Friday, November 21, 2014

CLOSED TO QUERIES 11-21 to 1-12

Hi gang,

I have a lot of travel + bookstore stuff + general busy-ness going on in the next six weeks, so as I do every holiday season, I am officially CLOSING TO QUERIES as of tonight (say, midnight eastern time) -- and I'll re-open January 12, 2015.

The exceptions being Referrals and Conference submissions.  If you are either of these, I urge you to SAY SO IN THE SUBJECT LINE. I will also, of course, look at material that I've explicitly asked to see.

This gives me the opportunity to catch up and clear out for the new year, and it is much needed. And you may well hear from me during this break, as I have a LOT to catch up on! ;-) Anything already IN the inbox before tonight will be responded to. All other new queries will be deleted.

So, what to do? Well, if you want to choose any of the other lovely agents at ABLA who are open, you may of course feel free to do so -- if you'd prefer to query me specifically, please do so today, or wait until January.

Let me know if anything is unclear! And have a great holiday season.

Jenn


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How Many is Too Many?

When I was a newbie, my boss told me that I should never answer the question "How many clients do you have." See, it's a question with no right answer, in which the asker can interpret the answer any way they want.

If I say a high number, does that make me sound Healthily Busy or Totally Overwhelmed? If I say a low number, am I Selective, or Lazy? And what would BE a "low" or "high" number, anyway?

Since I'm no longer a new agent, and I believe in transparency, and I love love LOVE talking about my authors - I have a list of my clients posted on my blog. You can count them if you are so inclined. (Spoiler: it's about 50). I still shy away from saying an exact number out loud, and I don't have a number that would be a "ceiling" in mind, but, you know, basically I am pretty full. I am busy enough. I don't need more clients. But I shall certainly leap to grab one if the perfect fit comes along!

I don't remember where I got this analogy but I think it's a good one: it's kinda like being an obstetrician. While I might have dozens of clients, most of them are busy gestating or taking care of books under contract that already exist - they aren't in my waiting room with their water breaking all at the same time. This metaphor has gotten a little gross now, but you see what I mean - there are only a few pressing matters "in play" on any given day/week.

So how many authors IS too many? I think of my list kinda like Mary Poppins's bag crossed with the TARDIS. Magical, flexible, sentient, bigger on the inside, and obviously able to navigate wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff. There's no answer, is what I'm saying -- how much work I can do adjusts according to how much work there is to do.

If there is ever a time I am feeling burnt out or overwhelmed - I take a break and/or ask for help. If I was feeling like that all the time, I'd cut back my list -- but so far, luckily, that has not had to happen. Other agents' answers may vary -- for some, 20 clients would be their limit. Some, I'm sure, juggle 100. But I think everyone would agree that there is no magic number, and no right answer to this question.

Make sense?


Friday, November 14, 2014

An EPIC POST about the Submission Process, from an Agent's POV.

A lot of authors are curious about what happens when a project goes "on submission", so I thought I'd lay it out here. I want to stress that this is from MY POV ONLY. There is no one way to do this -- other agents might have different styles, and that doesn't make them (or me!) wrong -- just different. And I'm only speaking for myself, I make no claims about what any other agent may or may not do, even in my own agency. Also, of course, a lot of stuff may be variable depending on the author, project, time of year, phase of moon, etc, so all of this is not even applicable to all projects! And now that the epic disclaimers are out of the way, on to the epic post:

MANUSCRIPTS ON SUBMISSION 101

STEP ONE: Once we've been through revisions and have a clean ms to send out, I will re-read the project. As I read, I think about the style of book it is. With a book that is really submission-ready, I'll be able to visualize what I think it will look like on the shelf. Does this FEEL like a light and fun paperback? Does it FEEL like a beautiful epic fantasy with maps and fancy gilt edges? Who will buy this book most - Librarians and teachers? Teens? Hipster parents? Doting grandparents? Based on these calculations, I narrow down the list of publishers to those who would be open to publishing this type of book. I'm also thinking about who amongst my editor acquaintance might also like the story.

