Is there room to play with genres if you’re querying in one and want to write while you wait. In other words, will an agent expect you to stick close to what you’ve submitted? I stay fairly dark, but play in horror, sci-fi and a mixture of semi-literary commercial fare. Also, am I able to start a book of short stories, or is that putting the car before the horse.
Write what you want and what you love and whatever is going to make you happy. However.
There are indeed authors who are able to branch out into multiple genres, who write wildly different types of books, and who are successful in different genres. These people also tend to eat coffee grounds for breakfast and mainline Red Bull.
For most mortals, it’s best to take things one step at a time. Until you’ve reached John Grisham level, try and stick to one genre. Because as a writer, you get better. You learn the conventions. You can draw upon your previous work. If you are published, your readers get to know you and your style. Many of the bestselling authors of today weren’t born so, they got there through gradually building their audience by writing books of a certain style.
As I’ve said previously on the blog, it’s hard enough to break out in one genre, let alone several. When you have an agent you can discuss hopping and decide what’s best. But for most it’s best to stay near home.
Do you recommend writing groups, and if so, is there a website devoted to listing them?
This is a question for your fellow writers. I’m like Padma on Top Chef. I just eat the food. I don’t need to see how it’s made.
Which genres are hot?
Celebrity books and books by existing bestsellers.
(Seriously though, I strongly discourage trend watching.)
When is the new Amazon Kindle coming out?!
According to noted technology gossip site The New York Times, the new Kindle will drop February 9th
I know you only accept email queries, but I’m over here, freezing in Arizona, for a change, and wondering if snail mail queries hold more weight for other agents than the email. It’s probably a frequently asked question but I’m really curious about your opinion.
I’m sure this varies from agent to agent, but if they have submission requirements posted, follow that. For me: I look much more highly on the e-mailed queries, because that’s how I ask to be queried. But I will say this: if Michael Chabon sent me a letter in the mail I would not throw it away. In fact, I might even write him back.
I’m currently shopping a YA paranormal; while I haven’t been offered representation yet, some of the comments I’ve received make me think I’m getting close. Meanwhile, a friend with publishing experience in the erotica genre read some of my more adult work and thinks I should give erotic romance a try. If I use a pen name and place something with an erotica e-publisher, am I hurting my chances of publishing my YA? I’ve read up on the possible perils of working in different genres at the same time, including your take on the matter in your FAQ, but I’m specifically concerned about having a more adult publishing credit come back and bite me when I’m writing for younger readers.
You genre hoppers! Always with your hopping!
In the world of the Internet, it seems pretty hard to keep a secret. If you think one is going to endanger the other you’d need to think really carefully about whether you’re willing to risk that.
How do you feel about pen names? Have your authors run into any problems using them that you could warn us about?
Pen names can be necessary at certain stages in a career when an author needs a fresh start, or when authors want to avoid the harsh glare of third world dictators. But they should not be adopted lightly and there should be a very good reason for it, mostly because it’s an incredible pain to have to pretend you’re another person. In this world of blogging and Twittering and nonstop publicity, it’s even more of a pain than it used to be.
Do you think more agents will be following Firebrand’s idea of offering “query holidays”, where writers submit first pages instead of a query letter?
I’d be curious to hear how they felt it worked though. I heard third hand that they ended up requesting more material, which had query-hating authors rejoicing and saying “See! See!!”
But as an agent obsessed with efficiency, I’m not sure I see requesting more material as a harbinger of a successful system.
This past Friday, you mentioned in the comments section of your blog: “And, of course, it means I’m always on the lookout for the next great self-published book.” What about small press books for which the publishing contracts have expired, or the publishing house has gone out of business?
Many small press books have impressive resumes: review quote from famous author, hundreds of copies sold, major book awards, placement in libraries, etc.; but absolutely no distribution in bookstores. I’ve seen many such books moved from one small publishing house to another, and have always wondered if the author ever tried to contact a literary agent before submitting to another small press.
Yes, definitely. There are certain difficulties involved with a small sales track, but look: if the major publishers are going to move to a model where they only publishing the safe bets, they’re going to be missing stuff. I aim to find said stuff.
If and when a writer does get signed by an agent, are there any newbie mistakes you see newly signed writers making on a regular basis in regards to agents and editors? Maybe if we know about them, we can prevent them from happening in the first place! Knowing is half the battle and all that.
Not all writers know that when they sign with an agent that they are expected to purchase a very, very nice bottle of wine, preferably over $100+ and send it to the agent’s attention. They are then expected to follow that up with subscriptions to bacon of the month clubs, courtside tickets to sporting events (preferably basketball games involving teams from Sacramento), and by arranging lunch with Cormac McCarthy at his favorite diner.
Hope that helps!
So, are you going to pitch this blog as a reality TV show?
You totally should. American Idol meets Finding Forrester?
I’d totally watch that, especially if you made the finalists get up on stage and perform.
Wow. I’m so glad I’m not the only person who mainlines Red Bull.
Seriously though, if this is a common problem…Are there junkie websites that help Red Bull addicts kick the habit?
I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to add my own question to this post, but…
When would you recommend starting an author website? Do you–as an agent–like to see websites already in place when a writer is working through the query process? Does it help or hurt?
