Old Ask Nathan Thread

Questions for the resident (former) agent
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hulbertsfriend
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by hulbertsfriend » September 6th, 2010, 10:28 pm

Hi Nathan,

I've been reading alot about the difference between Estimated vs Actual word count and that agent use "Estimated word count". I calculate that my MS could be counted at a far lower number using estimated than using actual (MS WORD) count. I want to do what is the right, professional thing. Could you explain the difference?
Reference- http://www.annemini.com/ and http://christophermpark.blogspot.com/20 ... count.html


Thx, DougM

http://devinbriar.blogspot.com/
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Matthew MacNish
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Matthew MacNish » September 7th, 2010, 3:55 pm

Nathan, this is by no means important, but when you have a few moments to kill a couple brain cells with interentity, you've got to see this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yf0j1rmZVbM

I've gotten to know you well enough to be aware of your interest in Basketball (both professional and college), and I know you love Soccer, or Futbol, but I'm not sure whether you are interested in Major League Baseball. The great thing is you don't have to be! You can simply be from San Francisco, or like the color Orange, or find Ninja to be awesome, or think that sports stars who border on nuts are hilarious.

NOTE: I realize Jim Rome is a bit of a douche and many people don't like him, but who cares! Brian Wilson completely steals this interview.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » September 7th, 2010, 8:56 pm

hulbertsfriend wrote:Hi Nathan,

I've been reading alot about the difference between Estimated vs Actual word count and that agent use "Estimated word count". I calculate that my MS could be counted at a far lower number using estimated than using actual (MS WORD) count. I want to do what is the right, professional thing. Could you explain the difference?
Reference- http://www.annemini.com/ and http://christophermpark.blogspot.com/20 ... count.html


Thx, DougM

http://devinbriar.blogspot.com/
Just go with whatever the Word count function on Word says.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » September 7th, 2010, 9:04 pm

Matthew Rush wrote:Nathan, this is by no means important, but when you have a few moments to kill a couple brain cells with interentity, you've got to see this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yf0j1rmZVbM

I've gotten to know you well enough to be aware of your interest in Basketball (both professional and college), and I know you love Soccer, or Futbol, but I'm not sure whether you are interested in Major League Baseball. The great thing is you don't have to be! You can simply be from San Francisco, or like the color Orange, or find Ninja to be awesome, or think that sports stars who border on nuts are hilarious.

NOTE: I realize Jim Rome is a bit of a douche and many people don't like him, but who cares! Brian Wilson completely steals this interview.
Haha, I heard about this interview but hadn't seen it. Awesome. Between Wilson, Lincecum and Panda they have quite a group of characters.

I'm sort of torn between the A's and Giants. I was a huge A's fan growing up, but now I live a couple of blocks from AT&T Park and I've been living in SF for a total of six years so my ties to SF are stronger. I'm 50/50 at this point.

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Matthew MacNish
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Matthew MacNish » September 7th, 2010, 10:07 pm

Nathan Bransford wrote:
Haha, I heard about this interview but hadn't seen it. Awesome. Between Wilson, Lincecum and Panda they have quite a group of characters.

I'm sort of torn between the A's and Giants. I was a huge A's fan growing up, but now I live a couple of blocks from AT&T Park and I've been living in SF for a total of six years so my ties to SF are stronger. I'm 50/50 at this point.
I know, I would love to party with that guy ... except it would probably be terrifying. He should write the dialogue for an Anime starring bat wielding Ninja or something.

Regarding baseball, you forgot to mention the deciding factor: Orange in the uniform.

Personally I like baseball, but not quite as much as other sports. I do follow several teams in cities I've lived in though. Mainly the Braves, Twins, Mariners, and Red Sox. But I also like the Giants, the Cubs, the Yankees, and even the A's, though of course Ricky Henderson and the 80's may never be topped (we won't bring up Jose Canseco). Anyway, glad you enjoyed it.

There is nothing quite like a certified Ninja who could earn that honor in his dreams ... and still close out more games than any other pitcher in the NL.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by marilyn peake » September 8th, 2010, 12:28 am

Nathan,

Thank you so much for this Ask Nathan thread. I finally worked up enough courage to explain a situation with one of my manuscripts, and to ask a couple of questions, most importantly how you would interpret the feedback I’ve been receiving for my adult science fiction novel, GODS IN THE MACHINE.

