Monday, September 26, 2016

Nightmare on Query Street Rules and Format for 2016



We're back with 25 agents and even more mentors!


It's Nightmare Time!



Don’t have a scary manuscript, DON'T WORRY. Just read on.

A brand new year, a brand new evil.

This contest, as it runs in the Halloween time, is all about FEAR.


The Details:

The submission window opens at 4:00 pm (EST) on October 14th. Don't send too soon or your entry will be deleted. There will be email confirmation. Please don't resend an entry unless you check with us. Sometimes the confirmation process gets overwhelmed. The window will close when we receive 250 entries or in two hours, whichever is first.

Michelle and Mike and Laura will make thirteen picks each, and those picks will go up on our blogs from October 29th through the 30th. Before this, there will be a mentor round to whip that entry into shape. We've already got amazing mentors lined up, so know that your entries will be polished for the agents.

We are accepting all age categories and genres, excluding picture books and erotica. The story does not have to be scary. But be sure to check our list of agents when it goes live to see if they represent your book's genre.


If you plan on participating in the contest, you have to be following all our blogs (MichelleMike, Laura). If you can't get the blog follow to work, just follow on twitter. You'll want to be on twitter for the party anyway.


You are not eligible if you've been in an agent round in the last six months, such as for Pitchslam and Query Kombat. This doesn't not include twitter only events like PitchMad. You may enter if you have a different manuscript to send.

ONLY ONE ENTRY PER PERSON. DO NOT TRY USING MULTIPLE EMAIL ADDRESSES. THIS DOES NOT MEAN ONE PER WRITING PEN NAME. ONE AND ONE ONLY.

It's pretty simple, actually.

But there's a catch.

Along with your query and 250, you must write a SHORT paragraph (no more than 100 words) about your main character. This is the question you must answer:

What is your main character's most stressful relationship? Who really makes them sweat?

The Format:


Send all your submission to nightmareonquerystreet (at) yahoo (dot) com. Only one submission per email address AND person is allowed.

Here's how it should be formatted (yes, include the bolded and everything!). Please use Times New Roman (or equivalent), 12 pt font, and put spaces between paragraphs. No indents or tabs are needed. 


Subject Line: NoQS: TITLE, Age Category + Genre
(example: NoQS: GRUDGING, Adult Epic Fantasy)


INSIDE THE EMAIL:

Name: Michelle Hauck
Twitter Handle: @Michelle4Laughs (optional)
Title: GRUDGING (yes, caps!)
Genre: Adult Epic Fantasy (Age category and genre. YA/MG is not a genre.)
Word Count: XX,XXX


My Main Character's Most Stressful Relationship is:

My MC's most stressful relationship is with the potato supplier. With prices skyrocketing, the mc can't stop eating those suckers--fried, mashed, frenched--gotta have them. But everyone is trying to undercut our mc's purchase potential. (Please, spend some time on this! We will be looking at this to make up for gaps in the query and 250. It gives us a chance to know your characters better. It doesn't have to be horror-scary. It can be more subtle. Remember 100 words or less.)

Query:

Here is my fantastic query! DO NOT INCLUDE BIO OR COMPS PARAGRAPH. Try to stay in the 250-300 word range. Please put spaces between paragraphs and don't indent.

First 250 words:

Here are the first 250 words of my manuscript, and I will not end in the middle of a sentence, even if I hit 255 words. Do not abuse and send 256. Keep it fair for all. Use Open Office/Word to determine your official word count. 

Entries will be disqualified at our discretion for rule violation.

And that's it! Send in that email during the submission window and you're ready to go. There will be a confirmation email.

We're Tweeting under the hashtag #NoQS. As before, we'll have a twitter party once submission starts. Mentor and agent posts will follow before October 14th.


We also want to mention that Jason Huebinger is having a twitter pitch event called #PitDark on October 20th. That is something you might want to investigate.

Good luck! And sweet nightmares!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Query Questions with Kristy Hunter






Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.

Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a series called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers from the real expert--agents!

Query Questions is back with a fresh set of questions and more agents. The people have spoken and let me know which questions should stay and which could go. We've got a few brand new situations that writers would like clarified.

From the Knight Agency, Kristy Hunter is here to share her thoughts on querying. 

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
We monitor the submissions inbox very closely year around. The one exception is the week between Christmas and New Year’s—we still check the inbox, but our office is officially closed that whole week. As a result, our response time may not be as fast as normal.

Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?
You’d be surprised at how many simple errors we see in query letters. Occasionally, it can make us wonder just how much time was spent pulling the project together. That said? We are all human. We all make typos now and then. If your writing is strong and your premise is right up our alley, are we going to let one little misplaced comma stand in our way of reading more? Probably not—but you should still proofread.

Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
I check them all. In addition to be an associate agent, I also act as The Knight Agency’s submissions coordinator. I preview all submissions before they are forwarded on to the appropriate agent.

How important are comp titles? Is it something you want to see in a query?
I wouldn’t say they are a must, but I do appreciate when thoughtful comp titles are included in a query.  They can provide me with a good idea of what to expect from your project and also with some early ideas of how it could be positioned in the marketplace. On top of that, comps can be an excellent way to show me that you truly know the genre you are writing. The trick is really finding the right comp titles. I generally find that something both recent and realistic works best.

Some agencies mention querying only one agent at a time and some say query only one agent period. How often do you pass a query along to a fellow agent who might be more interested?
One of my favorite things about The Knight Agency is how collaborative our work process is. We all have fairly unique tastes and, because of that, we are very quick to share a project that may be better suited for someone else’s list. That’s why we state on our website that there is no need to query multiple agents. If it’s better suited for another agent, we make sure they have a chance to review it before we respond.


Most agents have said they don’t care whether the word count/genre sentence comes first or last. But is it a red flag if one component is not included?
I’m not really a stickler for where this information needs to appear—at the end or the beginning. Either works for me. But yes, it does need to be included and I will most likely take it as a red flag if it isn’t.


Many agents say they don't care if writers are active online. Could a twitter account or blog presence by a writer tip the scales in getting a request or offer? And do you require writers you sign to start one?
I think having an online platform is always smart. I don’t require that anyone start any sort of online account just because they sign with me. There are some people who are truly afraid to put themselves out there online and I would never force them to do so. But agents and publishers see a strong online platform as an easy way for an author to reach their target audience—which, in theory, could help with book sales down the road. I absolutely wouldn’t turn down a project I loved just because an author wasn’t active online, but I do see having an online presence, especially a significant one, as a benefit in this day and age.

Some writers have asked about including links to their blogs or manuscript-related artwork. I’m sure it’s not appropriate to add those links in a query, but are links in an email signature offensive?
If an author has a website, blog or twitter handle, they should definitely feel free to include those items in their signature. In fact, I would encourage this as I often check out these items once a project piques my interest.

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
I prefer that the query letter be both professional and to-the-point. Your query letter is an opportunity to make a strong first impression. I find that humor is very hard to translate through email—especially when you are talking to someone you’ve never met. Better to be safe. Also, keep in mind that we literally see hundreds of queries a day. If I have to dig too hard to figure out what your project is about, I may assume it’s not for me.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to read any personal information at all.  A short bio (2-3 sentences max) is always appreciated--especially if where you work/live/grew up somehow influenced your work. 


What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes?
I love a wide range of books and it’s always a challenge to narrow it down to just a few. Recently, I read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir which just blew me away. I’m always looking to acquire strong YA projects. Some of my favorite reads include Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins and I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. I’m continually drawn to upmarket women’s fiction that has a strong sense of place or time, such as The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. For Middle Grade, I’m on the hunt for heartfelt novels that deal with evolving friendships, such as The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, or something that features some sort of club or secret society. I’m also a huge fan of romance—both contemporary and historical—and one of my all-time favorites is The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Another book that blew me away recently? Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma. I absolutely fell in love with the writing.

Kristy Hunter joined The Knight Agency in 2014. With a degree in Women & Gender Studies and English Literature from Vanderbilt University, Kristy moved to New York City immediately after graduation to try her hand at publishing. She completed the Columbia Publishing Course and worked in the city for several years—first at Grove/Atlantic and then at Random House Children’s Books—before deciding it was time to make the move back down south. She now takes advantage of her new surroundings by being outside as much as possible with her dog.

Kristy is currently accepting submissions from a wide variety of genres, including women’s fiction, mystery, historical romance, romance, young adult, and middle grade.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Giveaway of Race Car Dreams



After a day at the track of zipping and zooming, a race car is tired and ready for bed. He washes his rims, fills his tummy with oil, and chooses a book that is all about speed. All toasty and warm, he drifts off to sleep, he shifts into gear . . . and dreams of the race!