STEP TWO: I create a submission list and share it with the author to see if they have any input. For example, if they worked with a certain editor before, or something of that nature. My submission strategy is to target wisely rather than widely. I don't, for example, go to multiple people at the same house. I like the editors to whom I send projects to feel they've been selected especially, as indeed they have been. You can read much more about choosing imprints and the fun game of crafting the editor submission list and all that goes into that in this post from the archives.

If I an torn between who at a given publisher might like a project, I might email or call either the boss or the editor I know the best and ask their opinion. Yes, this works. Everybody WANTS to connect successfully and find projects they love! 

STEP THREE: I either call or email the editors (unless I happen to have a meeting or lunch scheduled with them in person during this time-frame in which case I pitch in person) -- and ask if they'd like to see. 99%* of the time they DO ask to see -- I like to think I know their taste well enough and they know mine well enough that they know I'll at least show them something worth looking at, even if they end up passing. Even editors I don't know well will generally agree to look at the project because, you know, they are polite and they work with our agency a lot. :-)  Annnnd then I send it out and we wait for responses!

(* The 1% of the time they don't ask to see, that is usually because they have something too similar already in the pipeline -- like, I had a chapter book about a certain historical event go out and one person passed on looking because they have a book about the same event already coming out in 2015. So, obviously, I targeted them correctly, just somebody else was faster! That's OK, it happens.)

How do you decide between giving an exclusive and making it a multiple submission?
For me, it is nearly always a multiple submission. If I were to give an exclusive, I would explicitly state it to the editor and give a time-frame, and it would be because:

1) The author has worked with an editor before and this is the next logical book -- let's say, you have a YA fantasy out, and this is a new YA fantasy in the same world - even if we don't HAVE to show the current editor contractually, we WOULD, because it just makes sense. I like to keep good relationships going!  ... or

2) We have an option that we need to fulfill (ie, in the contract it is stated that the publisher gets first crack at anything new) -- in which case they'd only have it exclusively for whatever term the contract specified, say, 30 days ... or

3) You've discussed the project at length with an editor and you think they will LOVE it, or it was inspired by something they said, or written specifically with them in mind, or something of that nature -- in which case I'd let them know that they have a limited window head start. Not that they HAVE to get back in that amount of time -- but we'll be going out more widely after that time.

If none of these apply, then it is a multiple submission.

So what should I, the author, be doing while you, the agent, are waiting for responses?  You should be working on the next book. WORKING ON THE NEXT BOOK. Oh heavens, please be working on the next book. Outline a sequel if you like - but I wouldn't get too married to it until you have proof that somebody wants the first book. I'd rather you be working on a completely new, shiny and different project. Something you are excited about and thrilled to write! So that you will not be obsessing over the thing that is on submission.

And will you share all the responses you get with me as you get them?  When I first started as an agent, I always shared all declines immediately with my authors. But then I realized that the authors were getting majorly bummed out and oftentimes this knowledge would derail them from their work on their happy-shiny new projects! So I changed my stance on this and started doing it a little differently. 

If I get an OFFER, or a request for revision, of course I share it immediately. The same goes for a really kind/complimentary or otherwise uplifting decline. If it makes me happy to read, it will probably make my author happy to read, too, and I share. If, however, I get an ambivalent decline, a nonsensical (or even mean) decline, or just generally non-helpful decline, I just mark it in my little book as a "pass". At a certain point, when the round is winding down, around the 8-12 week mark, I'll compile all these and just give an update and 'state of the ms' report. If an author wants more frequent updates, they can ask me at any time -- some people want to know what's up more often, and that's fine. And some authors REALLY REALLY want to know every gory detail as it happens - that's fine too, they can just let me know. I happen to think it is a bit unhealthy for the majority of authors, but of course I will send as my author prefers.

How long does it take to hear back from editors, and do you nudge or give a deadline?  I don't give a deadline unless we have an offer on the table. I usually hear back on picture books and short chapter books within a few weeks -- sometimes, for novels, a few months. After 8 weeks, I'll nudge people as needed. There are often a couple of outliers who don't reply unless shaken vigorously, but the bulk of responses will come in by 8-12 weeks.

