Happy fall, everybody! Hope you all had productive summers filled with mountains of writing, which you will polish to a shine and then query me about.
After my last post about closing to queries, I wanted to thank you all for going along with this kooky adventure. I was shocked by a couple of things:
- How well the vast majority of people honored the request. I deleted maybe 30 emails a week, which is a bit less than a tenth of the queries I’d usually be getting.
- How extremely rejuvenating it was, but not for the reason I expected. Yes, it was nice to not have an extra to-do at the end of the work day, but it is also really lovely to not have to tell people, many of whom have done everything exactly right, “thanks but no thanks” 300x a week.
- How much it helped me get caught up (or at least something like swinging distance to caught up).
But I’m open again now, and although my list is of a satisfying size and shape, I think it’s important to be open as much as I possibly can because so many of my wonderful clients did come to me first via query.
I’m not requesting as much right now–out of the 400 or so that came in between Tues and Friday I made 4 requests–which means I’m also acutely aware that I’m declining to see likely-publishable projects that are just not the right complement to what I do best. Good queries, probably good books, just not right for me right now, which means the response is still a no. I know it’s hard out there on the receiving end of those letters, and with so much talk about “rejection” on the internet, I sometimes wish that we could talk in terms of “decline” rather than “reject.” There’s no moral judgment here, just an opportunity I won’t be part of.
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Sabbatical (from Latin sabbaticus, from Greek sabbatikos, from Hebrew shabbat, i.e., Sabbath, literally a “ceasing”): a rest from work, or a hiatus, often lasting from two months to a year.
I’m not interpreting “sabbatical” in the literal sense of a year, but I (Holly) am going to take a query sabbatical. I have found so many of my wonderful authors through queries and I am a huge believer in keeping those channels open. But I also know that rest is restorative, and so in the interest of catching up, getting a clean slate for Fall, and preventing query burnout, I am going to be closed to queries from July 15—September 6.
If you’re waiting to hear from me on a partial or full, the goal is to reply to everyone by Sept 6th–and if you haven’t heard from me on requested materials (full or partial manuscripts I specifically requested, not queries) by Aug 15, please check in!
If you’re waiting to query me, you can do so in the next week (if you’re ready) or I’ll look forward to hearing from you after Labor Day.
The rest of Team Waxman–Scott, Byrd, and Farley–remain open to queries. And because I adore you, blog readers, I even got the skinny on what they’re dying to see (or seeing too much of!) right. this. minute:
If you have a great thriller, Scott is very actively looking for them, so it’s a good time to try him.
Farley’s wish list right now includes natural history & science, humor and pop culture.
And Byrd is NOT looking to represent projects in SF/F, YA or children’s.
Submissions details for all three available here.
Have a wonderful summer!
Filed under: Holly Root | 4 Comments
I did a quick round of #askagent on Twitter recently (if you search for #askagent on Twitter, you will find a veritable treasure trove of info from a ton of different agents) and I had a couple that came in after I’d left. Thought I’d go ahead and answer them here:
Q. If an agent asks an author to tell her about herself without requesting pages, should author send pages anyway?
A. My guess would be that this would happen for nonfiction, where platform is key. If you have a good idea, but don’t have the credentials and/or visibility & access to your target audience (what we call platform), unfortunately it’s challenging to find a publisher. So I can imagine, if you were pitching a nonfiction book and the query focused on a really terrific idea but lacked info about who you are and why you are the perfect authority to write this book, asking to know more about you.
If it happened with a novel, then….your guess is as good as mine! When it comes to novelists, if you are brilliant and your book makes me cry, or laugh, or just feel a lot, I don’t necessarily need to know more.
Q. How do you transition from “Hi, my name is…” to your pitch when meeting an agent IRL (at a conference, for example)?
A. Depends on the setting. If you’re in a pitch appointment, where everyone involved has a limited window of time and the point is pitching, it’s perfectly fine to say, “Hi, I’m X. My current project is…” and just launch right in. I’m also fine with a little small talk before, I really try to follow the writer’s lead. It’s an unnatural situation, I know it feels very pressured, and I just want the person across the table to feel as comfortable as possible.