You might remember Sharon Chriscoe, my co-host for picture book party. Her book Race Car Dreams has released and there is a nice giveaway for it over on Goodreads. I hope you'll enter to win this bright and colorful story and help support Sharon. 


Monday, September 19, 2016

Query Questions with Jennifer Soloway




Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.

Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a series called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers from the real expert--agents!

Query Questions is back with a fresh set of questions and more agents. The people have spoken and let me know which questions should stay and which could go. We've got a few brand new situations that writers would like clarified.

I'm so happy to have Jennifer Soloway from Andrea Brown Literary Agency today to share her thoughts on querying. 

1. Is there a better or worse time of year to query?

Please query me anytime. I am actively building my list, and I read and consider every submission I receive. My hope is to find a great new project. 
2. Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?

I always read the sample pages. For me, what matters most is the writing and story. If you can raise a question in my mind (or better yet, two or three questions) that captivates my curiosity, I will request the manuscript so I can find out what happens next.  
3. How open are you to writers who have never been published?

Open! I'd love to find an unknown and introduce that writer to the world!
4. The dreaded rhetorical question in a query. Are they as taboo as the rumors say?

A rhetorical question isn't a deal killer for me, but I don't think it's necessarily the best way to pitch a project. I'd rather be tantalized with a conflict or problem that I'm curious to see unfold.
5. How important are comp titles? Is it something you want to see in a query? Are movie/tv reference okay as comp titles?

Comp titles are great and can be very helpful to set the tone for a project. I use them when I pitch to editors. Movie/TV references are fun too. For example, if you were to say, "BLACK SWAN meets ROSEMARY'S BABY," I would request it right away!
6. Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter or would you rather hear about the manuscript?

Personalized chit chat is nice, but I really want to hear about the manuscript. Let me know the category (picture book, middle grade, young adult, thriller, psychological horror, etc.), the word count, and a brief pitch about the book. Raise a question in my mind. Hook me with a great premise. Make me want to read your book!
7. How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?

Our agency receives hundreds of queries a day. I read and consider everything that comes into my query box. I am very open and actively building my list, and I have been requesting quite a few projects with the hopes of finding clients. Today I went to a conference and heard some terrific pitches. I requested four full manuscripts and a number of partials. I can't wait to start reading their work! 
8. How do you feel about writers nudging on full/partial requests? At what point is it appropriate?  

I don't mind a gentle nudge after a month. I always try to respond within 6-8 weeks, but occasionally, I do get backlogged with my reading, because I am focused on work for my current clients. When I do fall behind, I try to reach out to those writers to let them know I'm behind but that I'm still reading their work. I appreciate their patience and understanding. 
9. When a writer nudges with an offer, what length of time is helpful to give you enough time to consider? A week? Two weeks?

Two weeks is ideal for me. When I make an offer to a client, I always suggest writers take two weeks to consider their options before giving me a final answer. I want to make sure they have enough time to make an educated decision. My goal is to have a long career with my clients. I want really want to the partnership be a good fit.   
10. Many agents say they don't care if writers are active online. Could a twitter account or blog presence by a writer tip the scales in getting a request or offer? And do you require writers you sign to start one?

I think it's wonderful is a writer is active on social media, but it wouldn't necessarily sway me either way.  I am most interested in story and strong writing. If I like a project, I will request it. And then if I fall in love with the project, I will make an offer of representation. 
11. If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested? Does it make a difference if the changes are from an R&R with another agent?

We have seen amazing transformations in prospective client's work when they revise and resubmit, which is why we suggest to writers, "if the work is significantly revised, you may resubmit it after 6 months." If a writer wishes to revise and resubmit to me six months after first querying me, I would be delighted to consider the revised submission.
12. What themes are you sick of seeing?

I'm really open to anything. I love a good story, and if the writing is strong with a great premise and fascinating characters, I'll read any theme. 
13. Do you look at trends or editor wish lists when deciding to sign a manuscript?

Part of being a good agent is knowing the market and the types of projects editors are buying. I regularly talk to editors to find out their tastes and wish lists. Those wish lists are always on my mind as I read a submission, but I am also looking for that fresh new idea or voice that I haven't heard before. I'd love to find the project that will launch a new trend.
14. Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent? Does a manuscript have to be sub-ready or will you sign stories that need work?

