Old Ask Nathan Thread

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

Post by shadow » December 7th, 2009, 5:11 pm

Great forum!

i am not sure if there has been a post about my question, but I didn't see one yet. So how important is the title of the manuscript to you when you are going through a query? I know that publishers may change the title if the project gets picked up, but I want to know whether agents really care for a creative title. I also know some projects that have been picked up solely by title so...
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 7th, 2009, 5:17 pm

shadow wrote:Great forum!

i am not sure if there has been a post about my question, but I didn't see one yet. So how important is the title of the manuscript to you when you are going through a query? I know that publishers may change the title if the project gets picked up, but I want to know whether agents really care for a creative title. I also know some projects that have been picked up solely by title so...
Fairly important, but not usually dealbreaking important. A good title can definitely help a query, but it's never usually something that will cause me to pass on a project. You can always think of a better title later.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by zen » December 7th, 2009, 5:30 pm

Hi Nathan. If one of your new, unsold clients were to run a few ideas by you for their next manuscript, and the categories were either 1) urban fantasy series (adult) 2) YA dystopia 3) YA urban fantasy, all things being equal (writer excited about all three and you think all are fresh concepts), which would you be most likely to point him to? The first unsold manuscript was supernatural thriller/urban fantasy (adult).

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 7th, 2009, 5:32 pm

zen wrote:Hi Nathan. If one of your new, unsold clients were to run a few ideas by you for their next manuscript, and the categories were either 1) urban fantasy series (adult) 2) YA dystopia 3) YA urban fantasy, all things being equal (writer excited about all three and you think all are fresh concepts), which would you be most likely to point him to? The first unsold manuscript was supernatural thriller/urban fantasy (adult).
When it comes to ideas and writer enthusiasm, all things are never equal.

Can't answer this hypothetical, but in these situations, the right option always presents itself. It just works out.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by zen » December 7th, 2009, 5:36 pm

A follow up then - would you prefer the client call you or email you with the one liners/paragraphs? Thx.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 7th, 2009, 5:38 pm

zen wrote:A follow up then - would you prefer the client call you or email you with the one liners/paragraphs? Thx.
I personally prefer e-mail.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by atpf14 » December 7th, 2009, 7:19 pm

Hi Nathan:
I'm enjoying your blog -- a new discovery of mine. A couple of questions:

1) In deciding whether to represent an author, do you sometimes get a second opinion on the manscript, e.g ask a colleague to read it, too?
2) Do you include authors in the process of choosing to whom and how you're going to submit their manuscript? Do you submit the ms to a large number of editors simultaneously, or do it by stages?

Thanks so much.
A.T. Pfeffer

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Adam Heine
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Two-timeline synopsis

Post by Adam Heine » December 7th, 2009, 8:08 pm

This isn't strictly about publishing, but I'd appreciate any advice you can give. I've got a novel written in two timelines: one present, one past. Some of the same characters are present in both timelines, and I've been having difficulty writing the synopsis in a way that's not confusing.

So, question the first: for synopsis paragraphs that summarize the past timeline, should they still be written in present tense? That's the way I have it now, but some readers are confused. Yet when I write them in past tense, it reads like an unnecessary infodump rather than part of the story.

Question the second: I know synopses are normally not supposed to speak of the story in a meta sense, but is it okay to lead off with something like "THE NOVEL is told in two timelines: Character A's present and B's past," to allay confusion?

Of course, if you have a better suggestion, I'm all ears. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by shadow » December 7th, 2009, 8:09 pm

Hello again,

I have another question. Will posting an opening paragraph for critique at like Absolute write damage the chances of being accepted by an agent?

thanks!
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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 7th, 2009, 8:21 pm

atpf14 wrote:Hi Nathan:
I'm enjoying your blog -- a new discovery of mine. A couple of questions:

1) In deciding whether to represent an author, do you sometimes get a second opinion on the manscript, e.g ask a colleague to read it, too?
2) Do you include authors in the process of choosing to whom and how you're going to submit their manuscript? Do you submit the ms to a large number of editors simultaneously, or do it by stages?

Thanks so much.
A.T. Pfeffer
1. No, I usually make my own decision.
2. Yes, I definitely keep authors apprised. How I go about the submission process in terms of number of editors varies from project to project, but overall I tend to be a patient/cautious submitter.

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Re: Two-timeline synopsis

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 7th, 2009, 8:27 pm

Adam Heine wrote:This isn't strictly about publishing, but I'd appreciate any advice you can give. I've got a novel written in two timelines: one present, one past. Some of the same characters are present in both timelines, and I've been having difficulty writing the synopsis in a way that's not confusing.

So, question the first: for synopsis paragraphs that summarize the past timeline, should they still be written in present tense? That's the way I have it now, but some readers are confused. Yet when I write them in past tense, it reads like an unnecessary infodump rather than part of the story.

Question the second: I know synopses are normally not supposed to speak of the story in a meta sense, but is it okay to lead off with something like "THE NOVEL is told in two timelines: Character A's present and B's past," to allay confusion?

Of course, if you have a better suggestion, I'm all ears. Thanks for taking the time to read this.
1. I would try to make it all in one tense, even if the sections refer to different times in the story. Depending on
2. It's tough to make recommendations without knowing how the different stories fit together. But in general, I think it's okay to say something along the lines of "THE NOVEL is the story of X and Y, which intersect and come together to make Y." Then try either alternating paragraphs between the two stories or just synthesize things into one overarching story. It's more important for it to read well and make sense than to perfectly replicate the feel of the novel.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 7th, 2009, 8:28 pm

shadow wrote:Hello again,

I have another question. Will posting an opening paragraph for critique at like Absolute write damage the chances of being accepted by an agent?

thanks!
No

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Second chances

Post by KateK » December 7th, 2009, 9:02 pm

Hi Nathan,

Quick question/grovel.

I made a rookie mistake and queried too early; you passed on my partial in July. I took your notes to heart, and eight drafts, two writer's workshops, and three critique partners later, I have a MUCH stronger book. Any chance I can re-query you, or am I out of luck?

- Kate

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Re: Second chances

Post by Nathan Bransford » December 7th, 2009, 9:14 pm

KateK wrote:Hi Nathan,

Quick question/grovel.

I made a rookie mistake and queried too early; you passed on my partial in July. I took your notes to heart, and eight drafts, two writer's workshops, and three critique partners later, I have a MUCH stronger book. Any chance I can re-query you, or am I out of luck?

- Kate
Unless I offered specific revision suggestions I'm afraid my response is my response.

That said, if you really truly believe that the manuscript is better and different then you can query again, but please be up front about this. I may still decide my response is my response, but I'll still consider.

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Re: Ask Nathan

Post by atpf14 » December 7th, 2009, 10:07 pm

I've just finished a YA novel that both my UCLA writing teacher and a free-lance editor with 20 years of children's publishing experience tell me is very good and ready to send out for queries.

The problem: I'm a female author with a male protagonist in my story. I was told recently that even though the male voice in the book sounds authentic, the mere fact that I'm a woman makes this book hard to sell.

I've dealt with it by: 1) positioning it as a girls' book, which it is, with a romantic, appealing male hero that girls will fall in love with, 2) renaming the book with an attention-getting title that says "girl book" all the way, and 3) using my initials, so as to leave at least some mystery about my gender.

Do you think I have a shot at it, or I am doomed from the start because I wrote a story about a boy?

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