Today the question is
How do you know when to switch agents?
This is a tough question because when dealing with human relationships things are always bound to be complex. I also imagine other writers might have more or different advice since they're coming from a different place. But here are my thoughts.

Hopefully you'll never have to switch agents. In an ideal world, the agent you sign with with be your partner forever. Which is why I would say that if at any point in your writer-agent relationship you're feeling unhappy or dissatisfied that you open the lines of communication and discuss it with your agent. This is a tough business and there are a lot of ups and downs. Your agent can be your partner and best advocate and sometimes just talking things out can solve a lot.

But if you have that conversation and you're still unhappy with your agent, you can part ways. This happens. To answer this question, I'd say there's a big sign for me that the agent/author relationship isn't working and it might be fixable or it might not and it's no one's fault.

Ask yourself, do you trust your agent?

You really have to trust your agent. They're your partner and advocate and they're managing your career. If you don't trust them, your communication will really suffer. As an agent, I expect my clients to trust me. I expect them to listen when I offer them advice and I expect them to come to me with questions when they have them. I expect them to keep me looped in one what they're doing. We have to trust each other and be on the same page for us to make the most of our working relationship.

After you talk to your agent, if you feel like the relationship has run it's course then you need to find a new agent.

To do so, you'll need to check your agent agreement. There will most likely be some kind of termination clause that explains how you can terminate the agreement (does it need to be in writing, sent via certified letter?) and what that means for projects that have been sold or that are on submission, etc.

No matter what, you will need to terminate first, before querying other agents.
Wow, this contest was a success! And also a really tough one to judge. You guys are all super talented and some of you are also super creepy. Just FYI.

Anyway, winners!

Honorable Mentions

Most Interesting Narrator
R.Lynn @ 1:47 PM

Best Slush Pile Depiction
Margo Owen @ 3:06 PM

Most Terrible Pet Owner
The Will to Write @ 7:11 PM

Best Last Line
Night Writer @ 8:17 PM

Best New Adult
Double Java @ 8:37 PM and Kate Michael @ 7:20 PM

Most Romantic Moment
BethF @ 4:38 PM

Best Opening Line
Alyssa Carlier @ 10:03 PM

Worst Father
Megan Hitch @ 10:55 PM

Runners Up --there are a few

Most Original/Best Style
Ashland @ 10:40 PM

Best/(Worst?) Use of Tea
Richard Strugis @ 11:28 AM
(I sort of want this story as a novel!)

Best Opening Image
Kat Waclawik @ 8:29 PM

Best Voice and Worst Reminder of Dating in New York
Jay @ 2:53 PM

And the winner of the contest is

Carol @ 1:58 PM

Mama used to call them “shivery days.” Days on the cusp of spring, when it seemed I could count every new leaf on a tree because there were so few.

That winter, Mama had a scan. There was a lump ... and no hope. I said I wouldn’t make it without her. She fought that harder than the cancer. Live! she demanded.

Death was swifter than the season’s change. By March, she was gone.

Mama had hung the moon. Had made all the shivery days golden.

I’d best keep my promise to her though: Let winter go, shivering. And live.

I love the voice here--and the writing and the images. I love it all. 

So Carol, please email me your address so I can send you your books! And let's discuss your critique.
The question is:

What are the MG and YA genres that you *aren't* tired of seeing, besides contemporary that is. And what are the adult genres you aren't tired of seeing?
This is a common question. In fact I probably get it asked once a week in some kind of form.
What's the next big thing?
When will dystopian/paranormal/vampires/unicorns/etc come back?
What are you looking for?
What should I write? 
It all comes down to the fact that right now the market is crowded. And we've run through a number of trends in a quick amount of time, especially in children's books and YA. Both markets expanded over the last ten years as more adult readers began to crossover and read MG and YA.

There's a problem with asking this question though.

I don't have an answer.

There's the fact that I can't predict the future, sure. But we're also in that strange place where I can't answer because I can't put words to it.

The truth is I want something I haven't seen before. I want something that doesn't feel overdone or tired or like that other book I read a few weeks ago.

The YA Gone Girl, the YA Game of Thrones, the Twilight but with [insert other paranormal creature here], the John Green-esque contemporary, the Hunger Games meets Percy Jackson--they're all either overdone or ridiculous. With 200 queries a week, half my queries are pitched like one of the above.

I want something that I can't describe because it's that different. I don't actually know what I want because the one line hook doesn't matter to me at the moment.

