When I asked on Twitter what questions people would like an article about agents to address, there were a bunch that didn’t fit into the post I was writing, which you can find at BTS Book Reviews blog. Thus, as promised, I’m answering them over here on my own blog. If you have a question that isn’t answered in the “All About Agents” article or this Q&A (that is not “would you read my book”), feel free to ask it here and I’ll do my best to answer.

Q. Assuming the writing is good, what is the difference between a partial that grabs you and one that doesn’t? (Since this is similar to the question “How can an agent tell if said ms has potential?” I’m combining the answers here.)

A. Here’s the thing—we’re not just looking for something with potential. Many writers have potential. We’re looking for someone who’s achieved their potential. We want someone who blows us away and keeps reading late into the night or makes us miss subway stops because we’re so absorbed. We want a manuscript that we can’t help but pitch to friends and family as well as editors. In short, we want something that excites us and that we can truly champion. You don’t want an agent who’s ambivalent to your work or on the fence about it. You want someone who’s thrilled to be working with you and who will keep on even when those inevitable rejections come in. (In my 22 years in the business, I’ve never had a work that everyone wanted. Never.)

The difference between what grabs me and what doesn’t is not easy to articulate. The novels I fall in love with spark something in me. They make a connection; they’re original; they have a wonderful, unique voice. Voice, in fact, is often what makes something stand head and shoulders above the rest. That said, just because I don’t connect with a work strongly enough to take it on doesn’t mean it’s not ready for prime time. It only means that I’m not the right agent for it.

Q. What are you hoping to see when you ask for revisions and offer to take another look?

A. When I ask for revisions, it’s because I see a spark. I’ve made that connection, but the work is still far enough from being ready that I’m not sure if the writer isn’t there yet or if the manuscript just needs another pass. Seeing the work again after revision will answer that for me. It may be that the pacing was too slow previously…or the main character was too distant or tangential to the action…or that the storyline itself wasn’t strong enough regardless of the intriguing set-up… Having the author tackle a revision lets me know that they’re open to critique and putting in the work necessary. The outcome of the revision itself demonstrates how well the author applies notes and whether he or she can bring this particular manuscript up to the level it needs to be to stand out.

Q. I’d love advice about the comparison in the query–ie “Fans of __ will love my book.” “I’m __ meets __.” Should we do this?

A. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying that you hope that your work will appeal to the same audience as that of Author X. Unfortunately, I’ve seen people phrase it poorly too many times so that it comes across sounding like, “Move over Stephen King, I’ll take it from here.” It takes the right blend of confidence and humility to say it the way you intend it to come across. Likewise, describing your work as ­this meets that is fine as long as it really highlights your concept for the agent or editor with whom you’re corresponding. I describe my Vamped young adult series as Clueless meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think/hope that the person I’m talking with immediately sees Cher Horowitz with fangs. At the very least, they’ll know that it’s a snarky, fashion-conscious vampire series. I scratch my head, though, when I hear something like this is the Jack Kerouac, Peter Straub and Jude Deveraux all rolled into one. My response to that is…huh?

In other words, it can be a useful tool if done right, but I highly recommend running comparisons by critique partners and others you work with to be sure you’ve struck the right notes.

Q. What working relationship do you look for outside of contract with a client? Level of professionalism?

I’m not sure whether the person asking the question meant “contract” or “contact” here, but I get the spirit of the question. What I look for is someone who’s going to be a publishing partner. In other words, someone who’s willing to invest the same amount of effort in his/her career as I am. If I comment on a manuscript or proposal, I want to know those comments are well-received, even if the author may not agree with everything I have to say. I look for someone who’s personable and plays well with others. Publishing is such a village that it’s important to prop each other up and promote each other rather than tear down. I want someone who’s professional and communicative, who asks the questions that need to be asks and who keeps me on the loop on their end of things.   Also, someone who’s reliable with deadlines and with the quality of his or her work.

Q. If a book by a debut author is the first in a series, do you want that mentioned in query? Or treat it as a standalone?

A. Yes, if a book is part of a series, I want to know it. When advice says don’t pitch more than one project at once, it’s not saying pretend you don’t have a series (although you don’t want to tell us you have a ten-book arc necessarily). It’s saying don’t pitch two or three different series or genres at a time.

