Old Ask Nathan Thread

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » May 29th, 2010, 6:47 pm

JustineDell wrote:
Nathan Bransford wrote:
knight_tour wrote:Nathan,
I was on Query Tracker looking at various other agents to query. I noticed Ginger Clark on my list, but she works for your agency. If I have been rejected by you, should I assume that she also would not be interested in taking a look at my work? I just don't know the level of interaction between your agents on such things, and I certainly don't want to break a policy against hitting the same agency twice!
Yeah, you can query her!
Hmmm...I'm confused, Nathan. I thought you said once that a rejection by you (or anyone else in the CB agency) is like a rejection from all. Has that changed?

~JD
No, don't believe I said that (or if I did I misspoke). Some agencies have this policy, but for the most part it's okay to query a different agent at the same agency. I just usually recommend that you wait a few months before doing so.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » May 29th, 2010, 6:49 pm

bcomet wrote:Hi Nathan!
As one hopes to find an agent for their career and not just a project or an area, this came up recently as a concern:

What do you do if an agent loves one genre you write in, but doesn't rep (or want to rep) your other work?

Do you use one agent for one type of work and another agent for the other?

Can an exclusive under a pen name be separate from an exclusive under another name?

How do you discuss this with a prospective agent so that it is polite?

Should you ask them to first look at your other projects (i.e. novels in the drawer or WIPs)?

Thanks for this answer!
I usually just advise people to focus on the project at hand and to cross the multi-genre bridge when you get there. You can discuss your ideas for projects in other genres with an agent if they're interested and get a sense of what direction they envision for your career. But I wouldn't limit yourself out of the gate by trying to narrow down to only the agents that rep both of your genres. It's hard enough to find an agent without limiting your options. If, down the line, genre hopping is a good idea I'd try and work things out then with your agent.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Dreamstate » May 30th, 2010, 12:26 pm

I hope you might answer a question for me about the serialization of a novel. I searched your blog for info but the only thing that came up on serials was about killers -- interesting but not helpful in this instance.

I am currently seeking representation for my 80,000-word commerical fiction here in the US. For the past couple of years, I have been writing short stories for a British woman's magazine with a circulation of about 350,000. The magazine buys First Use with Extensions, with the condition that the material shall not appear in any other publication within 18 months of publication in the magazine. I've recently started writing serials for them, which have word counts of 12,000-16,000. I am wondering whether I can use my as-yet unpublished novel as the basis for a serial. Obviously, I would have to cut a whopping 64,000 words from it, so I would lose a lot of subplots, characters, etc., but the general story would remain the same, with some passages matching word for word.

So my question: Is adapting my WIP as a serial short story a good idea (building platform) or a bad idea (ranging from copyright issues to tying up the material too long to I don't know what else) in terms of how it would impact shopping my novel? How would agents, and subsequently publishers, view this? If I could negotiate a different contract with them (say shorter term or just First European rights), would that make a difference? Do I save this as an option for if I fail to get an agent?

I would appreciate any guidance you might give!

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by pearlgoddess » May 31st, 2010, 10:02 am

Nathan Bransford wrote:
pearlgoddess wrote:Mr. Bransford,

I have a two-fold question I hope you can help me with. I am a writer/illustrator and have written an illustrated book for adults. I have done a ton of research but keep coming upon two stumbling blocks (both of which are surmountable, just trying to determine the best way to get past them.) First, my book really doesn't fit neatly into any genre that I am aware of. It isn't a graphic novel; it is, simply, an illustrated book with an adult target audience. The closest I can compare it to would perhaps be some of Edward Gorey's or Shel Silverstein's books (although a bit more erotic!) Thus I am having a difficult time trying to determine which agents would be best for me to query. I'm looking for those open to "quirky" or "off-beat" as that seems my best bet. However, some of them say they do not rep picture books, which mine is, although I am sure they are referring to children's picture books. Secondly, I have found a few that I would like to query (such as yourself) but who only accept email submissions. While my book can be viewed online, I would much prefer to send a dummy by snail mail as it is a much better way to view my work and judge it as a book. But I certainly don't want to disregard an agent's submission guidelines (or lose a dummy book). Of course, I will be enclosing SASEs with all my snail mail queries for the return of the dummy. Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated.

Gretchen
This sounds like a bit of an esoteric project that you might have difficulty placing with a agent/publisher. Illustrated books are always difficult, and agents sometimes shy away from them (picture books definitely refers to children's picture books). Have you considered a self-publisher like Blurb.com?

But if you want to go the agent route, I would follow agents' guidelines. If they only accept e-mail submissions they only accept e-mail submissions. Especially if the book is viewable online I'm sure that's the route that most would prefer to take.
Thank you for taking time to reply to my question. Self-publishing is not a route I am interested in, but I appreciate the suggestion. Don't know if my book could be considered esoteric (I see it as a gift book) but your response did make me more aware that I might be in for a long haul before I find someone who loves it and is willing to rep me. Thanks for the skin-thickening words!

