Friday, January 25, 2013

Open Question Day!

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hereby pronounce today Open Question Day. Please feel free to post any publishing-related question you might have, from queries to signing with an agent and beyond, in the comments by 6pm EST today. I'll do my best to respond throughout the day and over the weekend. If any question requires a particularly in-depth response, I may use it as a springboard for a future blog post. Thanks for stopping by! I look forward to hearing from you.



49 comments:

  1. Is there a way for the author to retain traslation rights? Is it even possible? For example, I write in both english and spanish, but given the genre of what I write (YA fantasy) I feel I have a better shot at getting somewhere with the english version. It may not be the case, but it's a hunch. If, by any miracle, I manage to get a publishing deal somewhere in the future, is there any chance I might get to be involved with the spanish version? It's still too early for me to worry about that, I know, but the thought has crossed my mind. And who is better to answer it than someone that specializes in international rights, right?
    Thanks in advance! I really enjoy your posts, by the way.

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    1. Hi, Johana. If your agent sells English-language rights to your book, you have retained translation rights. Your agent (and/or subrights team) can then pitch and sell those translation rights, including Spanish-language rights, to a Spanish publisher. Foreign publishers almost always have translators with whom they prefer to work. These are usually established (even "famous") translators whose names readers are used to seeing on the jacket or inside the book. That name can mean a lot to a readership! Foreign publishers will have a clear sense of which translator and which writing style will help your book perform as strongly as possible in their territory. In my experience, it's pretty unlikely that a publisher would want an author to translate his/her own book (though nothing is ever impossible, and if you had already translated it into Spanish, they could certainly consider that version--it depends on your skill level, too). That said, your agent can certainly negotiate translator approval, final approval over said translation, and cover approval (we do this all the time), so you'd still be involved even if you weren't translating. I hope that helps!

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    2. Hi, Molly. Sorry I skipped the greeting earlier. It happens sometimes when I'm excited, I'm not just rude.
      You certainly told me what I wanted to know, thanks!
      I know there are famous traslators, and yes, they have influenced me buying certain books over the years. I even bought two different versions of the first Harry Potter just to compare (an argentinian version (ugh) and a spanish version (slightly better)). As you can see, I'm a bit maniac when it comes to translations. So much about the story can change when the language does. And I think it's even healthy to have someone else adapt it. My first post might have left another impression, I noticed. But yeah, what I'd prefer is to have an opinion (and for my opinion to actually be heard) in the final traslation. It's good to know it would be possible.
      Thanks again :)

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  2. Hi, Molly. What's the most common reason you pass on a requested manuscript?

    I've really enjoyed your post.

    Abby

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    1. Thanks for your question, Abby. I'd say it's usually because I just can't imagine myself reading that particular project 10+ times, because that's around how many times I read my clients' manuscripts throughout the publication process. I always read something twice before I offer rep (once for sheer enjoyment, once for a more technical evaluation). Since I want to move quickly on projects, that usually means I end up reading a manuscript twice in a matter of days. Most people don't reread all but their very favorite books more than once, right? So if something's not on that level for me, I pass.

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  3. Hi Molly! What is the proper way to submit to an Agent when you use a Pen Name online (Twitter, Blog, etc.). How do I include my real name + my pen name in the best possible way to avoid confusion and/or raised eyebrows?

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    1. Hi Alexander! Pen names are common in many genres, so I wouldn't worry too much about raising eyebrows. You can always sign your query "[Real name] writing as [pen name]." If you've had books published under another name, it's good to be upfront about that, too.

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  4. Hi Molly! Can you talk about new adult? Where do you think this trend is going?

    Anna

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    1. Hi Anna! Thanks for your question. I'm not active in the new adult sphere right now, and while I'll consider new adult projects, they're not really something I'm seeking. I hesitate to make any proclamations about a genre that's still in its infancy (and, in the views of some, doesn't even exist), but it's certainly an exciting time to be in publishing! More than anything, I want to encourage people to avoid writing to trends. For example, I wouldn't recommend that a writer take a previously written YA manuscript with which they haven't had success, age the characters up and try to stick a "new adult" label on it. That's not going to change whatever isn't working with the manuscript.

