Posts Tagged ‘YA’

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Querying Blunders Take Three: More Agents Share!

March 19, 2010


(photo credit:http://www.flickr.com/photos/liam-manic/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

So, time for part three of our Querying Blunders series. If you missed part two, you need to read—agents Kathleen Ortiz and Suzie Townsend talk about how sending your query in a bag of flour will neither a) turn your agent-of-choice into Betty Crocker or b) garner you a request.

This week, we’ve got a new batch of agents sharing querying blunders with us. First up is agent extraordinaire Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency, agent to AW’s very own YA writer Corrine Jackson. Laura dug into her query vault for these quotable examples, and boy are we glad–there are some goodies. (Note: throughout our post, all agent comments are in blue.)

(photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/croncast/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

“The book I am authoring is a fantasy/adventure geared toward teenagers to adults that will span 200 chapters and around 3,000 pages; word count roughly around 1.47 million.”

Be aware of general submission guidelines and the kinds of ms lengths your chosen genre will bear. (Talk about the need for the old editing chainsaw—or more like, 5000 of them.)

“By the time you receive this letter you will know that someone has kidnapped your child—that someone is me. I can promise you that this time you will not be sending me a rejection letter.”

This was a VERY notable query. It was for a ms in which a crazy, frustrated author terrorizes a literary agent and kidnaps her child. The subject matter is fine, but by opening the query in that way, without explanation, instead of being hook-y, it was actually ALARMING. It got my attention, sure, but in a really bad way. Probably it isn’t a good idea to open a query with anything that could be construed as a threat. (Wow. We’re not even really sure what to say here.  Just don’t.)

“Although my story is a novella, (39 000 words) I have been working on it for close to 5 years.”

I don’t know that I would recommend pointing out in a query that you are a painfully slow writer. It would be very, very difficult to sustain a career at that writing pace. I don’t know of any agents that would be up for taking on a debut author that could take more than a decade to complete 1 full length novel. (This falls into the realm of TMI.  Try not to share things with agents that chronicle how much you’ve struggled.)

One last query faux pas I have to mention (I don’t have a query quote for it) is don’t insult a genre or an author that the agent (or editor) you are targeting works with. An agent is not likely to look kindly on your query if you mention in it that your work is so much better that that derivative, semi-pornographic romance tripe when that agent specializes in that genre.

Next up is Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency. You might know her as BostonBookGirl on twitter, or lovely agent to both AW writer Helene Boudreau and of course, the Query Project Queen herself, Jodi Meadows. Lauren says:


(photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mirandaceleste/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The oddest sentence I have seen in a query this winter was “I would like to publish ch. 3, 6, 7 first.” I’m not even sure what that means. (Us either-unless the author thought chapters 1, 2, 4, and 5 really sucked. Um…) We actually got this query again (sent directly to an agent) after the agency rejected it from our submissions email, but this time forty or so other agents were also CC’ed—two more major query mistakes.

I also recently had an author walk in unannounced with a literary fiction manuscript. (EEK!)  Not only had the author not queried first, made an appointment, or called, the author also wanted to drop off a portion and come back for it in an hour! We tend to have someone drop by like this about every six months or so. (Sort of like the gift that just keeps on giving–Oh, joy.)

I find unannounced drop-ins incredibly creepy and slightly threatening. All agents tend to approaching querying slightly differently, but I think we would all agree that an author should NEVER EVER AND UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES drop by without an appointment to drop off their manuscript or query. EVER. (Yeah, we sort of thought this went without saying, but apparently not.)

On the more mild side, lately I’ve received a few queries written by the main character in the story. (Ex. Something like: “When I turned sixteen I found out I had magical healing powers and could talk to ghosts!”) Although there are circumstances where this might work, it usually results in me reading half of the query under the assumption that the author is a complete lunatic. (Which is a bad thing, in case you’re wondering.)

Though I understand the desire to rock the boat a bit to get noticed, I don’t think it works as well in a query as authors hope. I’m drawn to clean, by the book queries—they show me that the author did his or her research and can present themselves professionally.

And finally, a blurb from Jennifer Laughran on querying.  Jennifer, Literaticat on twitter and an agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, says her REALLY awful query stories are just too specific to name, but she had this to offer overall:

 


(photo credit:http://www.flickr.com/photos/grahamb/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I don’t know. I don’t think I can really devote brainspace to this. I try to erase bad queries from my mind as quickly as possible, and in fact, most of the “bad” ones are just the same collection of mistakes over and over and over and over… and over… AND OVER. Like, you know, not following basic directions, misspelling the word “query” five different ways, or sending very grown-up pornography or murder books when I only rep children’s/YA books… It is actually rather depressing, if you let yourself think about it too much. So I don’t.

While Jennifer wasn’t specific, we think her bit kind of says it all. Agents don’t want the “out-there”, the bizarre, or the downright creepy. They don’t need you getting all wild with your query to stand out. Really, they just want a query that follows directions, is easy to read, sums up your story and fits the agent’s profile.

Now, that doesn’t sound so hard, does it?

Gulp.

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Querying Blunders Take Two: Agent Stories

March 12, 2010

So, last week, the OPWFTers shared their personal querying goofs with you.  Now, it gets even better.  A group of fabulous agents are sharing some notable querying blunders they’ve found in their slush piles.  Our plan was to present them all at once, but I think we struck a chord.  Our participating agents had a LOT to say about querying blunders—as it turns out, too many to stick into one post.  So we’ll be breaking this up into segments.

