Old Ask Nathan Thread

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burnburn
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by burnburn » August 17th, 2010, 12:09 am

I have a question about writing a query letter for a novel I would consider an ensemble piece.

Basically, the novel shifts back and forth between the story/viewpoint of multiple characters who were all affected by the same incident.

Given the limited space of a query letter synopsis, should I focus on one character and the incident that draws all the characters into the story? Should I give a line or two about all the primary characters?

Any examples out there of a well-written query for an ensemble piece?

Thanks. (And sorry if I've missed a previous post about this somewhere along the line ...)

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 17th, 2010, 10:41 pm

burnburn wrote:I have a question about writing a query letter for a novel I would consider an ensemble piece.

Basically, the novel shifts back and forth between the story/viewpoint of multiple characters who were all affected by the same incident.

Given the limited space of a query letter synopsis, should I focus on one character and the incident that draws all the characters into the story? Should I give a line or two about all the primary characters?

Any examples out there of a well-written query for an ensemble piece?

Thanks. (And sorry if I've missed a previous post about this somewhere along the line ...)
I think whatever you can do to describe the whole plot. Without knowing what happens in the novel, you could summarize the central incident and how the characters relate to it. I don't think you need all the ins and outs, but if you give a general sense of the novel it will be better than trying to cram in information about every character.

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artzicarol
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by artzicarol » August 19th, 2010, 5:39 pm

Hi Nathan,

I just became aware of a service by Bowker's, called Bowker Manuscript Submissions. Apparently with this service, if you as a writer join and pay $99, for six months Bowkers will post your proposal (a query, I assume) and sample writing, and make them available for agents and editors on their list to peruse. Bowkers has apparently launched this service in May, so I don't think they have many publishers on board yet, but their supposed agent list is very long (though that's ALL agents, even ones in Canada, and adult fiction as well as the children's/YA fiction area that I'm interested in).

Are you familiar with this service? Sound scammy to you? Worth it? A possible wave of the future, to streamline and transform the submission process? Here is the link:

http://www.bowkermanuscriptsubmissions.com/

$99 doesn't really sound that bad, IF it would connect a writer to an agent or an editor. I can see some potential probs--like, they're linked to self-pub and editing sites; are they just trying to make $$ this way?--but I can also see some potential benefits:

1. Publishers could switch their submission process to mostly cyberspace rather than shuffling all that paper. It might solve part of the mountainous slush pile dilemma.
2. If a publisher or agent isn't interested, he/she doesn't have to waste time sending out a rejection.
3. Writers could save money, not spending it on manila envelopes, paper, printing/ink, and POSTAGE.
4. The site's form for querying info would standardize the queries to an extent, making it easier for writers, agents, and editors.
5. It would keep everything in one centralized, easy-access place for writers as well as publishers and agents.

And those are just the positives off the top of my head. This might also be a topic for the comment sharks on your blog to hash out...? Interesting!
Carol Riggs
PS, Galleycat has this post about it, explaining how it's patterned after the successful ChristianManuscriptSubmissions.com:
http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/pu ... qus_thread

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 19th, 2010, 11:13 pm

artzicarol wrote:Hi Nathan,

I just became aware of a service by Bowker's, called Bowker Manuscript Submissions. Apparently with this service, if you as a writer join and pay $99, for six months Bowkers will post your proposal (a query, I assume) and sample writing, and make them available for agents and editors on their list to peruse. Bowkers has apparently launched this service in May, so I don't think they have many publishers on board yet, but their supposed agent list is very long (though that's ALL agents, even ones in Canada, and adult fiction as well as the children's/YA fiction area that I'm interested in).

Are you familiar with this service? Sound scammy to you? Worth it? A possible wave of the future, to streamline and transform the submission process? Here is the link:

http://www.bowkermanuscriptsubmissions.com/

$99 doesn't really sound that bad, IF it would connect a writer to an agent or an editor. I can see some potential probs--like, they're linked to self-pub and editing sites; are they just trying to make $$ this way?--but I can also see some potential benefits:

1. Publishers could switch their submission process to mostly cyberspace rather than shuffling all that paper. It might solve part of the mountainous slush pile dilemma.
2. If a publisher or agent isn't interested, he/she doesn't have to waste time sending out a rejection.
3. Writers could save money, not spending it on manila envelopes, paper, printing/ink, and POSTAGE.
4. The site's form for querying info would standardize the queries to an extent, making it easier for writers, agents, and editors.
5. It would keep everything in one centralized, easy-access place for writers as well as publishers and agents.