A submission doesn't have to be perfect or sub-ready, but I want to see a manuscript that has been developed over the course of several rounds of revision.  I am a very hands-on, editorial agent, and I am looking for writers who are willing to work hard with me to produce their best work possible. I think the revision process is magical. It brings me great joy to help writers elevate their work. When I go out with a project to editors, I want to put our best foot forward. 
15. What is your biggest query pet peeve? Is there anything that automatically sinks a query for you?

I don't really have query pet peeves, although I suppose it's a bit of a turn off when a writer tells me how great their project is. Don't tell me it's great. Let me read it and then tell you it's great. 
15. What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
Psychological horror that blurs the lines between the real with the imagined. I love the question: Is it real or is it all in my head?

Action-packed thrillers and mysteries, full of unexpected twists

Literary stories about ordinary people, especially those focused on family, relationships, sexuality, mental illness, or addiction. 

A spooky middle grade ghost story 

Laugh out loud funny picture books.

Oops, that's five

16. What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes? 

This is always such a hard question for me, because I read a lot and my taste is eclectic. Here are some favorites off the top of my head:

Picture Books: BIG PLANS, by Bob Shea, illustrated by Lane Smith; CREEPY CARROTS, by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown; GRACE FOR PRESIDENT, by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Middle Grade: The KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES Series, by Shannon Messenger; THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS, by John Bellairs (which I just reread and still love! I'd love to find a modern day version!)

Young Adult: THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, by Sherman Alexi; THE CURE FOR DREAMING. by Cat Winters; PEAS AND CARROTS, by Tanita S. Davis; THE SCORIO RACES, by Maggie Stiefvater; NIGHT SPEED, by Chris Howard; THE MARBURY LENS, by Andrew Smith; and anything by Judy Blume!

Adult: I love Tana French. I've read all of her work, and I especially loved THE SECRET PLACE. I'm also a die-hard fan of Donald Ray Pollock. THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME is a masterpiece. I think he's brilliant! And no one writes conspiracy thrillers like Barry Eisler. THE GOD'S EYE VIEW is a a fun, fast, tense read!  

Film: The best movie I saw last year was a Columbian film, EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT. It should have won the Oscar for best foreign film! And IT FOLLOWS is one of my most favorite horror movies. I'd love to find a YA horror like IT FOLLOWS! 

TV: I am really into MR. ROBOT right now, and I can't get enough of THE AMERICANS. I also love comedies: MASTER OF NONE, YOUNGER, TEACHERS, BLACKISH, and BROOKLYN NINE NINE.

Jennifer works closely with Executive Agent Laura Rennert. She enjoys all genres and categories, such as laugh-out-loud picture books and middle-grade adventures, but her sweet spot is young adult. 
Jennifer is a suspense junkie. She adores action-packed thrillers and mysteries, full of unexpected twists. Throw in a dash of romance, and she’s hooked! She’s a sucker for conspiracy plots where anyone might be a double agent, even the kid next door. She is a huge fan of psychological horror that blurs the lines between the real and the imagined. But as much as she loves a good thriller, she finds her favorite novels are literary stories about ordinary teens, especially those focused on family, relationships, sexuality, mental illness, or addiction. In such stories, she is particularly drawn to a close, confiding first-person narrative.

Prior to joining ABLA, Jennifer worked in marketing and public relations in a variety of industries, including financial services, health care, and toys. She has an MFA in English and Creative Writing from Mills College, and was a fellow at the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto in 2012. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, their two sons, and an English bulldog.  


Friday, September 16, 2016

Cover Reveal for BEFORE TOMORROW

I am so excited to share with you the cover reveal for BEFORE TOMORROW by fellow Pitchwars mentor Pintip Dunn, a FORGET TOMORROW novella from Logan's POV!


before-tomorrow







Title: Before Tomorrow
Publisher: Entangled TEEN
Release Date: Oct. 31, 2016

In a world where all seventeen-year-olds receive a memory from their future selves, Logan Russell's vision is exactly as he expects—and exactly not. He sees himself achieving his greatest wish of becoming a gold-star swimmer, but strangely enough, the vision also shows him locking eyes with a girl from his past, Callie Stone, and experiencing an overwhelming sense of love and belonging.

