Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
When agents reply, "It's good, just not for me," isn't that admitting to being gatekeepers to traditional publishing?And here are my thoughts:
There are a few reasons why. Here's one:
There's a subjective element to books. I might read a book about wereferrets and think "this has a great voice but I don't like ferrets" and another agent might read and love and think "this is the best thing I've ever read."
This isn't gatekeeping because not all agents have the same taste. I've read books before that I probably wouldn't have requested at the query stage. But those books still found an agent and still got published.
Plus, editors do the same thing to us. Let's say I did sign the wereferrets book. Not every editor would want it no matter how good it was. Even huge bestsellers or books that go to auction still get some passes. If it's well written with a good voice, I'm sure they see that, but they also just might not fall in love with the wereferrets.
And it's not just them either. Editors also have to "sell" the books they want to take on to their team--publisher, sales, marketing, etc. Sales might say--sure this is good, but we can't sell wereferrets to the major accounts so no.
And they say that because they're interacting with bookstores and the accounts (major retailers) and those buyers are saying "no we don't want any shapeshifters, we're not going to order any copies of books like that." Or maybe sales remembers how last year they tried to say a book with werebadgers and that book only sold 200 copies because none of the accounts ordered it to carry in store. Therefore they don't think wereferrets will be much different.
And the retailers, they're making that decision based on what they think their consumers want. Which they're determining based on the what the consumers are actually buying--or not buying. If they order 100 copies of a book about werebadgers and only sell two copies, they're not going to want any copies of a book about wereferrets.
So really it's the consumers that are driving the stores, and the publishers, and the agents. That's not to say that there aren't readers out there hungry for a story about wereferrets--it just means they're not buying books like that at traditional retailers. Maybe they're only buying ebooks. Or maybe they're reading fanfiction and pirating ebooks. Maybe they're only buying books from shapeshifting fandom conventions. I don't know (this example is getting out of control, but I hope you see what I'm saying).
Now here's another reason:
"This is good, but it's not for me" might not be the truth. There might be a harder truth, like "This is good, but it's not good enough."
I really like clothes. I get one of those monthly boxes that sends you a few clothing pieces and an accessory. Last month, it included a pair of earrings that were gorgeous and I really liked them. But they were $50 for just a little pair of earrings that weren't anything super special. So I liked them, a lot, but I didn't $50 like them.
Sometimes manuscripts are the same way. I've said I really like fantasy. Let's say I request a YA fantasy. I might read to the end, I might think, "that was a good read" but I do a lot more for my clients than just read their books once. There's the reading and the editing, but there are meetings and phone calls and strategizing and a lot of hours that go into that client's career and their books.
And there's only so many hours in a day. I can only take on so many clients. So I might read that YA fantasy manuscript and think, this is good, but it's not good enough for me. Maybe it's the characters or the pacing or the writing. Or maybe it's not even anything I can put my finger on. Maybe it just doesn't stay with me after I've put it down. Whatever it is, I don't love it the way I loved Gates of Thread and Stone or Red Queen. So it's not for me--because I only have time for things I love that much.
Sometimes it's hard to articulate that to authors. Even us agents don't like to discourage people or hurt people's feelings--and there are a lot of agents, maybe someone else will see something I don't or they'll have the time.
So that's a long answer to your question. I don't think we're gatekeepers. I know it's hard to get a book traditionally published--and that it's hard to get an agent. But the internet has made it easier than it was. Keep writing. Write a great book that you're passionate about--even if the characters are wereferrets! Then write another book. And keep going. At some point, you'll get there.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
After that I read a lot of New Adult. In fact I read just about whatever I could get my hands on. I loved it! But because I read so much of it, sometimes the stories started to feel a little similar. I got a lot of submissions (which was a good thing!) but after a six months to a year, I started wondering if this was it, if I could find more NA that I really loved, or if I had about all the NA clients that I needed.
Then I got a query from Renita Pizzitola. And I was reminded what I love about NA so much.
Just a Little Crush by Renita Pizzitola is a beautifully authentic college story. It reminded me of how it felt to think that I had everything together, that I knew exactly what I wanted out of life only to find out that it was the things I was wrong about--and the hot mess mistakes--that worked out best in the end.
Happy release day to Renita!
Monday, October 13, 2014
I remember Suzie always states that she keeps reading a manuscript if the first line catches her, then the second, the third, and so on. I don't know if I should take this literally, but if you come across a line that needs work, do you stop there even if you were interested in what was before? Are you willing to forgive that single line (or lines) and keep going?This is a good question. I do say this a lot. I wasn't the first agent to say it. I heard it from a wiser more experienced agent on a panel back when I was a baby agent.
So here are my thoughts.
You do have to take that literally...to a point. For the first 25-50 pages or more until I'm hooked, each line really has to grab and hold onto me.
Once I'm hooked, I can overlook things and keep reading.
Now, here's the thing. When you mention a "line that needs work" though, it makes me think we might be talking about different things.
