Wednesday, January 3, 2007
Agent/Editor Panel Day Three
I don’t know about you, but I’m really enjoying the editor/agent panel this week. We are very fortunate to have these folks sharing their insights and knowledge with us here on PASTimes.
Again, the key:
JS: Jan Stob, fiction acquisitions editor at Tyndale House Publishers.
CM: Chip MacGregor, literary agent, MacGregor Literary.
TB: Terry Burns, literary agent, Hartline Literary.
JG: Judy Geary, editor, High Country Publishers.
Q: Should writers try to keep up on publishing trends? On Nov. 21 on our blog Francine Rivers said: I have no idea about the market. I made a decision a long time ago to pay no attention to the trends in publishing. If writers try to write what is selling, chances are the trend will have changed by the time they finish a manuscript. I write what I need to read.
What is your reaction to this?
JG: I agree with Francine. Write it, then try to find a trend to hook it to.
TB: I think that's good advice for her. When you have that big a name you don't have to worry about such as that. For us lesser writers, there is NO ONE to whom our career is as important as it is to us. As a writer I know that and I take a strong hand in knowing how things that are going on will impact my writing. I don't hesitate to make suggestions and requests on how things should be submitted and where to my agent. As an agent I care a great deal about the future of my clients, but that concern is spread over a number of them. However, trying to write to the market does tend to put us behind the curve. We need to write the stories we have to tell then try to get the most out of it.
JS: I agree [with Rivers’s statement]. Trends are a moving target and hard to predict. At the risk of being repetitive, that’s why I’ve continued to talk about your story having a strong hook. You need to ask yourselves why you’d pick up your story and why others would as well. I would advise writers to be aware of what is available in the market to avoid writing something that has already been done.
CM: I generally agree [with Rivers’s statement]. Of course, a writer of Francine’s stature doesn’t need to pay attention to trends – publishers are going to stand in line to work with her, and offer her a great deal, no matter what she writes. (And I happen to think Francine is a wonderful writer.) That said, I have to pay attention to trends as an agent. And if I’m representing you, it’s nice to know that you’re basically aware of what’s happening in the market. At the same time, what I care about MOST is that you write a great book – trends or not. I do think some authors worry more about the latest trend than they do about the craft – that’s something I see evidenced at writer conferences.
Q: As an editor or agent, what advice do you have for authors regarding querying? What is the best method? (e-mail, snail mail) Is there a particular format the query (or proposal) should follow?
JG: We accept e-mail queries, and they're dealt with as they're received. (Of course that usually just means a quicker rejection.) Snail mail queries may pile up for months before someone braves the "treasure trove." A new format that has a lot to recommend it is to set up a website with the materials for a query package. You can include a link to the website in an e-mail. It's easy to forward such an e-mail to others who might be interested, and it takes up no space in the que. If you're concerned about compromising your copyright, do an unpublished site. A tip: E-mail queries without a specific salutation are deleted without an answer.
JS: My best advice would be to query by snail mail but to include your email address on your query. At Tyndale, our computer firewall blocks a lot of our emails so I’m afraid I may not see queries that are emailed to me. However, it saves a lot of time if you include your email address so I can email you back if I’m interested.
CM: The BEST method is to get face-to-face, so by all means consider attending a conference where you can meet the editors with whom you want to work. But I’m an email guy – I much prefer a query via email. Short, to the point, and give me a reason for wanting to see your proposal. Remember, the goal of the query isn’t to sell your book; it’s to get an editor to agree to take the next step. So the query should briefly give me a reason for wanting to see more, and it should be written extremely well in order to show off your talent, and it should tell me exactly what you want me to do.
TB: Read the guidelines. Most houses and most agents have submission guidelines posted, and to ignore them and send what we don’t want is an insult. People put up what they want to receive for a reason. If someone ignores what is posted I drop them an email and point them to the guidelines saying I don't read bare chapters without the support material. There are too many people doing the research to make sure they are querying the right people, reading the guidelines and submitting properly, giving the editor or agent exactly the information they need to evaluate the project when they read the writing sample. To reward people who don't bother by treating them the same as those who do the work would not be right.
Q: How do you feel about writers following up on a query or proposal submission? What is an acceptable time period to wait before following up?