Over the weekend I asked my Twitter followers to send me questions. Here are some of them, with my brief answers.
Do publishers sometimes accept queries and/or manuscript ideas from writers without agents?
Some publishers accept unagented queries and proposals, but most of the majors don’t unless an editor met the writer at a conference and requested the material. (“Manuscript ideas” are not saleable with or without an agent.)
For an experienced journalist writing books, is it worth it to seek agent+publisher or better to self-publish? And how does someone with numerous writing credits find an agent for book proposals?
Like all writers seeking to publish books, it’s your choice whether to seek commercial publication or self-publish. The fact that you’re an experienced journalist with lots of credits doesn’t really change the game. You should only self-publish if you have the ability to sell large numbers of books yourself. If you decide to seek an agent, you do it the same way everyone else does. Query, go to conferences, etc.
Are you open to queries for novels that aren’t Christian market, per se, but don’t contradict Christian world-view?
I would be very interested in recommended resources for the fiction writer’s book shelf– beyond dictionary and thesaurus.
Check my blog sidebar under “Find Posts on This Blog” and click “Books for Writers.”
Will agents represent an author who writes in different genres, fiction & nonfiction?
Some do, some don’t. It’s not uncommon for an author to have one agent for fiction and another for nonfiction. If you are a new, unpublished author, remember it’s usually best to break-in with one thing, then branch out as you’re able. So get an agent for the project you want to do first.
Do you think the market for literary fiction will increase in the near future?
I think the term literary fiction has different meanings to different people, and it’s difficult to generalize using this term. However, since literary fiction is generally not light reading, it doesn’t offer thrills on every page, and tends to require more from the reader, my sense is that it won’t regain popularity with consumers anytime soon. I think there will always be a market for it, but it will be a small, niche market. (Much like there is a market for small, thoughtful, well-made indie films, but their popularity can’t compare to the blockbusters.)
Regardless of multiple reads/edits, I noticed (just as I hit send) that I misspelled a word in a query. What do I do?
I guess you break out in a cold sweat, feel mortified, and berate yourself mercilessly. What you DON’T do is send the query again, or email the agent apologizing for a misspelled word. If the agent can’t see past a single misspelled word to detect your brilliance, they’re not the agent for you.
As an unpublished author should I sign with the first agent that will take me? If so, how long am I stuck with them?
This is one of those times when I think a marriage analogy is fitting. Will you marry the first person who will take you? (Or do you think you might want to actually make a proactive decision about whether you like this person or not?) And do you think it’s productive to go into a relationship wondering how long you’re going to be “stuck” there? If you feel like that, perhaps it’s not the best relationship to be in. Anyway, the agreement with your agent (whether written or verbal) will specify the term of the relationship.
Which should an author have first for non-fiction, a platform or a manuscript?
For non-fiction (except memoir) you don’t always need a whole manuscript, but instead you need a proposal and three sample chapters. In this competitive market however, having a complete manuscript can be an advantage. In any case, you need both a platform and a manuscript or proposal so there’s no rule on which comes first. I assume in most cases you would probably need to be building your platform long before you are ready to query, so that might come first.
I’ve read that it is better to take no advance at all when first getting published. Is this true?
If you’re unagented and negotiating with a publisher, you’re free to work out any kind of deal you like. If you want to skip the advance and start getting royalties sooner, by all means, go for it. (A better idea might be to take a small advance and spend it on marketing your book.) If you have an agent, it’s highly unlikely they’re trying to get you a no-advance book deal since it means they’d be working countless hours for you but not getting paid for a year or two (or more). Those of you who go to a job and get paid for the work you did that week… think about it.
Where are the best online communities for Christian fiction writers, published an unpublished?
This one’s for my readers! Where do you hang out online with other writers? Tell us in the comments.