Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Agently Wisdom For Querying Authors

You may or may not know that Josh Getzler (my irreplaceable agent) blogs every Tuesday at Hey, There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room.  His post this week offers excellent insight on what to do and what not to do when you query him (and other agents).

Read this and take notes!

SOME FRIENDLY GUIDELINES AND PET PEEVES, by Josh Getzler and Danielle Burby

And here's an extra bonus:  If you have any questions about querying in general, or about Hannigan Salky Getzler in particular, LEAVE YOUR QUESTIONS IN THE COMMENT BOX HERE.  Josh and Danielle will pop by when they have free moments to offer their wisdom/insight/brilliance.

(Note: Please read the blog post BEFORE asking your questions.)

You're welcome! :)


30 comments:

  1. You mentioned in the blog post the intern inqueries were sent to Danielle. Are you still open to resumes for the internship?
    Thank you, Talynn

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  2. I have written a memoir of my nursing career but have heard that memoirs only sell if you are famous, or, better yet, infamous. Would my book be more interesting to agents if I change "I" to "she" and call it fiction?

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  3. I was actually shocked to read the note about expecting a polite thank you for editorial feedback... I was fully under the impression that this would be perceived as cluttering an agent's inbox unnecessarily, and that the bottom line message of any rejection (unless an R&R was explicitly requested) was simply, go away. I'm curious as to whether Josh/Danielle/everyone else thinks a personalized R (meaning, with a suggestion as to what's not working for them) should get a thank you reply. Or is this preference out of the ordinary?

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  4. Talynn--We've filled the position for this summer. We'd still take resumes, but at this point it would be for Fall internships (or sometimes for remote readers). Thanks for the question! Josh

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  5. Carol--For memoir, I think your instinct is the right one. We've found it very difficult to be successful with memoir unless the author is in some way well-known (or VERY well-connected). If the story is amazing, then perhaps making it fiction is the way to go. One thing there, however: You then need to COMMIT to it being fiction. You will get comments asking to change things that, you know, HAPPENED, for the sake of plot. And you will need to let go of the NF element in order to then make is a successful work of fiction. Make sense? Josh

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  6. Robyn--"Thanks" is never cluttering an inbox :). We may not be starting up a full-on conversation, but a quick back and forth is fine. What we don't want (and as I think about it, something that probably should have been included in the post) is, after the more generic Pass email after 5 pages, to get a "Thanks for getting back to me, but could you tell me what was wrong/could you recommend someone else?" email. In a first email, if we are going to offer a suggestion and start a back and forth, we likely would do so in the first place. I think I've put this in other posts, but unfortunately if we got into real discussions with each query, we'd do nothing else.

    Thanks so much for your question, and I hope this helps...

    Josh

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  7. Josh— Thanks!

    ;)

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  8. I have a question--Have the unsaid rules of querying a first time series changed? I know series are hotter than ever. Can a new time author submit one, or should we still make sure it can be sold as a stand-alone?

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  9. I have a question--Have the unsaid rules of querying a first time series changed? I know series are hotter than ever. Can a new time author submit one, or should we still make sure it can be sold as a stand-alone?

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  10. To piggyback on Josh's comment to Robyn--It's actually very unusual for us (and most agencies) to include any editorial feedback in a rejection. It means we've given the manuscript some very serious thought and that it stood out to us in some memorable way. Any time taken to provide editorial comments is valuable time and our hope is that the author will gain some insight from it. For me anyway, sending an editorial thought is a very human-to-human thing. I'm trying to offer a lifeline. I would also have to echo Josh, though, that it isn't an invitation for conversation. As much as I may want to discuss further, I really would never get anything done!

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  11. Kathryn--There is definitely something wonderful about a series. I know I love them! However, it's good to keep in mind that any individual book must always stand on its own, whether it's the first in a series or the fortieth. There has to be a satisfying beginning middle and end, whether or not you want to leave room for future projects.

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  13. Hi Mr. Getzler, thanks so much for the helpful query info and for this Q&A. And thank you Authoress for hosting.

    I'd read that you're not interesting in science fiction. Is that's accurate? If yes, is it also true for YA? Thanks!

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  14. Most of the time I do not represent science fiction. I'm not actively searching it out. When a client of mine takes a turn into that genre, I will of course work with it. But I'll admit that's pretty rare. Thanks for your email!

