Q&A from Blog Readers

What is Mainstream Fiction? Upmarket Fiction?

Q: The more industry blogs I read, the more confused I get about which category my novel falls into. It seems to sit on middle ground between literary and commercial, which some agents have said they are looking for. One agent advised me to call it “literary commercial.” I have also seen this described as...

Should Canadians Seek a Canadian Literary Agent?

Q. If I am a Canadian writer, am I better to seek a Canadian agent or publisher versus a U.S.-based agent? A. Good question.  Look into both.          Some Canadian publishers and agents only want to work with Canadians, so you have an inside track to some pros right there. In fact, I...

Can You Send More Than 5 Pages?

Q. I’ve noticed that many agents ask for the first five pages of your manuscript in their query submission guidelines. I was wondering what to do if the first five pages cuts off in an awkward place, such as the middle of a scene/chapter or even the middle of a sentence. Should you reformat...

Classifying Your Work

Q. When classifying your book should you be more general and just consider it ‘suspense’ vs. ‘murder mystery suspense’? A: More specific is always good!  It shows that you have done research and understand how genres and markets work.  You should also be able to identify markets better.  Look for agents who not only...

Querying Agents for a Self-Published Book

Q. What is the proper procedure for a self-published author, who is interested in finding an agent and going to a second printing with a mainstream publisher? Is it a faux pas to send previously self-published material to an agent?         – Xavier A. Xavier, you’re in luck because I wrote a big...

Are Older Agents Better?

Q. Can you tell me how I can find an agent with experience who is over 50 years old?  I’m an experienced, published, academic writer (over 50) transitioning into lyrically-written fiction from scholarly, i.e., footnoted writing.  I write literature with analytical, literary theory underpinnings and subtext, and feel that agents under 50 won’t be...

Do You Need to Find an Illustrator Before Querying an Agent?

Q. Good morning! I have written a small collection of short stories designed to read to young children and I have questions about illustrations.  I am wondering what the advantages are in finding your own illustrator for your work vs. letting a publisher find one for you? Do publishers often find illustrators for you?...

Regarding E-Queries to Agents

Q. When an agent asks that a “query letter” be submitted “by e-mail,” does that mean that I should send an appropriately-formatted letter on my stationery as a pdf, or should it be an actual e-mail?      – Timothy A. She means you need to send it in an actual e-mail.  The text should...

Formatting Queries Question…

Q. Hi Chuck.  I noticed in your book, Guide to Literary Agents, you say writers should include their contact information in the upper righthand corner of the query letter, but in the Writer’s Market both examples of a “good query” for books have the contact information at the bottom left, more like a conventional...

Submit a Portion of the Book With a Query?

Q. I just have a brief question. I have read several articles regarding submissions of material to agents and how to write query letters, but none of the articles say if I am to include a small portion of my book or not. Any suggestions?          – Jennifer Killgore A. There is no...

When an Agent Leaves an Agency…

Q. As a rule, when an agent leaves an agency, does she take her client list with her? Or is the author a property of the agency?        – Lori A. The clients go with her.  You see this all the time.  An agent will begin at one place, and then either move to...

Is It Nonfiction or Fiction or Memoir or … ?

Q. I want to write a story about my life (very unusual circumstances), but I can’t completely recall all the details with regard to signifigant events: What day was my son taken away from me?  What day did my daughter’s father tell me he was arrested by the organized crime unit for being a...

If One Agent Says No, Does the Whole Agency Say No?

Q. Many agents make certain stipulations that, rightly or wrongly, one assumes to be common to them all, creating a great deal of confusion for the newcomer.        These stipulations include: 1) A query must be addressed to an agent by name; they do not like the impersonal dear agent approach. 2) Do not...

How Long is a Novella? And How Do You Query Agents For Them?

Q. What is the average length of a novella?  And is it’pitched’ to literary agents the same way novels are ‘pitched’?         – Gene A. Novellas generally run 20,000-50,000 words.  About 30,000 words is average.  While this number of words would be very common when pitching a nonfiction text, such a length reminds...

Is It Safe To E-Mail Material?

This is a response to a recent post(below) about copyright and protecting your work. Q: I am puzzled.  You state in your coverage of copyright that a writer should not put text of a manuscript online as it could lead to the lifting (paraphrasing here) of the material by another writer. These days, so...

When an Agent Loses Your Pages…

Q. Perhaps it is the influence of the instant age of communication, but I would have assumed sending a synopsis and pages to an agent who says they want your work (at least to consider it), I must confess I am rather surprised it takes as long as it used to back in the...

How Does Formatting in E-Queries Work?

Q. I have a question regarding the formatting of a synopsis and/or sample pages within the text of an e-mail query.  It sacrifices formatting, and since agents do not want attachments which preserve the original formatting, is there some way to paste the contents into an e-mail which keeps it intact?  Am I overlooking a handy...

Is It Truth or Fiction?

Q. I’m sorry to bother you, but I would like to ask you a question. I have just finished writing a book about [true events in the U.S. in] 1948. The facts are accurate; however, I did use fiction to fill in between the actual events. How do I determine whether this is fiction...

GLA vs. Writer's Market

Q. I queried an agent back in April using Writer’s Market to find her. Her listing no longer exists on Writer’s Market and she has requested a partial read of my manuscript. What does it mean when an agent is no longer listed with Writer’s Market?        – Sonya A. Great question.  Writer’s Market...

Pseudonyms For Authors

Q. The October 2008 issue of Writer’s Digest on literary agents was nicely done and I enjoyed the variety of your articles.  Agent-related materials always intrigue me, and you gave me the opportunity to discover more about the author’s representation process.  On page 30, (the author) made the suggestion to look for an agent...