Your Questions, My Answers

Okay, here are more questions I’ve received lately. I’ll warn you right now, my answers are NOT FUNNY. They are, in fact, boring. Sorry.

JR Beasley said:
I have queried multiple agents. One agent has requested a full manuscript and three others are reviewing partials. When offered representation by an agent, what is the proper protocol regarding the other agents?

First, congrats! That’s a terrific situation in which to find yourself. When you’re offered representation and other agents have requested partials, send them each an email to let them know and give them an opportunity to respond before accepting representation from the first agent. Exception: If the agent who offers representation is ME, just say yes and forget the rest. :-)

Missives From Suburbia asked…
What writing conferences are the most beneficial to writers who want to learn about the query process, either by learning to write better queries or getting face-to-face feedback from agents who have read their pages?

I don’t think you can choose a particular conference based on their teaching of queries. You’ll have to look at the faculty list and the schedule of workshops offered for each conference, and decide which one looks like it offers what you want. Even better, you might want to look for online workshops and webinars that specifically teach queries.

Patti said…
I am a published author of a trilogy, several anthologies and short stories. Do I need an agent at this point (I’ve gotten good reviews & only two rejections ever-I’m stunned it isn’t two thousand!)and would any agent be interested in me?

This is one of those questions that can’t be answered generally. Are your books any good? Have they sold decent numbers? Do you have lots of good ideas for future books? And more importantly, have you identified why you might want an agent at this point and what you hope they can do for you? If you want an agent, the process is the same as for anyone else: send out some queries with not only your pitch for your next book but also your publishing history (including sales figures), and see what happens.

MamaBear said…
I have a gift book idea that would also fit as a scrapbook ‘kit’ or instant scrapbook. I’ve not had any success finding agents who represent that type of work. Should I be looking somewhere else other than regular publisher/agent lists and if so, where?

You might be having difficulty finding agents because what the heck type of book idea is that? Okay, kidding. (Don’t anybody accuse me of ridiculing an author! I happen to like scrapbooking.) In all seriousness, craft books are difficult to sell, plus there are a lot of scrapbooking products already on the market. Your book might not even be appropriate for publishers but instead, scrapbooking companies.

If you think it really is a “book”, then you should be scouring Writers Market Online and Publishers Marketplace as well as Amazon to identify all the publishers (and agents) who do those kinds of books, and approach them. The scattershot approach isn’t going to work with a specialized book like that. Visit the craft section at your bookstore and look in the Acknowledgments of craft books and write down all the agent names you find.

Tom Dowler asked…
Would you recommend pre-converting sample pages to Kindle format and attaching them to a query or is that the sort of obnoxious brown-nosing that annoys more than endears?

Forget the Kindle conversion. Have your manuscript printed on chocolate bars (a white chocolate sans serif font looks great on dark chocolate) and send those. Failing that… no, please don’t convert your MS to Kindle format. (1) We don’t need that, we simply send the Word doc to our e-readers; and (2) many agents don’t have Kindles, they have iPads or Sony Readers or Nooks or um, they print it out and read it on paper.

Justajo said…
I foolishly had my book printed by a POD publisher six years ago. It has sold maybe four copies. When my contract expires next year, I am thinking of reworking the whole thing: Title, character names, etc. – but not the plot – and try to find a REAL publisher. What reasons can you give for me to NOT try this?

Reason #1: Your book is really awful.
Reason #2: You are lazy.
Reason #3: By the time your POD contract expires, there are no REAL publishers left.
Reason #4: Um… can’t think of anything. If you don’t have reason 1, 2, or 3, I say go for it.

S. Paul Bryan implored…
Tell us which things are absolutely essential to get right; which things are nice to have, but not essential; and which things make absolutely no difference.

I was going to write a whole post on this, but decided I don’t need to. The question was in response to my post asking if there is “too much information” in the blogosphere for writers. I don’t think it’s possible to give a satisfactory answer to this one, because every agent will have their own answer. Bottom line?

Absolutely essential: A book that other people would enjoy reading, and a pitch that makes someone want to read it.

Nice to have: A query that’s targeted to the agent you’re querying and includes all the information they need.