I want an amazing character. A voice. Someone who demands from page one, from line one, that I sit up and pay attention, that I follow their story. I want great writing and great pacing. I want to feel breathless as I read because I need to get to the end.

But I won't know what that is until I get it.

It might end up being something that could be described as the YA Gone Girl, the YA Game of Thrones, the Twilight but with [insert other paranormal creature here], the John Green-esque contemporary the Hunger Games meets Percy Jackson, but it won't matter because it will be so much more than that.
At least someone did.

I've had a request for another writing contest!

Here are the details:You need to write a short story (100 words or less!) using these five words:


Bonus points if you can use this phrase: New Leaf

Post your story in the comments of this post by 11:59 pm on April 22nd.

What do you win?A pack of amazing spring New Leaf releases, including:


Your choice: either a first page critique or a query critique--good for you or a friend if you're feeling generous.

Can't wait to see what you come up with!
Here's the question:

Hello, Could you advise what subject line and content should go into an email when a new, un-agented writer has received an offer of publication directly from a publisher and has not yet accepted it but is looking for representation. Also, are inquiries of this sort welcomed or does it annoy an agent that the writer went direct to a publisher (knowing that the writer has not accepted the offer yet). Thank You.
Here are my thoughts: 

If agents have your manuscript already, I would follow up within the original thread and let them know you received an offer of publication from X publisher and could they respond to you by X date.

If agents don't have your manuscript. You can query and put "QUERY--OFFER OF PUBLICATION" in the subject line. Pitch the book and let them know where your offer is from. Let them know that if they're interested in reading, you'd love to send them your book, but you're hoping to get back to the publisher by X date.

In terms of response date, find out how long you have to respond to the publisher. A few weeks should be totally fine.

NOW, here's the tricky part and there's no easy way to say this so I'll go for blunt.

If you have an offer from a major publishing house (Big 5 or even not Big 5 but still a big deal--ie Scholastic for instance) this is awesome. As an agent, I will read your manuscript faster because of this.

But on the other hand if your offer is from a small press or an ebook only press, your offer doesn't actually help you. First of all those contracts are a ton of work and honestly not for much money and that leaves an agent signing you with two options--take the deal and hope it works out or turn down the deal and shop the book elsewhere and run the risk of not being able to sell it. Neither one feels like a winning situation.

I often get queries where an author tells me they have an offer from X publisher--but the publisher is someone I've never heard of. Unless it sounds like the most amazing life-changing book ever, I usually just pass.
I get questions about word count a lot--manuscripts that are too long or too short.

Here's one from tumblr:

My first novel is an epic fantasy of 225K words. I often see this length on the retail shelves, but internet wisdom indicates over 150K is an automatic no for a debut author. Is this true? Would this length mean this book is best pitched in person than via query letter?
My first reaction reading this is: gah!

As a rule I would say 225K is too long.

Of course…there are always exceptions to rules if a book is good enough.

The problem is that a lot of what you see on retail shelves are not debuts. Or they were debuts ten years ago when the market wasn’t quite as flooded.

In this case, what I would suggest you do is revise with pacing and cutting in mind. So you’re not cutting words for the sake of getting your word count down, you’re specifically looking for places where perhaps the story can move faster.

I read/heard somewhere that Stephen King has his wife read his books and he makes a note of where she pauses (if she gets up to go to the bathroom, if she decides to make a snack, etc) because if she’s pausing, the story isn’t holding onto her as tightly as possible and perhaps the pacing as slowed down. This is brilliant IMO.

What you need is someone who is a good reader (who reads epic fantasy and can be a good critique partner) to read and mark places where they got bored or lost or didn’t feel grabbed.

Then you want to read through your manuscript and make sure everything you have is moving the plot forward and developing the characters at the same time.

About a year ago, I read a brilliant fantasy novel as a submission. It was a pdf and didn’t have a word count so I read it. At the end I knew what I had read was brilliant and that the writer was superbly talented, but I also felt it was too long. I knew there were scenes in the middle that didn’t need to be there and I knew that there were long passages of description about the world that were always beautiful writing but also not always necessary to the story.

When I looked up the word count (by transferring it to a word doc) I realized the book was probably 68k words too long. I worked with the author and she cut about 50k in a round of edits and then when the book sold, the author and editor cut out a little more. It was that good. Even though it was long, it was so amazing that I didn't care. And of course, the author was willing to revise and tighten and cut in order to make the book better.

This book is RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard by the way and it is amazing.

* I'm back from Bologna and London and up to answer more questions: Ask me here