What happens if we get an offer??!  If we get an offer, I nudge everyone who is still looking immediately, letting them all know that we have an offer and that I need their responses ASAP. If that's the case, usually everyone replies immediately to either pass or express interest, and we go from there. If we do get two offers, I'll compare and contrast, and ask for improvements as needed, and the author will decide. However, if I know other offers are coming. . . .

OMG!! What if there are MULTIPLE offers?!? IS THAT AN AUCTION?? If I know we are getting multiple offers, we call an auction. (You theoretically CAN call an auction any time you want -- but I would hate to throw an auction and have nobody come! I personally only declare an auction when I know there is significant interest from more than two parties.)

The agency has "auction rules" that define what we want offers to look like and include, so that when it comes time for the author to decide between offers, they are comparing apples to apples. I'll set what's called a Closing Date (usually a week, week and a half, depending on the time of year and such) -- by which time everyone needs to come to me with offers if they are going to. Different kinds of auctions are structured in different ways, but usually auctions are either "best bids" (one round, everyone just gives their best possible offer and the author decides) or "rounds" (in which the agent can go back and forth and ask for improvements and the author decides). There are benefits and drawbacks to each, and your agent will make sure you understand what is going on when it happens!

So auction means BIG MOOLAH, yes? $$$$ WOOOOHOOO!!! $$$$$  Sorry to disappoint. Despite sounding V V Fancy, Auction doesn't mean the book will automatically sell for a million bucks. Auction just means there are multiple offers, but it does not define what those offers might be. Everyone COULD offer pocket change and belly lint! But usually auctions inspire editors to at least TRY to put their best foot forward.

What if we send it out and get ... no offers :(  ?   This happens, too, even to manuscripts I love and think will sell -- and they often DO sell, just perhaps not in the first round. Nothing to worry about. What I'll usually do is compile the feedback we've received and see if there is anything useful to be gleaned from it. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn't. We'll discuss whether you want to revise or not, and I'll send the work out to more people and begin a new round of submissions.

What if we never ever get an offer? At what point do you consider a ms completely shopped?  Well... depends on the book, and depends on the feedback we've been getting. If we're just getting nothing useful, or no responses at all, and I don't feel I have anywhere else to go with it where the results will be different, that is quite dispiriting, and it might be time to back-burner the ms for a while and try something else, maybe revise with fresh eyes at a later date. If we're getting THISCLOSE but just not quite putting it over the top, like every editor is saying they "love it but..." -- well, then I'd be inclined to keep going even longer. I have sold books in less than a day... but I've also sold books that took a year, two years, or longer, over multiple rounds with revisions and tweaks in between. Sometimes it just takes a long time to get to that yes! So, there's no magic number of editors -- it's a case-by-case situation. The good news is, you have a lot more stories to tell, right?

Is there any question about the submission process that I forgot to answer? Ask in the comments!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Happy Book Birthday to EMPIRE OF SHADOWS!

Do you like lush, richly imagined fantasy worlds? Do you like heroic adventures and palace intrigue? Do you like strong ladies with agency? Have you read Miriam Forster yet??! Today is the release day for EMPIRE OF SHADOWS, the second tale of the Bhinian Empire.

Note: This is NOT a sequel to CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS - it's a companion novel (or prequel) that can absolutely be read first or alone. However you will get to know some interesting tidbits about either novel by reading the other. (And CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS is now in paperback, with awesome extras!)  . . . but about EMPIRE:
Perfect for fans of romantic fantasies like The Girl of Fire and Thorns and Graceling, Empire of Shadows takes readers on a spellbinding journey into a world with a divided society, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and deeply laid conspiracies.

Cast out by her family three years ago, Mara turned to the only place that would take her—an order where students train to protect others. But Mara is stunned when guarding a noble girl in the Empire's capital turns out to be more dangerous than she could've imagined. More shocking still, Mara finds the boy she thought she'd lost forever outside the gates of her new home.