I had a great deal of difficulty writing a query letter for GODS IN THE MACHINE because it’s a complicated novel that takes place within two different time periods (two main characters are time travellers) and revolves around the intertwined stories of nine main characters. After writing something like 40 versions of my query letter, I think I finally figured out how to compose a successful query. At that point, I started getting requests for the full manuscript, as well as personalized rejections that contained compliments about my writing and ideas, even from agents no longer representing science fiction. Feedback from those who read the manuscript included describing it as a potential best-selling novel, “high concept” and based on a brilliant idea, and complimenting me as a very talented writer. However, the manuscript was rejected each time because the person reading the manuscript didn’t like one or more of the characters, but each person disliked different characters. (If it had always been the same characters, I would have started editing the novel immediately.)

I would really appreciate if you could answer some questions. Is it acceptable to re-query an agent who sent me a rejection early on in my querying process, now that I have a significantly improved, vastly different query letter and have also made some significant changes to the manuscript itself? And how do you interpret the feedback I’ve been receiving – is it time to put the novel in a drawer, or should I keep querying until I find an agent who’d like to work with me on GODS IN THE MACHINE and changing any characters they might not like? (I’m completely and totally open to making changes in the novel). Thank you so much for your time, Nathan!
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by AMSchilling » September 8th, 2010, 2:27 pm

Nathan:

I'm finding myself in a bit of a pickle with the query process, and was wondering if you had some advice. I've been querying my YA urban fantasy novel, and so far have only received 1 request for a full (answer pending) and 10 form rejections. Deciding that my query didn't have enough of a hook, or show the stakes enough to be enticing, I started rewriting it. It took a while but I finally came up with a query that shows the major conflict and drama of the story, and I like it. It definitely speaks to the stakes! But... everything that's mentioned in this new version happens in the last third of the book. The first two thirds of the story is condensed down to the first four sentences in the query.

Is this a problem? On the one hand I realize this might mean that my book spends too much time setting everything up for the main conflict/showdown/resolution. But putting that aside as a factor for now (I'll look at it and see if that's the case - I honestly will), would you as an agent be annoyed to have to read 200 pages to get to the specifics that I've teased you with in the query letter? It's not that there's nothing else going on--everything is setting the stage for what happens and develops the characters and the world, as well as building up tension--but things don't get to the "stuff hits the fan" level until you've already invested a number of hours reading. I feel like maybe I'm misrepresenting the story, focusing my query on only what happens after the bulk of the novel is read.

I certainly don't want to annoy any possible future agents if this is a no-no. How would you feel if it happened to you?
Last edited by AMSchilling on September 8th, 2010, 5:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Bonnie » September 8th, 2010, 4:31 pm

Hi, Nathan. My question concerns feedback from first readers. Several readers in my target audience (women) have had positive reactions to my novel, but two men (including my husband) feel strongly that the novel needs a lot of work (hubby thinks my premise is unbelievable). Should I send it out to more beta readers of different genders to see if other male readers have the same reaction, or should I just focus on comments made by female readers? I do think that many men do not respond to novels written by and about women, but I can't believe how different both genders apparently feel about my novel. I honestly don't know whether to go with my gut (tweak it some) or listen to my husband and father (spend months re-envisioning the novel). Suggestions other than querying you to see if you think the idea is ridiculous? :)
Thank you, Bonnie

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by courtney » September 10th, 2010, 10:43 am

Hi Nathan,
Yesterday on Rachelle Gardner's blog she gave an overview of what happens in a pub committee meeting, and one of the comments was whether the publisher would have any competition on the book, and the reply was "it was shopped wide."

So, I've heard that term before and I understand what it means. It sounds like a great thing...the more publishers who have been pitched the project, then the more who will potentially be interested and generate an auction. So, that would be a question I'd like to ask a potential agent if more than one were interested in representing me one day. But, how do you ask it? Something along the lines of, "how many publishers would you shop this book to if you represented it?"

Is there ever a situation where it wouldn't be a good idea to get it in front of as many publishers as possible?

Thanks,
Courtney

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by LisaAhn » September 10th, 2010, 2:13 pm

Hi Nathan,
Thanks for providing such helpful information!
On Writer's Market, some agents ask for a synopsis and others ask for an outline. I understand what a synopsis is and how to write one, but I am not sure what they mean by an outline. Could you clarify the difference between a synopsis and outline and give some tips on how to structure the outline?
Thank you.

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Mira
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Mira » September 10th, 2010, 3:15 pm

Hi Nathan,

So my conversation yesterday with Margo got me thinking. Do agents represent folks who are primarily interested in e-publishing? Well, more specifically, do you?

