This post is for all you fantasy writers currently querying to give you some insight into why it can be so difficult to land a fantasy project with an agent. While romance has the biggest market share, it often seems like fantasy is the most popular genre to write and that is part of what makes it so tough on the traditional side. I’m going to cover stats, inbox trends, the market, and what I’m looking for.
When it comes to my slush inbox, and probably most inboxes of other agents who represent fantasy, fantasy tends to dominate numbers wise. For example my next most popular genre right now is historical since I did several contests for it in May (this may actually be skewing my historical stats higher than usual) and I’m pretty vocal about my love for the genre. I took stats from recent queries to show you just how far my slush skews fantasy. In that time that it took me to get 192 historical queries these last few months across adult and YA, I got 168 adult fantasy queries and another 161 in young adult. So together that’s 329 queries versus 192. The next highest genre was science fiction at 126 queries. All other genres I accept in that same period of time got less than 100 queries. Continue reading “Fantasy Slush: The Current State”
I often see a lot of confusion from authors regarding referrals and I see them used wrong all the time in queries. The query software I use has a box for referrals and I think that makes authors feel pressured to provide one. I often find myself considering getting rid of it because the majority of people who use the referral box do so incorrectly, making it kind of useless to me. My original intent was to use it to bring actual referrals to my attention quicker, but that hasn’t worked. So let’s cover referrals, what they are, how to use them, and what to avoid.
While some agents may hold different opinions, when it comes to referrals I want them to be from someone who actually knows me. Someone whose name I will recognize instead of going “who?” This generally means clients and other agents or editors I’ve worked with or any other publishing professionals I’ve met personally. Sometimes If I meet an author via an event I might ask them to include that even in the referral box to remind myself of where I requested from. Referrals are also different from someone simply suggesting you query me. Referrals are rare, which is what gives them more sway, but they don’t necessarily increase your odds of getting an offer. The writing itself is what I will make my decision on with or without a referral. Plus referrals give me higher expectations going into the query and sample compared to the average query and that can be hard to meet. Continue reading “Referrals”
I get a lot of queries from self-published authors. I want to discuss what I personally look for in hybrid authors as an agent as well as some querying advice for hybrid authors. I have made offers to hybrid authors in the past and likely will again. I also expect the number of hybrid authors to grow since I think that is the direction the industry is headed in and for the better. Authors need more options outside of traditional houses because frankly as an agent I see too many great books go unpublished.
Let’s start with the biggest and most common mistake I see. I get a lot of queries from authors who decided to self-publish but did zero marketing and in many cases didn’t hire an editor or have a professional cover made. They made very few sales and disappointed, decided to try for an agent next. Most agents won’t be interested in these books and if my slush is any indication we get a lot of them. Putting your book on Amazon isn’t enough to sell copies. You need to be willing to market no matter which route you choose.
As an agent I can tell you it’s hard to sell already published books to editors unless they are selling very well, by which I mean thousands of copies and not hundreds. Any other book I’d rather see before it’s published. I’d rather try to sell an editor on a clean slate than a book already published to poor sales. Sure the lack of marketing may be the culprit, but how can editors know for sure? In the end they care about numbers, not excuses. If you want to self-publish commit yourself to putting out a quality product and that means you need to think beyond the writing. Studying marketing is just as important as studying writing. Continue reading “Querying: Hybrid Authors”
When I joined D4EO agency it gave me the opportunity to very excitedly switch over to QueryManger instead of using an email inbox. QueryManager will be known as Qm from now on and no that lack of space in the middle of the name is not a typo. The software is named QueryManager and if you don’t believe me check their website. Qm is how the logo shows up when I use the software. I’ve been with several agencies between interning, assisting, and agenting and I’ve seen many different query inbox systems. Qm is by far my favorite. However I get a lot of confused messages from authors about Qm, and so I’m going to discuss how I use Qm as an agent and clear up some confusion, including the fact that no, you can’t add indents to your query since it uses block formatting. The amount of messages I received about that when I first switched over to Qm surprised me.
What I love most about Qm is how organized it is. And since it has all my queries and requests, it keeps everything in one place instead of getting requests lost beneath dozens of other emails. Qm also hides my email and uses it’s own to send from, which cuts down on submission emails to my agency email and keeps my amount of emails under control. I think it’s important to note Qm is not designed to be messaging back and forth with authors, something I learned from experience. It’s set up to make it easy to reject or request and once we know we want to offer it’s assumed we will switch to email, which is what I do. Unfortunately that also makes it hard to respond to questions from authors so please just follow the submission guidelines and if you have questions about representation save it for when/if I offer since we will have a chat when I offer. If I have questions I will shoot you an email. Continue reading “QueryManger and Queries”
After my latest conference taking pitches from authors, I had some thoughts I wanted to share. Most queries to me end up as a rejection, and unfortunately that includes ones received from conferences. However that doesn’t mean pitching an agent can’t be worthwhile. For those who view agents as the scary gatekeepers, this is also your chance to see that we are real people too. And as an agent I enjoy getting the chance to talk to authors and hopefully be of some help. Publishing is a tough industry and I wish I could help more authors out, but my time is limited and my clients come first. Luckily I can give out tips on my blog!
In my experience a lot of people get nervous pitching face to face. The pitches usually aren’t as succinct as queries either. I tend to like to see the queries afterward because I don’t like to judge by a nervous pitch unless I know the overall concept definitely isn’t for me. My advice is don’t see that pitch to an agent as a make-or-break moment for your book and instead view it as an opportunity to practice pitching your work and getting to ask questions. Once you’re a published author you will get people asking what your book is about and if you can give a good pitch you might be able to convert curious people into future readers. You also may wind up in other networking positions where being able to pitch your book will help you. Continue reading “Pitching at Conferences”
Sometimes authors have no idea how many queries agents or how we choose projects. I wanted to do a compilation of some 2018 stats and what I saw that I liked and didn’t like in queries along with a few things to keep an eye out for when you query literary agents in 2019 to improve your chances. These stats focus on fiction since fiction dominated my slush. Going into 2019 I plan to hunt down some great nonfiction projects.
First of all, I got hundreds of queries this year even with only opening to queries in September. November was my busiest query month with 252 queries. Things slowed down in December to about 190 queries. This was likely due to many other agents closing for the month and people taking a break for the holidays. This is what makes it hard to stand out in the slush, the sheer number of subs agents receive. Make sure your query is on point before sending it out. I saw a lot of queries that left out stakes or got too convoluted or even focused on themes instead of plot or left out the plot altogether. Avoid these mistakes because they make a project easy to pass on. Continue reading “2018 Query Round Up”
If you are in the query trenches you have my sympathy for how difficult the going can be. You should also make sure you only query an agent one project at a time. I get a lot of queries for a whole series (fantasy is the big offender for this) or an author pitching multiple books in the same query letter. Pitch one project at a time to an agent. I’m going to explain exactly why that is.
First off, I will more than likely only pitch one project of yours at a time. That means I need to know which project you are currently focusing on and want to sell. If you throw several at me, I don’t know which one you want to go up to bat with the most. It’s also more reading time not only to decide if I like your writing, but which project to sign. My time is limited when it comes to reading projects to sign clients, so I need to choose carefully. Having a whole series or several books to get through is a much larger time investment than looking at one project and unless I’m in love with a concept the time investment makes it easy to pass. Continue reading “Query One Project at a Time”