Friday, September 21, 2012

Agent Q&A, Prizes and Nothin' but Love

Today is one of those massively beautiful Fridays!
First, it's my 10 year anniversary! Yay for me and hubs:)
Second, we've got 50 FINALISTS picked and going on to the agent round of the GUTGAA Pitch Contest! Yay again!
Third, the ever impressive agents participating in the above pitch contest have answered some of your burning questions!
Fourth, it's PRIZE day and we're doubling up!!!!

Fifth- The Small Press Pitch Contest Editors, Small Presses and 1st Round Judges were announced this week. Check them out HERE and sign up for the contest on the master GUTGAA list HERE

Whew, that was a mouthful and we're just getting started:)

A quick note to those who didn't make it into the agent round...
Win or lose, I can't tell you how impressed I was with the entries this year. Sadly, I was buried under planning the small pitch contest, badgering the hosts/judges and sending/answering endless emails to be able to comment on them. Please know, however, that I am your number one fan. I got gushy and starry eyed over many that I read. For those who didn't win, I can't tell you enough, how massively subjective this industry is. This contest is one tiny blip in the writing world. If you only received one vote, some negative comments, or not many comments at all, don't take it to heart. Apply the knowledge I hope you've gained and move on, more prepared than before. If writing is your passion, DON'T GIVE UP!

The 10 moving on from my blog are:
#1 Night of the Living Zom-Peas
#4 The Artsy Fartsy Spider
#7 The Only Infinite
#12 Tomboy Rules: Blossoms are Always Prepared
#17 Harold - The Kid Who Ruined My Life and Saved the Day
#19 Duet with the Devil's Violin
#25 Rules of Rodentia
#28 Everdream
#29 Endangered
#37 Feral Kingdom
If you want to check out the winners on the host blogs, check out the links below:
Adult: Jaye Robin Brown
YA 1: Falling For Fiction
YA 2: Robin Weeks
YA 3: Cassie Mae
Congrats to you all! you can find all 50 entries here Monday morning as we start the Agent Round!

Now, who doesn't want to get inside an agents head?
Lucky us, we were able to do just that! And, their answers were so fabulous, I’ve had to divide them into three parts. So be on the lookout for more Q&A's to come! Note: More than one agent answered these questions. The agents name will follow their answer.

1) If your book doesn’t fit perfectly into one genre, how do you recommend categorizing it? Ex: pick a genre vs. naming them all.

I’d recommend being as specific as you can without going overboard. You want to convey that you’ve written a complex novel without sounding directionless or like you don’t know the market. Smart, concise phrasing can be helpful here. For example, “Contemporary YA romance with a speculative twist” is technically three genres (contemporary, romance, speculative), but it’s not unwieldy. “My YA contemporary/romance/sci-fi/horror novel,” on the other hand, is a bit of a mouthful. Both of those phrases could be describing the same book, though. Molly Jaffa

I say, pick the genre that makes you the most happy! Does saying it's one thing or the other make the pitch just work better, feel easier, spice up your life a little? Use that one.
Tricia Lawrence

I’d much rather have an author pick the closest genre or category for their work rather than claim it’s “everything.” Labeling it with a genre helps us know how we should read your query. For example, if your main character’s best friend is a talking dolphin and you don’t specify if it’s a fantasy or magical realism, I’ll be very confused. If you’re not 100% accurate, it’s not a huge problem, but a writer should be able to know the difference between science fiction and fantasy, or literary fiction vs. thriller. If they’re way off, then that’s usually a sign they haven’t read enough in the genre they write. Sarah LaPolla

In general, I think it's best to pick a genre. In YA, I think there's a little more flexibility than adult in terms of genre-bending. But the key to genre is just giving the reader the right idea of what to expect. Hannah Bowman

Pick a genre. For example, if you have a mystery/fantasy, decide which of those is the main focus. Is it about a murder that happens to involve magic, or vice versa? Sara D’Emic

This happens a lot with romance. I usually tell people to call it historic with strong romantic elements, or with rom elements, etc. SF with rom elements, etc. Linda Glaz
I would definitely suggest trying your best to pick a genre, or even two, that fits your work most closely. It’s a little off-putting to receive a query for a sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, romance aimed at a middle grade audience with adult potential. Jennifer Azantian

I like to name them all so that I get a good idea what the novel is all about. Brittany Booker

2) How do agents and editors go about selecting the queries that make the cut or queries that don't - beyond the blatant ones where the agent/editor could tell the submitter didn't even bother to see if their story fit the submission preferences specific to that agent/editor?

