Old Ask Nathan Thread

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

Post by Summer_Dawn » August 6th, 2010, 9:37 pm

Nathan,

I have received a request for a full manuscript, and I'm paranoid that I won't present it properly. The agent asked for the ms, a synopsis, my biography and a list of comparables. I think it means a list of published titles I think are comparable to my ms, but I'm not sure. Also, is there a particular way to format such a list? I really admire this agent and would hate to look like an idiot.

Thank you!

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 6th, 2010, 10:33 pm

Summer_Dawn wrote:Nathan,

I have received a request for a full manuscript, and I'm paranoid that I won't present it properly. The agent asked for the ms, a synopsis, my biography and a list of comparables. I think it means a list of published titles I think are comparable to my ms, but I'm not sure. Also, is there a particular way to format such a list? I really admire this agent and would hate to look like an idiot.

Thank you!
Yeah, for fiction a list of comp titles usually just means a list of books that are similar to yours. It's usually best to pick ones that have sold well but that aren't obvious megabestsellers (TWILIGHT, HARRY POTTER, etc.). It's helpful for the agent to have a sense of both your knowledge of the marketplace as well as what else is out there. No need for fancy formatting. And don't worry, they're not going to reject you because they don't like your list or how it's formatted.

CraftyCreations
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by CraftyCreations » August 7th, 2010, 12:19 am

Mr Bransford,

Is there a particular type of memoir that you like? A kind you absolutely detest? Your blog just mentions that you're a sucker for them.

Candy
I can spell - my keyboard can't.

Jaded
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Jaded » August 7th, 2010, 1:33 pm

Nathan,

I've been having some difficulty in tracking down word counts and such for collections of non-linear essays (Mira's fancy term for short stories). The best I've been able to find is that they're acceptable in the 40,000 - 70,000 range. I'm guessing that this could technically be classified as narrative non-fiction or memoir, but it's more in the style of Laurie Notaro, Celia Rivenbark, Jill Connor Browne and Chelsea Handler. Heavy on the humor light on the David Sedaris style.

As my special gift to you today, I present you with two free bonus questions!

Number A: The query is supposed to reflect the voice of your MS, but mine is heavy on sarcasm and dry humor. What kind of happy medium can I reach between professional and flip without either offending the agent/assistant/intern/pack mule or making the MS sound dull?

Number B: This MS isn't completely finished at this point in time but it's not far from it. Should I shoot for the minimum with a promise of adding another 10,000 words if so desired or should I add in those 10,000- 20,000 words now in preparation for the inevitable massacre by the Red Pen of Doom? Also, do you currently have any interest in something like this at all? (Oh, special limited edition third question!) I'm trying to gauge the market on this one.

Thanks for anything you throw my way,

Heather

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 8th, 2010, 10:24 pm

CraftyCreations wrote:Mr Bransford,

Is there a particular type of memoir that you like? A kind you absolutely detest? Your blog just mentions that you're a sucker for them.

Candy
I like good ones and detest bad ones. (Helpful, I know!)

Honestly though I don't really have specific preferences when it comes to types of memoirs.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 8th, 2010, 10:30 pm

Jaded wrote:Nathan,

I've been having some difficulty in tracking down word counts and such for collections of non-linear essays (Mira's fancy term for short stories). The best I've been able to find is that they're acceptable in the 40,000 - 70,000 range. I'm guessing that this could technically be classified as narrative non-fiction or memoir, but it's more in the style of Laurie Notaro, Celia Rivenbark, Jill Connor Browne and Chelsea Handler. Heavy on the humor light on the David Sedaris style.

As my special gift to you today, I present you with two free bonus questions!

Number A: The query is supposed to reflect the voice of your MS, but mine is heavy on sarcasm and dry humor. What kind of happy medium can I reach between professional and flip without either offending the agent/assistant/intern/pack mule or making the MS sound dull?
I think it's possible to show dry humor without being unprofessional. One thing I would avoid is doing the whole, "We both know it sucks to read queries, here's mine on the pile" routine, because not only do we hear that a lot, but I personally don't think reading queries sucks. But I'm sure you can strike the right tone without being unprofessional.
Jaded wrote:Number B: This MS isn't completely finished at this point in time but it's not far from it. Should I shoot for the minimum with a promise of adding another 10,000 words if so desired or should I add in those 10,000- 20,000 words now in preparation for the inevitable massacre by the Red Pen of Doom? Also, do you currently have any interest in something like this at all? (Oh, special limited edition third question!) I'm trying to gauge the market on this one.

Thanks for anything you throw my way,

Heather
No, I'm not really in the market for collections unless:

1) the stories have been published in major/highly reputable magazines and/or journals or the author otherwise has a substantial platform going in
and/or:
2) there's a full novel/memoir either in progress or finished that's being submitted in conjunction with the stories

In terms of word count, I think it's whatever the collection demands. It's probably not essential that the whole thing be finished when you query as the agent will be able to get a good sense of the shape of the project from the existing stories. I would time the submission based on when you feel you've achieved the level of platform that is going to attract an agent to the collection.

Jaded
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Jaded » August 8th, 2010, 10:56 pm

Thanks for your time and the information, Nathan. It's awesome that you're helping us out this way.