If it’s not a pitch session, if you are just kicking around the hotel bar and encounter an agent in the wild, as it were, then it’s like any other social setting–follow the lead of those around you. Sometimes by the end of the day we’re so fried that being “on” and putting back on the pitch-catcher’s mask feels like climbing a mountain. Other times I know I’ve started a convo with “what do you write” to get it out there so everyone can relax and not worry about if they should pitch. If it doesn’t come up, and you’re planning to query the person, definitely mention that you chatted at XYZ event. I had a writer execute this perfectly after last year’s RWA national conference. She ended up hanging out with a group I was in one evening and she was delightful–kept it casual, interacted as though we were just two new acquaintances (which we were, after all!). Eventually I asked what she wrote, and she told me. Her project wasn’t ready then, but a couple months later she queried me, and mentioned the event and a unique accessory I’d complimented. I instantly knew who she was and remembered her positively; though I didn’t end up taking the project on, you never know and perhaps the next thing will be perfect. Either way, it was a great example of how to navigate that slightly tricky “pitch or no pitch?” pass.
Q. About how many queries/rejections do you think you should have before shelving a project, even if it’s had full requests?
A. It depends. Are you getting strong feedback that indicates you’re very close but there’s one issue at work? If three people said that they fell out of the book after X plot point, for instance, there’s a good place to start. If you’re getting full requests, your query and probably your first chapters are working for people. Is there a tonal shift at work? I sometimes see very breezy engaging queries for books that are tough and intense–tough to adjust my expectations in that situation, for example. But if you’re just getting “not right for me” or “too similar to something else on my list” or those kinds of responses, then it’s also possible you simply haven’t found the right fit yet. Consider getting a new beta reader (one who is fresh to the material and can give you a clean read) and see if something bubbles up. This is a very tricky piece of the puzzle, I know–but you must be doing something right to be nabbing those full requests. Best case scenario–your perfect agent is the next one on your list.
Filed under: Holly Root | 6 Comments
A note on submissions policy–I (Holly) have recently changed my submissions autoresponder. I’m still acknowledging receipt of all submissions (if you send to the submissions address: hollysubmit (at) waxmanagency dot com, you will get a confirmation; if you send to any other address it won’t kick in) but will only be responding if I want to see more materials.
I’m trying it out to see if it helps tighten up my response times on requested fulls & partials–it’ll take a bit of time for that to trickle down. If I am interested you’ll hear a response on your query within 2 weeks. And my goal is to be able to read your materials, should I request them, faster too.
And just for kicks, here’s my current wish list of fiction genres:
-Middle grade, all stripes
-YA (I like funny; if it’s going to be dark I tend to like more literary; open to paranormal, contemporary, you name it)
-Women’s fic, “book club” or very well executed commercial
I do rep romance, urban fantasy, and the occasional mystery. My bar for those is particularly high at the moment, but if in doubt, please do give me a try because I’m always happy to take a look at a query.
As always, thank you for sharing your queries with me–I take them very seriously, and have found (and still am finding!) great authors through queries, so it’s important to me to find ways to keep that line open.
Filed under: Holly Root | 13 Comments
I was recently out with an editor friend, Suzy Editor (which you will be surprised to know is not really her name) who works at one of the Big Six houses. As conversation among agents and editors tends to do, we turned to business, and specifically to that finest of fine lines, the line between assertively getting what you need from the house and becoming Authra, kaiju-author of dread and loathing.
See, publishing is an industry composed largely of arts-inclined people doing business, and at that a business that rises and falls on the creative output of authors, for whom nothing is more dear than said creative output. And everyone has opinions, lots of them, and also dreams and expectations of how it will be, accumulated over the 13 years it took to get to the point that someone finally says to you “here’s your cover art.” Which means stepped-on toes are virtually inevitable, and I would be shocked if there is a book in existence that nobody cried over at least once. So into this stew of already emotional water you add the limited resources of even the most on-it house, email’s inability to capture nuance, and the increasingly 24-7 nature of the business that means you might get emails from your editor at 6 am or your agent at 11. You can see that the opportunities to really, really stick your foot in it with your team are myriad.
