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I'm a literary agent with FinePrint Literary Management in New York City. I specialize in crime fiction. I'll be glad to receive a query letter from you; guidelines to help you decide if I'm looking for what you write are below. There are several posts labelled "query pitfalls" and "annoy me" that may help you avoid some common mistakes when querying.
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Dear Ms. Reid,It got a laugh from me, but I delight in tormenting Mr. Sherman, particularly now that he's outside of my throwing range.Your question is the cris de couer of writers everywhere, and I'm actually heartened to hear you ask. The people that never ask that question are the ones who are generally terrible writers and never going to get better cause they think they're amazing and what's wrong with me that I don't see it.
I’ve been querying agents, including yourself, and I’m just not getting any requests for my manuscript. I’ve been reading your blog and it has really helped, but how do I know if the problem is my query, my manuscript, or if I wrote something that no one finds interesting?
I would appreciate any advice you could provide.
Also, I’m just glad I called you Ms. Reid, instead of Ms. Janet, like I did with Mr. Sherman Brooks.
I’m hoping that got a laugh….
As for the answer to your question:Assume nothing from the response/lack of response to queries. I say no to things that are good and publishable every day of the week and about 15 times most Saturday nights in the Chum Bucket.There are some terrific resources for writers at AbsoluteWrite.com, particularly the place where you can critique other people's work, and once you've hit a certain number, your own work can be critiqued. AW is not the place to start in boldly. Lurk on the forums for awhile and get to know how things work. There are some very helpful people there (mostly) and the moderators are VERY good at their job.
A writing conference can help too, and there are some good ones that aren't expensive. (CrimeBake!) If you can invest in yourself by attending one, make sure you do one of the dreaded pitch sessions, but DO NOT PITCH. Bring your query and your pages and ASK the agent what you've asked here. You'd be surprised how often some very simple fixes can mean a big difference.
I completed my first novel in what I expect to be a trilogy. Weighing in the difficult battle it would take to get an agent to agree to push three books (from an unknown author no less), I was reminded of something Terry Brooks had done.Publishers like series from first time authors.Write the second book.I have NO idea why Terry Brooks had a book full of plot holes, but I assure you it's not the norm. I have authors working on series ahead of editors and they've never had to trash the whole book and start again.Generally an editor isn't going to overhaul a book so completely that a sequel would have to be started from scratch. Tinkered with sure, but that's about it.And remember too: what you want to write is the most important thing right now. Don't write trying to anticipate what an agent or editor wants. We don't know what we want till we read it, and only you can write that.
He said when he was writing the second book of a trilogy, he sheltered it from his agent with the hope of surprising him/her. However, when he was finished it was too full of holes to fix, and he had to start from scratch.
If I do get The Call, and they ask what I've been working on, I'm going to be at a loss. Terry's experience made me cautious about starting the second book in the trilogy, but I want to write it. Now, I could write a stand alone book and try to snag an agent and market the trilogy that way, but if they didn't want the other books, it would be a sticky situation.
What should I do?
A few years back, I was fortunate enough to land an agent for my manuscript. The working relationship was good enough, but admittedly not spectacular. I made the decision to part ways with my agent. The departure was amicable and professional. With a desire to see my story still see the light of day, I rolled up my sleeves and dove back into my MS. I made serious revisions to bring the MS to a place I was proud of (I like to believe that my writing improved over the years my MS was in my former agent's hands).
I'd like to start querying my freshly polished MS and find an agent who believes it can sell. My question is two fold: first, am I already doomed to find a new agent? Is it a major turn off for agents to know that my project was out there with someone else? Secondly, if it's not doomed, do I mention in my query that I once had an agent or do I not mention it at all? I wonder if it's worth mentioning as a means of earning some type of street cred.