    Josh

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  15. Do you reply to queries immediately after reading them?

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  16. What do you look for in PB queries?

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  17. If an agent has provided you with feedback, and is willing to look at a revision, and you send them a thank-you, I'll definitely revise and send it back when I'm done email at that point, do they normally respond?

    (This is totally me going "she didn't respond - oh god, did I say something wrong?" I probably just need a head pat.)

    Also, any other advice on handling this stage is muchly welcome!

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  18. Josh and Danielle - terrific post - thank you for this!

    Piggybacking on the earlier sci fi comment, but with a slightly different question: if an agent bio (like yours) says you're interested in MG adventure, but overall you're not into Sci Fi and Fantasy, does that mean I should not query those agents (or you!) with an MG adventure that has one element of light sci-fi? (Truly really an adventure - in our world, with our people, and our times) - but again - that one element of sci fi.
    ALSO - your bio states you're not interested in African American fiction - does that mean fiction with African American characters, or fiction designed to educate readers about African American culture?
    Thanks again!

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  19. First, for the anonymous folk: In terms of replying to queries, it works pretty much like this for us: As we get them, we filter them into our Queries inbox, or they'd get lost in the general inbox. Then, whenever we have a chance, but regularly, we read them in bulk and sort into Yes (ask for partial or full) and No (send pass). Passes after initial emails usually go out in waves. Passes after we request partials most of the time go out right after we read them. Certainly not everyone does it this way, but I don't think we are unusual.

    I am not sure I understand what you mean in terms of "PB queries." When I look at queries, I am looking at the project, and the publisher determines whether the book will be published as hardcover, paperback, or digital-first.

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  20. Heather--I rarely take on books where I know that the primary imprints I will be submitting to will be science fiction imprints. In the case you describe, there could be enough overlap with general trade publishing (as opposed to Genre) that I could go to a more general editor. So I might look at that. But if I saw it skew too far toward sci fi, I would likely pass.

    In terms of African-American fiction, which bio of mine says that? It's not on my Pub Marketplace page or on my website, which are the two bios I wrote and are accurate. I don't represent Christian fiction, but that has to do with genre--there are many agents who specialize in it, and they know that market better than I do. I hope that helps.

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  21. Hello, and thank you for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to answer some questions for us querying writers :)

    I am not sure what the policy is at your office, but some offices say "no from one of us is a no from all" and that they would pass on a query to another agent in the firm if it is a better fit.

    I'm wondering if this is actually a common occurrence or not? I have been learning how very subjective the business is (one agent tells me they absolutely love the premise and want the full, another says it isn't fresh enough to sell, etc.) This just makes it terribly stressful when I'm only allowed to select one to query and hope that they would be the best match for me out of everyone at that agency. I definitely try to read interviews and read up on their interests, but I don't know if you can really "know" until they hear the pitch and read the work.

    Anyway, guess I just want to know if sharing queries with your fellow agents at an agency actually does happen, in your experience.

    Thank you again!

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  22. Thank you for the insightful post. :)

    This may not pertain specifically to querying, but the comments about self-publishing a manuscript that was being queried brought this question to mind, and I was hoping one of you might be willing to address it.

    How great is the risk of an author’s reputation being harmed by a self-published book (or a book published by a very small press) with low sales? Is this something that agents and editors seriously take into consideration when taking on a new author?

    (I’ve heard that agents prefer to start with someone who has ‘a clean slate’, but it seems it would be unreasonable to judge the merit of the author’s other books by the sales figures of a book that probably had limited distribution and little or no marketing!)

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  23. (It wasn't my question, but just FYI for Josh...)

    I don't know where else it might be online, but the African-American literature note at least shows up in a literaryrambles.com agent spotlight about you.

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  24. J.A. Ward--HSG is a relatively small agency and we all have very distinct tastes and preferences that are reflected in our bios. We also work closely together and are aware of what each agent is looking for. For example, if a middle grade about dance comes in, I immediately pass it on to Carrie because I know she has an interest in those. Because of that, there's really no need to query multiple agents at HSG. Hope that helps!

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  25. Hi Josh - Thanks so much for your answer/insight on the general trade publishing vs. genre (sci fi) question.
    The African American lit part of my question came from this interview:

    http://www.literaryrambles.com/2013/10/agent-spotlight-josh-getzler.html

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