Old Ask Nathan Thread

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

Post by Art Edwards » February 12th, 2010, 2:28 pm

Am I high, or did you publish a very informative blog not long ago listing your yearly (2009) stats, specifically how many queries you received and how many new clients you pulled from these queries? I'm trying to cull this information from you and other agents, and I can't find it anywhere on your blog.

Thanks!

Art

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nick » February 12th, 2010, 6:32 pm

I was reviewing your manuscript formatting guidelines earlier, just to get an idea of what I'll eventually have to change, and I'm just slightly curious about the one point. You say, "Page break after the end of a chapter". Why is this? Does it just make it easier on you? Are we not meant to put headers on chapters? (Because I totally do do that for every chapter post-chapter 1).

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » February 13th, 2010, 10:39 pm

Kat wrote: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?
I'd really only mention the most need-to-know stuff for the query. This seems like something that could be addressed down the line if you get farther into discussions with the agent.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » February 13th, 2010, 10:44 pm

Art Edwards wrote:Am I high, or did you publish a very informative blog not long ago listing your yearly (2009) stats, specifically how many queries you received and how many new clients you pulled from these queries? I'm trying to cull this information from you and other agents, and I can't find it anywhere on your blog.

Thanks!

Art
Not exactly. The closest to this were my posts on the number of e-mails I send/receive and my holiday query stats.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » February 13th, 2010, 10:45 pm

Nick wrote:I was reviewing your manuscript formatting guidelines earlier, just to get an idea of what I'll eventually have to change, and I'm just slightly curious about the one point. You say, "Page break after the end of a chapter". Why is this? Does it just make it easier on you? Are we not meant to put headers on chapters? (Because I totally do do that for every chapter post-chapter 1).
It's just kind of the standard way of doing it. Chapter headings are fine.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by shadow » February 14th, 2010, 11:30 am

Nathan, I know I have asked about beginnings before, but as I come to the end of my manuscript this really leaves me confused for I get so many different opinions on this. The question is, would you rather for the beginning to first describe the setting a bit, with dialogue, and such, and then jump into battle or start straight with battle. I got very different opinions when I asked, so I am just wondering what a vast majority of agents like you would prefer. Of course if I start with battle the description would come after, because I don't want to leave the reader clueless. So being an agent which one usually do you like better? Here is an example of an opening line from either.

a) Vitiosus gazed at his father’s cold, light grey eyes, and for once realized that he would never be like the blood-thirsty king. “You called on me, father?”

b)Vitiosus raised the point of his weapon; the blade, coated with venom, reflected the rays of the sun. His heart pounded, but he kept the tension in his muscles in check; he must be ready for an attack.

I really appreciate your advice, for I know that you go through a ton of manuscripts and would now which one readers tend to like better. I expect though that I can't make every reader happy (sigh). Any way I am looking forward to your answer on this topic, and what you would recommend to all us writers re, a compelling beginning. So description or action?
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » February 14th, 2010, 2:01 pm

shadow wrote:Nathan, I know I have asked about beginnings before, but as I come to the end of my manuscript this really leaves me confused for I get so many different opinions on this. The question is, would you rather for the beginning to first describe the setting a bit, with dialogue, and such, and then jump into battle or start straight with battle. I got very different opinions when I asked, so I am just wondering what a vast majority of agents like you would prefer. Of course if I start with battle the description would come after, because I don't want to leave the reader clueless. So being an agent which one usually do you like better? Here is an example of an opening line from either.

a) Vitiosus gazed at his father’s cold, light grey eyes, and for once realized that he would never be like the blood-thirsty king. “You called on me, father?”

b)Vitiosus raised the point of his weapon; the blade, coated with venom, reflected the rays of the sun. His heart pounded, but he kept the tension in his muscles in check; he must be ready for an attack.

I really appreciate your advice, for I know that you go through a ton of manuscripts and would now which one readers tend to like better. I expect though that I can't make every reader happy (sigh). Any way I am looking forward to your answer on this topic, and what you would recommend to all us writers re, a compelling beginning. So description or action?
I can't tell you how to start your book. There are so different ways of going about it, and you should go for the one that you feel is most effective. You have to be happy with the book you've written. Focus on that rather and don't worry what an agent is going to think.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by tameson » February 14th, 2010, 5:57 pm

shadow, in the writing forums I frequent, I have seen a lot of negativity towards starting in a battle. At this point, all we know about a character is his name, so there is no emotional investment. Live, die, whatever- I don't know this guy and for all I know, he's on the wrong side. And in a battle, it is hard to learn much about a character beyond his fighting skills. Your starting point A seems more interesting to me- he has daddy issues, wants to be not blood thirsty, and he is a prince. Of course, where it goes from there could drastically change my perception and I am sure there are other people who disagree with me.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by LisaLRegan » February 15th, 2010, 3:44 pm

Nathan,

I have a kind of etiquette question. I had queried Agent A awhile back. She read my book, liked it, asked me if I had anything else. I pitched her my second book and she read that. Then she passed on both BUT she referred me to a friend of hers, Agent B.