Having an agent once before does not give you street cred. Quite the opposite. It gives you baggage. But the real question is not did you have an agent, the real question is did the agent send out the manuscript on submission.If the agent sent the ms out, yup, you're done on this one. Time to write a second novel and query that.If the agent did NOT send the ms out, you never need to mention it to anyone. No harm, no foul.There's a third category: agents who are so bad at their jobs that even if they send mss to editors, no one notices or cares. How can you tell? When you get the submission list, also ask for the responses from the editors. If there are NONE, you're probably in this category.
There are certainly editors that don't reply even to me (the nerve!) but believe you me, they don't stay on my submission lists for long AND the submission notes that say things like nudge, follow up, firebomb, with dates, for when I called/emailed/hurled reminders of the manuscript.
You are well within your rights to ask for the submission list and editorial replies. This is not privileged information. It's YOUR manuscript.
My WIP begins with a prologue that takes place three years before the main action of the novel but plays a significant role in the story’s conflict and plot. Chapter 1 begins with character action in the year the novel takes place.
I have been doing a lot of research on the different ways to begin a novel and have read many polarizing opinions on prologue use from various players in the publishing industry. The most common is agents saying that they HATE to see novels beginning with prologues. The reasons are perfectly valid; they’ve seen it all – prologues that are information dumps full of backstory, prologues that have no connection to the main character, prologue action that has no impact on the story. I can understand how, after receiving multiple sample page submissions of these and other examples, most agents abhor prologues.
Knowing this about agents, I have the following question: If my prologue lacks backstory, shows (not tells) an important scene of story action, plays a major role in the plot, and introduces the overall character motivation (although MC doesn’t know it until later in the story), is it an acceptable way to begin my novel?
I have heard that some agents will go so far as to reject the submission as soon as they see the word “prologue” on pg 1. I have also heard that a counter for this is to simply title the prologue “Chapter 1” and re-number the rest of the chapters. This strikes me as mildly deceptive since I fully intend for the prologue to be marketed as a prologue.
What’s your take on the subject? Will most agents look past the dreaded “P” word if the opening line and sample pages are engaging? Or will the use of this controversial opening tactic win me a one-way ticket to rejectionville?
I am fully settled in the I Hate Prologues camp too. I go so far as to NOT read them in a manuscript.
My feeling is exactly as you've outlined above.
So, what to do?
If you leave the prologue OUT of your query, will the agent be able to understand Chapter One? If so, leave it out OF THE QUERY. Remember, you only have three-five pages most likely, or not many more, to catch an agent's attention.
A query is not the full manuscript and it's certainly NOT the finished book. Reading at the query stage is often skimming. It's NOT settling down on the couch with a cat and a cup of java for a nice read of an 800 page novel.
The query is designed to entice the reader (in this case the agent) to read more. Which part of the book is best suited for that? Your prologue or Chapter One? Be very critical in your assessment here. If I'm only going to read five pages, which ones are they?
And you don't actually have to put prologue
you know. It's Chapter 0. Or Chapter 1. Don't get all caught up in "this must be a prologue" cause as soon as you do the editor at the publishing house is gonna say "hey, people don't read prologues, we always start with chapters" and that's gonna be that.
Many agents ask for the first 3 chapters, or 30 pages. My chapters are very short - the first 3 are 13 pages. Can I send 30 pages if they ask for the first 3 chapters? Simple question, but world of difference in numbers here.
Absent the phrase "whichever is more" or "whichever is fewer" I'd send the more. In your case 30 pages.
Here's why: way too many times what the author sends as the first ten pages is the writing equivilent of throat clearing or orchestral tuning. Warm up. If all I've got are those ten pages I can't flip ahead and see where the story really starts. (Of course I'm sure that's not the case with YOUR book, right?)
Even if I'm not going to take your project (sad lack of taste on my part obviously) I can at least tell you that I think the story starts on page 11, or 12, or 30.
The other thing is: there's no such thing as the query police (sadly) and so no one is going to arrest you for sending 30 pages instead of stopping at 13.
