Old Ask Nathan Thread

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

Post by casnow » February 10th, 2010, 6:41 am

Nathan Bransford wrote:
casnow wrote:Nathan,

I've got an idea for a project that is 1/2 fiction and 1/2 non-fiction, about the energy crisis and peak oil (i.e., one chapter non-fiction, one non-fiction, alternating).
Would it be better to pitch this as fiction or non-fiction (I know there are substantial query differences).

Thanks!
There's not really any such thing as half nonfiction - if parts of it are made up and parts are true it's fiction (excepting memoir where identities have been necessarily conflated/changed and some narrative nonfiction where real events are dramatized).
I guess I might have asked this wrong. What if you took a non-fiction book, then spliced it together a fiction book about the same topic. So you have 1 chapter that is 100% non-fiction, then a chapter that is 100% fiction, and so-on. The way I see it is that you would have the benefit of giving fiction readers some facts, and giving non-fiction readers a break from the heavier stuff.

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JustineDell
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Private Messages

Post by JustineDell » February 10th, 2010, 7:47 am

Hopefully you can help because me and technology don't seem to be getting along at the moment. When I write someone a PM, or reply to a message they sent me, sometimes they "go" and sometimes they sit in my "outbox" for days. I can't get them out!! Is there a something that I am missing (because not all messages get stuck in the outbox).

Thanks in advance for your help!!

~JD

http://www.justine-dell.blogspot.com/

"Three things in life that, once gone, never return; Time, Words, & Opportunity"

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JustineDell
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Re: Private Messages

Post by JustineDell » February 10th, 2010, 7:53 am

JustineDell wrote:Hopefully you can help because me and technology don't seem to be getting along at the moment. When I write someone a PM, or reply to a message they sent me, sometimes they "go" and sometimes they sit in my "outbox" for days. I can't get them out!! Is there a something that I am missing (because not all messages get stuck in the outbox).

Thanks in advance for your help!!

~JD
I think Christi answered this for me. Is it true that they remain in your outbox until the receiver reads it? If true, that makes sense ;-)

~JD

http://www.justine-dell.blogspot.com/

"Three things in life that, once gone, never return; Time, Words, & Opportunity"

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by LynnDunn » February 10th, 2010, 12:28 pm

So last week I attended the Left Coast Writers meeting at Book Passage for our monthly discussion, featuring guest speaker Alan Rinzler. He suggested to both fiction and nonfiction writers that they submit a 25-page packet instead of "formulaic queries" to agents in order to stand apart from the slush pile. Summed up, this packet included a couple pages of hook, 15 pages of synopsis, author bio, platform, etc. It's consistent with what he writes on his blog. As a fiction writer, I thought this advice sounded vastly different than what I have read on agent blogs, specifically yours and Janet Reid's. I raised my hand and asked him to confirm that his advice was suitable for fiction writers, and he confirmed it. When I told him about the conflict between his advice and what agents want (ie e-queries and the like) he said it was important to show your writing, and that is impossible to do in the few paragraphs of a query letter. He suggested STOPPING BY THE AGENT'S OFFICE, CAMPING OUT ON THEIR DOORSTOP, DOING WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET NOTICED.

I felt sorry for the guy in yesterday's butchering, and was quite relieved when you closed the thread. I can't help but think that maybe this poor man was in the audience at Monday's lecture, and he was simply taking advice from a publishing great. I mean, who knows better than Alan Rinzler when it comes to getting noticed. Have you seen his hair? Anyway, I guess what I'm asking is with all the advice floating around out there, who's to say who is right and who is wrong? And aside from stellar writing, should writers try to bump it up a notch, whithout scaring the bejeezus out of an agent?

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » February 10th, 2010, 6:34 pm

Josin wrote:Nathan,

I know that 2nd person POV is not a commonly used one, but as I'm editing one of my WIP (a children's book at the lower MG level), that's how it's shaping up. Since the reader is in the position of being a "character" (kind of like those old "Choose your own Adventure" books), I'm not sure how to present that in the query. Do I just give the plot and let the agent discover it's 2nd person, or mention it in the query?

I'm not even sure if the unusual POV would be a turn off to agents and make all my edits worthless. Sure, anything done well can work, but - in your opinion - would mentioning that it's in 2nd make most agents curious or hesitant?

Thanks in advance.