Logan’s not sure what the memory means, but soon enough, he learns that his old friend Callie is in trouble. She’s received an atypical memory, one where she commits a crime in the future. According to the law, she must be imprisoned, even though she's done nothing wrong. Now, Logan must decide if he'll give up his future as a gold-star swimmer and rescue the literal girl of his dreams. All he'll have to do is defy Fate.

Add BEFORE TOMORROW on Goodreads!

But what if you don't want to wait until Oct. 31?


No problem. Pre-order REMEMBER YESTERDAY, book 2 in the FORGET TOMORROW series, and register your receipt here, and you'll receive a copy of BEFORE TOMORROW to read before anyone else! Plus, U.S. residents will also get a bookplate and bookmark!


Want to learn more about FORGET TOMORROW and REMEMBER YESTERDAY? Click here.
REMEMBER YESTERDAY buy links:
Pintip cropped


Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL.

Pintip is represented by literary agent Beth Miller of Writers House. Her debut novel, FORGET TOMORROW, won the RWA RITA® for Best First Book. Her other novels include THE DARKEST LIE and the forthcoming REMEMBER YESTERDAY. She lives with her husband and children in Maryland. You can learn more about Pintip and her books at www.pintipdunn.com.



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Getting the Call and Happy Release Day with Liana Brooks

Funny Call story or reason to bury your face in a pillow and scream your head off. I'll let you be the judge. :-)  Either way enjoy and congratulate Liana on her release day!


Did you hear the one about the author who forgot the title of the book she was querying?

Now, that’s a funny story…

Way back in the day I wrote a book I titled JANE DOE. I loved that title! It worked well for the book and I queried it under that title. And that query got nowhere.

So, like every author desperate to get a bite on a query, I rewrote that little sucker. I rewrote it, and edited it, and rewrote it again. In the rewrite the query just happened to end with the words, “… the day before.” It was kind of catchy, so I put it in all caps and pretended that this was the title of my book and all of this was intentional.

____________________________________________________________________


 A body is found in the Alabama wilderness. The question is: 

Is it a human corpse … or is it just a piece of discarded property? 

Agent Samantha Rose has been exiled to a backwater assignment for the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation, a death knell for her career. But then Sam catches a break—a murder—that could give her the boost she needs to get her life back on track. There's a snag, though: the body is a clone, and technically that means it's not a homicide. And yet, something about the body raises questions, not only for her, but for coroner Linsey Mackenzie.

The more they dig, the more they realize nothing about this case is what it seems … and for Sam, nothing about Mac is what it seems, either.

This case might be the way out for her, but that way could be in a bodybag.

______________________________________________________________


And then I promptly forgot that I had changed the title.

Fast forward a few months (and one revise-and-resubmit) and an email showed up one evening with the subject line: The Day Before- Marlene.

The entirety of the email was something along the lines of, “You did. Let’s talk.”

I almost deleted the email.

What had I done? What was this about the day before? Had something happened yesterday? I had no idea.

Three hours later, I realized Marlene was talking about JANE DOE! She wanted to talk about my book!

I was over the moon. This was it. My big break. THE CALL.

Everything was set up for a Monday morning phone call. I had my list of questions to ask, my phone was charged, the kids were in the basement play room watching My Little Pony… and we ran out of something. Cereal or diapers or something we could absolutely not live without.

There was a full hour between when Marlene was supposed to call and that moment, and the grocery store was five minutes away. My phone’s battery had been on the fritz, so I left it at home to charge, ran to the store, came home, and set everything back up again.

 9:06 A.M. … My phone was upstairs charging, and I felt calm and in control.

Then I looked at the clock again, remembered that Marlene lives in Florida which is an hour ahead of where I was in the Midwest, and ran upstairs.

Yeah.... two missed phone calls.

I had an agent who wanted to talk representation, and I missed her phone calls. Not so professional.
I panicked. Wouldn’t you? She’d tried to call me twice and I’d flaked on her!

After about five minutes, I calmed down, and realized there was still a chance. A million-to-one, last desperate chance to secure my agent. Shaking, I called Marlene Stringer back…

She, being the most wonderful agent on the face of the earth, forgave me. We laughed about the mistake. I learned to always verify time zones. And JANE DOE/THE DAY BEFORE had a champion in the publishing world.


THE DAY BEFORE was sold in a 3-book deal to David Pomerico of HarperVoyager, and released May 2015. The last book in the trilogy is coming out September 13, 2016. Look for DECOHERENCE everywhere ebooks are sold, and watch for the print edition in October 2016. 





