Saturday, July 13, 2013

YA or adult?

hi, my question is about genre. yikes!! but anyway, i'm having trouble with this. all of my stories naturally open up to me with the main characters as young adults. i say naturally meaning i don't purposely make the main characters young, the stories always unfold that way. so young adult fiction right? not so fast. my stories are not necessarily geared to the issues that 13 to 21 year olds face and thats the only reason why i cant simply call them young adult fiction. so i dont know where my stories fit (genre wise). young mc's but not young adult issues. its like they are written for adults but with young mc's. any thoughts? thanks. 

Typically, if a protagonist is 13 to 21, then it will naturally draw (mostly) a YA audience. There of course are examples with crossover, such as the Hunger Games or Twilight, and of course it is great if your novel can crossover and reach all ages. But in my view you must appeal to your core audience first and foremost, especially if you want word of mouth to spread, and that tends to mean touching on issues that are important to them. So if you are drawn to write in that age range, then it would be ideal if you can touch on issues that are natural to them. If you cannot, then perhaps you should ask yourself why you are choosing that age range, and perhaps change the age. YA is a very strong market, so if you can appeal to that market, it is a plus.

Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule and a multitude of classical adult literary works that feature younger protagonists. So I cannot speak in absolutes. But as a rule of thumb, it is ideal to appeal to the core audience you are drawn to writing for.

Indemnity clauses

Hi Noah, What's the current state of the industry in regards to indemnity clauses in publishing contracts? In particular how often are these clauses "fair" (i.e. for breach of warranties only, indemnities only become active on final sustained judgment) and how often are these clauses "unfair" (i.e. indemnify for ALL claims, even frivolous ones). I ask because I've received a publishing contract with an indemnity clause which is, in my estimation, unfair. My agent says that's just the way it is now, but I'd like to be sure. 

I don't want to get into specifics in giving legal advice, but I will say this: if you are dealing with a major, reputable publisher, then in my experience, most of the time, boilerplate legal clauses such as the indemnity clause, tend to be boilerplate and major houses rarely modify them. So if you have a reputable agent and a major, reputable house, I wouldn't worry too much. The concern tends to escalate when you go with smaller or unknown houses or agents.

Is there a role for the agent in self publishing?

What role does your agent take on if you published your first book (with the agent;s help), but are choosing to self publish your second book?

This is an excellent question, and you have touched on what is probably THE question of our time.

As always, it depends on many factors. It depends primarily on who your agent is, and on the nature of your book. If your agent did well by you the first time around, and if your agent is well versed in the ebook world and will actively help you self publish and guide you through issues like tech issues, jacket art, title, synopsis, pricing, etailers, etc., and if he only wants to charge you the same standard 15% commission, then I would advise you stay with your agent. As a compromise, you might want to limit the term on the agreement to 1 or 2 or 3 years, since ebooks technically never go out of print--at which point you can mutually renew if he is doing well.

If your agent did a lousy job the first time and/or if your agent is out of touch with the ebook world and has nothing to offer you that you cannot do yourself, then there is no reason to use him. There is a broad spectrum of expertise among agents and ebooks: some can bring a tremendous amount to the table, and others will only get in your way. Ask him on what specifically he will give you that you cannot do yourself. Good ebook agents can make a big difference by guiding you through issues like title, length, plot, pricing, jacket art, etc. Bad agents cannot and may take a fee they don't deserve. Some authors will really need a lot more help, and others will not. Each case will be different.

Should I break up my long novel into several shorter novels?

I have completed and polished a 277,000 word manuscript of mature adult fiction. It is obviously large for one book, but I am unsure if I should break it into two or three smaller novels. Would I be wrong to offer it as one large submission to a literary agent and let their expertise determine the best way to handle the manuscript? 

A tough question to answer without actually reading the book. Of course, one can point to many longer novels throughout the course of history that needed to be as long as they were. But those tend to be the exception.

In general, the average novel is 75,000 words, so what you are proposing is nearly 4 times as long, with nearly 1,000 manuscript pages. This is sure to intimidate most agents so, especially given that it's a first novel and especially given it's genre (mature adult) I would indeed suggest breaking it into multiple works, each approximately 75,000 words, give or take. Of course you must find a natural place to break and begin each book. You may also find you need to add new chapters to end each book properly and/or to begin each new book properly.

Finally, because this is the mature adult genre, you may want to consider first trying to self publish as an ebook original and see how it performs. If the sales are astronomical, then you may decide not to find an agent. And if not, then you can always find an agent then. And if you break it into 4 books, then you will of course earn a far greater income.

How can I find an agent?

Thank you for your efforts to educate the unexperienced such as myself. Since YOU are not taking any new clients, can you direct me to one who has the intelligence that you seem to possess. I have two non fiction books that HAVE been self published, and have and still are selling with my own ISBN#s through Amazon & B&N on special order. But I know they would do great if handled by an agent who could get them published under the publishers ISBN and distributed professionally. The reviews for these books are amazing, and exclusive,by well known leaders of both industries. Your advice would be most appreciated 

As I have mentioned before, I have written several books on this topic which I give away for free: HOW TO WRITE A GREAT QUERY LETTER, and HOW TO LAND (AND KEEP) A LITERARY AGENT. Please visit and download the books for free, and you will find over 500 pages of information that will help you land an agent that is appropriate for your work.

Should I prod agents?

Hi! My question is about receiving editorial feedback from a prospective agent. If you speak to an agent on the phone and they send you detailed notes and ask that you revise and re-submit, is it appropriate to contact the other agents who have your full manuscript and let them know that you are doing an R &R? Or just say nothing and hope that they get back to you. I want to use the best professional etiquette. I have three fulls out there and am about to begin a revision and wondered if I should prod these other agents again or let it go. The other fulls have been out from 6 months to 3 months. Thanks! 

In general, an agent should respond to a query letter within 2-6 weeks, and to a 300 page manuscript within 8--12 weeks, or 16 at the most. If that time has come and gone, feel free to prod the agent.

In this specific case, I would not necessarily tell the other agents that you are revising, because, while it is hopeful, nothing has actually happened. The agent who likes it may still reject it. And if you force other agents hands with a tight deadline, and the original agent does not offer, then the other agents may think he didn't like your revision. Plus you don't want to bias them, to tell them that the work you first submitted needs, in one opinion, revision. Let them read and decide on their own--especially since hearing another agent wants a revision won't help land anyone else.

So just revise as requested, and continue to wait to hear from the others--unless the aforementioned time limit has passed, in which case prod them with a quick, general request for a response.