:)
Yeah, 2nd Person can be pretty polarizing and I'm not usually a fan, but as you say anything can be done well. Ultimately up to you, but I'd just describe the plot and let the agent figure out that it's in 2nd from the actual manuscript.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » February 10th, 2010, 6:38 pm

casnow wrote:I guess I might have asked this wrong. What if you took a non-fiction book, then spliced it together a fiction book about the same topic. So you have 1 chapter that is 100% non-fiction, then a chapter that is 100% fiction, and so-on. The way I see it is that you would have the benefit of giving fiction readers some facts, and giving non-fiction readers a break from the heavier stuff.
I've seen this basic format been done with memoir, everything from EAST WIND MELTS THE ICE by Liza Dalby (which uses a Chinese calendar as a jumping off point for personal essays), and some spiritual memoirs/collections (which use scripture as a jumping off point for stories, but I don't know that there's necessarily a name for it).

But I haven't heard about this being done with, say, nonfiction and a novel, and by 100% nonfiction I don't know if you mean memoir, history, narrative nonfiction, etc. or what the topic is.

(Long story short: I don't know.)

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Private Messages

Post by Nathan Bransford » February 10th, 2010, 6:40 pm

JustineDell wrote:
JustineDell wrote:Hopefully you can help because me and technology don't seem to be getting along at the moment. When I write someone a PM, or reply to a message they sent me, sometimes they "go" and sometimes they sit in my "outbox" for days. I can't get them out!! Is there a something that I am missing (because not all messages get stuck in the outbox).

Thanks in advance for your help!!

~JD
I think Christi answered this for me. Is it true that they remain in your outbox until the receiver reads it? If true, that makes sense ;-)

~JD
Thanks, Christi! I'm not positive actually - I'm still learning the ins and outs of phpBB forums myself.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » February 10th, 2010, 6:57 pm

LynnDunn wrote:So last week I attended the Left Coast Writers meeting at Book Passage for our monthly discussion, featuring guest speaker Alan Rinzler. He suggested to both fiction and nonfiction writers that they submit a 25-page packet instead of "formulaic queries" to agents in order to stand apart from the slush pile. Summed up, this packet included a couple pages of hook, 15 pages of synopsis, author bio, platform, etc. It's consistent with what he writes on his blog. As a fiction writer, I thought this advice sounded vastly different than what I have read on agent blogs, specifically yours and Janet Reid's. I raised my hand and asked him to confirm that his advice was suitable for fiction writers, and he confirmed it. When I told him about the conflict between his advice and what agents want (ie e-queries and the like) he said it was important to show your writing, and that is impossible to do in the few paragraphs of a query letter. He suggested STOPPING BY THE AGENT'S OFFICE, CAMPING OUT ON THEIR DOORSTOP, DOING WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET NOTICED.

I felt sorry for the guy in yesterday's butchering, and was quite relieved when you closed the thread. I can't help but think that maybe this poor man was in the audience at Monday's lecture, and he was simply taking advice from a publishing great. I mean, who knows better than Alan Rinzler when it comes to getting noticed. Have you seen his hair? Anyway, I guess what I'm asking is with all the advice floating around out there, who's to say who is right and who is wrong? And aside from stellar writing, should writers try to bump it up a notch, whithout scaring the bejeezus out of an agent?
I also felt bad for the guy as it wasn't my intent to throw him under the bus. For all I know, as you say, he may have heard that this is what he needed to do. I'm sure from his perspective he was putting himself out there (which isn't easy), that he was standing out from the crowd, showing dedication, etc., and maybe got some conflicting advice. Hopefully I gave a sense of what it looks like from my perspective - the situation can look a little different in reverse.

Alan Rinzler is a treasure and a fantastic resource for authors, and he offers a wealth of knowledge to authors via his blog and via conferences. We definitely know each other personally and I really enjoy his perspective and experience. These two particular instances are places where I'd disagree with him (but only somewhat).

On the 25 page query, I think this may be due in part from his perspective as an editor rather than as an agent. While editors do open themselves somewhat to unsolicited material, it's not the same thing as standing in front of the fire hose, like agents do. Editors are used to considering proposals, which tend to be 30-75 pages, and making a decision on that basis. If everyone sent agents 25 page queries/proposals I have no idea how I'd ever keep up. I can barely keep up with the current system as it is. That said, I think his general point is a very good one. If I were an author I'd always send at least 5 pages in the body of an e-mail or with a mailed query, whether their submission guidelines ask for it or not. They're not going to reject you for that and at least your work gets in front of them.