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  5. Hi Molly,

    I've done a lot of work in comics and graphic novels with smaller presses in the past. I want to query an agent for a normal novel in the future. Many agents want to see your past experience but I have no previous novel experience but I do have comics in my background. Would that count? Would it help me in my search for an agent? Thanks!

    Mary

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    1. Hi Mary,

      I wouldn't say it would help you in your search unless the graphic novels sold very, very well or unless the agent you're querying is interested in representing graphic novels. I always recommend that writers be upfront about their publication history when querying, so you might include the titles, publisher and publication dates of your graphic novels in the last paragraph of your query, which should include a short bio.

      Hope that helps!
      Molly

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    2. Ah okay. Thanks for your reply!

      Mary

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  6. Do author credentials help?

    Thanks for your time.

    Mike

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    1. It depends on what you mean by "credentials" and what kind of book you're writing. Long story short, if you're writing fiction, credentials aren't necessary. Awards and fancy degrees look impressive and might catch our eye, but the writing is still the most important part. If you've had books published before and they didn't do well, it's more of a hindrance than a help. It's a myth that publishers aren't interested in debut authors. No track record is better than a bad one.

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  7. Hi Molly! Thanks for taking our questions.

    I'm wondering if there are any quasi-reliable predictors for foreign sales, and have you got any interesting stories about books doing better in foreign countries than in the author's native land? Do you see patterns emerge, and how have you made sense of the shifting trends you've noticed across various territories. Complicated question, that's me.

    :)

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    1. Hi there! You're very welcome.

      Yes, there are predictors -- working in foreign rights, it's definitely part of our job to be able to estimate how a book might perform in a given territory. For example, we have a business/self-help title that sold modestly in the US but recently became a bestseller in Taiwan, selling tens of thousands of copies there in just a few months. A book like this one tends to do very well in the Asian markets (and also in Brazil), even if the title didn't hit big here.

      In terms of shifting trends, a lot of those shifts are influenced by negative economic changes. A few territories now experiencing recessions used to be very active markets, and now they simply can't buy as much (or for as much money as they used to). Tough economic times also influence the kinds of books people tend to buy. Out with the frivolous, in with the practical; out with the sad endings, in with the hopeful ones.

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  8. While working on a revise & resubmit (querying paused for the duration), what is the etiquette if one should receive a request for materials from a different agent? Thank you!

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    1. Thanks for your question, Heather! I think that would depend on the understanding you had with the agent who requested the R&R. If he or she asked to consider the R&R exclusively and you agreed, then you should honor that. You could let other inquiring agents know that you've currently agreed to work on an exclusive basis with an agent for a R&R, but that you would be happy to be in touch again once the period of exclusivity is over. If the agent requesting a R&R didn't ask for exclusivity, though, you could let the new agents know that you're currently revising based on some feedback and ask if you might wait (X) weeks to send the revised manuscript instead. There's no One True Way here as every agent is different, but if I was the new agent in that position and the author was polite about it, it wouldn't bother me a bit.

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    2. Thank you so much, Molly! I appreciate knowing how to avoid a faux pas, and your time to answer these questions. :)

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  9. Hi Molly,

    I've heard that agents tend to stay away from novels that have already been submitted to publishers, since obviously it would limit whom they could submit the novel to.

    But what about projects that have been submitted to publishing houses outside the US/Canada.

    Is it ok to query a publishing house in India, UK or Newzealand while at the same time querying agents in the US for the same novel?

    Thanks.

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    1. Thanks for your question, Sia. You could do that, but keep in mind that if you accept a deal with any of those publishers, it could limit your other options for that title. A US publisher may want UK rights, a UK publisher is definitely going to want rights in India and probably Australia and New Zealand, etc., and if those rights are already sold it might be a deal-breaker for some publishers. Then again, it might not be. Ultimately, you should do what you feel is best for your career and your project. There are no absolutes here, but as an agent myself, I'd recommend partnering with an agent (or at least a very good contracts lawyer) before proceeding.

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  10. Hi, Molly,
    Thanks for answering our questions! I have three:

    1) I'm an American living in Canada, planning on staying a US citizan and someday moving back to the US. Would where I live have any effect on your decision to represent me and should I mention this fact in my query letter? (My return address is Canadian so it's apparent right away.)