Just remember to embed them in the email UNLESS the agent says otherwise. I am seeing a couple agents that are asking for attachments but that is NOT the norm.
And if an agent DOES reject you for sending 30 pages instead of 13, frankly, you might not think so now, but you're better off. Holy moly, that kind of strait jacket glued to the rules approach is bad bad bad for what you need in an agent these days.
THE GIRL WHO CRIED WOLF
by Robert Ferrigno
e-book original, 2013, $2.99
"From deep in the shadowy world of environmental extremism, three men emerge with a plan to save the planet. Correction: made that three idiots. And their plan is to kidnap a wealthy heiress in hopes of blackmailing her father into paying a multimillion-dollar ransom to the eco-charities of their choice. What could go wrong?
"If you've ever read one of Robert Ferrigno's brilliant thrillers before, you'll the the answer is "plenty." For starters, the heiress is no coddled princess. Sure, she may be spoiled, but she's also a ballbuster. Second, her boyfriend is a hothead ex-cop who now works in executive protection. And third--well, let's just say her father isn't exactly bending over backward to part with any of his money.
"THE GIRL WHO CRIED WOLF is reminiscent of Carl Hiaasen's early books, back when he pioneered the "bunch of Florida wackos" genre as Dave Barry once called. it. Ferrigno's wackos are working their magic in the state of Washington, but you get the idea. THE GIRL WHO CRIED WOLF has that same madcap flavor and humor, along with action and suspense--and a serious message as well. (Of course, the message in Ferrigno's book is a little bit different from Hiaasen's. But still.)
It's been far too long since we've had a new book from this amazing author--truly one of the best writers inside or outside the genre. That makes THE GIRL WHO CRIED WOLF a very welcome return. It's a fun book and a fast read, the perfect thing to take on vacation or read on a long weekend. Hopefully, we won't have to wait so long for his next novel. Buy this today and send the man a little encouragement." --David Montgomery writing in The Strand Magazine (June-Sep 2013 issue, p 71
What knocked my sox off? David Montgomery's writing! His diction! The fact that I wanted to buy this book as soon as I read the review. That's the very definition of compelling writing.
more snow and ice today.
Remember when we were complaining about the heat?
Yea, me either.
(I didn't finish the blog post for today, sorry)
When querying an agent, is it wise to inform them of other agents who have requested pages? I am thinking of including something along the lines of "Currently, three agents are reading the full manuscript, and several others have requested partials."
I don't want to come across as arrogant, pushy or assuming. But I do think they should know where I'm at in the query process. Your thoughts?
At the query stage, no.
If an agent requests more, yes.
If you're querying me, and you tell me agents are already reading fulls/partials/whatevers, my inclination is to say "hey, wait, how far down your list am I?" If I request a full and you tell me others are reading I'm more likely to assume I'm slow, or this is a hot project that lots of people are asking to see.
Last summer, after a flurry of kind, flattering emails in which a reputable agent told me repeatedly how much she loved my novel, I signed a contract with her. I was over the moon.
In September I sent her a last revision with the changes she had suggested. I didn't hear back, so a few days later I sent her a "did you get my revision and what's the next step" email.
She responded rather tersely in comparison to the earlier emails, but I figured she's a busy, sought-after agent and now that I've signed on, she's getting down to business. She gave me the first-round list of editors she planned to submit to and said she expected to hear back from them very soon. That was on October 1.
Since then I've waited. In mid-January, I finally sent her a brief, polite followup email asking for an update. No response. A week later, I sent a second polite followup email. It's been about a week, and again, I've heard nothing back from her.
Yesterday, I left a message on her cell phone, and again, no response. I haven't yet worked up my nerve to call the agency directly, although I'm guessing this is what I have to do now.