Makes absolutely no difference: The fact that you’ve been writing since you were 3, and any other bio information that doesn’t relate to the book you’re pitching.

Finally, MC Planck asked…
Do you get a better quality of query now that you’ve spent so much time educating people on how to do it?

I have to admit, I get a lot of good queries, and I can tell people are paying attention. I love this. It makes it worthwhile to read through the queries because even though a lot of them are unsuitable or poorly written, I’m continually impressed by how many good ones there are.

Thanks for the questions! I’ll open it up today… if you have a question about publishing, put it in the comments.

(c) 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

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  • Micah Maddox

    >Thank you, Rachelle. When it comes to learning I will go for "five intelligible words" before wit any day. Having said that, I found your post amusing as well as informative.

  • April

    >Finances are tight in my home, and I live overseas. So, if I am able to fly to a writer's conference in the US, I would only be able to go to one every few years.

    Which conference should I pick?

    I've had a few small things published, but mostly reviews, a couple of devotionals (in the vein of Our Daily Bread), etc. I'd like to publish children's books (both picture books and chapter books), as well as YA fiction.

  • Aimee L Salter

    >My agent hit rate on queries is about 30% for a PLEASE SEND, but no offers for representation yet.

    If REAL agents (WH & names you know) are sending rejections with things like "It's very close", "I thought about this for a long time", "I'd be happy to see anything else you write" should I revise and persevere, or move onto the next project with the skills I've learned from the first one?

    At what point am I flogging a dead horse?

    (PS – Thanks for all advice you give on here… if you hadn't gathered it's been part of getting me nearly a dozen requests for partials & fulls in the past year!)

  • BnB Paulson

    >Since you aren't taking any gueries – and I have to say this is sad, because I have had you targeted for a while as my "Dream agent" – who would you recommend to send queries too that has your same, I don't know what to call it, moral literary views? That seems trite.

    Okay, who would you query if you knew Rachelle Gardener was closed to queries?

    Love the blog and the advice!hmmm… Do I anon this one?

  • Marja

    >Enough said…. your post is excellent, as always. Now back to work :)

  • 80s Queen

    >Love to read your questions and answers post.

  • Piedmont Writer

    >For very serious personal reasons I'd like to publish under a company name (ie.) Treeline Books — but have a pseudonym on the book itself. I write in several different genre's and would, of course, have several different pseudonyms. (I'm thinking of the different names for the different 'brands' I would be selling. YA, historical romance, women's fiction) Would an agent have a problem with this?

  • Jessica Nelson

    >Not boring at all! Thanks for the answers.

  • wordsareforwriting

    >Great post Rachelle. You´ve managed to answered quite a swathe of questions in one sweep!

  • Susan Bourgeois

    >You're hilarious! If I were an agent, I would offer you a contract!

  • Melissa Lee

    >Where should I go to learn to make a onesheet? Do I pull it out at the beginning of the pitch or wait for the agent/editor to ask to see it? I've read conflicting information. Conflicting information clogs the legalistic mind and shuts us down like a computer virus.

  • Cheryl Barker

    >One of the questions you answered touched on gift books. Awhile back (maybe last year), I had heard that the market for gift books wasn't great at that time. How is the market for gift books right now? If it's not that good currently, how long do you think it might take to start coming back?

  • CFD Trade

    >Guess, this is the style most of your readers want with the Q & A… Amusing and informative compared to the other post you wrote a couple of weeks which was misinterpreted as making fun of authors and snarky…:)

  • Katherine Hyde

    >How would you define "upmarket fiction"? Is it appropriate to define one's own work that way, or is that a tag other people would give it?

  • Anonymous

    >Here's my question, for what it's worth: when agents request manuscripts, do they eventually respond with a yay or a nay, or is it acceptable for them to request an author's work and never respond? I know you can't speak for all agents, but would you consider it rude to never respond to an author at all?

  • Terri Tiffany

    >These answers were so helpful! Question– if my book is edited by a professional before I submit it in a proposal, should I or should I not mention it and why?

  • Terri Tiffany

    >These answers were so helpful! Question– if my book is edited by a professional before I submit it in a proposal, should I or should I not mention it and why?

