Friday, September 28, 2012

Query Roundup 9/28

Only 93 queries today! Another light week. As of 12:48 pm I am finished!

Today I requested 3 manuscripts.

YA contemporary with a really cool concept and a fun voice.
YA sci-fi. I recently told myself I wouldn't request anymore, but this one just sounded so good.
YA fantasy that sounds amazing.

I swear guys, I'm looking for more adult and MG. But probably 95% of my queries today were YA.

Trying to find an agent via querying is a little like trying to find someone via the internet to be your long distance boyfriend/girlfriend. Anyone who pays attention to pop culture knows that desperation can be a turn off when you're trying to get a date (stage 5 clinger, anyone?). It's also a little scary to agents.

And I get it. If you've written a book, you've put in a lot of hard work and the industry is tough to crack. It's hard to get agents' attentions and you're dealing with something that's really important to you. But when you query, try to turn all of your insecurities and fears off.

You've written a book--that's the art. Now you're querying--that's the business.

Your query is you selling your book. Think about what makes the book stand out, what makes the characters unique, what makes the plot compelling, where it would fit in the market, and then show that as you tell what the book is about.

Be professional and passionate and show off your awesome writing ability. Be confident about it.

Try to avoid: begging, threatening, pleading, oversharing (keep those personal TMI details and the number of rejections out of your query)

Remember your query is similar to what an agent is going to pitch to an editor and what a reader is going to see as the description on the book jacket. No one picked up The Lovely Bones and read that she was rejected everywhere, and no one would want me for an agent if I pitched books by *crying* and saying "If you don't read this, I'll die."

It only takes one yes. There are so many hugely successful authors out there who will tell you all of there horrible rejection stories. Yet here they are.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Query Roundup 9/21

Today was a blissfully light day in the query realm. Only 87 queries in my inbox. Apparently everyone queried me last week. As of 3:44 pm, all queries have been answered.

I almost had hard time sending my form today. Several times I added a line at the bottom of the query to be helpful. We'll see if I regret that later.

I requested 3 manuscripts.

A MG SUPER 8-ISH MS!! (I'm super excited about this, I've wanted something in this genre for a while)
Upmarket Women's fiction with crossover appeal! For fans of Jodi Picoult!
Historical YA--the author likened it to fans of Laini Taylors Lips Touch Three Times, if that's true I'm sold

I regretfully passed on 2 manuscripts.

An adult women's fiction/revenge story that was pitched for fans of Emily Giffin. Loved the query, didn't love the tone of the pages.
A YA sci-fi that had a BSG feel in concept, but the pages needed some work. The voice didn't seem consistent.

My query thoughts this week are: Proofread

In one query this week someone related their main character to a well known popular main character of another series that I quite like. Only, they spelled that main character's name wrong, and not typo wrong, but they gave her a different but similar first name. This makes me wonder how similar those characters really are and if the author has actually read those novels. This is also a mistake that could have been easily fixable by googling the series.

I mentioned this to the fiercely talented Danielle Barthel who must listen to me complain about everything since she sits close to my desk, and she said: "It surprises me that people don't double check their queries."

And it surprises me too. You only have a few paragraphs and you've presumably spent a lot of time and put in a lot of emotional investment into your novel. Please proofread your query. Make sure any facts or names or titles that you're using are in fact accurate

And be careful what you say in emails...

This is more a general thought than just a query thought, but it happened twice! in the query box today--someone meant to forward my non-form response from last week to a friend with comments only replied to me by accident. In the email age we have all replied accidentally when we meant to forward something to someone else. These mistakes happen. I have made them myself. I've also learned it's best to not write things down that I wouldn't want to make their way into the wrong hands.

Today I also learned when someone accidentally replies to me and says nasty things about me to a friend, then requeries me separately, I will pass.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

So incredibly cool...

Disney*Hyperion is doing an awesome redesign the cover challenge for False Memory and to get people started, they're also showing what they did when trying to come up with the current cover and how they got the final one.

Check it out here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS

This is where you should go to get them answered.

("This" means click on the link above. Don't ask them here.)


Monday, September 17, 2012

Query Roundup 9/14 part II

I finished all the queries this weekend. (I didn't do any queries that came in on Friday night, though, so if you sent something in late and haven't heard. That's why.)

I did find several manuscripts that I requested and am really excited to read. I would highlight them all below but it was a little of a whirlwind query weekend so I'm a little fuzzy on some of the details. I've gotten several emails with requested manuscripts though and have been downloading them to the ereader. It's very exciting.

