Old Ask Nathan Thread

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John Dillon
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by John Dillon » July 22nd, 2010, 7:05 pm

Nathan

Thanks for all you do for aspiring authors. Your work ethic is commendable. You appear tireless.

In any event, I have reviewed your FAQ's and read through this entire thread, but haven't seen the answer to my question, so here we go:

If an agent, accepts both email queries and snail mail queries, which would you send?

Obviously you can only speculate what other agents' thoughts are, but I'd still appreciate your best guess.

My instinct leads me to believe that a hard-copy query garners slightly more attention than an email query, even if its on an unconscious level. That said, the increased labor, cost, and environmental toll of snail-mail queries may not be worth the extra attention a hard copy potentially commands.

For what it's worth, in advance of your response, I recognize that the substance is more important than the form. In other words, I know my energy is best spent on producing a tight query than dwelling on these details, but I'm curious.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » July 22nd, 2010, 8:36 pm

Kerri wrote:Hi Nathan, do you think it's acceptable to query a novel as a "literary love story"? My book is literary fiction, mostly about a romantic relationship, with some family saga and coming-of-age elements as well. I don't want to name too many genres at once, but I do want the agent to get an accurate sense of what my book is like. Comp titles have been tricky for me (either too popular or too obscure). What do you suggest?

Thanks for your help and all your good work,
Kerri
I think that's fine - I wouldn't over think the genre distinction, though literary love story sounds like a fine descriptor if it fits the book.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » July 22nd, 2010, 8:38 pm

John Dillon wrote:Nathan

Thanks for all you do for aspiring authors. Your work ethic is commendable. You appear tireless.

In any event, I have reviewed your FAQ's and read through this entire thread, but haven't seen the answer to my question, so here we go:

If an agent, accepts both email queries and snail mail queries, which would you send?

Obviously you can only speculate what other agents' thoughts are, but I'd still appreciate your best guess.

My instinct leads me to believe that a hard-copy query garners slightly more attention than an email query, even if its on an unconscious level. That said, the increased labor, cost, and environmental toll of snail-mail queries may not be worth the extra attention a hard copy potentially commands.

For what it's worth, in advance of your response, I recognize that the substance is more important than the form. In other words, I know my energy is best spent on producing a tight query than dwelling on these details, but I'm curious.
Definitely e-mail, for the environmental benefits alone. And if an agent accepts e-mail queries they're going to give them all proper attention.

Just speaking for myself, I technically accept snail mail queries because of Curtis Brown's overall submission guidelines, but I much, much prefer e-mail queries and get to them much faster.

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gdelao
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by gdelao » July 23rd, 2010, 12:15 am

Nathan, I don't have a question, it's a comment. I want to thank you for being an active, open and helpful person to all of us who are working hard to improve our craft. Thank you for creating this space and keeping the expectations high. I have met some of the most engaging, helpful, and just down right wonderful people here.

I came to the forums intimidated and concerned, but hanging out here I realized it was just a self-induced case of the crazies.

Bransforumians,(I call the people who hang out here) totally rock!

So stand proud Mr. Bransford, you have created and nurtured a spectacular place for authors to hang out!

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by John Dillon » July 23rd, 2010, 7:33 pm

When I wrote my query, I set out to write two crisp, six-sentence paragraphs. The first paragraph endeavors to peak a reader's desire to read more; the second is a biographical paragraph that (hopefully) demonstrates I've acquired the skills and experience necessary to write my book with some proficiency.

I recently posted the draft query to get some feedback and a couple of readers had a common reaction: the query is good and leaves them wanting to read the story, but it needs more information about the plot. (let's assume their feedback was genuine and not mere charity).

In my mind, that observation is somewhat ideal. Above all, I hope my query accomplishes two things: first, and foremost, I hope it leaves the reader wanting to read more; second, I hope to demonstrate that I can write tight, interesting sentences.

As to the feedback I received, I tend to think of a synopsis, rather than a query, as the vehicle for setting forth a plot. That said, I recognize the importance of giving a prospective agent at least some glimpse of the plot in the query. Essentially, I wrote the first paragraph as though it would appear on the back cover of the book. In other words, it's intentionally vague/mysterious, but interesting (I hope), and if one reads the tea leaves one can certainly gleam the rough plot. My concern is that if I add to the query to reveal more of what happens in the story, the query will not be quite as tight. Also, this might be a good moment to point out that I consider the work literary fiction, so the story is as much about the ride as the destination.

