Monday, July 30, 2012

Requested Material Update: My Process


Here's some insight into my process. If you've looked at the query updates, you can see I'm requesting about 10% (or a little more) based on the number of queries I'm getting. I think that's a lot because it's a lot to read. That means each week, in addition to client manuscripts, notes, emails, phone calls, and my ever growing to do list, I'm adding usually 2-3 manuscripts to my to read pile. This can be a lot of extra reading that ends up all being "outside of the office" work. (For instance, I read four manuscripts this past weekend--2 requested and 2 client ms). This volume is why I don't usually send personalized rejections with feedback. And I know that sucks. (more on this another time)

So back to the process, what happens if I love a requested ms?

Well, first I squee about it a little (or probably a lot). I talk about the ms in the office or if it's a weekend I email the new leaf crew with a lot of OMG and !!!

Then I email the author. I let them know I've finished the ms and loved it. And I request they send me a dreaded synopsis (I know it's terrible but it has its uses). Once I have a synopsis, I send the ms and synopsis to Joanna and/or the rest of the New Leaf crew and to discuss. This gives me time to look at the ms again, think about any editorial notes I have, and ultimately get the feedback and thoughts of other industry pros I love and respect. It's one of the things I love about working with Joanna, Kathleen, and Pouya (one of many, they're pretty awesome). We read each other's projects and we collaborate. We're really a team. And those extra sets of eyes help me do a better job and hopefully I help them too.

Now, I don't offer on everything I take to the team. And this is where agenting becomes a business. Because lets face it, when I'm reading queries and manuscripts, I'm in a dual mode. I'm partly being an agent and thinking about notes and submission lists and next steps (I can't seem to ever not think of this), but I'm also a reader who loves stories. Sometimes those things blend really well. Sometimes they don't.

And this is probably what I love least about publishing. The truth is I only have so much time and as a result, I can only work on so many manuscripts. I can't take on everything I love and I can't take on everything that I think I can sell. I have to take on manuscripts that I love, that I think I can sell, that don't compete with books already on my list, that are unique enough to stand out in the marketplace, etc. This is also why I'm looking for authors with lots of ideas and not just sequels. So we can build from that first book.

If the team meeting and discussion goes well, I'll call the author to chat. This still doesn't mean I'm going to offer. I'm thinking about it, but I want to know that the author and I have the same vision for the book, and a similar vision for the author's career. I want to know that we have working styles that will work well together.

The truth is that not everyone is the right fit. Publishing is a tough business, and the experience trying to get your book published is going to be 100x better if you're working with an agent who has the same vision for your book and a working style that compliments your own. (This is also better for me as an agent. I don't want to be fighting with an author over revisions before we get to the submission process. It's not going to be enjoyable for either of us).

During the phone call, I like to ask an author about themselves, their inspiration for the manuscript I love so much, their other manuscript ideas, and what they want out of their writing career. I also like to get an idea for how fast they write, what else they have on their plate, and what they want out of an agent. I also like to tell them up front what some of my ideas are for revisions. If it seems like we'll be a good fit, that's when I go ahead and offer representation.

Then I sit around and bite my nails (sometimes literally) while I wait to hear if the author is going to go with me or if someone else is going to snatch them away from me. (See we go through our own torturous waiting sometimes too...)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Query Roundup 7/27

As of 12:03 pm, Friday, July 27th, I'm caught up on queries. That means I have gotten the query inbox down to 0. If you queried me this week and didn't get a response, double check the submission guidelines and send off the query again.

This week there were 208 queries in my inbox!

Of those...

The most common genre this week--This week was pretty much a mishmash. I'm still seeing a lot of queries that are post-apocalyptic--either for adult or children's--and at this point, I think I'd need to see something really new in order for it to catch my eye.

Why I rejected most queries--I'm not grabbed
Like the past few weeks, most of my rejections stem from not feeling grabbed. This doesn't mean it's bad, just that nothing stands out or really jumps out and says UNIQUE! What is it about your character and this concept that are going to lure me to the edge of my seat and want to know what happens next. I really need that shown in the query.

Queries I regrettably passed on--2


YA Fantasy--really great query, but couldn't get into the voice of the pages.
YA Historical--time period and concept sounded interesting, but revolved around too many "issues"

Manuscripts I requested--5


YA sci fi--really well written.
MG adventure--the query has a concept that feels unique and the writing is very good
Contemporary Romance--simply put: I just got sucked into this one right away
Paranormal Romance--love the premise!
YA Contemporary--stellar pages.