I've been tempted to take bits of the stories and weave them into a novel, but I'm not sure how much that would hurt my chances of publishing the collection. I'm guess that "rag mags" aren't the greatest way to build a platform? Things like Creative Loafing (similar to the Village Voice) and such. They fit the style and voice of the stories as they're prone to be a little more PG-13 than a lot of publications would be comfortable with. Can one build a platform with things of that nature or should we be shooting for the moon and pitching Cosmo, Rolling Stone, etc.?

Again, thanks for the advice and clarifying the "humor in queries" issue.

-Heather

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 8th, 2010, 11:07 pm

Jaded wrote:Thanks for your time and the information, Nathan. It's awesome that you're helping us out this way.

I've been tempted to take bits of the stories and weave them into a novel, but I'm not sure how much that would hurt my chances of publishing the collection. I'm guess that "rag mags" aren't the greatest way to build a platform? Things like Creative Loafing (similar to the Village Voice) and such. They fit the style and voice of the stories as they're prone to be a little more PG-13 than a lot of publications would be comfortable with. Can one build a platform with things of that nature or should we be shooting for the moon and pitching Cosmo, Rolling Stone, etc.?

Again, thanks for the advice and clarifying the "humor in queries" issue.

-Heather
I think it's more about building a dedicated audience and buzz, and however you go about that (whether through an established Internet presence, publications, etc.) is up to you.

I will say though that all things being equal a novel is way easier to sell than a collection, so if you're at all considering that route I'd give it quite a bit of thought.

CraftyCreations
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by CraftyCreations » August 8th, 2010, 11:29 pm

Nathan Bransford wrote:
CraftyCreations wrote:Mr Bransford,

Is there a particular type of memoir that you like? A kind you absolutely detest? Your blog just mentions that you're a sucker for them.

Candy
I like good ones and detest bad ones. (Helpful, I know!)

Honestly though I don't really have specific preferences when it comes to types of memoirs.

Thank you. I greatly appreciate it. As soon as I get my ounce of courage back, I want to query you but if you didn't like prison memoirs, or something like that, I didn't want to waste your time.

Should people include a proposal for memoirs when she queries you?

Thanks again,
Candy
I can spell - my keyboard can't.

Jaded
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Jaded » August 8th, 2010, 11:42 pm

10 Grammar Fail points for me.

I will definitely be giving all of this a lot of thought, ingesting lethal amounts of caffeine, and possibly querying you some time in the future. I'll try not to channel the apex predator of language; the elusive and volatile Snark.

-Heather

If only 50 fans of my Facebook Fan Page and 9 followers of my blog constituted a platform.

Dreamstate
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Dreamstate » August 9th, 2010, 5:55 pm

Hi Nathan,

I'm in the process of querying my first novel. I am also a core contributor of short fiction for a UK woman's magazine that has a readership of over half a million. My latest story is in the issue that just hit the newsstand, and the Editor in Chief wrote about my story in her editor's letter that appears on the contents page -- a very complimentary write-up.

In my query letters, I already mention that I've had four stories published by the magazine but should I mention the editor's write-up in my query letter? I've put an image of the letter up on my website.(I always include the URL for my website along with my address in phone number) but I'm wondering if I should do more to draw attention to this. I don't know how big a deal this would be for agents, so I'd be grateful for any advice you might give.

Thanks
Jenna (aka Dreamstate)
http://www.inthedreamstate.blogspot.com
http://www.jennawallace.net

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 10th, 2010, 9:22 pm

CraftyCreations wrote:
Nathan Bransford wrote:
CraftyCreations wrote:Mr Bransford,

Is there a particular type of memoir that you like? A kind you absolutely detest? Your blog just mentions that you're a sucker for them.

Candy
I like good ones and detest bad ones. (Helpful, I know!)

Honestly though I don't really have specific preferences when it comes to types of memoirs.

Thank you. I greatly appreciate it. As soon as I get my ounce of courage back, I want to query you but if you didn't like prison memoirs, or something like that, I didn't want to waste your time.

Should people include a proposal for memoirs when she queries you?

Thanks again,
Candy
No, just the query at first.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 10th, 2010, 9:25 pm

Dreamstate wrote:Hi Nathan,

I'm in the process of querying my first novel. I am also a core contributor of short fiction for a UK woman's magazine that has a readership of over half a million. My latest story is in the issue that just hit the newsstand, and the Editor in Chief wrote about my story in her editor's letter that appears on the contents page -- a very complimentary write-up.

In my query letters, I already mention that I've had four stories published by the magazine but should I mention the editor's write-up in my query letter? I've put an image of the letter up on my website.(I always include the URL for my website along with my address in phone number) but I'm wondering if I should do more to draw attention to this. I don't know how big a deal this would be for agents, so I'd be grateful for any advice you might give.

Thanks
Jenna (aka Dreamstate)
http://www.inthedreamstate.blogspot.com
http://www.jennawallace.net
Yeah, I'd mention it. It always comes down to the actual work though.

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ryanznock
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by ryanznock » August 11th, 2010, 1:31 am

I've had a piece of short fiction hosted at an agent's blog, but so far nothing published in print. I'm guessing that, unless I'm querying an associate of that agent, that's not worth mentioning, right?

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » August 12th, 2010, 7:53 pm

ryanznock wrote:I've had a piece of short fiction hosted at an agent's blog, but so far nothing published in print. I'm guessing that, unless I'm querying an associate of that agent, that's not worth mentioning, right?
Yeah, I would strongly recommend against it. Winning a contest on an agent blog is really only a credit with that particular agent.

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