Mara knew the dizzying capital city would hold dangers. How could she have known that her heart, as well as her life, would be at stake?
Fantasy-lovers, Miriam Forster is a talent to watch, and the Bhinian Empire books are glorious reads to get lost in. Request the book from your local library, bookstore, or online at Indiebound, Powells, Book Depository, Barnes+Noble or Amazon


Monday, November 03, 2014

#SupportWNDB, LOWRIDERS IN SPACE, and a giveaway!

So you've all heard of #WeNeedDiverseBooks, yes? This is a grassroots campaign that began as a simple twitter hashtag meant to highlight the lack of diversity in Children's literature, and has morphed into a super-worthy nonprofit organization that does things like fund writers grants for underheard voices, make sure there are diverse panels at trade shows and conferences, and generally raise awareness of the problem and help find solutions... and they are having an IndieGoGo fundraiser this month.

This is a project I'm SUPER INTO and I want to encourage you to DONATE TO #SupportWNDB ! Here's the link again in case you already forgot.

On a somewhat more personal note, this week I'm also celebrating the publication of a diverse book I'm so proud of, LOWRIDERS IN SPACE! LOWRIDERS is the first in a graphic novel series for middle graders; its cunning mix of humor, science and pure fantasy will appeal to both boys and girls 8-12.

Publishers Weekly says in their starred review:
Camper’s rocket-powered graphic novel stars a deliciously improbable trio: Lupe Impala, a beautiful mechanic with a mane of black hair and a limitless supply of automobile knowledge; Flapjack Octopus, whose eight arms can detail a car to a high gleam; and Elirio Malaria, a shady-looking mosquito who uses his needlelike proboscis to pinstripe cars with fantastic accuracy. Raúl the Third’s dazzling art, done with red, black, and blue ballpoint pen, fuses the energy of Mexican folk images, the naked passion of tattoo art, and the antics of Saturday morning cartoons. Lupe and her sidekicks want to start a garage, but they don’t have enough money. They enter a car competition (first prize is “a carload of cash”), find a beater, and plot their strategy: “¡Y vamos a tener que echarle ganas, to clean it!” says Flapjack (Spanish translations are provided throughout). A wild journey through space gives their car one-of-a-kind galactic magic—readers will rejoice in their triumph. As a celebration of Latino lowrider culture, too, it’s estellar.
So here's the deal. I have a bunch of copies of this book. . . and I'm going to do a giveaway. If you have a group of kids who would benefit from having copies of LOWRIDERS, send me an email by 11/4. Tell me what school or group you are with, how old the kids are, how many kids there are, and anything else you think I need to know. I would like these books to go to a group of kids that would not normally be able to purchase new books! Subject line: LOWRIDERS GIVEAWAY - to JennL at andreabrownlit dot com.

And if you CAN purchase new books - well, please do buy this one. I would love to see a kick-ass culturally authentic graphic novel like this one be wildly successful - because I'd LOVE to sell lots more books like it!

Request it from your local library, purchase at your local independent bookstore, or visit Indiebound Amazon Barnes+Noble to purchase online.



Thursday, October 23, 2014

How Did I Find My Clients?

I read a forum post this morning quizzing agented authors on where they found their agents. The authors were very nicely answering, but most of the answers were the same: "I did my research and then sent a query letter."

Why was this the most likely way they answered? Because it's the most likely way to get an agent.  It just IS. I know the myth is that you have to "know somebody" but that really isn't true. Which got me to thinking about how my clients found ME (or, vice-versa). And I decided to bust out the chart-making tools again because I know you like that.

So let's break it down:

56% of my clients came to me because of straight up query letters, from the slush. They didn't know anybody, they didn't drop names, they weren't published before, they didn't go to conferences, they didn't meet me first - some of them I still haven't met in person, because they live thousands of miles away!

24% of my clients were people that I'd met somewhere before they queried me. These are people I met at conferences, in a couple of cases, or published authors that I met in my capacity as a bookseller. (There's also a former co-worker in the mix, an SCBWI RA, and one of my neighbors. What can I say, she's a great writer!). The thing is: All these people STILL HAD TO QUERY. It's not like I said, oh, I know you, so sure... they still had to show me something I thought I could sell.