When I mention that the first line catches me, I'm not talking mechanics. I'm talking voice and storytelling.
Have you seen this?
I started reading that manuscript on a Sunday afternoon. I could not stop. Even though the manuscript turned out to be 168k words. It had some issues. I gave some notes. There was probably a typo or two. But the voice and the storytelling had me by the end of the first chapter. There was no way I was going to stop reading.
Monday, September 29, 2014
THE UNITY OF OPPOSITES is a New Adult Contemporary Romance complete at 70,000 words.
When nineteen-year-old Brinley Monroe runs into Ryder Briggs--an insanely desirable, tattooed bad boy and the other half of her disastrous first kiss--she knows she’s in trouble. Since that humiliating day four years ago, when she experienced a moment of Ryder-induced-bliss followed by nose-diving into a swimming pool, she’s hated him...every delectable square inch. Now in college, her past has reappeared and, by the looks of it, still hasn’t grown into his ego.
Despite their scorching chemistry, a guy like Ryder is the last thing Brinley needs in her life. As the product of a teen mom, who now loves vodka more than her own daughter, Brinley refuses to let bad decisions rule her life. But while spending time with Ryder, she discovers there is more to him than the image he broadcasts. Though complete opposites, they share the same fear--repeating their parents’ mistakes. And as Ryder's desire not to hurt her drives him away, her trust in him draws them back together.
But when Ryder’s involvement in a campus-wide scandal comes to light, the only person to pay is Brinley. As much as she wanted to believe otherwise, learning from her past means leaving people from it out of her future. Now, in order to protect her, Ryder must fix the mess he’s caused then do what he should have done from day one. Walk away.
I am a romance author currently published through Lyrical Press. (YA Paranormal Romance series--October 2012 and September 2013, and an Adult Urban Fantasy Romance--March 2013). I appreciate your time and consideration and sincerely hope to hear from you in the near future.
Here's what caught my eye:
The Title. Now, we actually changed it--more on this later--but I loved the title. It automatically intrigued me. (Maybe I always go for people who are my opposite, I don't know).
That first paragraph gives a great set up. I love that Brinley and Ryder have a history and that it's humiliating for her. A disastrous first kiss followed by a nose-dive into a swimming pool--and it's made her hate him? That feels so very authentic. I still have a high school kiss that makes me cringe whenever I think of it. And if I ran into that guy now, oh I wouldn't be a fan.
But what really gets me with that paragraph is that Ryder "still hasn't grown into his ego." This is such a great example of voice and characterization in a query. It's a little detail, worded in a way that reflects exactly something that Brinley would say and it tells me so much about her and about the book.
The second paragraph sets up more conflicts. This is a book that is a romance but each of the characters have their own conflicts going on as well. Brinley's relationship with her mom comes into play here. More than that though, I also love that "Brinley refuses to let bad decisions rule her life." This tells me that she's a strong character, she might have history and family issues like all of us, but they're not going to get the best of her.
And of course the tease of a campus wide scandal really got me too, but what I liked about the ending is that this feels like a romance that's more than just a will they/won't they--it sounds like a relationship story, something that requires working through every day conflicts and struggles. It feels so real and authentic to the college experience.
Of course Renita is a fabulous writer so when I started reading her pages I was totally hooked. And I wasn't the only one.
THE UNITY OF OPPOSITES and two companion novels sold at auction to Random House Flirt. We changed the name to Just a Little Crush and now it comes out October 21st. That's almost 12 months to the day that Renita queried me!
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
So here they are--click on our names to be directed to the wishlist!
Friday, August 22, 2014
It's August, I am about to head out for vacation, and I'm excited to come back in September and finish 2014 with a bang.
What am I talking about?
I always hear from writers that they want to know what an agent is really thinking when they click to send a form rejection.
If you fall into that category, this is your chance.
When I'm back from vacation, I will respond to the queries I receive in complete honesty. I will either request your manuscript or I will pass and tell you exactly why.
This is just an honest response to your query, but if you've been getting a lot of form rejections, this might tell you why. (hopefully it'll be at least a little helpful?)
So, if you want the truth, query me for the next week (so right now until 11:59 pm EST on Saturday 8/30) and follow the directions very carefully.
- Queries must be submitted to Query(at)newleafliterary(dot)com.
- All queries entered must have this in the subject line: QUERY SUZIE - I can handle the truth
- If it does not have this in the subject line, it will be considered a regular query only.
- Queries must be in the body of the email. NO attachments!
- Queries should include the first 5-10 pages of your manuscript in the body of your email below your query.
- One query per writer please. (Don't think you can trick me with different email addresses either)
- Yes, if you've already been rejected by me (or someone else at New Leaf) you may resubmit your query. But revise your query first. Don't say "You already rejected me..." Treat it like you've never queried her before.
- Your queries will NOT be posted on this or any other blog. I will reply to you via your e-mail, only. (Make sure your email doesn't require me to fill out some form to prove I'm not a spammer--I'm not going to go that above and beyond to get back to you).