On the matter of hounding agents, I think that may be at least in part a generational thing. My parents' solution to many problems/challenges is to "pound the pavement" - I think there's a perception that if you just make that phone call, make that personal connection, meet face to face, that it's going to be the difference-maker. And there's definitely some truth to that! But to stereotype, I think my generation is more comfortable making personal connections over e-mail and through the Internet, and to me it just doesn't make sense for someone to take all the time to come over here to meet me when I could just look at their query over e-mail and reach the same decision. And that's even aside from the fact that if everyone wanted to meet with me or call me for every project I'd get nothing done and also aside from the fact that agents get some really strange e-mail (though I don't think this person falls in that category).

All of this is a good reminder that opinions vary hugely in everything publishing - there will always be conflicting advice, and it's up to you to choose the route you want to take. In my opinion the best way to get an agent's attention is to write the best book you can and then try and plug into online writing communities so that you are in a position to be discovered by other writers and possibly by agents. And I've discovered wonderful writers through queries, even if they weren't of the 25 page variety.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Ann » February 11th, 2010, 11:34 am

Hi Nathan,

In a contract between an author and agent, what is the definition of "Disposition"? Thanks!!

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » February 11th, 2010, 3:43 pm

Ann wrote:Hi Nathan,

In a contract between an author and agent, what is the definition of "Disposition"? Thanks!!
Depends on the context. But if you have a question about the author/agency agreement, ask the agent, I'm sure they'll be able to explain.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Ann » February 11th, 2010, 4:03 pm

Nathan Bransford wrote:
Ann wrote:Hi Nathan,

In a contract between an author and agent, what is the definition of "Disposition"? Thanks!!
Depends on the context. But if you have a question about the author/agency agreement, ask the agent, I'm sure they'll be able to explain.

That's probably why I couldn't find a definite definition, haha! Thank, Nathan! As always, much appreciated!

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Blondie » February 11th, 2010, 7:19 pm

Nathan,

As I am working on my nonfiction book and proposal, I am wondering about platform. You have detailed the necessity of platform on multiple occasions, as well as the various forms it can take. Given that I have 16+ years in the subject on which I am writing, over 7 of which are professional, I am wondering if I need additional "platform" to interest an agent, assuming the proposal is solid. My thought is that, given this is still a WIP, there is probably enough time to continue building a more public name as I keep improving on the material, while my resume will generally speak for itself to publishers. What are your thoughts?

Thank you, by the way, for such a great blog and these forums!

-Blondie

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » February 11th, 2010, 7:53 pm

Blondie wrote:Nathan,

As I am working on my nonfiction book and proposal, I am wondering about platform. You have detailed the necessity of platform on multiple occasions, as well as the various forms it can take. Given that I have 16+ years in the subject on which I am writing, over 7 of which are professional, I am wondering if I need additional "platform" to interest an agent, assuming the proposal is solid. My thought is that, given this is still a WIP, there is probably enough time to continue building a more public name as I keep improving on the material, while my resume will generally speak for itself to publishers. What are your thoughts?

Thank you, by the way, for such a great blog and these forums!

-Blondie
I wouldn't think of platform just in terms of your experience, but rather how many eyeballs you can summon to gain attention for your work. That's what publishers are looking for these days - not just that you're the best person to be writing the book, but that you can command an audience as well.

And from publishers' perspective, there's no such thing as too much platform.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Blondie » February 11th, 2010, 8:39 pm

Thanks Nathan!

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Kat » February 11th, 2010, 11:14 pm

Hi Nathan - thanks for answering all our questions (and for the awesomely informative blog!)

I'm finally getting to the stage where I'm going to start querying and I'm wondering how much personal information I ought to include in my query. Specifically, I'm wondering if I ought to include the fact that I am subject to pre-publication review (as I've held US government security clearances). It's irrelevant to the first novel I'm going to sub around, but it would be an issue on one of novel ideas that's next up in the queue. I've yet to find any blogs that mention pre-publication review (or anyone on a writer's forum who knows/will admit to knowing about the complications of being subject to PPR) so I'm at a complete loss for who else to ask about this.

I don't suppose you happen to know anything about how this would affect the querying process (or the publication process -- specifically edits)? Would knowing upfront that a writer was subject to PPR make you less likely to take them on as a client or an editor less likely to acquire their novel?

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