Old Ask Nathan Thread

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » June 9th, 2010, 12:56 am

kriheli wrote:
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.
No problem! I think the nature of the project will shine through even in a standard format. What's that Robert Frost quote about free verse being like playing with the nets down? I'd think of the query format the same way.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » June 9th, 2010, 12:56 am

BlancheKing wrote: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
I can't speak for them, but it sounds like you query one agent and then that agent's answer goes for the whole agency.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » June 9th, 2010, 12:58 am

r louis scott wrote: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.
I haven't personally experienced this, but I have heard of it anecdotally. Some authors just want to move one book at a time and don't even want to have a contract until they're done writing it. Every situation is different though - sometimes a one book deal makes sense, sometimes multi-book. Reason #278,275,182.2 why it's helpful to have an agent.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by wildheart » June 11th, 2010, 8:38 pm

Hey Nathan,

I remember you talking awhile back about it not being a good idea for someone who hasn't been published to write a series and that made sense. But did you mean it was a complete no-no or just something we should think long and hard about? I'm having lots of fun with my current WIP but realized if I tried to tell the whole story in one book I'd be giving myself a headache. So, my question is, what do I do? Do I write the next book only if I can't think of writing something else? Do I stay away from it at all costs? Or does it not really matter either way?

Thanks :D
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » June 11th, 2010, 9:33 pm

wildheart wrote:Hey Nathan,

I remember you talking awhile back about it not being a good idea for someone who hasn't been published to write a series and that made sense. But did you mean it was a complete no-no or just something we should think long and hard about? I'm having lots of fun with my current WIP but realized if I tried to tell the whole story in one book I'd be giving myself a headache. So, my question is, what do I do? Do I write the next book only if I can't think of writing something else? Do I stay away from it at all costs? Or does it not really matter either way?

Thanks :D
Two posts for you:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/07 ... query.html
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/03 ... quels.html

My basic feeling:

- The first book in a series should stand alone, because you never know if a publisher is going to want it as the first book in a series
- It's hard enough to get one book published and I'd go for broke with your story ideas in that one book
- I wouldn't write a sequel to an unpublished book unless it can completely stand on its own

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Josin » June 11th, 2010, 10:24 pm

A question sparked off by the other poster's mention of series writing. Basically, I'm wondering what happens if an author has 2 submission ready books at the same time:

Totally hypothetical situation in which you've got a book on submission. It's a stand alone novel, with "series potential". While that one's being read by editors, which is a long wait, the author writes another, unrelated book and gets it submission ready about the time an editor offers on book 1 (it's my hypothetical, I can make them offer if I want to!).

Would you go ahead and send the 2nd book out on submission or wait a while?

Would your answer change if the editor wanted to make an offer for book 1 + a sequel? meaning, would you hold off on submitting the 2nd stand alone book until the author got the editor's revisions for book 1 turned in and then wrote the sequel to book1?

... I think I've had too much caffeine today.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Anobile1 » June 12th, 2010, 12:05 am

I've read/scanned this entire thread and your blog over the past week or so and haven't found answers to these, so hopefully I didn't miss something. Sorry for having so many questions at once.

1) How would I go about formatting section breaks in a chapter in a manuscript? In novels it's often done with something like * * * with spaces above and below. Should I use the same method in a manuscript, or just use a space or two, or some other method?

2) What would be your reaction to a character with the same name as you? I know some people are annoyed/irritated by a character with their name. I'm wondering because I (totally coincidentally, honest!) have a character named Nathan.

3) My WIP is told through many different points of view. The story has a main character, who gets about 1/3 of the book in her point of view, but the book is more about the events than any specific character (though of course the characters are very important). While the central plot is really centered around the above-mentioned main character, the story could not be told without the others' points of view. So, my question is, would this be something to mention in the query? In the actual plot-description part I'm thinking it's best I just focus on the main character, since the complicating incident happens to her, but I'm wondering if it would be good to briefly mention the importance of all the other characters at some point in the query.