- You must treat this as an actual query process, which means you need to have a complete manuscript. If I do request your manuscript, I don't want to find out there isn't one!
Monday, August 18, 2014
First I'm going to say that's awesome.
Next, I'm actually going to defer to a brilliant post written by the fabulously talented MarcyKate Connolly who found herself in that exact position when she queried her forthcoming novel, Monstrous.
Here's what she says.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Monday, August 4, 2014
Kara Taylor's fabulous third novel, Deadly Little Sins, will be available!
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
The feedback I've been getting from my Query, runs something like this: Really interesting. No thank-you. I'm not sure if that is polite-speak for it sucks, or, simply not their thing. So, how to get a foot in the publishing door: A) Pound harder; B) Open a window (i.e. write a different genre/category book entirely); C) Quit: it's too hard.Here are my thoughts:
This is most likely a form rejection.
This could mean:
A. Your query does suck (sorry, it happens, they're hard!)
B. Your concept is overdone (ie the genre is dead)
C. You're not querying the right people (hey I get a lot of queries from screenwriters so this happens)
What you should do:
1. Have some critique partners/beta readers/friends who write (etc) read your query. Get some feedback. Figure out if it's your query or if it's your book.
I'm going to say that if you've gotten 0 requests it's your query. If you had a good query, a few agents (especially new agents or agents who really love a genre) will request.
2. If it's your query, revise accordingly. You want your query to make people sit up and say "Oooh and then what happens?"
3. After you've resent your queries, start working on something else that's completely different.
4. Never quit. :)
Monday, July 28, 2014
Dear Ms. Townsend,I received this query at a time when no one wanted contemporary YA--back in 2010. (That's when everyone was buying paranormal and dystopian). But I couldn't resist requesting this.
Seventeen-year-old Maggie’s job selling hot dogs at the beach is the epitome of unsexy, but it’s not like she wants to hook up with a guy wearing something a few inches shy of a Speedo anyway. Then she realizes Andy, the head lifeguard, isn’t visiting her three times a day because he forgot ketchup. Maggie finds out there’s more to him than his gorgeous abs, and their summer fling turns into a real relationship.
Then Casey, Andy's ex, calls to tell him her birth control failed.
It doesn’t help that Casey has graduated from pushing Maggie on the playground and making fun of her absent father to leaving Andy’s old love notes in her locker. But Maggie’s done with Casey’s bitchcraft. She won’t let her ruin Andy’s pre-med plans or the only relationship that’s felt real to her since her family dissolved.
The only way to coax Casey into choosing adoption is to earn her trust, even if it means opening up to the girl who knows how to hit Maggie where it hurts. But her plan backfires when she starts to empathize with an unborn baby more than the idiots who made it. Even worse, finding out the real reason Casey is willing to trade her ballet slippers for stretch marks reveals something within Maggie that terrifies her: sympathy for her worst enemy, and the realization she might not be so different from her after all.
SILVER MEDAL is a contemporary young adult novel complete at 62,000 words. I chose to query you because I too fear I may never love my future children as much as I love my dogs. I have included the first ten pages of the manuscript, hoping you will like to read more. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Contemporary stories can sometimes seem hard to write queries for. If they aren't plot heavy stories with really high stakes it can seem daunting to try to make it sound exciting. Here's what I love about this one though.
The twist on stories I've read before. This isn't a high school pregnancy story from the POV of the pregnant teen. It's about the new girlfriend of the teen dad.
It's more than just a romance. Sure there's a romantic element, but there's a lot more to this story. If the main character is empathizing with the baby and realizing that she has more in common with her high school enemy than she though--there's a deeper story there. I love that.
I also love the writing and the voice here. There's potential for humor and a flawed protagonist who makes mistakes but will figure it all out by the end (my favorite kind).
Now the title of this manuscript changed, and I didn't sell it. (Contemporary was a tough sell then remember). But it got us working together and since then, Kara has written three contemporary mystery novels and a TV pilot. And she has a lot more coming down the pipeline. And I still love this book and Maggie, it's wonderfully flawed and hilarious heroine.
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Five Random Things About Suzie
2. I'm legitimately nocturnal (or a vampire). I will be so exhausted at two pm that I'm falling asleep standing up - it has happened before, at Six Flags no less - but as soon as the sun goes down I'm wide awake.
3. I have a gorgeous unused $6000 Reem Acra wedding dress hanging in my closet, and it showed up on my doorstep the same day my (now ex) fiance broke up with me. And thank God for that. I wouldn't have wanted to waste that dress on him.
4. Social anxiety plagues me daily. I write a script and practice in front of the mirror when I have to make a phone call, but most people who interact with me have no idea how nervous I am (or perhaps they lie) because I've worked so hard to try to overcome it.
5. I'm actually worried that I will never love my children (when I do have them in the far off future) as much as I love my dogs. I just like animals better than people - they're sweet and innocent and soft and furry - is that so wrong?