Q. Do agents look for something that will sell immediately? Or are they willing to work with an author at revisions to make a future sale?

A. When an agent takes someone on, they’re making an investment in the writer’s career. They don’t necessarily expect that a book will sell instantly. Responses can take months. And most of us do work editorially with authors to make the work as strong as it can possibly be prior to submission, which involves time before the book ever goes out to editors. A work doesn’t have to be perfect before we’ll take it on, but it does have to be really close. Unfortunately, agents don’t have the time to nurture a diamond in the rough. There are a lot of good writers out there. It’s not our job to train them up into great writers. It’s our job to sell their work and help them succeed once they get there.

Q. When querying, what time(s) of the year are the best to do so? Or, when is NOT a good time of the year to query you?

A. Conventional wisdom is that you don’t send submissions out at the end of the year (say between Thanksgiving and New Years) because agents and editors are burnt out and just trying to wrap up all their current projects before the end of the year. There’s some wisdom to this, but I’ve sent submissions out during this time and made some great sales. I think the answer here is “it depends.” The best way to be sure you’re querying at a good time (or at least not at a bad one) is to check the agency or publisher’s guidelines to see if there’s any window when they’re open or closed to submissions and make sure you don’t submit at a time when they’re not reviewing queries.

Q. If a project originally rejected is revised and mostly rewritten, does it count as a new book/okay to query again?

A. If you received an encouraging response and your book has been significantly revised or rewritten, then it’s absolutely okay to query again. If you haven’t, it probably means the book wasn’t right for that particular agent. However, the worst they can say is “no” to a new query, so I don’t think it hurts to try. That’s my two cents, of course, and if an agency’s guidelines say differently, then following them would be the way to go.

All About Agents

Posted: February 26, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

I’m over at BTSeMag’s blog today with an article “All About Agents.”  As I promised my friends on Twitter, I’ll try to answer any of their questions that did not make it into the article on my blog later today or tomorrow morning, so please check back!

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Let’s hear it for Vicky Dreiling’s Sinful Scoundrels!!!  The third book in this wonderful series, WHAT A DEVILISH DUKE DESIRES, is out today from Warner Forever.  You can get it right now (no waiting at Amazon, B&N, Books-a-Million, etc.!) or check out any of the numerous celebratory giveaways going on right now, like this one at Bookhounds or this one at Harlequin Junkie or over here at Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance

Cover copy:

WILL A FEW FLIRTATIOUS STEPS

Harry Norcliffe never wanted to inherit his beloved uncle’s title. The rigidity of the ton, the incessant reminders from his marriage-minded mama that he must settle down with a highborn lady and produce an heir and a spare: it’s all such a dreadful bore. So when his mother asks him to take part in a dancing competition, he patently refuses. The last thing he needs is another chore . . . until a beautiful, brilliant, delightfully tempting maid makes him rethink his position.

LEAD TO A SCANDALOUS SEDUCTION?

Most women would be over the moon to be pursued by a wickedly handsome-not to mention wealthy-duke like Norcliffe. But Lucy will not be any man’s trophy. She could use a friend, though, and what begins innocently soon ignites into desire. As Lucy tries to resist Harry’s scorching kisses, he makes an utterly irresistible offer. Enter the dance contest with him, and win a prize that could change her life forever . . . if falling in love doesn’t change it first.

Vicky’s Bio:

Triple RITA finalist Vicky Dreiling is a confirmed historical romance junkie and Anglophile. Frequent business trips to the UK allowed her to indulge her passion for all things Regency England. Bath, Stonehenge, and Spencer House are among her favorite places. She is, however, truly sorry for accidentally setting off a security alarm in Windsor Castle. That unfortunate incident led her British colleagues to nickname her “Trouble.” Vicky is a native Texan and holds degrees in English literature and marketing.

Before I get to the awesomeness that was the Coastal Magic Convention, a quick note about where I’ll be next month:

March 14-16 in Mount Dora, FL for the Lake County Library BookFest 2015: DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES (along with client Amy Christine Parker, author of YA thrillers GATED and ASTRAY)

March 27-29 in Brea, California for the California Dreamin’ Conference (along with romance clients Vicky Dreiling and Debra Mullins and Knight Agency author Chris Marie Green)

Both of these sound like fantastic events with great lines-ups of presenters!  For the California Dreamin’ Conference, you can check out my Q&A on their blog. I hope to see some of you there.

