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Friday, May 6, 2011

Q&A with Jennifer Etherton Literary Services

Hello everyone, first I would like to thank Lea and Muse It Up for hosting me today and all of you for dropping by. My name is Jennifer Etherton, Senior Agent and Owner of Jennifer Etherton Literary Services. I look forward to answering any questions you may have about what I do, how to attract an agent or anything else you might want to know. 

Jennifer Etherton Literary Services is a new agency but has already attracted many seasoned authors who are in negotiations with major houses including Harlequin, Random House, and St. Martin’s Press. While this is a new agency, we are very strict when it comes to the selection process. This will ensure that we only select quality manuscripts, thus allowing us to build a reputation of offering high quality pieces to the best editors. We don’t specialize in one genre giving us more material to offer to the major publishing houses. 

For those who are seeking representation there are many things to consider when you begin to send out your query letters. One of the most important things to remember is to read all of the information contained on a literary agency’s website, with special attention paid to their submission guidelines. It is important to follow the instructions exactly; this tells the agent that you are willing to follow directions. It also makes it much easier to evaluate your submission if they have all the information they require. Some agencies that will reject any submission that doesn’t meet their guidelines, others will give you the option to correct your mistake, but it still puts you in a bad light. 

It is also important to do all of your research before you send out your query letters. Never send out queries and then begin your research after an agent decides to contact you for possible representation. This is not only extremely rude; it wastes valuable time and resources if you decide to wait for another agency, based on research alone. While it is important to want your agent as much as he or she wants you, the research stage of this process should be completed before you ever send out your first letter. 

If you get a response from an agent, it is important that you evaluate him or her while they are doing the same to you. This will be a close working relationship so it will be vital that you are comfortable with your agent. The agent will actually be looking at many aspects of the package that you present when they first contact you for further information. They are looking to make sure that you will not be a difficult author to work with, that you are willing to take criticism, and other points that they personally consider important. 

At this point, I look for a few things when I contact the author. The first thing I consider is their workability and the size of their ego. It is vital that an author is willing to take instruction and constructive criticism from their agent. This will show me that the prospective author will work well with an editor. This is your time to shine and it is important that you put your best foot forward. 

One of the best things to remember is to be yourself when you talk to an agent. You will be working closely with him or her for many years to come, this means that you need to be comfortable with the agent on a personal level. At this point, I would like to open it up to your questions.

76 comments:

Kat said...

Hi Jennifer welcome to Muse's blog. It's always a joy to hear what you have to say.:-)

Pat Dale said...

Good morning, Jennifer. Is there a particular genre that you think needs representation more than other genres in this new changing world of publication?
Pat Dale

Bri Clark said...

While I'm sure that you are swamped with people seeking you for representation do you ever find yourself perhaps "watching" authors doing it without an agent...publishing books with smaller presses and building a platform and think to yourself I'd like to represent them?

Maeve said...

Very informative post, Jennifer. Thank you for sharing it with us. I do have one question. Do you feel that agents are having to be more careful and selective in choosing the authors they'd like to represent because of the changes currently going on in the publishing industry?

madcapmaggie said...

Jennifer, what attracts you to a particular manuscript?

Kay Dee Royal said...

Hi Jennifer. Welcome and thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience.
Question: An agent is an author's negotiator, finding the best house that fits an author's work, correct - does an agent get involved with any of the marketing for the submission?

Lin said...

Thank you for sharing so much invaluable information with us, Jennifer. It is greatly appreciated.

I want to expand on Maeve's comment. With the changes taking place in the Publishing Industry, is the role of the "agent" also changing? And if so how?

My college Alumni magazine did a whole big write-up recently on a graduate who has self-published several of her works. They are her only published works. How does your branch of the Publishing World look upon the Self-Pub arm of it? Would an author coming to you with self-publishing as her only background be at an advantage, a disadvantage, or would it have no bearing?

Again, Thank You for taking the time to share so much information.

Karen Cote said...

It truly is a pleasure to have this opportunity to meet you. I have been pondering the idea of seeking an agent but the query process is a little daunting especially as (in my opinion) agents are highly sought after. I fortunate and grateful to have an accepted contract with MuseItUp Publishing and whereas my novel will not be released until October, I find having an agent would make the journey more rewarding if I had representation to guide me in areas where I lack experience (pretty much everything) as well as the needs of the novel I'm currently working on.