And those are just the positives off the top of my head. This might also be a topic for the comment sharks on your blog to hash out...? Interesting!
Carol Riggs
PS, Galleycat has this post about it, explaining how it's patterned after the successful ChristianManuscriptSubmissions.com:
http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/pu ... qus_thread
I honestly don't know much about it, but I hesitate to recommend a paid querying service. I know there are sites cropping up that are trying to be a filter for agents, but I haven't talked to any agents using the service to find out how useful they find it and whether it works. I personally still prefer to do things the old fashioned way, which is kind of funny because even five years ago barely anyone was accepting e-mailed queries.

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artzicarol
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by artzicarol » August 19th, 2010, 11:31 pm

Thanks for the thoughts! I know, as a writer I absolutely LOVE the ease of email submissions. I hardly ever do hard submissions anymore.

Funnily enough, your agency and YOUR specific name is on the website as being a participating agent! It says:

"Requesting the services of an agent is an option you can consider while preparing your manuscript proposal. Below are the agents who subscribe to Bowker Manuscript Submissions and can provide you with their services."

Scroll down a ways, and there you are! As well as everyone else in your agency. (Gee, did they ask anyone from Curtis Brown, Ltd, if they could put your names there?)
Anyway, thanks again for your opinion on this,
Carol Riggs

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midenianscholar
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by midenianscholar » August 20th, 2010, 4:51 pm

Hey Nathan,

I just got back from reading your post about how to respond to a partial request, and I have a follow-up question. The two requests I've received did not involve an email partial (one was snail mail, the other had a particular website to submit to). So should I respond with some sort of acknowledgment to the email that actually requests the partial, or just submit the partial? I don't want to annoy an agent, but my gut instinct wants to reply with something like, "Thanks, sending it your way!"

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 20th, 2010, 5:08 pm

artzicarol wrote:Thanks for the thoughts! I know, as a writer I absolutely LOVE the ease of email submissions. I hardly ever do hard submissions anymore.

Funnily enough, your agency and YOUR specific name is on the website as being a participating agent! It says:

"Requesting the services of an agent is an option you can consider while preparing your manuscript proposal. Below are the agents who subscribe to Bowker Manuscript Submissions and can provide you with their services."

Scroll down a ways, and there you are! As well as everyone else in your agency. (Gee, did they ask anyone from Curtis Brown, Ltd, if they could put your names there?)
Anyway, thanks again for your opinion on this,
Carol Riggs
That's strange, I'm not signed up.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 20th, 2010, 5:09 pm

midenianscholar wrote:Hey Nathan,

I just got back from reading your post about how to respond to a partial request, and I have a follow-up question. The two requests I've received did not involve an email partial (one was snail mail, the other had a particular website to submit to). So should I respond with some sort of acknowledgment to the email that actually requests the partial, or just submit the partial? I don't want to annoy an agent, but my gut instinct wants to reply with something like, "Thanks, sending it your way!"
Yeah, I'd send an e-mail saying thanks, I'll upload it or something along those lines. That way if something goes wrong with the uploading the agent will know you tried.

JuiceinLA
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by JuiceinLA » August 20th, 2010, 7:42 pm

artzicarol wrote:Hi Nathan,

I just became aware of a service by Bowker's, called Bowker Manuscript Submissions. Apparently with this service, if you as a writer join and pay $99, for six months Bowkers will post your proposal (a query, I assume) and sample writing, and make them available for agents and editors on their list to peruse. Bowkers has apparently launched this service in May, so I don't think they have many publishers on board yet, but their supposed agent list is very long (though that's ALL agents, even ones in Canada, and adult fiction as well as the children's/YA fiction area that I'm interested in).

Are you familiar with this service? Sound scammy to you? Worth it? A possible wave of the future, to streamline and transform the submission process? Here is the link:

http://www.bowkermanuscriptsubmissions.com/
This has shown up recently (8/13) on the writers beware blog- which is a pretty great writer watchdog group.. be careful. Here is the blog if you are looking for more info. http://accrispin.blogspot.com/

Either way, my feeling is that until agents and publishers embrace these things, they are not going to get traction, but they may get people's money.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by BkBlueB » August 21st, 2010, 7:32 pm

Hi Nathan,

My question is about how many submissions you should expect an agent to make to editors on your behalf. It took me almost 100 queries to find an agent that was right for my work, so I'm not someone who gives up easily. But after my agent's first round of submitting my work, she basically said she wouldn't send it out without changes based on the feedback we had gotten. Of course that makes sense, but we had only gotten five rejections (which she had forwarded to me) and they were all remarkably positive, some of them even saying they were sad to have to pass but just couldn't find space on their list at the moment.