These stories are guaranteed to do one of three things: 

1) Make others give you The Look because you’re laughing out loud in your little writing corner of Starbucks

2) Make you feel FIVE THOUSAND times better about any querying faux pas you’ve made and/or

3) Make you thank your lucky stars that you’ve remained anonymous if one of YOUR querying blunders is named below (and help you realize that you should never, ever, do it again.  Ever.).

Seriously, though–we all mistakes.  Hopefully, this will be a fun way to guide you through querying no-no’s.

First up!  Here’s what twitterific new agent Kathleen Ortiz of Lowenstein  Associates  (who just signed amazing Absolute Write YA writer Jennifer Walkup—WOOT Jenn!) had to say:

Worst offenses? Oy vey…

And I’m only allowed to list a couple? Hmm…  (our note:  is anyone else getting the impression that it was hard to only pick a couple?  Heads up, aspiring authors!  Your query is the FIRST impression an agent gets of you.  Try, try, not to stand out in a BAD way.)

– “Dear Sir” – I’m a girl, last I checked. But besides that, it’s just rude. Authors get offended when we “Dear Author” them on a form rejection, so please at least use our names in a salutation.

– No salutation – or query: some people send an e-mail with an attachment and a “Manuscript Attached” as their only message in the body of the e-mail. Instant rejection.

– Sending gifts – won’t lie: sometimes this is amusing, but it’s completely inappropriate. It’s almost as if you’re trying to bribe the agent, which is offensive. You wouldn’t (hopefully) bribe a prospective employer, would you? I’ve received tiaras, mugs, cookie cutters, boxes of cookies, you name it. And I, for one, won’t eat food from a random stranger – sorry. A friend of mine received a Starbucks cup with a bag of white powder inside. They later discovered it was flour (for a recipe), but seriously – what were they thinking? The entire agency could’ve gone into a panic attack.

– Rude responses – I get so many “You’ll regret when I’m a NYT bestseller!!!” e-mail responses to my form rejections. It doesn’t help your case, because I just block your e-mail from our system. We need clients who can accept constructive criticism and take rejection, because when you go on submission, chances are you’ll receive a couple of rejections.

– Asking for tips on who to send queries to – there’s this fantastic invention called GOOGLE with hundreds of blogs by authors for authors and by people in publishing for authors. Use your resources. Some agents get up to 100 queries a day. In addition to working with our clients, foreign rights, permissions requests, contracts, manuscripts on submissions and more, we don’t have time to sit and think “who would like this MS?” If we do think of someone, we’ll tell you in the rejection. Otherwise, it’s really up to you to do the homework on who to query.

And in case you don’t know which Starbucks cups story she’s referring to?  Here, it is, straight from the agent’s mouth!  Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary, and agent to Absolute Write YA authors Tracy Martin, Hannah Moskowitz, and  Kristin Miller):

The Most Interesting Query I Received…

In case anyone missed the conversation on twitter.  I got a query on Monday that came in a Starbucks cup.

Starbucks by mail? Hmmm.....

And when I opened it up, I was baffled to find white powder…

That ain't instant creamer....

Which was flour – not anthrax or drugs – and a query with bound pages.  O_O  This makes for an interesting/sort of funny story, but most of my colleagues were quite freaked out.  Sending white powder to New Yorkers = Not a Good Idea.

So, for a quick recap:  agents like you to know their gender, would prefer you didn’t reply to a rejection with a “you’re going to regret this cuz I am DA BOMB!” rant, and they never, EVER want you to send white powder in Starbucks cups.  Ever.

Tune in next week, when agents Laura Bradford and Lauren MacLeod chime in with blunders, and agent Jennifer Laughran gives some querying advice.

By Debra Driza

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The ALA Awards—Who’s missing?

January 18, 2010

The ALA (American Library Association) Awards came out today. In case you’re new, these are basically the Academy Awards of the Young Adult writing world. As usual this year, there were some obvious choices, and also—many favorites that seemed to be left out in the cold. Please, read the list, and then drop us a comment as to which YA novel you think was overlooked.

Newbury Award (for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature):

 When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Newbury Honor Books:

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

When You Reach Me is a title bandied about frequently on YAlitchat discussions and via other YA avenues, so this win should come as no surprise to those in the know.

William C. Morris Award (honors book written by a first-time author for YA):

Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan

Tons of amazing press out there in the YA world for Flash Burnout, so again, this choice should come as no big surprise.

Coretta Scott King Award (recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and YA)

Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux

Nelson Printz Award (excellence in literature written for YA):

So far, so good, right? But next is where the ALA dove into more controversial waters. According to scuttlebutt around the web, some highly regarded books didn’t make it to the list of Printz honories as expected. Now, this isn’t knocking the winners in any way–we congratulate each and every one of them for excellence in the genre.  Honestly, it’s more a matter of which titles are missing.

Printz Winner: Going Bovine by Libba Bray.

Printz Honor Books: Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

 The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Punkzilla by Adam Rapp

Tale of the Madman Underground: An Historical Romance, 1973 by John Barnes

So, we want to hear your opinion. Which fabulous YA book(s) do you think were overlooked? Drop us a comment and let us know!