Thanks Lea for hosting Jennifer and I'll be checking back throughout the day to learn more about you, Jennifer;

Lea said...

Thank you, everyone, for popping in and leaving Jennifer your questions. She's having some tech problems leaving comments but worse case scenario, I'll post her responses for her.

David J Normoyle said...

How many writers do you sign up per query you receive? If you sign up somebody, how often do they get a contract from a big publisher? (Or what would you consider the industry standard for these percentages?) Thanks.

Jenn said...

Good morning and thank you for having me, this is a response for Pat Dale.

As many of you already know, the fantasy/paranormal genre is one of the hottest that the market has seen in decades; however, that bubble is hitting critical mass. Recently, there has been a push to find the genre that will take its place once the bubble bursts. There are many options available, but some that seem the most promising are horror, twisted fairy tales, new romance, and new looks at old favorites. While not all of these options are really considered genres, this seems to be where the market is heading.

The real trend for many publishers is finding manuscripts that are truly fresh and new. For the past two decades, authors have written the same story over and over again, only changing the character names and maybe the locations. This is especially true in the romance genre; publishers want authors who can think completely out of the box, without flying to far into left field.

Right now, it isn’t so much which genre to shoot for it is to pay attention to the content that you produce. We are currently in a very unusual position in this industry and the market is completely wide open. There will be a major hole to fill when the fantasy/paranormal bubble bursts and it is completely conceivable that there will be more than one genre that will take its place.

I always advise my authors to write what they write and let me worry about the market. In a sense, I will say the same to you. Write what you love to write, but make sure that it is your voice that is being heard and not the voice of generations past. Make your manuscripts fresh and new without losing the real marketability of the piece. In reality, authors need to find the balance between truly new ideas and the conservative nature of some readers.

L. K. Below said...

Hi Jennifer. Thanks for being our guest today at Muse. My questions for you are as follows:

1- With the growing ebook demand, how do agents handle submissions? Do you submit to New York print publishers first, then turn to ebook & POD pubs? Do you submit to both simultaneously? Is this worked out in the contract or is it handled depending on the agent's preferences?

2- Assuming you want to represent my book, may I suggest a publisher to submit to, or is this bad etiquette? Let's say I have an author-pub crush on one particular pub, while I know there is no guarantee of acceptance may I ask for it to be included in the submission process?

3- Does an author's following on social media make a difference to your decision. For instance, I currently have 636 followers on Twitter, 72 followers on my Facebook fan page, and 81 followers on my blog. If I increased this to 2,000 twitter, and 500 Facebook and blog followers, would I have a better chance of representation?

4- I've been told not to query the same agent again within six months to a year, regardless if I am querying with the same manuscript or with a different one. Is this good advice? Is it true for manuscripts in a different genre, for instance a YA vs an adult fantasy?

5- When I query with a manuscript (for instance a YA), should I mention that I also write in other genres (i.e. adult romance or fantasy)? I would be looking for one agent to represent all my genres. Would this make any difference at all?

6- If a manuscript is a part of a series, and the other books in the series are complete, should I mention this in the query letter?

7- When is it good etiquette to pitch another manuscript, after the first has been accepted? After editing the first? After the first has been sold? Is this different if the manuscript is in a different genre (YA vs adult)?

8-Do all agents automatically work to secure film and/or foreign translation sales or is this on a book by book basis? When trying to make a film sale for a book, would you want the author to draft up a script for their book, assuming they are proficient in that art? Would you ask the author not to do such a thing?

9- Do agents help the author in any way with promotion? I.e. trying to secure a big radio/talk show or book signing appearance?

10- I know that mentioning any self-publishing credits are not to an author's benefit. With the increased sales and credibility to the ebook market, is mentioning ebook credits to the author's advantage? Or is this also only applicable if said author has reached a bestseller position on a major site or received an advance? Are only certain epublishers (i.e. Avon's new ebook line or Harlequin's ebook line) considered credible in a query letter? If a certain book has been launched in print (POD), is this more or less credible than an ebook?

11- Will an author be asked for a marketing strategy for their book?

12- Do you prefer an author submits a stand-alone book? The first in a series? Or a stand-alone with the potential to expand if necessary?

13- Are you less likely to accept books that are outside of the current trends (i.e. a non-Regency historical romance)? Are you more or less likely to accept a book in a trend which is only now starting to bloom (i.e. Steampunk)?