So, that leads us to the question:

How much plot should there be in a literary fiction query? To state the question somewhat differently, how important is plot, relative to structure, prose, etc. in a query? I suspect the truest answer is probably something like "there needs to be enough plot, no more, no less"but you're the expert and I figure you've got some helpful guidance.

Thanks in advance.

/s

Befuddled.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » July 23rd, 2010, 10:32 pm

gdelao wrote:Nathan, I don't have a question, it's a comment. I want to thank you for being an active, open and helpful person to all of us who are working hard to improve our craft. Thank you for creating this space and keeping the expectations high. I have met some of the most engaging, helpful, and just down right wonderful people here.

I came to the forums intimidated and concerned, but hanging out here I realized it was just a self-induced case of the crazies.

Bransforumians,(I call the people who hang out here) totally rock!

So stand proud Mr. Bransford, you have created and nurtured a spectacular place for authors to hang out!
Thanks, I appreciate it! Happy to help.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » July 23rd, 2010, 10:36 pm

John Dillon wrote:When I wrote my query, I set out to write two crisp, six-sentence paragraphs. The first paragraph endeavors to peak a reader's desire to read more; the second is a biographical paragraph that (hopefully) demonstrates I've acquired the skills and experience necessary to write my book with some proficiency.

I recently posted the draft query to get some feedback and a couple of readers had a common reaction: the query is good and leaves them wanting to read the story, but it needs more information about the plot. (let's assume their feedback was genuine and not mere charity).

In my mind, that observation is somewhat ideal. Above all, I hope my query accomplishes two things: first, and foremost, I hope it leaves the reader wanting to read more; second, I hope to demonstrate that I can write tight, interesting sentences.

As to the feedback I received, I tend to think of a synopsis, rather than a query, as the vehicle for setting forth a plot. That said, I recognize the importance of giving a prospective agent at least some glimpse of the plot in the query. Essentially, I wrote the first paragraph as though it would appear on the back cover of the book. In other words, it's intentionally vague/mysterious, but interesting (I hope), and if one reads the tea leaves one can certainly gleam the rough plot. My concern is that if I add to the query to reveal more of what happens in the story, the query will not be quite as tight. Also, this might be a good moment to point out that I consider the work literary fiction, so the story is as much about the ride as the destination.

So, that leads us to the question:

How much plot should there be in a literary fiction query? To state the question somewhat differently, how important is plot, relative to structure, prose, etc. in a query? I suspect the truest answer is probably something like "there needs to be enough plot, no more, no less"but you're the expert and I figure you've got some helpful guidance.

Thanks in advance.

/s

Befuddled.
There needs to be enough plot, no more no less.

The truth is that there's no formula to writing a query. I advise people to shoot for 250 - 350 words, and there should be more about the plot than about you (the plot description is more important than the writer's qualifications), but there's no one way of going about it. Make sure to check out the examples of good queries, make sure you get good feedback, and then just make your book sound as awesome as possible. Don't leave out the good stuff. If it's six sentences or ten sentences or twenty, it's up to you.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by John Dillon » July 24th, 2010, 11:32 am

Nathan Bransford wrote:
There needs to be enough plot, no more no less.

The truth is that there's no formula to writing a query. I advise people to shoot for 250 - 350 words, and there should be more about the plot than about you (the plot description is more important than the writer's qualifications), but there's no one way of going about it. Make sure to check out the examples of good queries, make sure you get good feedback, and then just make your book sound as awesome as possible. Don't leave out the good stuff. If it's six sentences or ten sentences or twenty, it's up to you.
Big thanks. Because of your feedback and the feedback I got from other posters in your forums, I feel I now have a much stronger query letter (as an aside, are you aware that Noah Lukeman warns against devoting more than three sentences to plot? It just goes to show how seemingly impossible it is to write a universally appreciated query letter).

Regardless, you're the man. One day, I hope we cross paths so I can buy you a drink. At the very least, I'll raise a glass in your honor from afar.

