Query Week: Ask Us Your Querying Questions!

19 Feb

Rather than do a Question of the Week, we figured we’d use today to open up conversation! All day today, we’ll be answering every and any questions you have about the querying process and landing an agent!

So, don’t be shy–feel free to ask ANYTHING! Simply post your question as a comment to this entry, and we’ll get back to you ASAP!

Ask away!

P.S. A HUGE thank-you to everyone who helped make Query Week such a success! You guys are amazing, and we wish you nothing but the best in your publication efforts!

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31 Responses to “Query Week: Ask Us Your Querying Questions!”

  1. Angela February 19, 2010 at 4:52 AM #

    This doesn’t have much to do with the querying process but… How can you become an agent? Is the job position competitive. What are the requirements?

    Thank you.

    • Vanessa February 19, 2010 at 10:59 AM #

      Mandy might have a better idea (considering she IS an agent, whereas I’m still an intern), but I’ll try to answer this the best I can.

      The publishing industry, as a whole, is pretty competitive – although agents work purely on commission. You need to have contacts in the industry (especially with acquisitions editors at publishing houses), otherwise they won’t know who you are and might not look at your manuscript when it comes time for submissions. Your best bet is to find an internship – they will show you the ropes, introduce you to as many people as they can, and really help you network – and networking is THE most important thing in publishing. The more people you know, the more contacts you have, the better!

      Some agencies will do online internships. Others will require you to be physically present. Depending on where you live, you should pick whichever is best for you. And if you can find a publishing course at a college/university, I highly recommend it! You’ll make a crazy amount of contacts this way.

      As for other requirements, forgive me if I’m mistaken, but I think you just need a degree in something (Mandy, correct me if I’m wrong!). Book experience (working at a book store, for example) is always considered a plus, because then you know what the market is like.

      Hope that helps!

    • mandyhubbard February 19, 2010 at 11:10 AM #

      It’s very much about finding your foot in the door and working your way up. Be active online– agents, authors, and editors hang out on twitter, blogs, etc, and you can learn a lot from them. I got my internship after seeing the agent blog she needed interns– very much a right place, right time.

      There are agents in almost every state now, so you might have one in your backyard that you can offer to intern for. They’re usually unpaid internshpis, but well worth it.

      Then you work your way up!

      • Angela February 19, 2010 at 7:15 PM #

        Yikes! I’m not surprised about connections in the industry being important, though.

        Thanks.

  2. Victoria Dixon February 19, 2010 at 7:03 AM #

    If there’s one line of confusion in the plot description paragraph, but everything else in the query is stellar, is that still enough for you to decline seeing more?

    • Vanessa February 19, 2010 at 11:05 AM #

      By one line of confusion, do you mean that the sentence is awkward and grammatically incorrect? Or that it is unclear?\

      Really, I find that it is all subjective. One agent might do something that another wouldn’t. If there are a lot of what I consider to be mistakes in a query, it comes off that the author doesn’t REALLY care (which I know, might not be the case).

      For me, one line that isn’t 100% clear won’t make me say no to a query necessarily. But if someone has stated that there is a line that is unclear, take their advice and fix it.

      Don’t know if that helped, but I hope I didn’t ramble on and not make any sense! I’m sure Mandy can answer this better than I can.

      • Victoria Dixon February 19, 2010 at 11:57 AM #

        Thanks, Mandy and Vanessa! It was just unclear and I have changed it, but not before it went out. ARGH.

    • mandyhubbard February 19, 2010 at 11:11 AM #

      If the bulk of the query and the sample really is STELLAR, I’ll ignore an awkward line. But stellar is subjective, of course.

      But the real question is if you know you’ve got a confusing or awkward line, why aren’ you changing it?

  3. Becca February 19, 2010 at 8:17 AM #

    Not a question…at least not yet, but a HUGE thank you for all the time you put into query week(s)! I’ve been gobbling up the information and it’s given me the encouragement to go ahead and give it a shot!

    Congratulations to all of you for your success thus far-no doubt there is going to be a lot of excitement coming from this site as every one of your books gets published and Mandy becomes a rising star as an agent :). I almost feel like she’s our mole for inside information 😛

    Thanks again!

    • Sarah J. Maas February 19, 2010 at 10:57 AM #

      Thank you so much!! 🙂 We’re thrilled that you’ve found QW useful!

      Best of luck with your querying endeavors!!

    • Savannah J. Foley February 19, 2010 at 12:02 PM #

      Thank you so much! It’s great to hear that we’re making a difference. Mandy is fabulous, isn’t she? We’re so lucky to have her!

  4. Jill February 19, 2010 at 11:18 AM #

    Thank you for answering questions!

    How important is it to site other similar published books to the one the query letter is about? Do they need to be current titles, or are classics OK? Also, should the query mention similar published books from that agency, to show thematic similariies?