I pitched Agent B my first book and he asked for the full. But I checked my records and as it turns out, about 6 months ago I had queried Agent B pitching my second book and got an auto-reject. So if for some reason in the future, he asks me to pitch the second book based on Agent A's recommendation, do I TELL him that I queried him last year and he rejected me? If it were you, would you want or need to know that? I just wonder because I know you guys get so many queries a day I strongly doubt he would remember my query anyway. But I don't want to be dishonest in any way.

As an agent, if you had rejected a query but then another agent referred the author of that query to you, would you give their work a read based on your agent-friend's recommendation or would you stand by your initial rejection?

Thanks.

Lisa R.
www.lisalregan.com

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » February 15th, 2010, 4:23 pm

LisaLRegan wrote:Nathan,

I have a kind of etiquette question. I had queried Agent A awhile back. She read my book, liked it, asked me if I had anything else. I pitched her my second book and she read that. Then she passed on both BUT she referred me to a friend of hers, Agent B.

I pitched Agent B my first book and he asked for the full. But I checked my records and as it turns out, about 6 months ago I had queried Agent B pitching my second book and got an auto-reject. So if for some reason in the future, he asks me to pitch the second book based on Agent A's recommendation, do I TELL him that I queried him last year and he rejected me? If it were you, would you want or need to know that? I just wonder because I know you guys get so many queries a day I strongly doubt he would remember my query anyway. But I don't want to be dishonest in any way.

As an agent, if you had rejected a query but then another agent referred the author of that query to you, would you give their work a read based on your agent-friend's recommendation or would you stand by your initial rejection?

Thanks.

Lisa R.
http://www.lisalregan.com
Sure, I'd mention it if you get around to discussing that project because Agent B might have a case of deja vu, but now that you have his attention with your other project the response might be different. I wouldn't worry that he's going to look on it negatively.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by ReneeK » February 15th, 2010, 5:18 pm

WOW. I just stumbled on your blog doing research pertaining to agents and before my question, a sincere thank you - the information you're sharing is fabulous and so well organized.

After checking your FAQs, and doing quite a bit of reading (thanks for finally giving me an understanding of "literary" fiction :-)) I haven't seen anything pertaining to my question so hear 'tis:

I'm published both electronically and in print (2006-2009) with a couple of indie presses. I'm ready to change direction and seek an agent with the goal of NY publication. The hold up? I write in several romance genres and have considered more than one avenue but confusion reigns.

Is there ever any way to pay a literary agent for a consultation? A half hour of their time to help a writer focus on the right project for querying & submission? Thank you. Renee

PS - Another way to put it is that I'd like to talk with a "literary shrink". Problem is, I haven't yet found that category in the Yellow Pages. Any chance you know of a search term I haven't thought to use? Any ideas or direction would be most appreciated.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » February 15th, 2010, 6:56 pm

ReneeK wrote:WOW. I just stumbled on your blog doing research pertaining to agents and before my question, a sincere thank you - the information you're sharing is fabulous and so well organized.

After checking your FAQs, and doing quite a bit of reading (thanks for finally giving me an understanding of "literary" fiction :-)) I haven't seen anything pertaining to my question so hear 'tis:

I'm published both electronically and in print (2006-2009) with a couple of indie presses. I'm ready to change direction and seek an agent with the goal of NY publication. The hold up? I write in several romance genres and have considered more than one avenue but confusion reigns.

Is there ever any way to pay a literary agent for a consultation? A half hour of their time to help a writer focus on the right project for querying & submission? Thank you. Renee

PS - Another way to put it is that I'd like to talk with a "literary shrink". Problem is, I haven't yet found that category in the Yellow Pages. Any chance you know of a search term I haven't thought to use? Any ideas or direction would be most appreciated.
You can meet agents at conferences and sign up for pitch sessions to ask them some questions, but honestly the best way forward is usually to focus on one project for publication and query for that. Agents don't accept consultation fees, and they're going to want to know what you have finished and ready to go anyway. The best introduction is a great manuscript.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by ReneeK » February 15th, 2010, 10:53 pm

The best introduction is a great manuscript.
Okay! Great advice (& so succinct! I still work on that) Thank you much.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by raagachi » February 17th, 2010, 5:59 pm

Dear Nathan,

A question regarding completed MS copy-editing:

I have completed a few drafts of my novel and advanced from macro-editing to line-editing. A second set of eyes (with experience and credentials) has done the same. Yet I still find errors, nearly all of which are simple copy-editing mistakes (two spaces between words, a line of improper indentation, etc.) and a few of which are best left to the Fowlers and Garners of the world. When it comes to dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, how important is an absolutely polished pearl of a final MS?

I notice even the New Yorker, with its famed team of full-timers and proofreaders, shows cracks now and then.

Thank you.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by MosesSiregar » February 17th, 2010, 7:18 pm

Hi Nathan, thanks for your time.

I've researched an agent that I think could be a perfect fit for my first book. I'm considering querying this person with only four polished chapters ready for consideration, as well as a complete synopsis (though the first draft is written), so that I could give the person an exclusive first look at my project. I expect to have the final draft ready in the second half of this year. Do you think there are agents who would respond positively to such a query, or is it probably pointless or maybe even harmful to query someone like this before the full book is polished? The agency's query guidelines don't specify anything about this issue one way or the other. Thanks again.

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