I hope you'll forgive all the questions, and if some of them show my lack of experience regarding agents. Henceforth, I've navigated the publishing world under my own power, but I've been thinking recently...

Thank you (again) for taking the time to be here today!

Jan Fischer Wade said...

Hi Jennifer! I am excited to read your comments! I was curious about what percentage of your communications with authors is done via email, phone or in person? It seems our world is so virtual now, I was wondering if that detracts from having a personal relationship with an author? Thanks!!

L. K. Below said...

Forgive me, I thought of another question:

Do you ever reject a manuscript based on the fact that it is too long or too short for a particular genre? Or do you ask the author to lengthen/cut and resubmit?

Jenn said...

Response to Bri Clark…
That is a hard question to answer, because in reality authors need to be published before they can be presented to New York. It is a very ugly catch 22, but everyone has to work within the bounds. I do watch promising authors and will offer representation but only rarely. The reason for this is that, when an author is experiencing success without an agent they usually don’t see the need to hire one.

Bri Clark said...

Response to Jenn..
I figured as much. And while I'm not seeking an agent and don't have one. I'm doing well on my own for now. However, if an agent offered me representation I'm clever enough to know that mass media marketing can only help my new releases as well as back lists. There are also some things that only an agent is capable of doing for an author. Such as negotiating TV movie and overseas rights. Thanks for answering Jenn. Congrats on the new agency

J Q Rose said...

My goodness but we have inquisitive authors here at the Muse. So happy you are here, Jennifer, to enlighten us on the agent and author interaction in this ever-changing world of publishing.

Steven said...

Hi Jennifer,
I am a short story writer who is hoping you will address a couple questions on publishing the non-novel.
1 - How do you value a short story? It seems I must give my work away if I want to see it in print.
2 - Is it a good idea to bundle short stories and poems together, then make them available via electronic publishing?
3 - How do you decide what e-publisher to use?

Jenn said...

Response to Maeve…
Yes, absolutely agents have to be extremely selective with who they choose to represent. There are many reasons for this but the popularity of new publishing methods is one of the biggest. In this sense, authors are actually raising the bar on themselves, letting more and more talent out onto the market. These new methods also allow for the free flow of ideas, which gives some of the most talented authors a sounding board to hone and develop their craft before they are ready for the major houses. This is why agents have to be ultra-selective with who they choose to represent. We only have so many slots available so we can do the best job possible; this added to the influx of highly talented authors forces us to tighten our acceptance requirements.

Jenn said...

Response to Madcapmaggie…
That is a tough question to answer; I look at more than just the manuscript I’m interested in the whole package. When it comes to the manuscript itself, I look for style, storyline, prose, marketability, really the overall content. It is important to remember, that I don’t have to like the genre I just have to like the story itself. There really isn’t a scientific method for picking a manuscript, I offer for what I like and what makes sense to me and my agency.
Secondly, I look at the author and their workability. It is important to remember that the relationship with your agent is not only professional but to a point, it is also personal. I look to see how workable an author will be and how much their ego will get in the way of business. Once I receive a manuscript, it doesn’t mean that the author’s work is done, on the contrary, the work has only just begun, and I have to know that the author is willing to work as hard as I do to make them a success.

Pat Dale said...

Thanks, Jennifer, for your thought-provoking answer. As has been the case forever, it seems that great writing is at the heart of all success. May it always be so.

Jenn said...

Response to Kay Dee Royal…
Not really, the marketing side of this industry is usually left up to the author and the publishing house. The agent’s job is to market the author to the houses themselves, we work in the background using our connections to get you to the right house for your work. The marketing to the public is usually left up to the publisher, but in today’s economy, a lot of the responsibility is being shifted to the author. Once you have reached some success in this industry, it is always a good idea to seek the help of a public relations officer.
PR reps can mean the difference between fading into obscurity and slipping into Nora Roberts’s position when she retires. Obviously, this is an exaggerated example, but the reality is that when an author reaches a certain point he or she needs to add a PR person to their team.

Jenn said...

I would like to take just a moment to thank all of you for asking such great questions. I am running a little behind today, but will answer each question in order. Thank you for your patience and keep the questions coming.

Jenn said...