I always notice to see if I LIGHT UP! Does the query interest me? How do I know? (I can force myself to be interested in a lot of things, so I pay attention to how I react the most.) Am I stoked by a query? That's the one I'm going to pay attention to. And for authors, a hint: see answer to #1 above; if it makes you really happy, chances are it just might make an agent and editor react the same way. Tricia Lawrence

First I look at genre to see where the author sees this novel going on a bookshelf. Then I read a query for the premise of the book. If it doesn’t stand out as original or interesting to me, it’s a pass. If I like the premise, then I look for hints in the query about what type of characters I’ll be reading about (or just the main character). I need to be interested in the main character, regardless of how strong the premise is. Then it just comes down to the writing. If I like the sample pages, I request more. If I don’t like them enough, it’s a pass. Sarah LaPolla

For me, a lot rides on the concept: often books come in with a premise that just doesn't interest me, that I wouldn't want to read an entire book about. Partly because I represent a lot of fantasy/sci-fi which are very concept-driven genres, that's my first question. And, of course, the writing in the query has to be clear and appealing: you're really telling a story in your query, and if you can't tell the story in 250 words in a way that makes me want to keep reading, you probably can't tell it in 100,000 words in a way that will make me want to keep reading. That sounds harsh--and it's certainly not a perfect system--but it's nearly always true. Hannah Bowman

Stellar writing stands above all else even with small errors, etc, If your characters pop off the page with reality, that truly helps and a plot that is unpredictable unless it’s purist romance and then we all have a clue what’s going to happen. Linda Glaz

The first thing I look for is a solid story with good writing. If it passes this round, it goes into the subjective land of intuition. Did I fall in love with this character and voice? Do I think this story is unique and fascinating enough to continue holding my attention the whole way through? If the answer to both questions is, “yes”, I request more. Jennifer Azantian

For me, if the author does not read the guidelines on how our agency prefers our queries that is a turn off. I like queries that reflect the way the novel is written. Formal is a good thing to a point, but I like to be talked to by a person and not a robot. Also, too long of a query is a turn off. Do not bore the agent to death either; just tell us what you’re working on quickly and simple. Brittany Booker

3) I would love to hear some feedback on querying agents if you've first had an offer from a small press. How should this be stated in the query? As long as nothing is promised to the small press, is it OK to mention the offer in the query, even if you're unsure you want to work with them?

I definitely want to hear about that offer. It does not make me LIGHT UP just to know about it, but if I do LIGHT UP from your query, I'm gonna want to know about it. Tricia Lawrence

As long as nothing is promised to the small press, is it OK to mention the offer in the query, even if you're unsure you want to work with them? I think it's OK to mention, but realize that that's not necessarily a selling point for an agent--we may want the freedom to submit your project elsewhere, without being bound by a tight deadline before the small press offer expires. Hannah Bowman

I would. Take an opportunity to toot your horn. But always be honest about it. (easy to check) Linda Glaz

Yes, I would definitely mention the offer. It’s good for agents to know that there is interest. I’d even go as far as saying it gives you a leg up. Jennifer Azantian

Yes, an offer is creditability to the agent. It let’s us know that a press or an editor saw your work as worthy. It also gives the author a platform that is good to have. Brittany Booker

4) What do you think distinguishes historical YA from adult historical? Is it length (both wordcount-wise and timeline-wise), theme, adult situations and responsibilities vs. more light-hearted ones? If it involves something like a 15-year-old getting engaged, a 17-year-old getting married, or an 18-year-old having a baby or serving as a soldier, would that take it out of the YA category and into the adult category, even if the characters are depicted as young people where it really counts and even though such things were considered normal for teens as recently as 40-50 years ago?

I think age is a huge indicator, but there's also how the writing feels. Sometimes the ages can be say wildly wrong, but the writing voice feels YA or feels more adult. Tricia Lawrence

I think if the voice feels authentically like a teenager and the storyline deals with issues that modern teenagers can relate to (like making major choices on your own, deciding who you want to be, dealing with your family's/culture's expectations, etc.) a historical novel can be YA even if the main character has adult responsibilities. But it's also entirely possible for a novel with a sixteen-year-old protagonist to be more of an "adult" book, just because the teen experience isn't central to the story. Hannah Bowman

If it involves something like a 15-year-old getting engaged, a 17-year-old getting married, or an 18-year-old having a baby or serving as a soldier, would that take it out of the YA category and into the adult category, even if the characters are depicted as young people where it really counts and even though such things were considered normal for teens as recently as 40-50 years ago? Jennifer Azantian

Adult and YA fiction to me are separated by the age and voice of the character. If the voice talks like a twenty five year old and is sixteen that isn’t good. The author needs to think like a 16 year old or a 25 year old. I think if the story is set in a time and the child gets married it should be considered on how old the child is. Basically, I think it’s the age and voice. Brittany Booker

5) Do you see much of a market for more old-fashioned, quieter, more character driven books instead of fast-paced, plot-centric books?