In the meantime, I'm stuck wondering what happened to her and where does it leave me? Do I have an agent? Is my novel out there being considered? Or did she get terrible responses back from the editors and decide she hates it after all? Does she regret signing me on? Is that why she's gone AWOL on me? Is she seriously ill? Dead? Did she quit her job? If she has dropped me, shouldn't she let me know? And if so, what responsibility does the agency have to me or I to it?
First thing to do is pour yourself a soothing beverage and realize It's NOT You. The agent has clearly gone round the bend for some reason, and I'll bet you a pair of furry shark slippers and a full length manuscript critique that it has nothing to do with you.
Agents lose their minds with increasing frequency. I'm not sure why. I've had a few bouts of The Bends myself wherein I'm sure my clients thought (or hoped) I was dead cause at least then they could find someone to return their calls. Generally I've picked up the pieces, apologized profusely, learned from the situation and tried not to repeat it.
Here's what you do now:
1. Check your contract. Is it with the agent or the agency?
1 A: If is is with the agent, you need to terminate NOW. You've had your career on hold for awhile and it's not doing you any good to wait any longer. No matter how esteemed or reputable your agent is, she's not doing you a lot of good if you can't actually talk to her.
You terminate according the the terms of the contract. You ask for a list of submissions. My guess is there aren't any. When an agent goes around the bend like this, pretty much all work has stopped. She's not submitting stuff and just not telling you about it. People go to radio silence when they HAVEN'T done the stuff they're supposed to, not when they are.
1B: If the contract is with the agency, get in touch with them. Let the head of the agency know there's a problem. Most likely you will be terminating with them anyway. Chances are they're hearing this from more than one client. When agents go round the bend, it's often on all their clients, not just one.
2. When you have terminated, start querying again. You'll need to mention you parted amicablly from your first agent when she got overwhelmed and was unable to submit your work. Don't be afraid to be direct about your situation. All of us on this side of the query letter have seen situations like this. Most of us have seen it more than once.
This is not the time to be afraid you've done something wrong, or to hesitate to act. You're not casting blame or casting aspersions on this agent's character. You're simply acting in a business like way to get your career back on track.
3. This is going to make a good story in the years to come. It doesn't feel like it now, but it will.
I recently completed my first manuscript. It is a story that was burning within me to tell, though it is of an entirely different genre than what I see myself writing in the future. This manuscript is a psychological thriller, and I see myself writing fantasy (perhaps with a mix of mystery or thriller).
Would you advise querying for the thriller knowing I don't plan on writing that specific genre? I don't want to waste an agent's time, nor do I want to be pigeonholed into a genre I may have less love for than others. The logic in my mind says I should wait until a second, more genre-accurate (fantasy) manuscript is finished and start by querying that one, rather than jump the gun and query the thriller just to be a published author.
There's a great truism from our guys in the military: "No plan survives boots on the ground."
Yours is a classic example of thinking too far ahead to be useful.
You're assuming your thriller will be publishable and published. That's not a given.
You're assuming the unstarted/unfinished fantasy manuscript will get finished, and published. That's not a given. That's not even a reasonable bet at this point in time.
Right now the best thing to do is finish a book and query it. You'll learn a lot in the process and that information will be useful when you decide what to do for your second book.
Short answer: don't get ahead of yourself or you'll end up chasing your tail.
PS Don't ever think you're wasting my time by offering to let me read your work. Not now. Not ever. You're a writer. I'm an agent. In the immortal words of the elegant John Keats "that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'"
Oh Wise and Worldly Ms. Shark,
I'm looking for some guidance (hope) on the warning to 'never start a story with a character waking up'. When I first started crafting this tale, I wasn't aware of the abhorrence this elicits in so many folks.
The MC needs to find himself unexpectedly alone aboard a ship usually teeming with crew. Now, to be fair, he is not shown waking up, doesn't brush his teeth or put on his clothes. In effect he woke up five or ten minutes earlier, and is about to set out in search of his shipmates.
In fact, there's really only one sentence that describes his sleeping at all, and it's there mostly for grounding, lest the reader think the crew has vanished with a poof.
