Friday, September 26, 2008

When to Tell About "You"

I’ve been asked a number of times about the protocol of telling agents about all of those things besides the novel you are pitching. At what point do you talk about the next novel you’re working on, your ability and willingness to publicize your book, or anything else that might mark you as the perfect author? Obviously the query letter is probably not the best time. Why? You want to make your current novel, the one you're pitching, the focus of the query and you don’t want to muddy that letter with information the agent doesn’t yet need. That is, for fiction queries. For nonfiction queries it is imperative that you stress your ability to publicize and market the book. That’s a huge part of selling nonfiction.

Information on how willing you are to publicize and market is not at all a factor in my offering to represent a fiction author. It helps and I certainly encourage my authors to do at least some, but publicity and marketing can quickly become overwhelming for the published author who is now working on deadline, editing and revising one book while writing another and simply trying to stay on top of everything. So what you say you’ll do can very well change when the time comes. While we all want an author who can market the book, we don’t expect it.

So, at what point should you mention this? When the agent asks. If you are talking about a plan for the book, including publication, you can certainly then talk about your ability to publicize and market and any ideas you might have. Some agents really stress the importance of publicity and might want to hear it, while others are always happy to hear what you’re thinking, but not that concerned overall.

When do I ask the author about her plans or goals? With an unpublished author I usually wait until I offer representation. With a published author, however, her goals are usually part of why she’s seeking an agent or a new agent and is usually a bigger factor. If for example a mystery author comes to me after firing her agent because the agent wouldn’t support the new direction she wants to take, it’s important for me to know that I can support that new direction before offering representation.

It really does all come back to that one thing you’re all sick of hearing . . . it’s about the book. Our biggest concern is the book.



Amy Sue Nathan said...

Sometimes I get frustrated that writers forget that it's about the book. I know there are details in the details of getting an agent and getting published, but the cornerstone of the industry is good books (even though what that is, is subjective).

If we'd remember to focus on writing good books - then figure out the pitching - and then mosey up to the marketing - it would be much less stressful!

Just my .02!

Heidi Willis said...

I'm starting to really get this now.

When I began my current book, I really wanted to include in my query how hot the topics are (diabetes and stem cell research),how many people are affected by them and would want to buy the book, and my desire to campaign with the ADA and JDRF, and my own experiences living with diabetes.

BUT: when it came to the end of the book, I realized including any of that would simply muddy the waters. What I want an agent to see in my query is a really good book, with a breathtakingly fast plot and the high stakes the characters face. In short, I want the query to showcase the book, and not me.

Hopefully, the other things will come, too. But I realize that will be just an added bonus if it does. Mostly, people just want to read a good book, no matter what it's about.

Anonymous said...

The book, at times, can get lost in translation. It becomes about the author or the agent/editor.

Personal feelings can get in the way when it really comes to down to what's best for the books I write. What agent/editor is the best fit for the type of books I write and/or want to write.

Julie Weathers said...

When I had my other agents, they asked me what else I had planned when they called.

Until an agent is interested, I am trying to focus completely on the story.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Good advice. I haven't written any query letters yet, but this is something I wondered about--especially since I have no publishing credentials right now, so no idea what to really say! Keep it focused on the book.

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you about authors and publicity. Upon entering the market many authors have no idea about what is expected from them. I gave up on literary agencies a while ago after I was defrauded of £80. I should have known better at the time, but had I expected my rash decision to create publicity.

Currently, I am bearing the multi-loads of an author, marketing and a publicity campaign. My writing has gone to the wall for the last few months having to develop innovative web pages and trying to restart my blog. However, I still expect to keep to my target despite my three books for 2009 a being delayed.


painted delivery said...

Recently I was nosing through my jump drive. It's been a while.

I found some interesting things. I noticed that despite the fact that I ~know~ query letters should be serious tools that further my work and express, as completely and clearly as possible, the work I am trying to sell that I wrote these very odd (funny?) letters.

I never mentioned ~me~ or my willingness to come to your house and rub your feet.

Can I just say that we (generally) are willing to do just about whatever you want. It occured to me the other day when I realized, for the first time, that it really ~might~ happen that I should think about fitness.

Just in case the fantastical new agent said, "Tomorrow I want you to be Scottsdale."


Anything you want. And anything you wanna know. Just ask :).

Anonymous said...

I noticed in you blog you want three chapters do they have to be the first three?
Do ask for a synopsis of each chapter?