And now for the Coastal Magic Convention.  I’ve been every year since the tireless (and by the end absolutely exhausted) Jennifer Morris first organized the conference, back when it was Old City, New Blood, and here’s why: it’s a community.  This convention brings together authors, bloggers and readers in such a way that we all get to know each other pretty well.  We become a family.  Going back year after year is like a reunion.  I love, love, love being an agent.  I have a much easier time promoting my clients’ books than my own, but every once in awhile, it is nice to shuck off the idea that I have to maintain strict professional decorum, which leads to a certain reticence/distance in my interactions, and just be author-me, who is a lot more easygoing and feels free to wear skully dresses if she damn well pleases.  Also, she participates in Flash Fiction panels with the hilarious Damon Suede, which leads to stories about tentacled alien maidens with four sets of breasts.

Oh yes, the Flash Fiction panel is one of the highlights of the convention (to me anyway), as is Damon’s wonderful Cinema Craptastique, in which he Mystery Science Theatre’s a really bad movie for our enjoyment.  This year it was The Legend of Hercules.  And OMG, this was wrong on about every level imaginable – historically, mythologically, CGI-ically.  Really, truly awful.  Do not watch this film unless you’re at RT for Damon’s reprise of Cinema Craptastique or have found a really good drinking game to go with it.  You have been warned.

Some old comrades were missing this year, which was sad.  (I’m looking at you James R. Tuck, Delilah Dawson, Karina Cooper, Janice Hardy, Nancy Haddock, Amy Lane, …)  But it was great to catch up with others and to make new friends, like J.A. Souders, Aria Kane, Jenna Black, Kristen Painter, Amanda Carlson, Christina Farley, Poppy Dennison, Chudney Defreitas-Thomas, Chelle Olson, Myra Nour, Melanie Marsh, Jess Haines, and so, so many people that I can’t possibly even try to list them all because I will leave people off and I don’t want that kind of pressure.

I love the panels, love the meet and greets, loved the dance this year with the crazy photo ops and generally had myself a blast.  Some pics are below for your enjoyment.

I’m late on posting about some new releases and about the awesome Coastal Magic Convention that happened a week and a half ago now, because things have been BUSY!  That’s right, all caps.  Probably could use a few more exclamation points as well.  So, crazed here, but all in the best ways.

In case you’re crazed like me and you missed it, Rachel Caine’s amazing novel THE PRINCE OF SHADOWS came out in trade paperback (a reissue from the hardcover) on February 3rd and Chloe Neill‘s Ethan and Merit e-novella “Lucky Break” (with a couple of chapters from the upcoming Chicagoland Vampires novel DARK DEBT) released just yesterday.  If these don’t get you through the cold dregs of winter, I don’t know what will!

As for Coastal Magic, I will post pics, etc. on the morrow.

princeofshadows_lores THE PRINCE OF SHADOWS by Rachel Caine (NAL), Recipient of the RT Book Reviews Seal of Excellence

A thrilling retelling of the star-crossed tale of Romeo and Juliet, from the New York Times bestselling author of the Morganville Vampires series.

In the Houses of Montague and Capulet, there is only one goal: power. The boys are born to fight and die for honor and—if they survive—marry for influence and money, not love. The girls are assets, to be spent wisely. Their wishes are of no import. Their fates are written on the day they are born.

Benvolio Montague, cousin to Romeo, knows all this. He expects to die for his cousin, for his house, but a spark of rebellion still lives inside him. At night, he is the Prince of Shadows, the greatest thief in Verona—and he risks all as he steals from House Capulet. In doing so, he sets eyes on convent-bound Rosaline, and a terrible curse begins that will claim the lives of many in Verona…

…And will rewrite all their fates, forever.

lucky break LUCKY BREAK by Chloe Neill (Penguin eSpecial, Chicagoland Vampires novella)

In this thrilling new novella from the New York Times bestselling author of Blood Games, vampire Merit bites off more than she bargained for when a romantic trip to a secluded Colorado town turns deadly.