16% of my clients were referrals. This means that somebody I really trust - like an editor who knows my taste, or an existing client - thought this would be a good fit for me, and e-introduced us. But, you guessed it: These people STILL HAD TO QUERY, and show me something I thought I could sell.

4% of my clients were inherited from other agents at my agency. They actually are the only people who were kinda "grandfathered in," and did not have to show me something new to be taken on. However, I also trusted that they could write, that they had great stories in them, and that we'd gel well - and we spoke before I took them on. Still, this does not always work out, so I feel very lucky that these have!


Moral of this story? 

96% OF AUTHORS NEED TO 
WRITE A GREAT QUERY LETTER.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Happy Book Birthday to STITCHING SNOW!

My author R.C.Lewis first described STITCHING SNOW to me as "Snow White in space... if Snow were a cage-fighting tech-head with daddy issues." How could I not want to read that? And now YOU can, too, as STITCHING SNOW officially hits shelves today!

THE QUERY THAT GRABBED ME: Seventeen-year-old Essie can take care of herself. She knows how to stitch up robotic drones so the men in the mining settlement remember she's worth keeping around. She knows how to use her fists to make sure they keep their hands off her. But all her self-preservation skills don't tell her how to deal with Dane, a boy who's depending on her to get his crashed shuttle off the icy ground of her desolate planet and flying again.

Dane's polite, chivalrous, even a little charming, and he gives Essie the kind of attention she's never had. She begins to trust him, which is a new (and terrifying!) feeling for her. But then he discovers her secret. She's a Princess who has been missing for years, and there will be a rich reward for returning her to her kingdom. One betrayal later, he's taking her home whether she likes it or not, to exchange for captives held by Essie's father the King. What Dane doesn't know is Essie wasn't kidnapped all those years ago... she ran away. And bringing her back home just might kill her.

STITCHING SNOW is fast-paced, voicey debut YA that will appeal to both SF fans and "people who don't think they like Science Fiction" - and Essie is a brilliant, tough little sweetheart of a character you won't soon forget.

Buy the book at your local independent bookstore via IndieBound, or at Oblong, Powells, Book Depository, B+N or Amazon, or wherever fine books are sold.

Monday, October 06, 2014

How Similar is TOO Similar in the Great Agent Hunt?

Research agents for even a short while and you're almost sure to come up with two competing bits of wisdom: 

LOOK FOR AGENTS WHO REP THE BOOKS MOST LIKE YOUR OWN!

vs

AGENTS WON'T TAKE ON WORK TOO SIMILAR TO WHAT THEY ALREADY REP.

Guess what? BOTH these contradictory statements are true! ....Yayyy??

Of course you want to pick an agent who does the kind of books you do, and hopefully reps some authors you admire. . . but yep, that agent will likely decline if the books are too similar. I wrote a post way back in 2011 about WHY agents can't take on work that competes with what they already rep. It's all still true, so I won't rehash it here. We know the WHY. But how can you tell if your book falls into this problematic area?

A quick way to decide if your book might be too close to what an agent already reps: If you break your book and the comparable book(s) down into general CATEGORY, TONE and THEME - TWO of these can match. But if all three overlap, it's probably too close.

In other words: 

I could rep two funny picture books ... but not two funny picture books about Ninjas. I could rep two picture books about Ninjas, if one was funny, while the other was non-fiction/factual. I could rep two funny Ninja books... if one was a picture book and one was a middle grade. (That isn't to say that there isn't room IN THE WORLD for multiple funny picture books about Ninjas, btw... just that I personally would feel uncomfortable repping all of them!)

In the case of something like "heartfelt middle grade fiction about girls growing up" - where there are certainly lots of great books that seem to overlap... the differences might be more subtle. I rep both Linda Urban and Kate Messner, for example - two great authors, both sometimes writing in a similar space - but you wouldn't confuse CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT with BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. You just wouldn't. On the surface there are similarities, but there's a difference at the bone. 