"He wasn't surprised to have been left sleeping, but wondered how he'd not been roused by the crew's no doubt raucous departure." Or something like that. An unexpected liberty had been called.
I can find no meaningful (not inelegant) way to 'work it in later'. I have only a scant few paragraphs to build reader sympathy for this guy, and his obvious isolation ( and ostracization) is a big part of it. Within two pages the poop hits the fan and we're off to the races, and bringing it up after that feels really contrived.
I've even gone so far as relocating (to the beginning) a flashback reveal that occurs much later in the story, the true inciting incident, which occurs well in advance of the opening, with naught but boring sea voyage between. But doing this feels very stuck on, almost like a prologue, even though I've edited out the flashbackiness.
I could make it a prologue, at my peril, but would still be back at my 'waking' beginning, especially for any(every)one who skips it. And the reveal works so much better where I had it before, after it has been referred to several times and the reader is just dying to know: what really happened, why was he really marooned, etc.
Am I truly doomed? Will every agent who reads this waking up opening hit the auto-reject button?
Woeful in Weeki Wachee
Let's all remember that you can break every rule in the book and twice on Sunday IF you do it well. The rules "no sleeping, no driving, no this that and the other" really mean Don't Bore Me. Driving, waking, sleeping are all static.
Now, if you open a scene with a car chase, that's certainly driving and done well, it can be very very dynamic.
And weather? Well, open in a hurricane and you just might have something pretty tense.
And in your case, you might have your character waking but if he finds himself mysteriously alone on a ship that should be crewed by dozens...well, I'd sure want to read on to find out why.
The rules are guidelines for keeping out of trouble. Sometimes though, you really want to be IN trouble, and breaking the rules is a good way to get there.
thanks to my Twitter pal @LilyMars for the image
Do you have a website that lists your upcoming events/appearances?
When was the last time you updated it?
Here's why I ask.
Recently an editor pal sent me an advanced reading copy of a book by an author I didn't know. I read it and liked it very much. I googled his website, wondering if he was going to be in NYC or maybe attending Bouchrcon, or in some way how our paths might cross.
His event button on his website led to me a long list of events.
The reason I know they are 2012 is cause the first one is for July, and I thought maybe he was just very organized and had booked events far in advance. But no, Saturday July 7th isn't in 2014. Or even 2013. I actually checked my 2012 date book and sure enough 7/7/12 is a Saturday.
Now, the website police aren't going to show up at your door and no one is going to not buy your book if your event page isn't cleaned up. That's all true.
You don't know what you're going to miss if you're not ready.
I've said it before, I'll say it again here now: Be Ready
In this instance it means keep your event page updated so sharks can swim by and tell you they liked your book. A lot.
If you write crime fiction of any kind, you must subscribe to Crimespree Magazine.
There's no better place to read reviews by real readers, interviews, and opinion pieces by crime writers. It's absolutely essential.
One of the (many) reasons it's essential reading for crime writers is the reviews of front list books. You must be reading in your category, and the reviews at Crimespree are a good way to find out which books those are. They aren't just the best sellers from the big names. The coverage is wide and deep.
An annual subscription is $38. Bi-annual is $72.
Don't tell me you can't afford to subscribe. You can't afford NOT to.
I recently received an email from an author I've long admired. I've yammered on about his books, tweeted about them, subscribed to his newsletter, the whole kit and caboodle.
Thus, when I got an email from the author and the subject line was From: (author's name) my first thought was "oh, it's the newsletter" and because I had 186 unanswered emails, and I am barely holding on to my sanity after almost two weeks away from work, I was poised to delete it unread. (The first trick of email triage is to discard news letters and news feeds if you're behind)
Thankfully some benevolent force in the universe stayed my fin/ger because it wasn't a newsletter, it was a query for representation.
I almost missed it! But really, I only want 15% of the blame for that. The other 85% is his for not using the subject line correctly.