Now I'm thinking my agent gave up too easily, didn't try smaller presses, etc. I don't want to tell her how to do her job, but am I out of line in asking that she keep submitting the work before I take on edits that may not be necessary? Of course I'm always open to improving the book, but I'm a little worried she's just not putting in enough effort on her end. Either that or she's scared to risk her reputation on something that might take a while to find a home. In which case she's probably not the right person to represent this work.

Thanks so much.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Bonnie » August 23rd, 2010, 1:54 pm

Hi, Nathan. I'm struggling with genre. The book has elements of mystery, but there are no dead bodies. I liken it to the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series in that the main character, an unusual private detective, solves little mysteries for clients. In a query, is it OK to call it a "mystery in the same vein as the 'No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency' series, or does that sound too wishy-washy? If I think about where the book might be placed in a bookstore, I would guess perhaps Mystery (as are the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series books) or just General Fiction. It leans towards Women's Fiction, in that mostly women would read it, I guess, since it deals with relationships and self-discovery, and there is a romantic subplot.
If agents hear Mystery do they automatically assume dead bodies?
I appreciate anything you can tell me.
Thank you very much!
Bonnie

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 23rd, 2010, 9:12 pm

BkBlueB wrote:Hi Nathan,

My question is about how many submissions you should expect an agent to make to editors on your behalf. It took me almost 100 queries to find an agent that was right for my work, so I'm not someone who gives up easily. But after my agent's first round of submitting my work, she basically said she wouldn't send it out without changes based on the feedback we had gotten. Of course that makes sense, but we had only gotten five rejections (which she had forwarded to me) and they were all remarkably positive, some of them even saying they were sad to have to pass but just couldn't find space on their list at the moment.

Now I'm thinking my agent gave up too easily, didn't try smaller presses, etc. I don't want to tell her how to do her job, but am I out of line in asking that she keep submitting the work before I take on edits that may not be necessary? Of course I'm always open to improving the book, but I'm a little worried she's just not putting in enough effort on her end. Either that or she's scared to risk her reputation on something that might take a while to find a home. In which case she's probably not the right person to represent this work.

Thanks so much.
Well, first I think it's important to listen to both the agent and the feedback. More important than how positive the editors were: do you agree with the feedback? Is it resonating with you? Will it make the manuscript better? If the answer is yes to any of those questions, it's much better to pull it back, take the time, make the changes, and listen to your agent.

Different agents have different approaches, and one approach is to submit a bit at a time, assess the feedback, and if there are common themes coming through in the feedback from editors, to pull back and edit based on those suggestions. I do this a lot. It's not about giving up, it's about taking the time to get it right. It's really hard to sell a book to a publisher right now. I would see it as a positive sign that your agent wants to take the time to get this right rather than just sending it all over town and then throwing up their hands. It takes way more effort to work with your client on a revision than it does to just send it off everywhere.

And if you have any questions about the strategy or what the thought process is, talk to your agent! Don't be scared of them.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 23rd, 2010, 9:16 pm

Bonnie wrote:Hi, Nathan. I'm struggling with genre. The book has elements of mystery, but there are no dead bodies. I liken it to the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series in that the main character, an unusual private detective, solves little mysteries for clients. In a query, is it OK to call it a "mystery in the same vein as the 'No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency' series, or does that sound too wishy-washy? If I think about where the book might be placed in a bookstore, I would guess perhaps Mystery (as are the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series books) or just General Fiction. It leans towards Women's Fiction, in that mostly women would read it, I guess, since it deals with relationships and self-discovery, and there is a romantic subplot.
If agents hear Mystery do they automatically assume dead bodies?
I appreciate anything you can tell me.
Thank you very much!
Bonnie
Here's a post you might find helpful. The difference between mysteries, suspense, and thrillers: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2008/10 ... pense.html

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Leonidas
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Leonidas » August 23rd, 2010, 9:43 pm

Is December really referred to as National Query Rejection Month by agents/editors/powerful people in the publishing world?

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 23rd, 2010, 9:45 pm

Leonidas wrote:Is December really referred to as National Query Rejection Month by agents/editors/powerful people in the publishing world?
I have not heard that, but I may have just missed the meeting.

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