Response to Lin…
As with any industry an agent’s job has changed and adapted to the ebb and flow of the market, but at its heart, the job hasn’t changed. The core responsibility of an agent to shop their authors’ works to the major houses will be a constant but the approach has changed drastically. I find that I take advantage of the new publishing options that are available to help boost an author’s experience level.
As with in the past, major houses want to see an author’s track record so I have used epublishers and in very limited cases, self-publishing houses to help boost an author’s portfolio to send to New York. For agents, we use these methods as stepping stones to get authors where they want to be. This practice is not uncommon, but the options have opened up considerably from just using smaller houses and print outlets as stepping-stones to using epublishers and blogs to help boost portfolios.
When it comes to self-publishing, there is still a stigma attached to the practice. As I touched on before I have used it as a stepping stone to higher levels in this industry, but it is really on the bottom and only works for a select group of authors. Since self-published authors don’t have to adhere to any guidelines, the quality of the work varies greatly and this can be a great disadvantage.
In my case, if an author comes to me with only self-published works in his or her portfolio I treat them as an unpublished author. The reason for this is that they still need to learn how to interact with editors, publishers, and other professionals in the industry. It can be just as shocking for a self-published author as it is for an individual seeking representation for their first work. I will say that I do treat a self-published author differently in one aspect; I take a hard look at their workability. Since they can claim that they have been published I attempt to ensure that they will take instruction well and not be combative.
All that being said, when an author comes to me I always first look at their writing. If it captures my attention, I then look at the person behind the words. If the package is marketable, I jump on the opportunity. The fact that they come with self-published works really has no bearing on whether or not I will actually offer a contract.

Jaxx Steele said...

Good morning Jennifer and thanks for stopping by to answer our questions.
I write gay romance, mostly contemporay, but my stories have touched several other sub genres. I think my gengre does well in the online world, but I have not seen any agencies that represent author who represent this particular genre. Is this a genre your agency is wiling to represents?

Jenn said...

Response to Karen Cote…
Thank you for stopping by and leaving your comment. When it comes to seeking representation, I can be considered a biased authority, because I believe that all authors need someone in their corner. Those who have found great publishers such as Muse It Up are very lucky because there are many that are not so reputable and it is important to have someone in your corner to help you through the process.
When it comes to the query process, what do you find daunting about it?
Agents are people just like you and no one should be intimidated by what we do for a living. While it is not secret that agents are very busy, we always stop dead in our tracks when we find a manuscript that piques our interest.
Remember, agents are here to help, protect, and guide authors in their journey to success. It is our job to see to it that authors are treated fairly in this industry, so while on the outside we may seem intimidating the reality is that we work very hard to make you the most money possible. The more money you make, the more money we make.

Jenn said...

Response to David J Normoyle…
When it comes to the numbers, they can be very fluid and vary widely not only from genre to genre but from agency to agency. That being said, I will do my best to answer.
I only accept about 1% of the queries I receive. While I do see the good, the bad, and the downright ugly when it comes to submissions, I only have a few slots open at any one time. I keep my roster limited so I can focus on my authors, on a personal level, which is the way I like to do business.
Every author I sign is placed with a publishing house; the time frame is what varies greatly. Depending on what an author writes the time frame in which they get published can be anywhere from mere hours to years. If I had to place a number on the percentage of manuscripts that get published every year compared to the amount that are submitted to major publishers I would say it is around 15%. The smaller houses and epublishers are higher. Once you receive representation, the question isn’t if you will be published, but how long it will take.

Shellie said...

Hi Jenn,

Thank you for taking such a chunk of your day to be with us. I was wondering how involved in a manuscript you become. Do you suggest revisions and edits to bring a piece in-line with the current markets?

Thanks so much

Mike Hays said...

Jenn,
Thanks for taking time to be at Muse today and thanks for all the information you present here.

When you sign a writer, do you prefer a genre-focused writer, i.e science fiction only, or are you open to a writer who covers a plethora of genres?

Mike Hays

Joylene Butler said...

Great advice. Since my questions have already been asked, I'll just sit back and read. Thanks for sharing this vital information.

Jenn said...

Part 1 of 2
Response to L.K. Below…

Thanks for stopping by and asking such great questions.

1. For my agency, who I submit to will vary from author to author; the process I usually use is based on the experience of the author. If he or she doesn’t have enough of a portfolio to be the most attractive to New York, then I will start with epublishers and the smaller houses. Once they have built up a good reputation then I will take them to the next level.

I do submit simultaneously, but only laterally. This means that, depending on the step of the ladder the author is on, the submission will be for all epubs, smaller houses, or NY houses. This allows me and the author to build their portfolio and reputation faster.