In terms of feedback, my three most common responses were:

I'm confused by this query.
Hopefully I followed this up with a little bit of specific feedback. As a general rule, be careful about introducing too many things in your query. Leave the character's backstory out of. Don't mention the name of every character, just the main two or three. If it's a fantasy or historical don't throw out too many unfamiliar terms. Be concise. Use short sentences. Make it as easy to read as possible.

I'm just not grabbed. OR This isn't different/unique enough to stand out.
If you're writing a dead genre, there may be a problem with your concept, but it doesn't matter--you want your query to stand out to get requests. This means you need to make your character and your concept sound exciting. Most of my clients I find via the slush pile. Most of them wrote queries that made me sit up a little straight and lean into my computer as I read and I felt "I have to read this!" when I finished. Look at some of your favorite books and read the jacket copy, then use that as a model. Make your character stand out, use voice in your query, and be clear about the stakes. End on a cliffhanger if you can.

This isn't right for me. (or something along those lines)
Here's the thing. Reading is subjective and it's a matter of personal tastes. I don't read business books. I don't really find them interesting and I wouldn't pick one up off a shelf in a store, which means I wouldn't request one from my slush pile either. Now business books is a rather broad category, but there are other quirks that I have when it comes to what I like to read. Mermaid love stories or zombie memoirs--the manuscript could be awesome but it's just not for me.

If I thought the ms sounded awesome and I knew who to recommend it to, I made a recommendation. If I didn't, I didn't. (If you didn't get a recommendation, do your research. Querytracker.net and Agentquery.com make it easy).

One more note on this week's queries. I didn't say this often, but I did sometimes say it.
This just doesn't sound very commercial.
This is probably the toughest response I gave out and I did try to clarify why. Regardless, if you have a book that could be called "not commercial" you have an uphill road in front of you. Not only do you have to write an awesome query, but this is where comp titles are going to be so important.

On Comp Titles:
Think about what book buyers out there will want to buy your book. Don't choose a Faulkner as a comp title. Don't choose a book that only five people bought, but at the same time don't choose the Hunger Games either. Be realistic and stay in the right genre, and if you can't think of titles, think of authors.

For instance, recently I signed a new client for a YA contemporary, and she mentioned in her query that her manuscript would appeal to readers of Lauren Oliver, Courtney Summers, and Nina LaCour. I love all of these authors which means I was excited to read the manuscript, and then even more excited when I realized these comps were totally right.

My favorite response to my non-form response: lol

Thank you to everyone who tweeted or left a comment thanking me. I appreciate your appreciation and I'm glad this helped.

Thank you to everyone who didn't reply to my non form rejection.

Thank you to everyone who did reply to my request!



Friday, September 14, 2012

Query Roundup 9/14 part I

So I'm not done. I have 200 queries left--I've done over 250. The rest of you will have to wait until later.

(This goes to show the time difference that writing 1-2 lines takes)

In the mean time, I have lost count of what I've requested. There was at least one YA, one MG, and one adult.

Strangely enough I've seen a lot of New Adult, which is not a genre. It's an age group, and even then it's not really a thing. For the record, I don't believe in New Adult, because I can't go into a bookstore and ask a bookseller what a great New Adult book is. Or I could but they would have no idea what to recommend. Also, I can't call editors and say I have a New Adult book because most will say "a what?"

You're better off giving the genre--ie where will it be on a shelf in a store--and then say it has crossover potential.

I also got a lot of queries with male protagonists for YA. If you're writing this, know that you have to be able to write a relatively realistic guy and he has to be swoonworthy. Teen girls and Adult women who wish they were still teens reading this books need to love him. (And yest I include myself in the latter category, sort of).

That's all I have for now. You'll get another update later.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Query Roundup 9/7 + An Opportunity

It's 12:31 and all the queries are finished.

I only had 89 queries this week!

I requested 5 manuscripts. (This is a little atypical--more than usual especially for the amount of queries!)

A YA Time Travel Thriller with a really great hook in the first few sentences of the query and good writing
An adult mystery romance with GREAT voice.
YA urban fantasy with a solid query and a really great opening. Finaled in the Amazon breakthrough novel contest.
Adult loose fable retelling. Great opening pages.
Adult historical romance. Love the concept. Pages are very promising.

I regretfully passed on 2 manuscripts.

