Old Ask Nathan Thread

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

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 8th, 2009, 11:42 am

Rose on Prose wrote:Hey Nathan! What do agents really think of submission services?
It varies from agent to agent and service to service. Not many agents I know appreciate the submission services that just blast queries to everyone in the business simultaneously, but I know some agents are trying out the webook service. I personally would rather authors queried me directly and would rather handle things myself.

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Re: Email Formatting in Manuscripts

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 8th, 2009, 11:43 am

Andrew wrote:Nathan -

Thanks for all the tremendously useful information here. I've got a quick question regarding formatting.

In published novels I've sometimes seen normally spaced italics used to indicate a handwritten passage such as a letter, and indented single spaced block courier to indicate an email or blackberry message. I have enough of these occur in the manuscript that I think it might be helpful for them to be clearly identifiable (as opposed to having to preface them each time) but don't want to put a professional reader off.

What do you recommend in terms of formatting these as part of a manuscript?

Thanks much!

Andrew

(note: this is a resubmit from the FAQ page, which I posted on right before the redesign - sorry if you see it twice!)
Italics is fine.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by shadow » December 8th, 2009, 11:57 am

Hi,

I know that when you read a query and like it you would continue on to the first 5 or ten pages. How important is the opening chapter to you? What if the character is somewhat foreshadowing what has happened to him in his past, to give a good idea of who he is? My character some people may consider bad, and the backdrop really gives reasoning for all his actions. I am just wondering whether that is a turn off. Afterwards the story sips into action really quickly, yet I have been told that its best not to start with memories.

Thanks so much for answering all my questions!
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 8th, 2009, 12:02 pm

shadow wrote:Hi,

I know that when you read a query and like it you would continue on to the first 5 or ten pages. How important is the opening chapter to you? What if the character is somewhat foreshadowing what has happened to him in his past, to give a good idea of who he is? My character some people may consider bad, and the backdrop really gives reasoning for all his actions. I am just wondering whether that is a turn off. Afterwards the story sips into action really quickly, yet I have been told that its best not to start with memories.

Thanks so much for answering all my questions!
What happens in the first couple pages isn't as important as how well-written it is. Don't try and fine-tune it just to impress an agent. Just write the best opening you can.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by ejNY » December 8th, 2009, 1:09 pm

Hi Nathan,

I was wondering if you'd read Kristin Nelson's blog post today about St. Martin Press and their "new adult" line. What are your thoughts on this attempt to launch a new genre aimed at a market most publishers have been scared of in the past? Also, for writers who have a manuscript that falls into this category and are excited to finally have an accurate genre label to apply to their manuscript, how do they know which agents to query? Should they be querying agents seeking YA, or agents seeking the subgenre of adult lit that the manuscript falls into? (This is especially tricky if you are writing what would be called "women's fiction" if it wasn't for the fact that your characters are college-aged!) And have enough agents even heard about this yet for it to be worth using the genre label "new adult" in a query? I'd really appreciate your thoughts!

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Susan Quinn » December 8th, 2009, 1:19 pm

Nathan - the dust cleared in a hurry, and the place is looking great!

Question: My first novel is MG, my second YA, and I'm thinking about writing another MG. Other than my obvious difficulty in settling on an age range, what do you think I should do when shopping for an agent (hopefully in the New Year, when the MG novel is all polished up)? Should I focus on agents that represent MG, since I will be shopping a MG novel, or should I try to find agents that are both MG/YA in the event that I may want to publish YA at some point?

Does it make sense to have more than one agent for different works? Or is it better to have one agent, to develop a longer lasting relationship with?

Thanks!
Susan Kaye Quinn (young adult and middle grade author)
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by JenLT » December 8th, 2009, 2:09 pm

Hi Nathan,

I love your forums!

My latest manuscript has a few religious elements in it. It is not meant to be a religious novel, but there are supernatural elements within the plot and a few of the characters are religious (but not all of them). Religion does play a role in what some of the characters do and think. It is definitely not suited for the Christian/Inspirational market. It is quite dark and also has graphic sex and language. My question is how to handle this in the query letter. I'm worried that if I mention the religious aspects in the synopsis, any prospective agents would get the wrong idea. Yet, trying to right a summary without any hint of these elements is proving to be difficult, and I don't wish to be deceptive. Do you think it is likely to make a difference with agents? Should I continue trying to eliminate any hint of religion from the query letter or just come right out and state that this is not that type of story?