If you are querying, put QUERY in the subject line. Even if you know me. Even if you know I know you're querying.
On this same note, a former intern of mine recently wrote to ask for a letter of reference. Thankfully I check my spam file pretty often because that's where her email had washed up. Why? Her subject line was Hi! and my spam filter sees that more often than not as a red flag for spam.
There's absolutely no reason to ever use Hi! on a piece of business correspondence.
The subject line is the first thing I see after your name. I use it to perform triage on my incoming mail. If you need a letter of reference, say so. Those are things I'll do right away so I can get them off my to do list.
If you're writing to me with a question for the blog put QUESTION FOR THE BLOG in the subject line.
In other words, tell me succinctly what the email is about so I know to answer you promptly and NOT discard you unread.
I recently finished reading M.A. Lawson's new book Rosarito Beach. I liked it a lot and looked forward to entering it on my LibraryThing data base and seeing who else had read it and liked it.
Here's one of the reviews I found there:
...although I am not as well-read in this sub-genre as would be ideal to make recommendations, I can say that from the first few pages of Rosarito Beach I was struck with the impression of a clear similarity between Lawson's style and that of Janet Evanovich.
Dear reader, that funny sound you hear is me dropping my teeth with surprise. Janet Evanovich?!?! Now, make no mistake about it: I love the Stephanie Plum novels
and I think Janet Evanovich is a terrific writer. But let's think about this a bit:
Stephanie Plum is competent only by accident. She's deeply involved in her family, as her family is with her (Grandma, anybody!)
More to the point, the Plum novels are written in first person, set almost exclusively in New Jersey, and the resolution of the plot is never in doubt. These novels are fresh, and fun, and lighthearted.
Contrast that with M.A. Lawson's Kay Hooper who is a DEA agent in Los Angeles. She's frighteningly competent, highly skilled, has no family to speak of and doesn't need Ranger or Morelli to save her from anyone. The book is in third person, ranges widely geographically and there's tension galore. The outcome is always in doubt. This novel is hardly lighthearted and fun, but it sure was good to read.
The point I'm slithering toward making here is that when you want to compare your manuscript to a published book in your query letter to give the reading agent a sense of where your book will fit in its category, you must be able to answer WHY the book is comparable.
When you tell me that your manuscript will appeal to readers of Dana Haynes ICE COLD KILL you should be able to tell me why. Is it third person, multiple POV? Is it a thriller? Does the action unfold over a short period of time, and in places around the world? Does the main character solve her own problems rather than relying on others? Does she carry a stun gun in her stocking?
You might not list all these things in your query (it's better if you don't) but you need to KNOW them.
The reason you need to think about this carefully is that you might surprise yourself and discover the books aren't comparable at all.
The last thing you want is me expecting fresh, fun and lighthearted and getting tense, dramatic and terrifying.
Any questions? Post to the comment column below.
Thank you so much for allowing me to participate in the Chum Bucket! I appreciate your comments regarding my memoir.
I have a follow-up question — a possible topic for your blog, as I imagine lots of memoirists will struggle with the same issue.
You’ve stated that because you were unable to find further information about me on the Internet, it might call the veracity of my story in question — a legitimate concern in light of the fraudulent “memoirs” by Frey, Seltzer, et al.
As you’ve surmised, I have indeed changed the names of key participants (which, of course, I’m disclosing at the start of the manuscript). However, even googling their real names won’t turn up much information. The trial initially garnered no media coverage. The press did pick up the story once I turned the tables on my rivals. A bit of digging will still lead to some of these articles, but as the case happened more than ten years ago, much of the content is now archived.
Other than that, I’m about as googleable as Jack Reacher.
However, thanks to the extensive trial record, I can back up each material statement in my book from sworn testimony and supporting documents. But how do I effectively state this in my query (if at all)?
In a broader sense: How should authors of genuine memoirs pitch their work in this post-Frey world, especially if their stories are controversial or sound too outrageous to be true?