A speculative YA. The concept was really interesting, but I didn't connect to the voice in the pages.
YA sci fi thriller that would probably get lumped into dystopian. The writing was good, but it I don't think it will stand out. I invited the writer to send me their next project if this one doesn't get them an agent.

What kind of queries did I see?

I say that I'm "not grabbed" a lot, but what does that mean really. Well here's my breakdown of why I passed on queries this week.

Not grabbed by the concept: It's just not for me. If this was a book in a store, I just wouldn't be the typical reader. (passed on 18 queries)

Not grabbed by the characters: They just feel flat. Nothing about them makes me want to read more. (passed on 20 queries)

Not grabbed because I feel like I've read this before: This is the dead genre category. The vampires, werewolves, dystopians, and mermaids. If the story feels done before, I'm usually not grabbed. (passed on 9 queries)

Not grabbed because this concept just doesn't seem right for today's market: This the opposite of the dead genre category. These are the queries that I pass because I don't think the project could sell because I don't know who would buy this book. Sometimes these queries also show that the writer might not reader commercial fiction or know what's marketable. (passed on 10 queries)

I also passed on queries because:

The project sounds too "message heavy": 2

The writing isn't quite up to publishing standards: 2

I have no idea what this book is about: 10

This query is too confusing so I don't know what this book is about: 7

This is too long (over 200K words): 2

This is too similar to a client project: 2


Starting NOW until I sit down to do my queries next Friday, you can query me and instead of a form rejection I will tell you exactly why I'm passing.

This will not be a critique of your query. It will most likely be one or two lines, similar to what I've said in this post.

This will also not be an opportunity to engage me in a conversation about what you can do to make your query better. By participating in this, you're promising not to reply to the email and ask me more questions or even send thanks and praise. I'll be working hard to get my queries down to zero and more emails and replies will be counter productive.

All you have to do is follow the submission guidelines. Send the query and your pages to QUERY(at)newleafliterary(dot)com and put QUERY--SUZIE--I CAN HANDLE THE TRUTH in the subject line.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Requested Material Update: Form Rejections

I give form rejections. Not just on queries but on requested material.

Form rejections for writers suck. I know that. After all feedback is how all writers improve and get better.

My form rejections are (hopefully) a polite way of saying, I just didn't fall in love with this for whatever reason. And I know that's not helpful. Because it doesn't provide feedback.

But here's the thing, writers need to get feedback from other writers via critique groups or beta readers.

Here's why:

Giving feedback is a time commitment. I know this. But I figured I'd also lay it out for everyone.

It doesn't take me long to read a manuscript. Recently I read a client manuscript, a contemporary YA with a speculative angle, (it's amazing). Since I knew I was going to be writing up notes, I read it twice. The first time, I read it straight through without making any notes. It took me just over two and a half hours.

Then, after thinking about the manuscript for a few days, I read it again, took notes, and put them together in the form of an email. I started at 11 am on a Saturday and I finished at 9:15 pm with one half hour break for dinner. So the reading for feedback took significantly longer.

Which means, I only have the time to give feedback to client manuscripts, or to requested manuscripts that have been particularly close calls for me--ones that I'd be happy to read again after revision, or ones where I'd like to see what else the writer does. Even then, there isn't always time to go into a lot of detail on manuscripts that are requested. My clients have to come first.

I've been asked why I don't just give one line of feedback with each form rejection. And that answer is a little more complicated. The truth is, a lot of the times, that one line isn't going to help much. Saying "I just didn't love the voice" or "the characters just didn't grab me" are pretty vague. And sometimes, by offering a line, I open up a dialogue.

Recently I tacked on a line at the end of a form rejection. The writer and I then had four different email exchanges over the next few weeks. The writer, encouraged by my response, asked a follow up question about what I said. I clarified. The writer asked another question, which I answered. And then another. I don't begrudge this exchange. In fact it was a pleasant exchange, but each email still took time, and time is unfortunately something I don't have a lot of.

So what does this mean for writers:

If your query is getting form rejections, there's something wrong with your query. (And possibly your first pages). Revise what you're sending out to agents and send again.

If your full manuscript has gotten a round of form rejections, it means you're writing a good query but that something in the manuscript isn't quite working. So revisit it.

This happens to agents, by the way. Sometimes we submit a manuscript to editors and it gets a round of rejections. And when this happens, I have my client and I both read the manuscript again and we revise. Then we submit again.

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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?