    2) If an agent asks for a "brief synopsis" to be included with a query letter, does that mean my 1-2 paragraph synopsis or my 2-3 page synopsis?

    3) If an agent specifically asks for a bio to be included with the query, but I have no background in the publishing industry, what do I say? I have 9 years experience in a corporate career.

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    1. Hi, Samantha,

      You're welcome! Here we go:

      1) It wouldn't affect my decision, no. We have many Canadian clients. You can mention where you live in the bio part of your query letter, which should be near the end. Being Canadian can affect our selling strategy, though -- for example, depending on the type of book you've written, we might do a simultaneous submission for it in the US and Canada. Canadian publishers love local authors, so it's to your benefit to have a separate Canadian edition if possible (as opposed to letting your US publisher distribute there).

      2) I'd go with the 1-2 paragraph version, but that's just me.

      3) Don't say "I have no publishing experience," since we assume that if you don't say otherwise. It's not something we hold against you. If your bio is "I live in Denver with my two kids and a fat cat, and by day, I work as a [INSERT JOB HERE]," that's perfectly fine. Your tone of your bio should match the sort of project for which you're querying, though. If your novel is dark and not at all comic, you'd probably want to cut the fat cat bit. :)

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    2. Thanks for the reply! I have a follow-up question on the Canadian bit. For some reason, I was under the impression that US agents only represent US authors, due to copyright laws. The direction of your answers leads me to believe otherwise. Is that the case?

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    3. You're welcome! I can't give any kind of legal advice here, so unfortunately I can't speak to the copyright law aspect of this question. I can say that we have many clients who are not US citizens. We represent quite a few Canadian and British citizens. I'm aware of several other agent-friends at other agencies who rep Canadians as well.

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  11. Can you go over what makes young adult, young adult? there are so many YA books that deal with such tough issues, so i'm assuming it's not a topic thing? is it just the age of the protags?

    L

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    1. Sure, though I don't think there's one universally accepted definition here. YA is a category, not a genre, and within it are many genres (romance, paranormal, dystopian, etc.). The easiest way to explain YA is that it's literature about teens that's marketed to teens, but as we see, plenty of adults read it as well. There are lots of adult novels with young protagonists--see Carol Rifka Brunt's amazing TELL THE WOLVES I'M HOME and Tupelo Hassman's fabulous GIRLCHILD, just in the last year--so it's not just about the age of the protagonists. It's the voice and the writing style as well. The more YA you read, the more you'll know it when you see it.

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  12. Hi Molly,

    Thanks for doing this. Very generous of you! My question is for you personally. Do you think you might consider taking on picture books in the future, and if so, what types of PBs would interest you (fiction, non-fiction, concept, rhyming, etc.)?

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    1. You're very welcome, and thanks for your question. At this time, I only plan to represent picture books when the author also writes either MG or YA. My amazing colleague Emily is the picture book maven at Folio (she represents Caldecott winners Phil and Erin Stead). I don't want to say "never," but that's my answer for now!

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  13. My question pertains to querying:
    I have a YA/MG historical fiction MS with an identity crisis. The first, largest part of the book is a fictional story made up of thirteen narratives, the second part is thirteen pages of non-fiction historical notes (one per character), and the third part is a brief history of the Elizabethan theater, with staging/blocking notes regarding the possibility of turning the whole shebang into a one-act play.
    I am stymied on how to present this non-traditional, genre-crossing book. I feel at the mere mention of the word "play" I lose people, (read:agents) and the non-fiction notes, though fabulous in my opinion, may only be serving to further confuse this books genre. Selling it as a play seems bass-ackward. Any advice on this one? It is definitely a niche-type book, though I could see it read for pleasure as well as in a middle school's history/English class.
    Thanks for any insights you may offer,
    Just Jill

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    1. Wow, this sounds complex! It's okay to have a non-traditional project. We're always looking for things that break the mold. That said, I think your first step here might be to do some more research and decide whether your project is MG or YA. It really can't be both, unfortunately. Books can have crossover appeal, and that's great (though not really something to point out in your query), but they have to go on one shelf or the other. When agents get queries that say a project is both MG and YA, we usually assume the author doesn't read much in their genre, which means they might not be the best writer in their genre, as good writers need to read. A little bit of research here will go a long way!