Heeding the QueryShark mantra that a query’s sole goal is to garner an agent’s interest, I decided to keep mine short and plot-focused. I figured that if agents are sufficiently intrigued to invest time researching my story, then my query has done its job.
Memoir is a very tricky thing to query as you found out. The first memoir I took on after the Frey debacle was TUNE IN TOKYO by Tim Anderson
. I remember asking him if he had his passport and photos and receipts. I never doubted Tim's story but I wanted to make sure that if anyone asked, we had backup.
In your case, you need to mention in your query letter that the public record is a bit bare. You need to say there is an extensive trial record (and quote the case by name and court.)
But the real problem with a memoir that has a sparse public record is this: if no one cared enough to write about it when it was happening, why will people care about it now?
In other words: what is the significance of this proposed memoir?
This is the place where most memoirs don't get enough altitude to fly. Significance is not "It happened to me and wrecked my life" or "They done me wrong and I can prove it."
Significance is why a general reader will be compelled to pick up the book and read it.
Some recent non-fiction examples:
COLUMBINE by Dave Cullen--"Everything you thought you knew about Columbine was wrong."
DEVIL IN THE GROVE by Gilbert King--"Drawing on a wealth of never-before-published material, including the FBI's unredacted Groveland case files, as well as unprecedented access to the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund files, King shines new light on this remarkable civil rights crusader, [Thurgood Marshall] setting his rich and driving narrative against the heroic backdrop of a case that U.S. Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson decried as "one of the best examples of one of the worst menaces to American justice."
THE BROTHERS: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and Their Secret World War by Stephen Kinzer--as cogent a narrative as I've ever seen that explains why Third World countries don't much like the United States.
Bottom line for a memoir: you need to tell me there is evidence supporting the story, and where to find it, but more important you need to tell me why the story is important now.
Here's a recent blog post by Wendy Thomas
about what makes memoir compelling. I like what she has to say.
Some years ago I published several non-fiction books under a pseudonym with a major publisher. Then I decided to “retire” and learn novel writing. To my utter and complete amazement they are not the same. (Who knew?)
The question is, my contract obliges me to give my old publisher right of first refusal on my next several books, which I am certainly ready to do. I want to honor all my obligations. But the publisher has cut off all communication. They ignore e-mail, so I sent a s-mail letter and it came back unopened, marked “Refused.”
I have a smoking and steaming pile of drivel here ready to submit. I am convinced this book will sell better than covered wagons at a NASCAR convention. But is it OK to proceed?
The editor I used to work with is dead from cancer, and the other people I used to know there have all moved to parts unknown due to the musical chairs nature of publishing. So there are no current inside contacts.
You've left out the key piece of information: are the non-fiction books still in print, and for sale? Are you receiving royalty statements? If the answer is yes, then your contract is still in force.
Check your royalty statement for contact information and get in touch that way.
If you are NOT receiving royalty statements, make sure your books aren't for sale. If they're selling your books and not giving you an accounting, you have a bigger problem than the option book.
The bottom line though is you need to send a registered letter to the publisher, and I mean the person who is the publisher, not the company, to start the option period ticking. If they have 60 days to respond, it's 60 days from receipt of your letter. If they reply, good. If they don't, you're clear.
Generally you can find this person and the correct address on the website under Legal Notices, or Contact us, maybe even the Press Releases page. If you can't find it, email me with the particulars and I'll take a look too.
And I'm puzzled about how the option covers "next several books" rather than one, but I guess that's a tale for another night at the bar.
With all the mergers and acquisitions and general craziness in publishing in the last ten years, this problem is much more common than you think (and I like.)
|From "Dancers Among Us" one of my favorite books of all time|
A well-reputed agent has had my full for almost a year now. I have nudged her once and she says she hasn’t read it yet. Her policy is to inform her if you receive rep elsewhere on fulls she currently has. I have received many rejections for this ms already – I’ve been told it’s a tough sell because it has a dystopian vibe – and personally, I want to shelve it.