Yes, I do. Wounded narrators are the arrows that hit the mark; seriously, I can't resist a character who is walking around with a unique worldview because of what she's been through. Sometimes the plot or the character seem superimposed and I really believe it's because the writer needs to take a closer look at how the character is reacting to the plot world. If there's smoke, the character should be coughing, choking, seeing life through a haze, for example. Tricia Lawrence

I’m not sure how “old-fashioned” character-driven pieces are. They’re still very much present, and if you look at books like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, you’ll find that beneath their high concept premise, they are about characters. There are been plenty of books with similar settings that haven’t reached as wide an audience, and I think a huge part of that is because audiences connected with these characters in a way that went deeper than their role in the plot. In that way, I don’t think it matters how high concept or “quiet” a book’s premise is as long as you write compelling characters your reader will want to follow anywhere.
Sarah LaPolla

Yes, as along as "old-fashioned" doesn't mean "antiquated writing style and cliche plot." There's plenty of room for character driven novels, but you have to make sure that your ideas are fresh and that it's still entertaining. Sara D’Emic

Again, if the story is stellar, it will have appeal. Linda Glaz

The short answer is no. Books aimed for older audience yes, maybe. However, books aimed for children, YA or Adults below their 50s I would say since the universe has changed and there is entertainment on demand, the action needs to be continuous. This is to keep the reader’s interest. Brittany Booker

Though I look at the market, I don't always follow it for submissions and trends. If a book speaks to me, I would be willing to take it on even if it's not considered in "vogue" at the moment. I'm always game for starting a market trend! Sarah Younger

6) What's hot in middle grade right now and what agents would love to see?

Boy adventure. Funny, funny, funny. I  want to see boy and girl characters that seem as if we know them already in a situation that seems fresh and new—because of the character.
Tricia Lawrence

I do not represent middle grade because of the fact it’s hard for me to determine what that age wants. Middle grade is a hard age for children. If I were representing it I would say something that shows a child that it’s okay to be their selves and that’s the only way to be happy. But, of course it would have to be full of an adventure that the main character goes through to come to that conclusion. Brittany Booker

And to shut this fabulous Friday down, let's give away some prizes!
Today we're giving away prizes for two winners,

Prize 1: 
Autographed copy of Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Boys

Journey's of Wonder Anthology by Leslie Rose, Ian Kezsbom and Lisa Gail Green

Prize 2:
50 Page critique by 1st round judge extraordinare, Melodie Wright
Journey's of Wonder Anthology by Leslie Rose (see above)

And the winners are!!!!

Prize 1: Alexandra Hayman
Prize 2: Dana Edwards



VikLit said...

Thank you for posting all this, great answers from agents and congrats to everyone who made it you.

Thank you Deana for all your efforts, it must be so time consuming for you so thank you thank you.

I look forward to reading the Agent Round 2 next week. Oh and I haven't yet gone through the CP post so I should hunt out some partners sometime!

PK HREZO said...

That's so great. My hubby and I celebrate our 10 year this November, so cheers to weddings in 2002!!

It's always awesome to hear the answers right from the agent's mouth (or should I say keyboard). Great stuff to keep in mind.

This has been such a fun project, I'm not sure I want it to end. We should have monthly GUTGAA chats on Twitter, don't you think? Such a wonderfully supportive group. :)

Dana E said...

Happy Anniversary!

I hope you're not too tired from your awesome contest to celebrate!

There's great learning and encouragement here!

Thanks so much for the prize! I'm so excited to hear Melodie's critique.

Angela Brown said...

Sending virtual hugs to you in happy joy for your 10th anniversary! That is wonderful, Deana.

You've been so great with this that it is understandable that you may not get to touch on every participant's entry. You're taking care of the HARD part. Thank you :-)

Although I didn't make it past the first round in the Agents pitch contest, I'll work on things to hopefully improve and give it the "ol' college try" for the small presses round. Here's to marching forward with GUTGAA!! Woot!

The subjectivity is amazing among the answers provided by the agents. All I could do was enjoy the answers and pick out the helpful nuggets provided. Thanks for getting our questions to the agents and thanks to the agents for providing us some great responses.

Donea Lee said...

Happy 10th Anniversary to you and the hubs!!! Hope you spoil eachother and have a great time today!! :)

And thanks to the agents and their answers. It's always great to get some insider perspective. :)

Congrats also to Alexandra and Dana!

Patti said...

Happy anniversary. And although I didn't get picked, the comments and suggestions really helped. Thanks for doing all this work.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Congrats to the winners and kudos to everyone brave enough to participate!

Stephsco said...

Thanks for the agent responses. Congrats to everyone who made it through to the agent-judged round.

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

Conratulations to those moving on! They all sound great! :)
And thanks to the agents for answering questions!

Charlie N. Holmberg said...

Happy anniversary! And thanks again for hosting all this!

Jessie Humphries said...

Happy Anniversary!! And 10 whole years? A decade of bliss? You go girl. Thanks for everything. You deserve a big fat kiss :).... from your husband! haha

Tamara said...

Happy Anniversary! That's awesome. Me and H just celebrated twenty-five years. We got married at eighteen but I've been with him since I was fifteen. :) Having a partner to face everything with is awesome. :)

And thank you SO much for all the hard-work you've put into this. I'm so excited for the next round. I'm still not over the shock that I made it! :)

Lara Schiffbauer said...

Congrats to the winners of round 1 and good luck for round 2! And Happy Anniversary, Deana and hubby!

Kimberly Gabriel said...

Happy anniversary! Thank you for the encouragement Deanna! And thank you to the agents for their answers!

K. L. Hallam said...

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY !! And thank you for the Stellar job of hosting #Gutgaa and all you do for writers!