I get a lot of questions from writers who think their story is too close to its inspiration or too similar to another story. I can’t give you direct answers because it’s your story. I can’t write it for you. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t help you find a way to make it different.
My novel's contemporary, but it's got a heavy technological slant - think Doctorow's Little Brother but not five minutes in the future, and featuring a female protag interested in STEM fields despite the current rampant sexist nonsense therein, instead of a dude. Is that something that is an automatic turn-off -- math-sci-interested tech-savvy female protags in contemporary but technologically-based plotlines? I've seen similar titles featuring male protags, but never female.
Dystopians are a hard sell. I wrote one... while working to subvert or avoid every YA dyst trope I could think of. My heroine is curvaceous. She's a POC. She's blind. Her love interest is deaf. There is no love triangle, no apocalypse, no government looking to a 17-year-old to save the world. There is no world saving, either. The stakes are significantly more personal. Anyway, should I include a paragraph in my query that says "I know dystopias are a hard sell, but...?" Is it spec-fic, not dyst?
I would try to pitch it as something other than dystopian. If there’s no world to save or no government aspect, just call it futuristic. It’s still a tough sell but maybe I’ll keep reading about it :)
When do you think the market for science fiction will get better? I have two novel ideas swirling in my head, (one urban-fantasy, one science fiction) and I have no idea what to do. One of my writer friends is devastated that no agent will bite her ms (they tell her it's a "hard sell") and I really don't want to be in that boat when querying like six months down the road. Thanks
Unfortunately I can’t predict the future. The market is crowded. Everything is a hard sell. Your book as to be amazing.
The good news is, trends change and even if you query and don’t get any bites now, this isn’t a race. There’s no rush. You have time. Write something else. Come back to this ms later.
Once you send out your first 'batch' of queries, how long should one wait before sending out more? Most agents these days do the whole 'no response means no,' so it makes it hard to know for sure.
There’s no set timeline. I would say wait a few weeks and see if you get requests (2 weeks should do it). If you don’t, revise your query and send out some more. Wait two weeks, then re-evaluate where you are.
In my novel, the initial stakes change dramatically within the first 50 pages because of third-party meddling. In a query, should I just present the initial stakes,which gives a slightly different impression of the direction, or explain how the stakes change, which is long and arduous? (It's rather confusing to only present the later situation.) Thanks~
Find books out there similar to yours and read the back of the book. You probably want to present the first problem and use the stake change as the hook and makes your reader go “And then what?”
For instance, in The Wizard of Oz, the main problem at first is that Dorothy needs to get home. The stakes at first are where is she and how does she get home. It’s only after the Wicked Witch shows up and is like “You killed my sister!” that the stakes change. Because now she needs to get home—AND STAY ALIVE.
Hi! I'm having a bit of trouble finding my novel's genre. It's set in a fictional medieval world, but has no elements of fantasy. It dabs in politics, but isn't dystopian. It also has traces of war and mystery. The closest I can think of is historical fiction, but in an imaginary timeline instead of real-world history. Any ideas?
Where would it be on a shelf?
Who would read it?
Think of your audience. Would fans of Game of Thrones (hopefully) like it? If so, it’s fantasy. Or would it appeal to (hopefully) fans of Philippa Gregory? Then it’s historical.
My feeling based on what you said is that it’s fantasy. It’s a made up world. That’s fantasy even if there’s no magic.
How are you with mixed-media for comps? (No pun intended), I've heard it both ways.
I’m not sure what you mean by mixed-media. If you comp a show or a movie that I’ve heard of I’m fine with that. If you comp a video game or an app or something I will most likely have no idea what you’re talking about—which isn’t helpful to your purposes.
Hey! I started a WIP, that I want to be contemporary, but realize that it will be slightly apocolyptic. It is not science-fiction (nothing supernatural going on, like in nature. Think the tv show REVOLUTION and LIFE AS WE KNEW IT but in present day). But I'm scared I'm going to fall into the trap of a genre that is a hard sell. I'm asking because I have other ideas (one a realistic contemp remiscent of SHE"S THE MAN) and I'm wondering if it would be better to work on that instead. Thannks.
So truthfully Revolution says futuristic and dystopian to me and makes me go “meh”. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write it though. I just wouldn’t use that show as a pitch (but maybe that’s because I wasn’t a fan?). Write whatever you fell most passionate about. When you finish and query, write the other one.