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    2. Thanks for the input, Molly. 'Twas kind of you to offer this post.
      ~Just Jill

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  14. Molly,

    As my agent, are there any situations where you'd make decisions on my behalf?

    Thanks:)

    Cynthia

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    1. This is a great and important question. My answer is: Eek! No! Run away from any "agent" who would make decisions for you without consulting you and getting your approval. It's unethical and just plain wrong. We're your representative--we act on your behalf, but only with your explicit approval to do so. :)

      Best,
      Molly

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  15. Molly, thanks for doing this.

    Would you still represent me if during my career I wrote something outside my current genre?

    SP

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    1. This is a question you should definitely ask an agent when they offer representation. For me personally, yes, I would, assuming I liked the project and thought it was salable. Folio is a very collaborative agency, and my colleagues and I all support each other's projects. Together we represent every kind of book project under the sun (just not screenplays). If something is outside my normal wheelhouse but my client really wants to try it, I have a bevy of awesome coworkers who will help me navigate the process. Can't speak for every agency, though.

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  16. If I signed with an agent in June for a non-fiction book and received about 15 rejections from publishers after that....and now it's almost February, is there still hope or should I start preparing myself for the manuscript not to sell?

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    1. Thanks for this, but I'm afraid I really can't comment on another agent's submission. This is a good question to ask your agent -- he or she will be honest with you!

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  17. Hi Molly,

    When an agent offers a R&R, can you assume that they generally read the entire ms? Or do most agents stop at the problem areas but see the potential for improvement?

    Thanks!

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    1. Hi! I can't imagine offering a R&R without having read the whole manuscript. I wouldn't feel qualified to make any overarching suggestions until I'd read the entire thing.

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  18. Molly, this is amazing of you!

    I've heard authors say a lot changes from your first submitted MS to what makes it on the shelves. I've also heard them say they could keep revising forever and that at some point they have to choose to be done.

    In light of this, what key elements do you want to be in place when you request a completed MS? And what, if any, missing elements are you willing to overlook?

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    1. It's my pleasure, Corrie!

      Before querying, an author needs to have taken their manuscript as far as they can possibly take it without an agent or editor's help. You'll always be critical of your work, of course, but if you can look at your manuscript and admit to yourself that the beginning is slow or that a secondary character feels two-dimensional, chances are an agent will notice it even more. You don't need to feel like your work is perfect before querying (nothing ever is), but you do need to feel like it's the best possible work you can do at this time. Don't rely on an agent to fix problems you already know are there.

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  19. Hey Molly! Question about New Adult. A lot of people have been saying publicly to be very cautious about this. On the other hand, I've noticed it popping up in a agent request lists all over the place. Your thoughts?

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    1. Hi! It's not exactly on my request list right now, so I'm not sure. I can't speak for other agents, but it could be that some just don't want to miss out on something that might be the Next Big Thing.

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  20. Hi Molly!

    I just recently learned that a lot of emails from Hotmail end up in junk folders, which of course makes me super paranoid that many agents never received it. (I prefer to think of it this way and not as a reply-less rejection!) Should I nudge or requery those who haven't responded from a new email account (gmail) and explain my concern? Or just let it go and move on to new agents and learn from my mistakes?

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    1. Hi Laura! One polite nudge never hurts, in my opinion. I'd recommend including your original query below your new email for reference and as proof that you previously sent it. If an agent is offended by a kind inquiry, they're probably not the agent for you anyway. Best of luck!

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  21. Hi Molly! I completely realize it's well past the deadline for this thread so I know you might have moved on. But being the only foreign rights agent I know who's answering questions on their blog, I had to try: How often does a book sell different "versions" in a different territory? As in, does the author go through a separate editorial process for each territory?

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    1. Hi Bethany! In my experience, it's really rare. Once we sold a 15+ year old title and the foreign publisher wanted to update some pop culture references that didn't make sense anymore. Another time, a publisher wanted to remove something that might be considered offensive in that territory. The authors had to give approval in each case.

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