So if you're researching an agent who reps what you write... and you've thought about the chart and you see the surface similarities but you still think YOUR difference is different enough... you might as well try querying the agent... why not, right? Nothing to lose. Nobody is going to be mad at you - the worst that can happen is, you get a rejection, and that isn't anything to lose sleep over.

Does this make sense? Helpful, or have I muddied the waters even further?

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

New Releases - A Little Something for Everyone

Life got the best of me in September and I realize I have several books to post about now... so I'll do the new releases all in one to save your eyeballs!

For the Picture Book crowd: 
Mara Rockliff's CHIK CHAK SHABBAT is a wonderfully inclusive picture book about the multi-ethnic residents of an apartment building who, when a neighbor is too sick to cook, improvise a meal cobbling together their own unique traditions to celebrate the true spirit of Shabbat. The book is illustrated by the amazing Kyrsten Brooker and really has the feel of a modern classic already - Candlewick did a great job!

And lest you assume that this is a "niche" book, I have to tell you -- there is so much warmth, humor and heart to be found in these pages, it doesn't matter if you don't know Shabbat from Shinola, you'll get it. :-)

Buy the book: IndieBound - Powells 

For Middle Grade readers:
Kate Messner's WAKE UP MISSING, the edge-of-your-seat science thriller, is now available in paperback!

WAKE UP MISSING is about a group of kids from different parts of the country and different walks of life. In fact, they have only one thing in common - they are all hospitalized in an elite institution for brain science after having experienced head trauma. When the kids realize that something VERY sinister is going on at the so-called "research" facility, they must run for their lives -- making their escape through the dangerous Florida Everglades. This is one seriously EXCITING read - and it's especially good for any kid interested in science/medicine.

"Kate Messner combines a fascinating concept with page-turning suspense . . .  Reading this book is like a wild roller-coaster ride through the Florida swamps." —Margaret Peterson Haddix, author of The Missing and the Shadow Children series

Buy the book: IndieBound - Powells  

For the YA fans:
I wrote about Gwenda Bond's GIRL ON A WIRE  last month so I won't belabour the point, but I will say, if you think a mystery-magic-romance mashup sounds great and/or you appreciate the dazzling world of the Circus... you will probably love this book.

"The circus and its theatrical characters provide a fresh, vibrant backdrop as Bond impressively describes a range of circus performances, while threading enticing slivers of magic and romance into her story. It's a fascinating and enjoyable foray into circus life as seen through the eyes of an ambitious and talented performer."  -- PW

"The mystery is tense and nerve-wracking, and the acrobatics are gorgeously hair-raising." -- Kirkus

"With a thrilling mystery, a hint of magic, and a touch of romance, "Girl on a Wire" takes readers into the fascinating world of circus performers." -- SLJ

Buy the book: IndieBound - Powells

Monday, September 01, 2014

GIRL ON A WIRE Early Bird Special

Anyone who tells you magic isn’t real doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Just like anyone who tells you falling is like flying has never done either.

If you've spoken to me anytime in the past, oh, two-years-ish, you might have heard me gush about  GIRL ON A WIRE from the talented Gwenda Bond. And... its October release date is almost here! In fact...   

*drumroll* ... 

YOU CAN READ IT TODAY!

Yes I know it ISN'T October yet! This is a September surprise. GIRL ON A WIRE is a Kindle First pick. Which means, if you're an Amazon Prime member you can read GIRL ON A WIRE for free (FREE) (zero dollars!) right now. If you aren't, you can read it for $1.99 (which, let's face it, is ALMOST FREE). This deal will be going on the whole month of September. Yesssssss.

GIRL ON A WIRE is the story of Jules Maroni, the extreme high-wire walker and teen daughter of circus royalty. When somebody starts planting jinxy magical items on her costumes, it's unclear if the culprit just trying to scare her... or actually kill her. And is it all just old superstition, or could there be real magic at play? Jules teams up with the son of a rival family to solve the mystery, and sparks fly. (So yeah, it's basically Daredevil Juliet and Trapeze Romeo Solve Possibly Magical Crimes. Yessss.)

Get your e-copy today, a month before everyone else! And if you want to win a new Kindle Paperwhite, check out Gwenda's contest!