What I'm really dying to find--

I'd love to find a great YA Contemporary that's got the character depth of Sarah Dessen or Before I Fall with a romance that's going to keep me awake at night.
I'd love to find something historical, adult or YA, that has the same sharp writing, cutting wit, and yearning romantic tension that I love so much in Jane Austen and Downton Abbey.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Query Roundup 7/20


As of 5:09 pm (I know I was slow again today!), Friday, July 20th, I'm caught up on queries. That means I have gotten the query inbox down to 0. If you queried me this week and didn't get a response, double check the submission guidelines and send off the query again.

And let me apologize to anyone who got two passes from me on the same project today. I'm not sure what happened, but google bounced back over 14 emails and then said "Hey Creeper, are you a spammer, don't send anymore emails today from this address." I had to send out the rest of the emails from my own address and I tried responding to the emails that bounceback. I don't think I doubled up on anyone, but if I did, my apologies.

This week there were 178 queries in my inbox!

Of those...

The most common genre this week--Well, this isn't a genre per say, but I got a lot of queries for a series. Queries for trilogies and for even longer series are a little scary for me. I've sold some trilogies and I like to read them--and series, but here's the thing: not every book can--or should--be a series.


As an author it's important to have ideas for your next book. Even if your next book isn't a series, your agent and editor are both going to be interested in growing your career and hopefully working on a number of books. But it's also important for you to go into querying with a heavy dose of realism.

If you have an awesome idea for a series, that's great. But if in your query, you tell me this is book one of a seven book series, I'm going to worry a little about your expectations. I know that JK Rowling did it, but let's face it, most other people don't.

In terms of selling yourself, I think the best way to pitch a series is to say your project has series potential.

Why I rejected most queries--I'm not grabbed
Like the past few weeks, most of my rejections stem from not feeling grabbed. This doesn't mean it's bad, just that nothing stands out or really jumps out and says UNIQUE!


There was also one query in particular that I passed on because of length. I've been missing contemporary Sarah Dessen style YA and as I read this query that's what I thought of. And then I saw the word count. It was long enough to be an entire series of books, not just one.

The wonderful thing about ebooks is that they really do change the rules a little about word count. You can do books with a shorter length or a longer length than in traditional print, and you can do serializations too.

But as an agent, when I'm looking at queries, I'm still looking first for books that I can love and have the option to sell traditionally. A novel that's hundreds of thousands of words too long severely limits my options. At least, that's my first thought.

My second thought on a very long word count is that it usually suggests that the manuscript needs work. Not always. I've read some long books that were awesome. But I've also read a lot of long books that felt long--and anything over 200k words suggests there are some pacing and storytelling issues.

Queries I regrettably passed on--1


YA Horror--really great query, but couldn't get into the voice of the pages.

Manuscripts I requested--1


YA fantasy/urban fantasy--really interesting premise that I haven't seen before and good writing.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Requested Material Update

Since a number of people have mentioned they like the query updates, here's one on my requested material.

The good news is fourth of July weekend really helped me get caught up. Right now I have 9 manuscripts in my requested queue. (This is way better than the 32 that were in there before fourth of July).

But the date range on the requested material in my email varies. Sometimes I read a manuscript and it requires some thought or maybe I want the chance to read it again. Once I've requested something I really want to give it the thought it deserves.


One question I hear is how often does a request turn into an offer of representation? The short answer is it depends. Sometimes I'll go weeks or even months and not offer on anything, and sometimes I offer on two projects in one week!

But here are some concrete numbers:

So far in 2012 I've offered on 6 manuscripts.

Of those

Every single one came to me through a query in my slush pile.


5 of these manuscripts was for a debut novel.


1 was by a writer I also met at a conference.

A current client had mentioned of those manuscripts to me, as a "wow I really liked this and think you will too."

1 was by an author who had previously submitted an earlier manuscript to me.

1 was referred to me through someone else in the industry.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Query Roundup


As of 5:22 pm (I know I was slow today!), Friday, July 13th, I'm caught up on queries. That means I have gotten the query inbox down to 0. If you queried me this week and didn't get a response, double check the submission guidelines and send off the query again.

(And remember to query the New Leaf query address).

This week there were 273 queries in my inbox!

Of those...