Meanwhile, I've completed another ms in a different genre and plan to query that in the near future. My question is, what happens in the event I am offered rep for the new ms that’s in a different genre? How do I inform this first agent who still has my old full (when it’s a completely different ms)? Will she be upset that I want to go with someone else? But I can’t sit around and wait for her forever, especially on something that's likely not salable at this time. What’s the most professional way to handle this without burning bridges?
It's not me is it? It very well could be. Well, ok, I haven't had anything for a year, now that I check my submission data base, but that's cause I spent most of December reading madly to end the year with a clean slate.
I mention this because delays are just a part of the submission process. For every story like Becky Albertalli's
there are 1000 that start like your question.
The key piece of information here though is your last sentence in the first paragraph: "I want to shelve it."
This is your career, and you get to manage it as you see fit. Even when you have an agent who gives you advice and guidance, you get to do what feels right to you. (If you continuously avoid taking my advice, we're going to have a conversation about what you think my value is, but it's not like I can have you arrested for Failure to Heed My Words--would that I could.)
The second thing you need to realize is that the submission process is dynamic, not static. People withdraw submissions all the time, and for all sorts of reasons. It's not burning a bridge to do that.
I have to withdraw submissions from editors every once in a while. It's not my favorite thing to do (that would be SELLING something, not taking it off the table!) but editors understand that circumstances change. Agents do too.
Here's what you do: polite email to Agent Sloth saying you're withdrawing your manuscript (title) sent to her on (date) and thank her for her willingness to read same. You don't need to explain anything but you can certainly say you're working on something new in a different category and you would like to query her on that project when it's ready.
blog to resume when I'm back from the dead.
Is it polite to send your resume to a literary agency even if they don't specifically state they are looking for interns/assistants? Or will this only make them remember your name in a bad way? And how soon is too soon to send that resume- should you be ready to start next month, or next week?
It's not rude to send out resumes without a job posting but the real question is whether it is effective. And the answer is probably not.
When we look for interns, we post the opening on BookJobs.com and on our Facebook page and we tweet about it.
When the resumes arrive, I have a designated folder for them that's labelled "Spring 2014" and I know who to get in touch with. I don't keep a file of resumes that have arrived before we announced the job, and I don't keep a data base of applicants to get in touch with.
Mostly this is just because I don't have to. We have more good applicants than we can hire, so we don't have to reach out beyond the applicants we get.
When we hire interns we expect them to be able to start with us usually within a couple weeks. We hire summer interns in April and May. Summer "session" starts right before BEA.
Exceptions are made of course but that's the general procedure.
The only time you can apply for something that hasn't been posted is if you hear about it from one of my pals. Often I'll let the word out early to colleagues that if they've got a crackerjack candidate we're looking for someone. We've gotten a few good people that way too.
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An agent requested a query + ten pages from a Twitter pitch contest a few weeks ago. The same agent then requested a partial based on completely separate contest (Pitch Wars) this weekend. This agent is currently closed for queries otherwise and I haven't heard back from her yet on the ten pages, so I assume she hasn't seen them yet.
What's the best way to approach that? Follow up on the query+10 and say "by the way, you wanted more so here it is?" Do it as a separate email entirely and pretend she doesn't have the first round? Go hide because this whole query thing is scary?
Well, you don't hide. And don't assume she'll make the connection. I've never done one of those pitch things on Twitter (my god, you guys can barely get a coherent query in 250 words, 140 characters is nutso) but my guess is that agents are looking at tweets and thinking "oh that sounds good" not "oh wait, I've seen that name before."
Send the partial (the more pages in front of her eyeballs the better) and in the cover letter mention she asked for it in both the pitch contest and the pitch war. Clearly you've got an interesting concept to have intrigued her not once but twice.