Readers of Blake Crouch's DARK MATTER and Wesely Chu's TIME SALVAGER will love Liana Brooks' DECOHERENCE--the thrilling, time-bending conclusion to the Time & Shadow series!
Samantha Rose and Linsey MacKenzie have established an idyllic life of married bliss in Australia, away from the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation, away from mysterious corpses, and—most of all—away from Dr. Emir’s multiverse machine.
But Sam is a detective at heart, and even on the other side of the world, she can’t help wonder if a series of unsolved killings she reads about are related—not just to each other, but to the only unsolved case of her short career.
She knows Jane Doe’s true name, but Sam never discovered who killed the woman found in an empty Alabama field in spring of 2069. She doesn’t even know which version of herself she buried under a plain headstone.
When Mac suddenly disappears, Sam realizes she is going to once more be caught up in a silent war she still doesn’t fully understand. Every step she takes to save Mac puts the world she knows at risk, and moves her one step closer to becoming the girl in the grave.


Links:


Liana Brooks write sci-fi and crime fiction for people who like happy endings. She believes in time travel to the future, even if it takes a good book and all night to get there. When she isn’t writing, Liana hikes the mountains of Alaska with her family and giant dog. Find her at LianaBrooks.com or on Twitter as @LianaBrooks

Monday, September 12, 2016

Query Questions with Renee Nyen






Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.

Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a series called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers from the real expert--agents!

Query Questions is back with a fresh set of questions and more agents. The people have spoken and let me know which questions should stay and which could go. We've got a few brand new situations that writers would like clarified.

Here today is Renee Nyen from KT Literary. Renee is looking for YA and MG, find her full wishlist here.


Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
Not particularly. Sometimes I'm farther behind than others. But that's no one's fault but my own.

Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
I read at least the first paragraph of probably 75% of the queries that come into my inbox. I really ascribe to the "content is King" school of thought. Novelists write novels. Writing a query is a different kind of writing. It's important for novelists to learn query writing, but I recognize the jump between disciplines can be difficult. So if I liked the premise, I usually read a few lines no matter what shape the query is in.

How open are you to writers who have never been published?
I love debut authors! Publishers tend to prefer it! Not that I can't sell a previously published author, but then the editor has to have the conversation of "low previous sales numbers" when I'm trying to negotiate more money. So "debut novelist" is a really advantageous place to be! (Even if you're querying your 3rd or 4th manuscript!)

The dreaded rhetorical question in a query. Are they as taboo as the rumors say?
Yes. Just. Yes. So much yes. Here's why:

It's a lazy way of trying to garner an emotional connection from your reader. And it almost immediately makes me think the writer might cut corners in the manuscript, too. By asking "What would you do if everyone you ever loved turned into a zombie?" a writer hopes I'm picturing my husband looking a little green, staggering around, and trying to eat my brains. But that's not the purpose of a query. I want to know what your main character does when, presumably, their family becomes zombies!


How important are comp titles? Is it something you want to see in a query? Are movie/tv reference okay as comp titles?
Comp titles are a lot of fun for me! I'm a sucker for a great comp combo. I like to see one or two books in your genre from a big house published in the last year or two. But after that, get creative! Like "The shifting reality of Claudia Gray's A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU with the high-stakes race plotline of Ryan Graudin's WOLF BY WOLF" or "The Breakfast Club meets EVERYTHING LEADS TO YOU" or "AND I DARKEN meets Game of Thrones". Ok, now I'm just creating a wish list. But you get the picture.


Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
I understand it can feel weird to dive into a query with no preamble, but go for it! We both know why you're in my inbox--I can get your manuscript in front of editors. That's why we're both there. If I love your query, your pages, and your manuscript, then I will ask why you wrote the manuscript and where you see your career going.

If you want to mention my favorite band or a favorite TV show we have in common, it never hurts. Or telling me why you chose to query me. But it isn't necessary. For me, social media is the best place for personal connection! (Shameless Twitter plug: Follow me! @ me! Send me Supernatural gifs. @Renee_Nyen I like seeing familiar social media faces in my query inbox.)


How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?
It depends. I've had as many as 200 in a week. But mostly, its about 30-50. I will usually look pretty closely at 25% of the queries in my inbox. Probably requesting partials for 1-3 per week.