4) How would you feel about two characters with similar names? In my specific case the names are Laith and Leif, and after using them for a while I realized that, depending on how they are pronounced, they sound nearly identical. How much of a problem would this be for you (both personally and as an agent) when considering a manuscript? If you accepted the manuscript, would you still think one of the names would have to be changed? Would a pronunciation guide in the book be enough to solve it?

5) This is just a curious question. I know you like novels written in other countries and historical fiction, so I'm wondering if you've read the TEMERAIRE series by Naomi Novik. In case you haven't, they are historical fantasy novels about the Napoleonic Wars, but with an aerial corp of dragons. I'd probably say they are the best written novels I've ever read. They take place all across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the next book coming out will be in Australia, I believe. So if you haven't read them, I highly recommend them.
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Unrepentant Escapist » June 12th, 2010, 5:53 am

Question: If I got a form rejection on a partial six months ago, should I mention that the agent requested to see a previous partial of mine when I query her with my next project? Or is it better to start out with a clean slate?

Also, can I just copy and paste the "this is why I'd love to be represented by you" thing from my last query? It was somewhat memorable--it involved razor wire--so I wonder if she'd see it and think it was weird to see it again. But at the same time, I still want to query her for the same reasons, and I already wrote it so eloquently...why mess with success?

Apologies if you've answered this.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by writeaskew » June 12th, 2010, 11:57 am

I posted this over in another part of the sorums and realized that you were probably the better person to ask, so here goes.

I keep a really detailed list of agents I want to query, how they accept queries, what they want, etc.

I had an agent that I had written down to paper queries, not email. I sent it off and it's been three weeks. I went to check her turnaround time today and noticed her website said email queries. I don't know how I missed it, I prowled her website for days. Here's my question:

Should I assume she tossed the paper copy in the trash and email her a copy since I never got my SASE back or should I assume she read it, doesn't want me and thinks i'm a totally unprofessional jerk?

I'm having a total headdesk moment. I feel really, really stupid.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » June 12th, 2010, 4:43 pm

Josin wrote:A question sparked off by the other poster's mention of series writing. Basically, I'm wondering what happens if an author has 2 submission ready books at the same time:

Totally hypothetical situation in which you've got a book on submission. It's a stand alone novel, with "series potential". While that one's being read by editors, which is a long wait, the author writes another, unrelated book and gets it submission ready about the time an editor offers on book 1 (it's my hypothetical, I can make them offer if I want to!).

Would you go ahead and send the 2nd book out on submission or wait a while?

Would your answer change if the editor wanted to make an offer for book 1 + a sequel? meaning, would you hold off on submitting the 2nd stand alone book until the author got the editor's revisions for book 1 turned in and then wrote the sequel to book1?

... I think I've had too much caffeine today.
This is just one of those things that's a case by case basis. But usually the two books aren't equal and there's a natural one to lead with. Then depending on what happens with that you can assess what to do with the second.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » June 12th, 2010, 4:48 pm

Anobile1 wrote:I've read/scanned this entire thread and your blog over the past week or so and haven't found answers to these, so hopefully I didn't miss something. Sorry for having so many questions at once.