Suzy Editor, I said, You are a very smart lady who people love to work with. (Seriously, I am not one for “dream agents” and “dream editors” and all but Suzy really does fit the bill.) Please, share your wisdom. What would you tell authors to do to avoid their emails setting their editors’ inboxes aflame, aside of course from running anything even slightly contentious by their agents first, who will hopefully be of the wise counsel variety and help prevent any unnecessary flamewars?
Suzy Editor replied with the following, which is genius:
I think it’s about picking your battles. Take cover consultation.
The reason an author frustrates the team in-house is not that she wants changes to the cover…it’s when she keeps adding on new changes in each iteration, and she doesn’t seem to care that that wastes time and money. Nor is she seeing the big picture of “the cover/copy/photo insert/whatever is a tool to SELL THE BOOK.”
So suddenly we’re all spending our days harping on the style of a border on one photo, haranguing people in other departments and holding up the cover, but why? We’re wasting our time, and it’s not helping her book.
Obviously, real problems should be addressed. I’d say there are three questions to be asked to avoid finding yourself in this category:
1) Was I honest to my agent/editor about my feelings? i.e., no fair hating your cover silently;
2) Did I speak up in a timely fashion so that changes can still be made? i.e, no retitling when the book is on press;
3) Will this change enable the book to sell enough additional copies to “earn out” the time & money & manpower it took to make the change?
If the answer to all three of those questions is “yes,” you are not being a diva.
Suzy Editor followed up my request to quote her on this with:
“Tell them I told it to you while weeping softly into a martini” and so in the interest of preserving publishing’s glam reputation, I comply.
In all seriousness, honesty, respect for others’ time, and thinking about the good of the book in the marketplace is advice that will pretty much never lead you astray. I’d add an additional caveat that you have to let the people on your team be good at what they are paid to do (otherwise why are you working with them?), and accepting that your process of publication won’t be exactly like what your friend/critique partner/Stephenie Meyer’s was like is also an excellent skill to cultivate as you enter the publishing process.
Filed under: Holly Root | 14 Comments
Here’s the basics on what is and isn’t a referral.
This is a referral: An agent’s client who says “Hey you should query my agent, and use my name.”
How to use it: In your query: “Client XYZ raves about you and suggested I try you with my novel, GENIUS WORK.”
This is not a referral: An agent’s client who you know on Twitter/blogs/writer’s group, but who has not offered to put you in touch with his or her agent.
How to use it: In your query: “I like your Client XYZ’s blog and am in Client ABC’s writer’s group, and so I wanted to be in touch about my novel SERIOUSLY IT’S AWESOME.” (Not a referral, not strictly necessary, but certainly doesn’t hurt, and can help personalize your query if that’s your bag.)
Referral: An editor I know emails me your ms, or an editor/film agent/etc I know emails me to see if I’d want to see your ms.
Not a referral: An “editorial service,” whose staff members I don’t know, provided a list of agent names. Apparently, this happens–but if you put this source in your query, that person’s name won’t mean anything to me. Save your money and visit QueryTracker or Agentquery or the site of your choice to do your own research.
Referral: Another agent suggests my name and says to say s/he sent you.
How to use it: Include pretty much exactly that in your query.
Not a referral: Another agent passes on your query.
How to use it: No quotes from someone else’s pass, no matter how complimentary. For more on this see Jessica’s smart post.
Not a referral: Finding an agent listed on an agent search site.
How to use it: You can mention where you saw the agent listed, if you’d like, but it’s not necessary for me, anyhow.
A referral, if you legitimately have one, is a lovely thing. But it’s not a golden ticket, and a “referral” from someone I don’t know, whose word has no weight with me, doesn’t help. I request materials from authors with no referral or connection all the time; you’re not down before you begin. So rather than trying to snag a referral (or worse yet, badgering someone so badly trying to get one that the author couldn’t say anything pleasant were their agent to ask), just focus on writing the best novel & query you can.
If the referrals come as a result of the relationships you’ve formed in the writing community in the meantime, great! You’ll do your referrers proud. And if they don’t, you’ll still have a strong query that will catch an agent’s eye, no introduction necessary.
Filed under: Holly Root | 13 Comments