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » June 1st, 2010, 8:03 pm

Dreamstate wrote:I hope you might answer a question for me about the serialization of a novel. I searched your blog for info but the only thing that came up on serials was about killers -- interesting but not helpful in this instance.

I am currently seeking representation for my 80,000-word commerical fiction here in the US. For the past couple of years, I have been writing short stories for a British woman's magazine with a circulation of about 350,000. The magazine buys First Use with Extensions, with the condition that the material shall not appear in any other publication within 18 months of publication in the magazine. I've recently started writing serials for them, which have word counts of 12,000-16,000. I am wondering whether I can use my as-yet unpublished novel as the basis for a serial. Obviously, I would have to cut a whopping 64,000 words from it, so I would lose a lot of subplots, characters, etc., but the general story would remain the same, with some passages matching word for word.

So my question: Is adapting my WIP as a serial short story a good idea (building platform) or a bad idea (ranging from copyright issues to tying up the material too long to I don't know what else) in terms of how it would impact shopping my novel? How would agents, and subsequently publishers, view this? If I could negotiate a different contract with them (say shorter term or just First European rights), would that make a difference? Do I save this as an option for if I fail to get an agent?

I would appreciate any guidance you might give!
This is a tricky situation. On the one hand it could definitely help burnish your credentials, but on the other hand this does sound like it could tie up your rights. To be perfectly safe, if at all possible I would seek publication in the magazine with material other than your WIP. That way you get the best of both worlds and builds your credentials while it leaving you free and clear with your WIP.

If you're free and clear after publishing an excerpt though, this isn't necessarily going to harm your chances at publication. Just make sure you know what you're signing!

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » June 1st, 2010, 8:05 pm

pearlgoddess wrote:
Nathan Bransford wrote:
pearlgoddess wrote:Mr. Bransford,

I have a two-fold question I hope you can help me with. I am a writer/illustrator and have written an illustrated book for adults. I have done a ton of research but keep coming upon two stumbling blocks (both of which are surmountable, just trying to determine the best way to get past them.) First, my book really doesn't fit neatly into any genre that I am aware of. It isn't a graphic novel; it is, simply, an illustrated book with an adult target audience. The closest I can compare it to would perhaps be some of Edward Gorey's or Shel Silverstein's books (although a bit more erotic!) Thus I am having a difficult time trying to determine which agents would be best for me to query. I'm looking for those open to "quirky" or "off-beat" as that seems my best bet. However, some of them say they do not rep picture books, which mine is, although I am sure they are referring to children's picture books. Secondly, I have found a few that I would like to query (such as yourself) but who only accept email submissions. While my book can be viewed online, I would much prefer to send a dummy by snail mail as it is a much better way to view my work and judge it as a book. But I certainly don't want to disregard an agent's submission guidelines (or lose a dummy book). Of course, I will be enclosing SASEs with all my snail mail queries for the return of the dummy. Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated.

Gretchen
This sounds like a bit of an esoteric project that you might have difficulty placing with a agent/publisher. Illustrated books are always difficult, and agents sometimes shy away from them (picture books definitely refers to children's picture books). Have you considered a self-publisher like Blurb.com?

But if you want to go the agent route, I would follow agents' guidelines. If they only accept e-mail submissions they only accept e-mail submissions. Especially if the book is viewable online I'm sure that's the route that most would prefer to take.
Thank you for taking time to reply to my question. Self-publishing is not a route I am interested in, but I appreciate the suggestion. Don't know if my book could be considered esoteric (I see it as a gift book) but your response did make me more aware that I might be in for a long haul before I find someone who loves it and is willing to rep me. Thanks for the skin-thickening words!
Esoteric may have been a poor word choice on my part, sorry about that! I just meant in terms of falling outside of established genres.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by kriheli » June 7th, 2010, 11:16 am

Nathan,

How creative can a writer get with a query without being off-putting? See, the way I see things is that most industry folks seek standard/formal query letters. I feel this confines the author's ability to really show what he/she is about. I know there are work-arounds and ways of making your voice heard, but once the frame of formalities are applied, voice may get lost. I have some ideas that aren't super gimmicky or "cute", but I am nervous about the reception.

What good is a pitch, if the delivery is telegraphed?

Any feedback would be super! Thanks.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by askmonkey » June 7th, 2010, 7:10 pm

So I wrote my first book many years ago (a MG high fantasy with an Indian twist) and had basically given up trying to sell it. I queried about thirty agents and found one who liked it. My agent then had trouble selling the book to publishers and eventually we ended up parting ways (for unrelated reasons). Meanwhile I wrote another book in a different genre (though still Indian related) and am starting to query agents with that one.