    These mentions of other books in a query were recommended at a wowrkshop I attended, and in Writer’s Market, but agent websites never have such title comparisons in their sample queries. (the ones that have them or links to them)

    Best regards- Jill

    • mandyhubbard February 19, 2010 at 11:52 AM #

      Hi Jill,

      You do not HAVE to have similar titles. Many successful queries don’t. But I will tell you I’ve been on the fence on a couple of queries and then the writer compared her work to some of my favorite books, and it swayed me. I see no reason to miss out on an opportunity like that!

      You do need to be careful, though. Some writers will compare their book to Harry Potter or Twilight and then it just comes across egotistical. instead of saying, “Every fan of X is sure to love my book!” Say something like, “My books, XYZ, should appeal to fans of X by Jane Smith and Y by John Doe.”

      Or, the alternative, is to describe your book as X meets Y– but only if it makes sense. If you call your book Lemony Snicket meetse A Great and Terrible Beauty, I’m just going to curl my nose and go, HUH?

      I’m working with an author who described his book as “The Da Vinci code meets Indiana Jones” and it was a perfect description– he’d just told me all about the plot and the pitch made perfect sense.

      So yes, it’s a great way to give us more insight into your book, but only if it works and is done correctly. If you’re not sure, you can leave it out and it won’t harm you.

      Classics are okay, particularly if you use a classic and a contemporary. But again, use it correctly.

      Comparing it to titles the agency reps can be done early in the query– saying something like, “I’m querying you because you represent X and Y, and I hope my book appeals to the same audience.”

      • Jill February 19, 2010 at 12:27 PM #

        Thank you, Mandy! Your accessibility is so wonderful. I really appreciate your devotion to helping writers.

        Jill

  5. trebmal February 19, 2010 at 12:08 PM #

    I have a good one for you. It is regarding writing a novel based on a copyrighted story in another medium (i.e., “fan fiction”). As I understand it, these sorts of novels get published (e.g., Doom, Star Trek) only when the copyright owner and the publisher have already come to an agreement and seek out an already-established author to write books in the series.

    But say no such arrangement between copyright owner and publisher had been made. Say an unpublished novelist (or even a published one, I suppose) took it upon himself to write that work of so-called fan fiction. How would he proceed? Obviously he would first need to obtain permission from the copyright owner, but in order to be taken seriously, wouldn’t he almost certainly have to be represented by an agent? How magnificent a query would you have to write to get an agent to represent you? (Cf. my query letter.)

    • Vanessa February 19, 2010 at 8:32 PM #

      Yeah, I think you’ll have a hard time, especially considering the fact that you don’t have a novel to your name yet in the market.

      I am actually a HUGE fan of FFVI (one of my fav games ever!), but from what I’ve seen, the only video games that have novels are games made by North American companies (Bungie’s Halo, Bioware’s Mass Effect, Blizzard’s Diablo + Warcraft series). What makes your particular query so difficult is that you’re dealing with Square Enix, a company primarily based in Japan. Japan has done a lot of mangas based on Japanese video games, but that is a totally different world/market. So if an agent took you on, this would become extra difficult with the language barrier and the tons of copyright that revolve around a game like Final Fantasy. Add to that the fact that the Japanese might not understand most of the allusions/references in your manuscript, and your chances are looking pretty slim. Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but i believe that most video game spin-off novels are just that — spin-offs. Your manuscript deals with the actual story of the video game, which in my mind is even trickier.

      So I have to admit, this will be ridiculously tough, especially if you don’t have a library of novels/sales numbers to prove what you’re capable of. I don’t doubt that your work isn’t good – I think it sounds terrific! – but you’ll have a very hard time finding someone who will rep you solely based on that.

      Man, I feel like such a downer. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way! But I honestly think that your best bet (if you don’t want to change your story) is to focus on your original novel, and find someone who will rep that.

      I wish you the best of luck though! If you do get that story published, though, let me know (because I would buy a copy for sure! In a heartbeat!).

      • trebmal February 19, 2010 at 8:47 PM #

        I think at this point that even if I managed to overcome the near-insurmountable difficulties involved in getting this mss published, I would much rather have the freedom which an “original” (if any works can be said to be truly original) would give me.

        If you’re interested in seeing the first chapter, it is here.

  6. Sarah J. Maas February 19, 2010 at 4:53 PM #

    I honestly think you’re facing a bit of an uphill battle with trying to query what is essentially a piece of fanfiction. Because of copyright issues and potential legal battles, even if your query is STELLAR, most agents would hesitate.

    Is there any way to take out the fanfiction elements and make the story your own?

    Sorry I don’t have more concrete advice!

    • trebmal February 19, 2010 at 5:01 PM #

      That’s okay. That was the advice the other author gave me too. I just thought I’d check with an agent to see if there was some way to do it before I start making drastic changes to the manuscript. Thanks for your counsel.

      • svonnah February 19, 2010 at 5:34 PM #

        I agree with Sarah, and I love the idea of making the work more original. OR you could focus on that other novel you’re writing, and once you’re established in the publishing community reach out to the appropriate people to get the current novel published.