  • T. Anne

    >Is there a private snark edition I can subscribe to? 'cause I really miss it.

    Question; What's the reality of an author publishing more than one novel a year? What is the average spacing between novels? I realize many factors are involved, but I'm curious nonetheless.

  • Rick Barry

    >Thanks for shooting from the hip and providing honest answers from the agent's point of view.

    Only question is, "When are you going to compile all of your best info from the blog into a book of your own?"

  • Taryn Tyler

    >If I queryed a manuscript before it was ready two or three years ago but now have made some major revisions and think it might be ready would it be OK if I requeryed some of the agents who regected me who probably don't even remember my original query and partials or would that be wasting their time?

  • Anonymous

    >Here's a similar Q to Anon's: At what point do we give up on an agent who's requested our FULL ms.?
    Despite monthly status checks, an agent who's had my ms. for 6 mos. has ignored all my e's…do I write them off or what? How do we get them to respond, especially if other agents have made requests. Thanks–Signed, frustrated and forgotten.

  • MamaBear

    >Thanks for answering my question Rachelle! I'm sorry for the vagueness of the type of book. :) Scrapbooking aside, the gift book format of a few words with a picture on each page is a great fit for my idea. Your suggestion is great – something I hadn't thought of. I already note the publisher's name when I look through other gift books at the bookstore, but I need to dig deeper for the AGENT'S name.

    THANK YOU! I appreciate your insight!

  • Ilana D.

    >To the reader who asked about writers' conferences and learning tow rite queries: I attended the San Francisco Writers' Conference last February, and it was terrific. There are a ton of breakout sessions, some targeted on queries. Plus you can sign up for a free five-minute consultation with a freelance editor (you could show them your query or your first couple of pages). Plus, for a slight extra fee, there is a session called "Speed Dating with Agents" where you get a chance to make a three-minute verbal pitch to some of about a dozen agents attending the conference. The conference is expensive, but IMHO worth it. I write a little more about it on my blog at http://midlifebatmitzvah.wordpress.com/2010/02/14/the-san-francisco-writers-conference/ It's held every year in February so there's still time to sign up.

  • Anonymous

    >MamaBear: I sold a gift booklet directly to a publisher ten years ago. It was intended as a humor book, but they selected one chapter and turned it into a long greeting card/gift book. I paid $20. to an agent friend to look over the contract–not a bad way to make $1500. I'd go directly to editors of similar books–they usually don't require agents.

  • Kittie Howard

    >Stumbled into your blog, Michelle, and glad I did. Enjoyed your post. Question: What are five do's and don't's to consider if approached by an agent.

  • Erin MacPherson

    >Hi Rachelle- I have a question! If you're a second-time author, how do you go about querying a second book? Do you submit a query to your agent just like you submitted your first? Or can you send a proposal to the agent without querying first? Also, if your agent chooses not to represent you on the new project (after you've given them ample time to review the project), is it appropriate to submit to another agent?

  • THE OLD GEEZER

    >I added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit mine and become a follower if you want to.

    God Bless You ~Ron

  • Justajo

    >Rachelle: Thank you ever so much for choosing my question! This is more encouraging then words can express…and I'm a writer – or at least I like to think I am. God bless you. (Sorry this has come so late. My darling wife has been in the hospital and things around here are a bit topsy-turvy. But thankfully she is going to be fine and I need her. She has always been my biggest fan. I thank the Lord every day for His having blessed me with her.)

  • Sharon A. Lavy

    >Dear Rachelle,
    One of the things I missed the most while on my vacation was your blog. Catching up now.

  • Jaycee

    >Thank you so much, Rachelle, for answering questions about publishing.

    Q: If a writer has done a group/collaboration on a work of fiction in the past, and the sales were not too grand, does this particular work of fiction need to be mentioned in a query for the writer's debut novel?

  • Missives From Suburbia

    >Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    >@justajo (one of the questioners in the blog post)

    At some point before accepting representation you'll want to come clean to the agent that a previous incarnation of the book was printed by PublishAmerica. Hopefully that won't matter, but you don't want anyone to be surprised, especially since PA is known to continue offering a book for sale even after publishing rights have reverted.

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