A few months ago, on a lark, I submitted a query for the first book (including 1st chapter) to a major publishing company in India, thinking that it would sell better there than it would here. They've just requested a full and I'm kind of panicking. What do I do if they are interested in publishing? I'm worried about having to look at a contract from a foreign country and not knowing what to do with it. I'm thinking about querying agents I queried before, but if they weren't interested the first time, I don't think they would be interested the second time.

Should I get a lawyer of some kind to look at the contract for me? Should I continue to query agents with my second book (which I am more confident in for an American market)?

I'd appreciate any advice.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » June 7th, 2010, 8:26 pm

kriheli wrote:Nathan,

How creative can a writer get with a query without being off-putting? See, the way I see things is that most industry folks seek standard/formal query letters. I feel this confines the author's ability to really show what he/she is about. I know there are work-arounds and ways of making your voice heard, but once the frame of formalities are applied, voice may get lost. I have some ideas that aren't super gimmicky or "cute", but I am nervous about the reception.

What good is a pitch, if the delivery is telegraphed?

Any feedback would be super! Thanks.
You have as much leeway as you want, really. I don't think anyone is going to reject you if you have a great concept and great writing but your query is in a strange format.

That said, trust me, there isn't a new or original way to write a query - we've seen it all. So when something comes in that's out of the ordinary it tends to come across more as gimmicky than original. My basic feeling is: you can do plenty with the format as it stands. It's all in the brief description of your work anyway.

But without knowing precisely what you have in mind, it's tough for me to weigh in directly.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » June 7th, 2010, 8:27 pm

askmonkey wrote:So I wrote my first book many years ago (a MG high fantasy with an Indian twist) and had basically given up trying to sell it. I queried about thirty agents and found one who liked it. My agent then had trouble selling the book to publishers and eventually we ended up parting ways (for unrelated reasons). Meanwhile I wrote another book in a different genre (though still Indian related) and am starting to query agents with that one.

A few months ago, on a lark, I submitted a query for the first book (including 1st chapter) to a major publishing company in India, thinking that it would sell better there than it would here. They've just requested a full and I'm kind of panicking. What do I do if they are interested in publishing? I'm worried about having to look at a contract from a foreign country and not knowing what to do with it. I'm thinking about querying agents I queried before, but if they weren't interested the first time, I don't think they would be interested the second time.

Should I get a lawyer of some kind to look at the contract for me? Should I continue to query agents with my second book (which I am more confident in for an American market)?

I'd appreciate any advice.
Yeah, if they offer you could either try and find an agent on the basis of the offer, or you could have a lawyer take a look. It's really up to you.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by reader1901 » June 7th, 2010, 9:54 pm

I have a question as an author starting out. Which one would be more likely to get picked up by an agent - One whole novel or a collection of novellas(like Different Seasons by Stephen King)?

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » June 8th, 2010, 12:23 am

reader1901 wrote:I have a question as an author starting out. Which one would be more likely to get picked up by an agent - One whole novel or a collection of novellas(like Different Seasons by Stephen King)?
Assuming both are of the same quality? One whole novel.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by kriheli » June 8th, 2010, 1:46 pm

Nathan Bransford wrote:
You have as much leeway as you want, really. I don't think anyone is going to reject you if you have a great concept and great writing but your query is in a strange format.

That said, trust me, there isn't a new or original way to write a query - we've seen it all. So when something comes in that's out of the ordinary it tends to come across more as gimmicky than original. My basic feeling is: you can do plenty with the format as it stands. It's all in the brief description of your work anyway.

But without knowing precisely what you have in mind, it's tough for me to weigh in directly.

Thanks Nathan. That certainly alleviates some of my worries.

But to that point - It's true that working within limitations has forced authors to devise elegant solutions over the years, but the solutions are the byproduct of pushing hard against the edges of what is deemed acceptable by most agents. On that note, I'm willing to play by the rules in hopes that my attempts don't suck :)

In all, I think the work should figuratively speak for itself, and that the query is no more than the initial handshake introduction. Just hoping that I'm not (pre)judged by my grip. :D

You = rule.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by BlancheKing » June 8th, 2010, 6:21 pm

Hi Nathan,

I'm confused. When an agency posts "Please be sure to query only one agent at this agency. We will not review queries sent to more than one of us." Do they mean simultaneously or ever? In other words, if I queried one agent from the agency some months ago, can I still query another agent, or is the whole agency off limits to me?

Thank you.

Blanche
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by r louis scott » June 8th, 2010, 8:34 pm

Just a general curiosity question for you Nathan (since by asking it will be crystal clear that the situation does not apply to me):

Have you ever had, or known of, a first time author turning down a multiple book deal in favor of just selling the one they have ready? How do agents and publishers react to such a thing? I read about new authors getting a two or three book deal and wonder sometimes if they take it because they feel it's their big shot even though they are far from ready to produce a second book.

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