Kind regards,

RMK

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satin1977
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by satin1977 » July 27th, 2010, 10:55 am

I’m submitting to an agent that requests query, synopsis and first three chapters. Here’s my dilemma: my novel is not written in a traditional chapter format. (Think Time Traveler’s Wife.) What is a good rule of thumb to go by if you are submitting a certain number of pages? And I assume these pages should be double spaced, am I wrong?
Thanks Nathan!

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » July 28th, 2010, 12:23 am

satin1977 wrote:I’m submitting to an agent that requests query, synopsis and first three chapters. Here’s my dilemma: my novel is not written in a traditional chapter format. (Think Time Traveler’s Wife.) What is a good rule of thumb to go by if you are submitting a certain number of pages? And I assume these pages should be double spaced, am I wrong?
Thanks Nathan!
When in doubt I'd just go with 10 pages per chapter, so 30 pages.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by RoarShark » July 28th, 2010, 5:06 pm

Nathan,

I saw earlier in this thread and in your blog that you said that it is not best for first time authors who have not gotten anything published yet to not write series. Well when I began writing my manuscript I set it up so that it would become a series, but I am now questioning whether or not I should change it into a single story. Would it be best as a first time unpublished author to change it so that it is a single book, or should I continue to pursue writing it so that it could become a series.

Thanks,

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by John Dillon » July 29th, 2010, 10:22 pm

Nathan,

Three weeks ago an agent requested a full manuscript of my novel. Since then, I've made some edits. The edits are not major, but I believe they improve the work. Would it be unprofessional to send an email to the agent and say something like, "if you have not yet found time to review my manuscript, I would appreciate the opportunity to provide you with the latest draft," or would that send the wrong message (i.e., would the agent ask "why are you wasting my time by querying me before your manuscript is perfect?").

Thanks,

JD

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by CharleeVale » July 30th, 2010, 2:02 pm

Hi Nathan,

I was searching agentquery the other day, getting a list of potentials, and I came across something I wasn't sure about.

If an agent says that they represent YA, but they DO NOT represent fantasy, does it follow that they don't represent YA fantasy? I wouldn't want to put an agent off by sending them a YA fantasy query if that's what it means. Thanks!

CV

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 2nd, 2010, 8:45 pm

RoarShark wrote:Nathan,

I saw earlier in this thread and in your blog that you said that it is not best for first time authors who have not gotten anything published yet to not write series. Well when I began writing my manuscript I set it up so that it would become a series, but I am now questioning whether or not I should change it into a single story. Would it be best as a first time unpublished author to change it so that it is a single book, or should I continue to pursue writing it so that it could become a series.

Thanks,
I actually didn't say that first time authors shouldn't write series, my feelings about series are just that:

1) If you're envisioning a series you should still pitch your debut novel as a standalone novel that could potentially be expanded into a series. Reasons here: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/07 ... query.html

2) I advise people against writing sequels to unpublished, underpublished, or self-published books if they're seeking publication. Reasons here: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/03 ... quels.html

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 2nd, 2010, 8:51 pm

John Dillon wrote:Nathan,

Three weeks ago an agent requested a full manuscript of my novel. Since then, I've made some edits. The edits are not major, but I believe they improve the work. Would it be unprofessional to send an email to the agent and say something like, "if you have not yet found time to review my manuscript, I would appreciate the opportunity to provide you with the latest draft," or would that send the wrong message (i.e., would the agent ask "why are you wasting my time by querying me before your manuscript is perfect?").

Thanks,

JD
I honestly can never decide how I feel about this. On the one hand if I haven't gotten to the manuscript yet I don't mind if someone sends an updated version, I just delete the earlier version. But if I have gotten to the manuscript and am in the middle of it it's annoying to have to go back and check the changes. But the writer has no way of knowing if I'm actually reading it or not.

I think you just kind of have to do some calculations on how much you think the changes improve the manuscript vs. possibly annoying the agent and then go with your gut. In general though I don't think that any small change is really going to be the difference between the agent offering representation and not offering representation, so why risk the possible annoyance. There will be plenty of time for revisions after the agent has offered and before they submit to editors.

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