Back in September an agent favorited a pitch of mine from a Twitter pitch contest. I sent in my query and sample pages and not long later she requested my full MS. Since then, I've heard nothing back from her. I've nudged twice (once in early Jan. and once last week). Should I just assume this is a no and move on? Is this common?
I don’t want to say it’s common or to just call it a wash. But yes move on. You never want all your eggs in one basket. So query other agents. Write another manuscript. Participate in other contests. You get the idea.
How do ya'll feel about synopses? I think Suzie has said she likes to read a manuscript before reading a full synopsis so she can experience the story without knowing what is going to happen next. But how do other agents feel about that? I ask because I'm getting ready to query, and I my manuscript has lots of twists and reversals. I feel an expanded synopsis would totally kill the fun an agent would have reading it. What are your collective thoughts and thanks for all the great posts.
You should have a synopsis written.
Some agents will ask for one in their submission guidelines. Some won’t. Some will ask for it when they request your manuscript. Some won’t. But even if you don’t need one until your book sells to a publisher, you will need one. And it’s a skill you should have.
My novel is set in the near-future without much technological advancement but an important social/political change (and no, it's not dystopian). Should I call it science fiction, or maybe 'light science fiction', 'soft science fiction', or 'social science fiction'? Or can I just query it as 'commercial fiction'?
Where would it be on a shelf? What is your audience? Think about these two questions and you’ll come up with the answer. But don’t make up a genre. When people say something like it’s “light speculative contemporary fantasy” it’s a turn off. Because I don’t know what that is.
I have a published YA/UF novel under my belt, but I just parted ways w/the small press pub agency. I truly believe in my work (it def had series potential). All rights to work are mine. Should I pitch it to an agent? Or has that ship sailed?
Unless you’re a best seller that ship has sort of sailed. You can try to pitch it to an agent, but unfortunately it’s just really hard to sell to a bigger publisher in this situation. You could self publish or you could work on something new, use that to get an agent and hopefully some day come back to this book.
John Grisham’s first book was pubbed by a small press and then after the success of THE FIRM, his publisher went back and bought the rights to that first book. So that happens…sometimes/once in a while.
There's a lot of talk about diversity in MCs, especially in YA. If you have a MC that is LGBT or non-white, is it in your benefit to bring it up in a query? It feels like doing so, esp when their race or sexual identity is not of issue in the book, would come across as a cheap ploy. But on the other hand we've been told that the only thing that counts in queries is getting the agent to read more, sooo... How would you react to such a mention?
OMG I love diversity when it’s not the issue of the book. Query me.
But to answer your question. Pitch your book and at the end when you give your bio, mention the diversity angle briefly.
The following titlesfrom Justin Sompers first foray into YA lit and Danielle Paige’s wicked Dorothy Must Die to Sally Greens witchy Half Bad and E. Lockharts much-anticipated We Were Liars offer teens a plethora of attention-worthy narratives.
Hello, Could you advise what subject line and content should go into an email when a new, un-agented writer has received an offer of publication directly from a publisher and has not yet accepted it but is looking for representation. Also, are inquiries of this sort welcomed or does it annoy an agent that the writer went direct to a publisher (knowing that the writer has not accepted the offer yet). Thank You
This is a good question. So good that I blogged it so that I could have a more in depth explanation: http://confessionsofawanderingheart.blogspot.com/2014/04/ask-me-anything-on-offers-of-publication.html
Within the last few weeks, the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and CNN have all published articles examining the lack of diversity in children’s and young adult literature — and next month, School Library Journal plans to publish an entire issue devoted to diversity. While…
“It’s so weird how life is so full of moving around—people coming and going, people passing by each other all day long. You never know which person’s going to steal your heart. You never know which is going to settle your soul. All you can do is look. And hope. And believe.”—Natalie Lloyd, A Snicker of Magic (via quoted-books)
Like a stalker, I've read all of Joanna's author's blogs about when they queried her, etc. (She is my DREAM agent!) But most of her authors say that they got a request for the MS from her that same day she queried them. So if I query and don't hear back from her within 24 hrs, does that mean I'm pretty much effed? :( Or is she busier now than she was in 2010 (when most these authors I read queried her)?
I don’t know. She just sits around and doesn’t do much now.
I AM TOTALLY KIDDING.
Joanna is a little busier now than she was in 2010. What with running the agency and representing all of her amazing authors…
Try not to worry if you don’t hear back within 24 hours. From anyone. Some agents don’t look at their queries every day. We love finding new talent but our current clients come first.