1) How would I go about formatting section breaks in a chapter in a manuscript? In novels it's often done with something like * * * with spaces above and below. Should I use the same method in a manuscript, or just use a space or two, or some other method?
However you want, not a biggie.
Anobile1 wrote:2) What would be your reaction to a character with the same name as you? I know some people are annoyed/irritated by a character with their name. I'm wondering because I (totally coincidentally, honest!) have a character named Nathan.
Nathan is actually a pretty common character name, and if it's the right name for the character I'm not going to be distracted.
Anobile1 wrote:3) My WIP is told through many different points of view. The story has a main character, who gets about 1/3 of the book in her point of view, but the book is more about the events than any specific character (though of course the characters are very important). While the central plot is really centered around the above-mentioned main character, the story could not be told without the others' points of view. So, my question is, would this be something to mention in the query? In the actual plot-description part I'm thinking it's best I just focus on the main character, since the complicating incident happens to her, but I'm wondering if it would be good to briefly mention the importance of all the other characters at some point in the query.
Whoa - the best thing to do is to just summarize the story and not mention the different points of view. I'm pretty confused by the above, and you don't want the agent confused.
Anobile1 wrote:4) How would you feel about two characters with similar names? In my specific case the names are Laith and Leif, and after using them for a while I realized that, depending on how they are pronounced, they sound nearly identical. How much of a problem would this be for you (both personally and as an agent) when considering a manuscript? If you accepted the manuscript, would you still think one of the names would have to be changed? Would a pronunciation guide in the book be enough to solve it?
Characters with similar names can be really confusing. I'd avoid it. You can call your characters anything, so it's a really easy fix.
Anobile1 wrote:5) This is just a curious question. I know you like novels written in other countries and historical fiction, so I'm wondering if you've read the TEMERAIRE series by Naomi Novik. In case you haven't, they are historical fantasy novels about the Napoleonic Wars, but with an aerial corp of dragons. I'd probably say they are the best written novels I've ever read. They take place all across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the next book coming out will be in Australia, I believe. So if you haven't read them, I highly recommend them.
Yeah, I read the first one and really enjoyed it. Such a cool mix of history and fantasy.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » June 12th, 2010, 4:51 pm

Unrepentant Escapist wrote:Question: If I got a form rejection on a partial six months ago, should I mention that the agent requested to see a previous partial of mine when I query her with my next project? Or is it better to start out with a clean slate?

Also, can I just copy and paste the "this is why I'd love to be represented by you" thing from my last query? It was somewhat memorable--it involved razor wire--so I wonder if she'd see it and think it was weird to see it again. But at the same time, I still want to query her for the same reasons, and I already wrote it so eloquently...why mess with success?

Apologies if you've answered this.
Hmmm... I personally like it when someone mentions that they queried before and I don't judge it negatively (as in "I rejected them before and so probably will again'). I definitely look again fresh. But I'm sure others would suggest you don't bring it up. I think this one is up to you. I would change up the personalization though in case they remember from before.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » June 12th, 2010, 4:54 pm

writeaskew wrote:I posted this over in another part of the sorums and realized that you were probably the better person to ask, so here goes.

I keep a really detailed list of agents I want to query, how they accept queries, what they want, etc.

I had an agent that I had written down to paper queries, not email. I sent it off and it's been three weeks. I went to check her turnaround time today and noticed her website said email queries. I don't know how I missed it, I prowled her website for days. Here's my question:

Should I assume she tossed the paper copy in the trash and email her a copy since I never got my SASE back or should I assume she read it, doesn't want me and thinks i'm a totally unprofessional jerk?

I'm having a total headdesk moment. I feel really, really stupid.

writeaskew
I'd probably just send the e-query. Here's the thing -- if she's interested in the project she's not going to care that you sent it twice. If she's not interested she might be annoyed that you sent it twice but it's not a big deal. It happens so much she's not going to remember it if you wanted to query her down the line.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by JMB » June 12th, 2010, 6:54 pm

Nathan,

Is there a market for parodies? I enjoyed New Moan and have an idea for a parody of my own. It's based on a bestseller that has just made the move from single title to trilogy (book 2 due out in 2011). And there's a rumour a movie deal is in the works. Should I bother to write my tongue-in-cheek version or am I already too late?

JMB

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » June 12th, 2010, 10:30 pm

JMB wrote:Nathan,

Is there a market for parodies? I enjoyed New Moan and have an idea for a parody of my own. It's based on a bestseller that has just made the move from single title to trilogy (book 2 due out in 2011). And there's a rumour a movie deal is in the works. Should I bother to write my tongue-in-cheek version or am I already too late?

JMB
There is somewhat, though they are usually based on major major phenomenons, and as always it's all about the execution.

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