I don’t outline the process in my contract, but I do discuss in length the steps that will need to be taken before I send out my contract. This way the author will know where they fit and what steps will have to be taken to get them to their goals.

2. When it comes to choosing the publishers that an agent shops to, you have every right to be a part of the overall process. My authors make suggestions all the time about which publishers they would like to see their works submitted to. Now, don’t be surprised that if you suggest a publishing house your agent will give you a list of guidelines that will make you nauseous.
Now at the same time your agent will do research to ensure that your manuscript will fit the house you have suggested. If your current manuscript doesn’t fit he or she will give you a few samples that will allow you to see what the editors of that particular house is looking for and how you can either adapt your current manuscript or what to shoot for with your next work.

3. As far as having a social media following, it does and it doesn’t help. While it will let an agent know that you have a current fan base, the trick is to increase your followers in the right way. Personally, I do look at the following an author has, but I also look at how they got their followers. I look at the loyalty level of their fans, which is what makes the difference. When it comes to representation, I don’t worry too much about it because that is something that can be gained while the author is beginning to promote the books I sell to publishers.
The truth is that one way or the other, every author I represent will have an online presence when they are done. Having the beginnings of a solid fan base saves time in the long run, but isn’t a factor when it comes to offering for them.

Disclosure: this is the opinion of one agent; the industry is vastly divided on this subject.

4. That really depends on the agency. I run my agency a little differently in the fact that when I reject an author I will give advice. If you would like to resubmit, you can do so as soon as you follow the steps I have asked you to take. If an author continues to submit to me without following my advice or without improvement, I will just politely keep rejecting their works.

The basic rule of thumb is only submit to a single agency no more than 4 times per year or less depending on their specific guidelines regardless if you want to send the same manuscript or not. If they give you advice on changes that could be made then you can resubmit as soon as you have followed their instructions.

Many agencies will not give a reason for rejection but for those who do it would be a good idea to take their suggestions seriously; they know what they are talking about and they are giving you a free invitation to become an even better writer.

Jenn said...

part 2 of 3

5. Yes, when querying agents let them know all of the genres that you write in. This may make a difference in if they decide to represent you. At the same time, be sure to do your research. It would not be wise to query an agency that only represents a portion of the genres that you write in.

Agents want a complete look at the authors they are considering for representation. I have a few authors that literally write everything. This makes it much easier for me to shop their works. I do have one suggestion for those who have such a wide range of genres, invest in pen names. This way when a publisher researches you and your works a YA publisher doesn’t find your adult books. This can make a huge difference in the time frame attached to receiving publishing contracts.

6. Yes, when you query an agent with a series they will need to know everything possible about the series. Series are shopped differently than stand-alone books because there is more available to the publisher. They are also sold together which can translate into bigger advances.

7. This is completely up to the agency. I have some authors that pitch the next book while they are signing the contract for the first. I do usually tell my authors that we will work on one at a time. I am unusual in the fact that I contract an author for all of their works being shopped to major houses. That means that every book they write and want sent to NY I will be responsible for. I also help with books that they want shopped anywhere else, but they have the choice to offer manuscripts on their own to epubs and the smaller houses.

I prefer that the contract be signed before I start hearing pitches for more books, but it rarely works out that way. It is better to get a feel for your agent and what he or she prefers.

Jenn said...

Part 3 of 3 (took more than I thought)

8. When it comes to movie and translation deals, it works on a book-by-book basis. This type of deal usually depends on the success of the book itself. While there are some books that producers will beg for, others will need to be shopped. Once the book is signed for a movie deal the production company will be the one to request that the author writes the manuscript or not. This again is on a book-by-book basis, and once the request has been made the author has the right to accept or refuse. No matter what the author decides, it will not affect the media contract in anyway unless the contract states that the author is responsible for the screenplay. This is very rare and most production companies would prefer to have the option to find a new writer if the author either can’t or won’t write the script.

9. When it comes to marketing to the public an agent may help some, but it isn’t part of their job description. When any author reaches some success in this industry they need to look into hiring a PR rep. The PR rep will be responsible for all of the author’s engagements including interviews and book signings. Every book deal is a team effort and to be the most successful each member of the team needs to focus on what he or she does best.

10. Mentioning books that have been epublished can be to an author’s benefit depending on the house. There are some houses that are considered author mills and when these are mentioned, it will not do the author any favors. Obviously, mentioning Avon or Harlequin books will get your foot in the door, but so will other smaller houses as long as they have a strong reputation in the industry.