Merit and Ethan are in desperate need of some alone time, far from the worries of Cadogan House, but trouble tends to follow wherever they go. Their attempt at a romantic getaway is quickly interrupted when one of Ethan’s vampire friends shows up at their door–covered in blood and accused of killing her shifter husband.

Merit and her Master soon discover their vacation spot is far less idyllic than it appears. A centuries old quarrel between local vampires and shifters has made the town a perpetual supernatural battle zone, and this fresh blood has stirred the already volatile pot. Now, Merit and Ethan must put their passion on pause to figure out who’s really responsible for the murder before all hell breaks loose…

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Molly Cochran is the author and co-author with Warren Murphy of many amazing books, including the New York Times Bestseller and classic Arthurian novel THE FOREVER KING (as well as the sequels THE BROKEN SWORD and THE THIRD MAGIC).  If you liked T.H. White’s THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, Mary Stewart’s CRYSTAL CAVES or Marion Zimmer Bradley’s THE MISTS OF AVALON, you’ll love Molly’s work.  And the best part is that she’s brought the Arthurian legends to modern day while still keeping all the historical feel and flavor.  The same goes for her Katy Ainsworth novels, set in a town in Massachussets run by witches where the young heroine discovers her very dark and dangerous legacy (LEGACY, POISON and SEDUCTION…and also her novella “Wishes”).  Really, you won’t want to miss Molly’s work…or her guest blog below.

WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE

                Write what you know. It’s the First Great Commandment of writing, and it’s true. You can’t write convincingly about Admiral Byrd’s expedition to the South Pole if you’ve never been cold. Unfortunately, that dictum has scared a lot of would-be novelists into writing only about their own personal experiences. That’s fine as far as it goes—provided your xperience has been so extraordinary that people who don’t know you will want to read about it—but that sort of extremely personal work, generally known as a coming-of-age novel, tends to be a one-shot deal. It’s nothing if not restrictive if you’re planning a career as a writer.

So a better mantra than write what you know might be, in my opinion, write what you love. What excites you? Baseball? Fashion? Paris? Whatever your passion, whether it’s knitting or speculating about the end of the world, your interest in the subject will breathe life into your work.

Writing what you know helps if what you know is something special. Patricia Cornwell, who writes so convincingly about forensic science, spent many years working as a medical examiner. Not surprisingly, Scott Turow and John Grisham, both lawyers, bring insider knowledge to their novels about corporate crime. But let’s be honest: How many jobs have you held that you would deem worthy of a novel?

Intimate and esoteric knowledge is the key to writing a work that stands out from the crowd, but that knowledge need not come from direct experience. In William Wharton’s bestseller Birdy, the protagonist is an autistic man who owns hundreds of birds. Obviously the author has an encyclopedic knowledge of these creatures, but it is his passion, not his knowledge, that allows him to write in a way that makes birds fascinating to the general public.

Think about the things you love to do—cooking, skateboarding, surfing, skiing, playing an instrument, dancing, video games . . . or the things you’d love to learn about—movies, dogs, design, magic, the music industry, the history of the town where you live . . . Those subjects are all fodder for possible bestsellers, founded on knowledge of your subject and ignited by your passion for it. That passion might even be for something that doesn’t exist. Anne Rice has made no secret of her obsession with the idea of vampires walking undetected among us. Whitley Strieber is clearly fascinated by the possibility of extraterrestrial aliens visiting earth.

In my own case, a lifelong interest in the legend of King Arthur has borne fruit in not one, but two books. Since childhood, I’ve read obsessively about Arthur Pendragon and the Knights of the Round Table. In grade school, I studied the clothing and architecture of Fifth Century Britain. I devoured tracts on sword making and medieval combat. T.H.White’s The Once and Future King and Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy were my bibles. The first time I saw John Boorman’s Excalibur, I thought I’d found my way to heaven.

So it was almost inevitable that one day I would write my own version of Camelot. In The Forever King, ten-year-old Arthur Blessing is unaware that he is the reincarnation of King Arthur of Britain until he discovers a cup that heals wounds and bestows eternal life—the Holy Grail, that brings with it great danger and the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. That book became an international bestseller, and I believe that much of its success was because I was so deeply invested in the subject that the novel reflected more than mere factual knowledge: It was filled with love.