Thank you!

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » September 10th, 2010, 9:33 pm

marilyn peake wrote: I would really appreciate if you could answer some questions. Is it acceptable to re-query an agent who sent me a rejection early on in my querying process, now that I have a significantly improved, vastly different query letter and have also made some significant changes to the manuscript itself??


Off the record, if in good faith you have really truly reworked the query and have revised the manuscript I think it's okay to try again, and I wouldn't mention it's a re-query. But folks, please don't abuse this privilege.
marilyn peake wrote:And how do you interpret the feedback I’ve been receiving – is it time to put the novel in a drawer, or should I keep querying until I find an agent who’d like to work with me on GODS IN THE MACHINE and changing any characters they might not like? (I’m completely and totally open to making changes in the novel). Thank you so much for your time, Nathan!
Only you can really answer this. Don't revise just because an agent told you to, revise if/because you feel the changes will result in a better manuscript or if you are hearing the same thing from several different people. I can't really tell you when to put it in the drawer. I think that's just one of those things you know when you know.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » September 10th, 2010, 9:35 pm

AMSchilling wrote:Nathan:

I'm finding myself in a bit of a pickle with the query process, and was wondering if you had some advice. I've been querying my YA urban fantasy novel, and so far have only received 1 request for a full (answer pending) and 10 form rejections. Deciding that my query didn't have enough of a hook, or show the stakes enough to be enticing, I started rewriting it. It took a while but I finally came up with a query that shows the major conflict and drama of the story, and I like it. It definitely speaks to the stakes! But... everything that's mentioned in this new version happens in the last third of the book. The first two thirds of the story is condensed down to the first four sentences in the query.

Is this a problem? On the one hand I realize this might mean that my book spends too much time setting everything up for the main conflict/showdown/resolution. But putting that aside as a factor for now (I'll look at it and see if that's the case - I honestly will), would you as an agent be annoyed to have to read 200 pages to get to the specifics that I've teased you with in the query letter? It's not that there's nothing else going on--everything is setting the stage for what happens and develops the characters and the world, as well as building up tension--but things don't get to the "stuff hits the fan" level until you've already invested a number of hours reading. I feel like maybe I'm misrepresenting the story, focusing my query on only what happens after the bulk of the novel is read.

I certainly don't want to annoy any possible future agents if this is a no-no. How would you feel if it happened to you?
I think it's a potential problem, but it's tough to really say without actually reading the manuscript. As long as the manuscript works, I'd view the query as an ends-justifying-the-means situation.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » September 10th, 2010, 9:37 pm

Bonnie wrote:Hi, Nathan. My question concerns feedback from first readers. Several readers in my target audience (women) have had positive reactions to my novel, but two men (including my husband) feel strongly that the novel needs a lot of work (hubby thinks my premise is unbelievable). Should I send it out to more beta readers of different genders to see if other male readers have the same reaction, or should I just focus on comments made by female readers? I do think that many men do not respond to novels written by and about women, but I can't believe how different both genders apparently feel about my novel. I honestly don't know whether to go with my gut (tweak it some) or listen to my husband and father (spend months re-envisioning the novel). Suggestions other than querying you to see if you think the idea is ridiculous? :)
Thank you, Bonnie
Go with your gut. It's not the gender of the person giving the feedback or how close they are to you, it's just about whether it's good advice. It's up to the writer to separate the good advice from the well-intentioned-but-misguided.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » September 10th, 2010, 9:39 pm

courtney wrote:Hi Nathan,
Yesterday on Rachelle Gardner's blog she gave an overview of what happens in a pub committee meeting, and one of the comments was whether the publisher would have any competition on the book, and the reply was "it was shopped wide."

So, I've heard that term before and I understand what it means. It sounds like a great thing...the more publishers who have been pitched the project, then the more who will potentially be interested and generate an auction. So, that would be a question I'd like to ask a potential agent if more than one were interested in representing me one day. But, how do you ask it? Something along the lines of, "how many publishers would you shop this book to if you represented it?"

Is there ever a situation where it wouldn't be a good idea to get it in front of as many publishers as possible?

Thanks,
Courtney
This is something you can ask, but it really varies a lot from project to project and agent to agent, and I wouldn't necessarily view a wide submission as the best strategy all the time. This is one of those things where I think it's important to just trust your agent and let them decide on how wide they want to go. You obviously have input and final say and all that, but this is an area where I think the agent should mainly have room to operate based on their experience and expertise.

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