How do you feel about writers nudging on full/partial requests? At what point is it appropriate?
I'm not going to say you can't nudge. But I am going to say it doesn't make me read faster. I'm (almost) always aware of what's in my inbox. And if I haven't gotten to your submission, I intend to. That said, if I put out a "I'm all caught up!" tweet, and you haven't received a response? Absolutely follow up. Via email. Please. Nudges on Twitter or, worse, anonymously via Tumblr are not my favorite.

When a writer nudges with an offer, what length of time is helpful to give you enough time to consider? A week? Two weeks?
Usually I see two weeks. That's pretty industry standard. Just be polite and communicative and you'll be fine!

Many agents say they don't care if writers are active online. Could a twitter account or blog presence by a writer tip the scales in getting a request or offer? And do you require writers you sign to start one?
I don't require an author be active online, but if I'm trying to get a sense of someone (especially if I love their pages/partial) it's really frustrating if I can't find them on social media. How else will I internet stalk them? :) It doesn't tip the scales in either direction for me, personally, but I love when writers provide me with their Twitter handle in a query.

I encourage my clients to at least have the social media set up. It's not necessary, but it's a useful tool, and usually one that editors and publicists ask about. And find what works for you. If you have a happy little corner of Tumblr, no need to dump all your efforts into Twitter. Social media works best when there is genuine connection with people. And that connection will work best if you're comfortable with the platforrm. So find what you like and go for it! There's no wrong time to start building relationships!

If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested? Does it make a difference if the changes are from an R&R with another agent?
I prefer to only see the query once. Even if you've overhauled it. Typically even a huge overhaul isn't going to change the mechanics of your query too much. So, I say don't switch out at the query level. If it's requested material, give me an FYI. If I'm interested, I'll ask for the update. If not, it's a good way to nudge an agent into a response without actually nudging them. :)

What themes are you sick of seeing?
The dead parent/best friend trope is incredibly overwrought in YA. Grief is a formative human experience, especially during adolescence, but it takes a very special grief story for me to connect with it. I also HATE the vacuous, gregarious, shop-a-holic, sex-crazed best friend trope. Hate. Especially when they drag the main character to a party in the first three chapters. That's not a meaningful relationship, that's a plot device with a name and, likely, a drinking problem. I've seen a huge shift to deep, genuine friendships in YA and I'm really loving it! Teens are complicated, and some of them like to party, but I like seeing the other side, too!

Do you look at trends or editor wishlists when deciding to sign a manuscript?
Do I sign books specifically to fulfill an editor wishlist? No. I have to sign a book because I love it. Not because I think someone else will.

Am I very aware of it while I'm putting together pitches for editors and building sub lists? Absolutely!


Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent? Does a manuscript have to be sub-ready or will you sign stories that need work?
I got into publishing on the editorial side, so I'm very editorially minded. I want my clients to get the best contract possible. If that means we put in a little bit of editorial work before hand, I'm happy to do that!

What is your biggest query pet peeve? Is there anything that automatically sinks a query for you?
I don't like when writers use weird fonts and formatting. It detracts from your content. This goes for your manuscript, too. Just one font in one size, please. If you are really compelled, you can use all caps for character names in your synopsis, but that's it.
Also, please don't pitch the second, third, or fourth book in a series. Or a self published book. Getting a publisher to jump in mid-stream on something like that is pretty rare. Publishers like their intellectual property to be unencumbered by any other contracts.


Finally, queries written in first person "by" the main character are a big no for me. Even if your book is very voicey and in first person, I prefer to see the traditional query format.


What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
I'm a huge SFF fan. The farther from our world, the better. And I've been reading a lot of historical YA lately and loving it. Magical Realism seems to be a pretty regular thing on everyone's wish list lately, and I'm no exception.

Also, someone, feel free to write me that Kiersten White/Game of Thrones mash-up I pitched earlier, ok?!

That said, Any YA or MG can turn my head if I connect with the characters and the writing!




Several years in the editorial department at Random House’s Colorado division provided Renee with the opportunity to work with bestselling and debut authors alike. After leaving Random House, she came to KT Literary in early 2013. She loves digging into manuscripts and helping the author shape the best story possible. Though this is great for her profession, it tends to frustrate people watching movies with her. With a penchant for depressing hipster music and an abiding love for a good adventure story, Renee is always looking for book recommendations. Even if that means creeping on people reading in public. Which she does frequently. She makes her home in Arizona with her husband, and their two children.