major publisher (Harlequin nonfiction). She'd told me at the time, I should query her agent. But, I wasn't finished editing yet. When I asked her recently how she liked her agent, I got a lot of negative. Nothing unethical. Just, she said she felt the agent viewed her as a way to her commission. Yikes. Also, she didn't feel the agent worked out a great deal.
Now, my friend quit her job recently, so she's got some financial stress of her own, which may be contributing to the view of the agent. She thought the agent might be fine for my fiction project. Figured I would still query the agent, as this might be a bad fit (the two of them at this time in her life). But, if I got interest, not sure how I'd find out if this was a fit issue or an issue with the agent.
Any help would be appreciated.
Thanks,WHICAA(wondering how I can assess agent?)
>I'm terrified of the "third paragraph" of the query letter, the writer bio. I'm unpublished and querying a novel. I don't have an MFA; I'm going to my very first writer's conference this June; I've not been published in magazines unless you count a stint as a youth mag "advisory board" member in high school, when I got paid in free CD's (I'm being facetious; I know this does not count). I do have a BS in English, but nowhere have I seen that undergrad education counts as a credential. I've seen lots of recommendations that non-fic writers try to obtain speaking engagements on their topic, but this really doesn't seem to apply to fiction.
My question is this–what on earth can I do with that third paragraph if I have no serious credentials?
>What's the difference in Christian YA and Christian Women's fiction? Is it theme? Age of the protagonist? Content? Is it okay to deal with death in Christian YA? What's selling well in each market? The protagonist in my novel is a seventeen-year-old girl, but I'm not sure if what I'm writing is YA or Women's fiction.
>Rachelle,What is the appropriate length of time to follow up with an agent who requested a full manuscript? My novel has been with an agent for almost five months. (I am still querying, she didn't ask an exclusive.) I know it was received as I got an e-mail from her stating it had arrived about a week after I sent it. Should I send an e-mail or just wait? (I hate waiting.)
>Do you feel that profanity adds realism to a novel, or is it just a crutch that many authors use to sound hip?
(My feeling is that very sparing use of profanity – say once in every 200 pages – can provide an exclamation point in rare circumstances, but reading four-or-seven-letter-words in every paragraph is dull and unimaginative. But then I'm unhip.)
>So, people sing & write about drugs and violence all the time and no one seems to follow up with that. What is your opinion about confessing to crime in a book?
I'm asking for… a friend… yeah. That's it… a friend…
>What Genre would you calssify Og Mandino?
>You've already commented on websites. Jessica Faust says they're not really required, while Pimp my Novel says it's an absolute necessity after you've been picked up, and they highly suggest you have one while querying to show you're serious.
But my question is, how often will you visit an author's website if the query sounds enticing?
If you do, would you find a website listing his bio, his influences and inspirations, and a page dedicated to his book (where you'll find material on how the ideas came to his mind, some of the books he used for research, etc…) a presumptuous thing to do, or would you find it interesting that the author took time to build all of this to display his seriousness?
>Aside from great writing/story, etc., what makes you get excited enough about a novel to say YES? I've noticed that agents like to have a personal interest in the story–or maybe that's their favore genre to read for pleasure. What rings your chimes in fiction (unpublished mss.)? What do you want to see more of that you're not getting yet?
(And do any or all of the characters have to attend church? Mine don't have time cuz they're too busy getting into trouble! LOL)
>What are your Top Five CBA novels?
Top Five general market (secular) novels?
>What criteria should we be using to determine if a writing workshop is worthwhile? The ones I can actually afford don't have well-known speakers, and I'm not sure what else to consider.
>I have the same question as "anonymous" above. The MCs in my novels are all "Christian" in the way they look at life, but they can act in a decidedly un-Christian manner under certain circumstances. They curse, can be violent, and have sex. It is really important for me to know if these characters are going to offend an agent who says she represents a Christian worldview because, obviously, I would not query that agent. I was hoping you would touch on that subject in your webinar and wanted to ask you the question then, but for some reason the program did not let me type in my questions.
On a positive note, the webinar was very enjoyable and informative, and I am glad I attended. Would you consider doing a follow-up for fiction writers only?
>I have read your posts about what you mean by Christian worldview, but I see that you are also branching out into the general market. My WIP is not geared toward the Christian market. But I don't want to offend you or send you something inappropriate. I'm confused about what you mean by being against a Christian worldview. What if the character is essentially good, but has irreverent ideas about things? If you could clarify this, I'd appreciate it.
>Since all the questions have been writing related I thought I'd throw something else out at you.
"Do you think all my questions will really be answered when the final episode of LOST airs?"
A Magic 8 Ball may be best on this one. 😉
Can't wait to read all the answers! 🙂
>A question about genre: how do you classify a book at the query stage that transitions between genres? Say it starts clearly as a mystery and a third the way in it takes on fantasy elements.
An agent reading the sample pages, even the first few chapters, wouldn't see the transition. Would you recommend referencing both genres in the query? For example: a mystery with fantasy elements?
>You’ve made it clear what you want and don’t want and the books put out by your clients says something about your tastes, but that’s all rather broad. What books are you a sucker for? By that, I don’t mean which genre. What story, when you see it, are you drawn to read again, even though you’ve read variations on it many times?
>I don’t quite understand this literary agency thing. For example, I never remember the name of the agency you are a part of or the names of the other agents. I don’t recall any of your clients saying anything about your agency or the other agents. When publishers have said something about you, I don’t recall them having much if anything to say about your agency or the other agents involved. So my question to you is: what’s the point?
>Can you tell us a little about the planning side of your workload? How do you decide how many clients/writers you can take on, how and when do you decide when you can add a writer to your list?
>Given your background in editing, do you have any suggestions for spotting and eliminating those pesky word usage errors? You know the ones I mean, things like the typed as thy, to typed too, it typed I or your typed you’re. They’re like little weeds that pop up where you least expect it. It’s not so bad when the word isn’t so frequently used and you know what you’re looking for, but it’s mind numbingly boring to verify 7,000 occurrences of the word the in a full length manuscript and then there’s the problem of not knowing which other words to look for.
>Ooo… I like worstwriterever's question! I'm a sucker for shining-moment stories!
>Thanks for the chance to ask a question. Mine is on voice. Does a writer's voice differ when writing fiction and non-fiction? If yes, could you elaborate? If not, how does the writer's voice not 'intrude' on the story telling of fiction?
Hope those questions make sense. I am willing to clarify if needed. Have a good weekend.
>Do you have a shining, absolute favourite moment of being a literary agent?
I have been away (on a short but well desrved break and have just returned to my writer's desk)and I noticed you have a webinair running…is it way too late to register or take part in it…oh let me in pretty please… 🙂
>What is your favorite novel all-time and why?
>I notice you are also open to YA — do you have thoughts on trends in that market? Personally I hope they're away from vampires and "misery" issues. What market is there for non-fiction or creative non-fiction?And thank you for your opinion and your blog.
>What would be your advice to someone who knows they want to work in publishing but doesn't know exactly what part of the industry? For someone in an entry level career, with a degree in English or Editing, where would be a good place to get their feet wet on the publishing ladder?
>What is your advice to a writer who is constantly distracted with new book ideas? Should they possibly just work towards being an agent instead and let someone else write the idea?
I love words.
I love books and publishing and talking incessantly about them.
I love authors and all the intricacies of managing a writing life.
I sell. I negotiate. I coach. I brainstorm.