I got 6 bouncebacks saying my email wasn't accepted by the domain. (If you have an author site and your email goes through your site, make sure you can get your emails!)

The most common genre this week--This week felt like a mish-mash. Still a lot of fantasy and sci fi, but it was a good mix of adult, YA, and middle grade.

Why I rejected most queries--I'm not grabbed
Like the past few weeks, most of my rejections stem from not feeling grabbed. This doesn't mean it's bad, just that nothing stands out or really jumps out and says UNIQUE! 


But I also got a lot of queries this week that had really strange beginnings to them--a few times I wasn't even sure if it was a query and then a few other times it was just pages, no explanation. Remember you want to start with who your character is and what your book is about. Try to save personal stuff about yourself for the end of the query, and things like your inspiration and your passion for marketing yourself, that can wait until after the work has been requested. (Like, I probably don't need to know your age). Similarly, while the former English teacher in me is a big fan of theme, I don't need to know that in your query. The plot is much more important to me.

The beginning of your query is so important, because if I'm reading 273 queries on a Friday, you want to hook me not lose me.

Queries I regrettably passed on--2


YA Mythology--really cool query with personality in it and good pages, but...just not really my thing. * Passing on projects like this one are tough for me. It seems good--it could be great!--but based on the premise it's just not what I would pull off the shelf and in the end the writer should have an agent who feels differently.
MG/YA Fantasy--Really good writing in the pages, but it feels a little too much like too many stories I've already read. And it seemed to fall in between age groups.

Manuscripts I requested--5


YA Horror--intriguing premise in the query. KILLER pages. Sounds like just what I'm looking for.
Adult Women's Fiction--Fantastic query, high concept, and then excellent pages. Very exciting!
YA Literary Retelling--Standout writing, really interesting premise.
Adult Historical/Paranormal Romance--interesting concept, really intrigued by the writing.
YA Thriller--Great query, great concept, great pages. Win!

One More Parting Note


If you have a picture attached to your gmail account, make sure it's a picture you'd want an agent to see. All of my emails (and queries) are routed through google business which means if someone has google+ or a email picture, I see it when I read their query. I can't say I've every passed on something because of a picture, of course. But I've been awfully distracted by a few of the...more interesting? ones.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Query Roundup

As of 1:48 pm, Friday, July 6th, I'm caught up on queries. That means I have gotten the query inbox down to 0. If you queried me this week and didn't get a response, double check the submission guidelines and send off the query again.

(And remember to query the New Leaf query address).

This week there were 203 queries in my inbox(es)!

Of those...

I got 4 bouncebacks saying my email wasn't accepted by the domain. (If you have an author site and your email goes through your site, make sure you can get your emails!)

The most common genre this week--Fantasy. Lots of fantasy queries that seemed to stick out in my mind. Most of these seem to be high fantasy or fantasy that is set in a completely different world. I like that kind of fantasy a lot, but everyone querying should make sure that the proper nouns in the query (names and places) aren't too hard to pronounce or understand. It's hard for me to be interested in a character whose name is Thzorhtenke because it takes me too long to try to figure out how to say that in my mind and pulls my attention away from where it should be--the story.

Why I rejected most queries--I'm not grabbed
Like last week, most of my rejections stem from not feeling grabbed. This doesn't mean it's bad, just that nothing stands out or really jumps out and says UNIQUE! If you're querying, you want your query to really show why your character will stand out and grab people's attention, and you want your plot set up to force an agent to read to the end and then leave them on the edge of their seat going, "what, then what happens?"

Queries I regrettably passed on--1


Adult Vampire--loved the query, especially the first line, but the pages didn't grab me.

Be careful if you have a prologue that opens your story. First ask yourself if it's really necessary. If it is, examine how long it is, should it be shorter. And then reread it and make sure it makes sense next to your query and will still grab your reader.

Manuscripts I requested--2


Adult Steampunk Romance--love the premise and the author has done numerous e-originals and the pages are gripping. Sounds like just what I'm looking for.
YA Fantasy--pitched as Graceling meets Game of Thrones and the query actually sounds just like that! The voice in the pages is fabulous and I am beyond excited to read it. (*This is a really great example of how you can use what an agent says, pitch them the right project, and have them super excited to read).

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Five Random Things About Suzie

1. I drink so much orange soda, it's probably running through my veins. I've been known to go through a twelve pack of diet sunkist in a day.

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?