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 8th, 2009, 2:35 pm

ejNY wrote:Hi Nathan,

I was wondering if you'd read Kristin Nelson's blog post today about St. Martin Press and their "new adult" line. What are your thoughts on this attempt to launch a new genre aimed at a market most publishers have been scared of in the past? Also, for writers who have a manuscript that falls into this category and are excited to finally have an accurate genre label to apply to their manuscript, how do they know which agents to query? Should they be querying agents seeking YA, or agents seeking the subgenre of adult lit that the manuscript falls into? (This is especially tricky if you are writing what would be called "women's fiction" if it wasn't for the fact that your characters are college-aged!) And have enough agents even heard about this yet for it to be worth using the genre label "new adult" in a query? I'd really appreciate your thoughts!
I've also been in touch with Dan and JJ and am very much looking forward to watching their new venture. They're very smart and obviously know their stuff. Since this is technically adult publishing (college is the cutoff), I'd stick to agents who represent adult books. I feel like "new adult" is a little specialized for a query and the term hasn't quite caught on as its own genre, so just stick to whatever genre description you already had.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 8th, 2009, 2:36 pm

JenLT wrote:Hi Nathan,

I love your forums!

My latest manuscript has a few religious elements in it. It is not meant to be a religious novel, but there are supernatural elements within the plot and a few of the characters are religious (but not all of them). Religion does play a role in what some of the characters do and think. It is definitely not suited for the Christian/Inspirational market. It is quite dark and also has graphic sex and language. My question is how to handle this in the query letter. I'm worried that if I mention the religious aspects in the synopsis, any prospective agents would get the wrong idea. Yet, trying to right a summary without any hint of these elements is proving to be difficult, and I don't wish to be deceptive. Do you think it is likely to make a difference with agents? Should I continue trying to eliminate any hint of religion from the query letter or just come right out and state that this is not that type of story?
Just tell the story in the query. Let the agent take from it what they will.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by MosesSiregar » December 9th, 2009, 1:07 pm

Nathan, if I recall correctly, I saw that you read something like 7,000 - 10,000 queries a year and take on 2-3 new clients a year. That may be completely wrong, or those may be old figures, so I'm curious if I have the numbers right? I find infinitesimal odds strangely thrilling! Thanks.
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 9th, 2009, 2:01 pm

MosesSiregar wrote:Nathan, if I recall correctly, I saw that you read something like 7,000 - 10,000 queries a year and take on 2-3 new clients a year. That may be completely wrong, or those may be old figures, so I'm curious if I have the numbers right? I find infinitesimal odds strangely thrilling! Thanks.
This year I think I'll end up receiving closer to 15,000 queries, and I think I've taken on four or five new clients. So double both numbers this year.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Demosthenes » December 9th, 2009, 2:08 pm

Nathan Bransford wrote:
MosesSiregar wrote:Nathan, if I recall correctly, I saw that you read something like 7,000 - 10,000 queries a year and take on 2-3 new clients a year. That may be completely wrong, or those may be old figures, so I'm curious if I have the numbers right? I find infinitesimal odds strangely thrilling! Thanks.
This year I think I'll end up receiving closer to 15,000 queries, and I think I've taken on four or five new clients. So double both numbers this year.
5 out of 15,000. That's .03%. Dang.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by MosesSiregar » December 9th, 2009, 2:23 pm

A follow-up to the above, if it's not too nosy. If it is, please feel free to ignore it. If you were to take on five new clients in a year, roughly how many more do you think you might offer to represent that, for whatever reason, would chose not to become clients of yours?
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 9th, 2009, 2:25 pm

MosesSiregar wrote:A follow-up to the above, if it's not too nosy. If it is, please feel free to ignore it. If you were to take on five new clients in a year, roughly how many more do you think you might offer to represent that, for whatever reason, would chose not to become clients of yours?
I'm tempting the gods by saying this, but I haven't been turned down yet.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by onefinemess » December 9th, 2009, 2:46 pm

Demosthenes wrote:
Nathan Bransford wrote:
MosesSiregar wrote:Nathan, if I recall correctly, I saw that you read something like 7,000 - 10,000 queries a year and take on 2-3 new clients a year. That may be completely wrong, or those may be old figures, so I'm curious if I have the numbers right? I find infinitesimal odds strangely thrilling! Thanks.
This year I think I'll end up receiving closer to 15,000 queries, and I think I've taken on four or five new clients. So double both numbers this year.
5 out of 15,000. That's .03%. Dang.
Would you consider further characterizing those numbers in any sort of (haphazard even) manner?
Like, is 82.098884% just raw, shouldn't-even-query-their-mother, type drek? 9% has potential, 2% good, but not my thing, .07% revise & resubmit?

If this is already a blog post somewhere that I missed - apologies - if not, it could be a good one.

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