  7. Angela February 19, 2010 at 7:18 PM #

    I hope I’m not annoying you with my constant questions.

    Do you have any recommendations for people who live in other countries? I live in Japan, so obviously most of the publishing companies here publish Japanese books.

    Would it be possible for me to submit my work to an agency in another country if I ever write anything? What sort of obstacles will I face?

    Thanks 🙂

    • Vanessa February 19, 2010 at 8:41 PM #

      Hey Angela!

      You are totally not annoying us at all! I’m actually loving your questions!!

      What I’ve noticed is that it really doesn’t matter where you live. I’ve been reading queries and partials from people all over – in fact, recently, I read a partial from someone in Australia!

      The only thing that might be a bit of an obstacle (but again, as an intern I’m not entirely sure), is how the money would get to you. I think because you’re in another country, an agent would have to sign a lot of papers and whatnot – but really, that’s something an agent would worry about, not you. As long as your query and manuscript ROCK, there shouldn’t be a problem with you living in another country.

      • Angela February 19, 2010 at 9:03 PM #

        Thanks a lot!

  8. Jennifer February 19, 2010 at 10:39 PM #

    Once a writer has an agent/has gotten published, is it appropriate to query other agents with a different manuscript, particularly if it is something outside their current agent’s taste?

    • Vanessa February 19, 2010 at 10:59 PM #

      It’s really all up to you.

      Personally, I think that if you have a manuscript outside of what your agent normally deals with, you should talk to your current agent about it. You probably would have a really good relationship with your agent, especially if they were successful in getting your book sold to a publishing house. I think that if you plan on keeping your current agent, the most respectful thing to do would be to talk to them/ ask them. They might know enough people to get the book published (let’s pretend it’s adult non-fiction, for example). Even if your agent is a YA agent, they might still be interested in selling your adult non-fiction.

      Now, if your agent says they can’t take that on, then by all means, get another agent. And when doing so, state in your query to the non-fiction agent that you’re represented by ___ for YA.

      If you’re unhappy with your current agent (even if they did get you published), you’re technically free to fire them and get someone else. It really is all up to you.

      Hope that helps!

    • svonnah February 20, 2010 at 1:21 PM #

      Hi Jennifer.

      This is the exact situation that I’m facing with my current agent. I’ve submitted a project to her that I think is outside of her usual preferences. I’m praying she loves it, but if not I’m hoping she’ll be cool with me querying other agents for representation on that particular project. It will all depend on your agent and the terms of your contract.

  9. HG. February 21, 2010 at 1:35 PM #

    Woo, query week was awesome ;D

    I was just wondering, how exactly do agent contracts work? Is there literal stuff to sign, or just email agreements? Should you decide to fire your agent, would you just say, “dude, you’re fired,” or does this require legal stuff?

    • Vanessa February 24, 2010 at 9:19 PM #

      Hmmm, i can’t really say, being an intern and all.

      I know that there ARE contracts involved, and they literally need to be signed (can’t be done over email).

      When it comes to firing an agent, I’m not sure how that works. I assume that you’d have to sign some sort of contract when you’re taken on by an agent regarding the commission – and I know for sure that other papers need to be signed when your book is sold to a publisher. As for how to go about firing an agent, I can’t really say.

      Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful than that!

  10. Arianna Sterling August 6, 2010 at 4:17 PM #

    Hi! First of all, let me just say I love the site…I have basically every article saved to my laptop so I can take them everywhere with me, with or without the Internet.

    But my question is this: I know the last paragraph of a query is typically your writer’s bio-meets-‘thank you for your time’. What if you really have no writing credentials whatsoever? I’m not even planning to study Creative Writing in college beyond a class or two, and I have no publishing experience. Do you stick to the ‘thanks’ part for the final paragraph, or is there something better to do?

    And I was wondering if you guys were thinking of doing anymore query reviews anytime soon–I accidentally asked in a comment for another post before realising this existed, but I’m really wondering if the partial query I have written is too long in regards to summarising the novel.

    Thanks,

    ~Arianna S.

    • Kat Zhang August 6, 2010 at 5:22 PM #

      Hi Arianna! I’m sure I speak for all the LWTF girls when I say Thank You for your kind words about the site 😀

      To answer your first question, I think it depends. I’ve heard from a couple sources that if you don’t have anything meaningful (ie writing related) to say, then just leave out the bio entirely. Some agents, however, seem to like to know something. I’d look at their bios/websites/interviews and see if they mention anything. However, I don’t think leaving out a bio will hurt your chances.

      And yes, we are currently thinking of doing another query week, but it may not be until next month 🙂

      • Arianna Sterling August 6, 2010 at 6:40 PM #

        All right, that’s all I was wondering, so it’s good to have some form of an answer to the question. Nothing I ever read seems to mention it–they talk about the hook, the rest of the summary, and have maybe one sentence on the last paragraph being a bio, leaving me with no information on what to do with zero accomplishments behind me.

        I’ll definitely end up submitting my query when you do another query week then.

        Thanks very much,

        ~Arianna

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