There are good reasons for pen names. My real name is astonishingly ordinary and unmemorable not quite Jane Doe but almost), so I chose a pen name when my first novel was published. I have never regretted it.
Actually, my agent has a lot of clients who write both erotica and kids books. If you use a pen name and a dba filing, no one but your agent ever has to know that you write both…
As for pen names in general, sometimes using a pen name can act as a safety screen between the author and the public that allows them to go places they might not feel comfortable going for all the world to see (and I’m not just talking about erotica) or to keep their family from the public eye or all sorts of privacy issues. Twenty years ago, these same privacy issues weren’t as big a factor, but with the internet and all the semi-required social networking sites, it makes perfect sense to me to want to maintain one’s privacy.
::she says, posting anonymously::
sex scenes at starbucks says
“A YA author was arrested for DUI and lost his book contract because of it.’
That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.
Books are entertainment, and writers shouldn’t be held any more accountable than any other celebrity in any other entertainment industry. I guess Brendan Fraizer can’t drink now, since he’s been in a couple of kids’ movies.
Trashy Cowgirl says
I do think you need to be careful when genre hopping between adult writing and writing for children. My posted WIP may be gritty and have an exotic dancer protag, but I am very careful how I explore scenes with sex and violence. I set the scenes up and leave the rest to imagination. I don’t remember any of my favourite books being very graphic and for the scope of what I am writing, the events are for more important than the names of parts and where they went.
I also refrain from discussing my adult work on my blog, except for onemention that my work was up, on the more adult of the two.
But I do think I should be aloud to be an artist, a woman, and a mother. Though I know that the public doesn’t always allow a person to present all of their sides. That means if you are going to write erotica and pbs you need a well protected identity. I personally wouldn’t have a problem with buying a pb from an erotica author, but I don’t think many other parents feel that way.
However, how famous of an author would you have to be for it to become a news worthy story.
I think that the grit and graphics in my adult writing is akin to the level you could find in a Richler novel. He wrote children’s books, as well. So, I would hope there isn’t a problem for me. But the growing lack of anonymity has made people feel entitled to judge another persons every move.
And, I am very aware of the morality clause. If my contract contains one, I will be doing some heavy digging to make sure that my WIP does not infringe upon that and that my dealings are done professionally.
There has been some discussion here about genre-hopping between sci-fi/fantasy/urban fantasy/YA urban fantasy/YA fantasy (okay, I extended the list a bit).
My question is this, how much do you consider that genre-hopping, since (as was mentioned, they somewhat pull from the same well of readers). For example, if Orson Scott Card had published “Magic Street” first (YA Urban Fantasy – at least that’s how I would categorize it), would it have been okay, in your opinion, for him to write “Songmaster” next (which as I recall was fantasy, but not YA)? Or is that still to big of a hop?
And I really hope that question made sense.
Devon Ellington says
I would walk away from a contract rather than sign something with a “morality clause”. That’s not a publisher with whom I’d work.
And before anyone raises a hue and cry that no one would turn down a contract, yes, I’ve walked away from contracts before and I’m sure I will again, AND I’ve worked as a union negotiator AND in a contracts department. So I’m not just talking out of nothing.
My writing is my JOB. Unless I’m being paid A LOT (as in several million dollars) for an exclusive contract, I can write for whomever I want. In whatever genre I want. And my life, my “morality” or lack thereof based on someone else’s judgment, is not the publisher’s business.
It’s another form of censorship, and not one to which the writer has to cave.
Yes, in my opinion, you are better off not being published by someone who demands a “morality clause”.
I work with PEN’s Core Freedoms/Freedom to Write Program — which is usually about aiding political writers in getting out of jail/not getting killed for what they write and believe — but this is a discussion I want to get in to with them. I’m sure someone on the committee knows about this and is working on it.
And what does The Authors’ Guild say about it? Any AG members out there with that information?
Yea to writing groups.
Good ones. With smart, supportive, but honest people.
hi, it's me! melissa c says
So you’re saying that a box of wine won’t cut the mustard?
I don’t drink but I’m guessing anything that costs $100 would be good.
Is that how it really works though? Do you have to buy a good agent? If they have faith in your work, shouldn’t THEY buy the writer the wine? lol
Nathan, I’m pretty sure if you look up “good guy” in the dictionary, your picture shows up.
I like to read different genres so why can’t I write different, maybe not so far extremes as children’s pictures books and erotica but YA and women’s literature or historical fiction should be acceptable. Although maybe you want to establish yourself in one area or better yet just one book published and go from there.
I can’t believe no one’s mentioned the query holiday, how joyous would that be.
I use a pen name because nobody would want to read my work if they saw my real name.
Melanie Avila says
These are very helpful, thanks!
Monica M. says
Hilarious and very insightful. Thanks Nathan! I’m actually getting into the publishing industry (hopefully editing in the future) so reading about the acquiring stages of the manuscript is very interesting!
Vancouver Dame says
Re the comments screen: I found it easier to read and search specific comments by you, Nathan, and other followers on the old screen. Do not like this new format.
As for the Kindle and Sony readers, I’m waiting for them to come down in price.