That love carried over into a second novel, written much later. In Poison, I revisited the Arthur legend by reworking the character of Morgan le Fay into a feminist archetype that lent humanity to a woman who has been historically depicted as a villainess. In both cases, my passion for the subject drove both the story and the writing of that story, and as a result, both novels were deeply satisfying projects for me.

So if you’re thinking that you have to write another Divergent or Twilight to make it as a writer, think again. Writing a novel is a long, complex process. Copying someone else, no matter how successful that writer is, probably won’t work, because you can only put your heart into something you love.

And your heart will show, on every page., in every sentence. Love makes the difference. Write what you love.

THE EXILE First things first, is this not one of the most beautiful covers you’ve ever seen?  Is that just me?  Yes, the book inside is worthy of the gorgeous cover and yes, if you like urban fantasy, political intrigue and the Fae, you’re going to want to read THE EXILE.  But you don’t have to believe me.  I’m the agent and thus surely biased.  You can listen to Publishers Weekly and Kirkus below!

PW: “VERDICT Adams (author of several urban fantasy and paranormal novels with Cathy Clamp under the name Cat Adams, most recently To Dance with the Devil) goes sole with this new series launch, which has all the right ingredients for a long run: political intrigue, magical struggles, even a possibility that there might be a romantic entanglement somewhere down the line. This should appeal to fans of Seanan McGuire’s “October Daye” series.”

KIRKUS: “. . . this book (the first in a planned series) will entertain readers looking for a fun fantasy that mixes adventure with just a bit of romance.”

Right?

THE EXILE comes out March 10th, but (hint, hint), it’s already available for pre-order!

In honor of her upcoming new release, I’ve asked C.T. Adams to come blog for me, and here she is with…

…A Thing or Two…

You would think after twenty published novels and God alone knows how many short stories I’d have this writing thing down to a science.

You’d be wrong.

Oh, I’ve learned a lot–that no matter how good the outline, you’re probably going to make changes; that at some point in pretty much every novel I will desperately want to just hit the delete key.  But every book is as individual as the characters living it.

And that’s a good thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I rejoice when the occasional book comes along that grabs the bit in its teeth and runs out of my fingers in an exhilerating and exhausting rush.  And I curse (and swear, and grumble) the books that I have to DRAG kicking and screaming out of the depths of my psyche.

But even at the worst, it’s the best job I’ve ever had.

I learn new things every day.  Some aren’t particularly useful, (what is the sunset time in Kuala Lumpur on July 15?).  Some are a little alarming (how a serial killer typically stalks their victims.)  But it is never, ever dull. And I love it.

BUT it is not for everyone.  For one thing it is WORK.  There’s so much more to it than just sitting down at the keyboard and pumping out words.  (There’s definitely that too-you have to write for the words to get written.  And you have to write to deadlines whether or not you feel like it.)  Some of it is fun.  But, as in any job, some of it isn’t.

In my experience writing takes big, honking chunks of time.  And for everyone I know, time is at a premium.  Our lives are scheduled practically to death, we’re at the mercy of cell phones, emails, and the like.  So many people tell me “I’d love to write a book, if I just had the time.”

And that’s the trick.  If you really want to do it you have to MAKE the time.  I still work a day job 8-5.  So my writing takes place from 4:45 a.m. to 6:15 a.m. weekdays and on weekends.  It has to.  I’m too beat at the end of the day for anything requiring creativity.  But it works for me, and it’s worth it to me, because I can look up and see 20 books on the shelves that I either wrote or co-wrote.

Life will steal your writing time if you let it.  You have to decide not to let it.  OR you have to acknowledge when life is being particularly . . . lifish . . . and not beat yourself bloody about not writing.  It happens.  The tricky part is, if it happens too much you’ll lose your edge, and it will get harder and harder to start back up.  And when you do the first few efforts are liable to be total dreck.

But persevere.  Writing as a career is a marathon, not a sprint.

And, for me at least, it is SO worth it.

 ______________________

C.T. Adams is a USA TODAY bestselling author with 20 books and innumerable short stories to her credit.  Her newest solo offering THE EXILE:  BOOK 1 OF THE FAE hits the shelves in March and is the first book in a highly anticipated new reality series.