If you have made bestseller lists, this is something that you should mention no matter what the format. If you are with an epublisher and your sales are high enough for them add print versions it can help your chances, again depending on the publishing house itself. When it comes to mentioning this type of experience, only mention publishing houses with strong reputations or books that have made major lists. It will give you more credibility as an author.

Hint: Muse It Up is a good one to mention on query letters. While they are new, they are developing a strong reputation.

11. When querying an agent, the author may or may not be asked for a marketing plan. I do ask an author where they see their book and what their demographic is, but little else until it is time to shop their material. Once the book is sent to the major houses, most will ask for a marketing plan. This is something either you or your PR member will need to provide ASAP.

12. For me, I don’t have a preference when it comes to submitting series or stand-alone books. I do want to know if the manuscript, which is being sent to me, is part of a series or not. If an author is submitting a series, I want to know the direction of the series and how it will be laid out. As long as the author is upfront about their intentions, I don’t look at one type of submission differently than any other. I will always ask the author what they want to do with the story and then will plan accordingly.

13. I only accept books that I enjoy. The market ebbs and flows like the tides so I ensure that I have a little of everything to offer publishers. I accept manuscripts that meet both current and upcoming trends; this way I will never have to tell an editor “no.” I want to be blown away by the writing, that is what my decision is based on, not the current trends.

I hope I have answered all of your questions, if I missed anything please tell me.

Jenn said...

Response to Jan Fischer Wade…
When it comes to communication with my authors, about 95% is done through electronic media (i.e. email, IM, text, ect). I have found that I very rarely see my clients face to face, other than webcam, but at the same time, it allows me to have a more personal connection to them than you may think. The ability to always be available for my authors is aided by electronic communication and has not detracted from the personal experience. I have some authors that I talk to on the phone, while others I will IM for a large portion of my day.
The ability to get my work done and still chat with my authors on a personal level could not be done without the help of electronic devices such as yahoo messenger, Gmail talk, and texting. While the phone will always be king, the other mediums are a great help in my industry.

Jenn said...

Response to L.K. Below…
This is an example of why I look at the entire package when considering a manuscript. Most of the time I will make the suggestion to the author to either lengthen or shorten the manuscript based on the guidelines of the publisher. However, if the author, which I’m considering for representation, has not been responsive or has been combative in communications I will simply reject the manuscript without asking for the revision. This is where personality and ego has been the downfall of many authors. I have rejected many manuscripts on author personality alone; even if the manuscript is good there will always need to be tweaks, if an author isn’t willing to take this type of constructive criticism then I don’t waste my time.

Jenn said...

Response to Steven…
Short stories are an interesting beast to say the least and are really published depending on the market and the economy. There seems to be an interesting ebb and flow to the popularity of short stories based on the outside economy and I haven’t been able to crack the reasons behind this.
Depending on the length of your short stories, you may have better success bundling them together or offering them to the epublishing side of the market. Currently short story bundles aren’t doing well in the major houses because of the slow economy. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it is an odd fact.
In the case of short stories, I would actually go with an epublisher but have enough to meet the minimum word count to qualify for print form with your house. I know Lea will print books that have over 45k word count so you may want to attempt to negotiate a deal with her. If you want to see your short story collections at the New York houses, you will need to wait for the economy to rebound again.
I only use epublishers I trust or show me that they are on the track to be the best in the business. I do a great deal of research on the house itself, its overall reputation, sales figures, projections, and current authors. I also inquire about trends at the house, such as if authors are submitting in droves or abandoning ship. All of these factors are taken into consideration before I suggest a house to one of my authors. It is my job to protect my authors and I have been called a “momma bear.”

Jenn said...

Response to Jaxx Steele…
Yes, I do represent a few authors who write in the gay genres. There are a few major houses that will contract this type of manuscript, but not many at this point. That is why many agencies will shy away from this type of author. This is a changing trend due to the increased popularity of gay influenced novels in both the gay and straight communities. Meaning that more and more agencies will jump on the bandwagon once they see stronger popularity numbers.

Jenn said...

Response to Shellie…
Yes, I’m very involved with the entire process. Some of my authors will use me as a sounding board for new ideas and if there are major edits that need to be made. I always make suggestions when it comes to bring any manuscript up to publisher guidelines and simply put in my two cents when I see something that could be better.
I tell my authors that I’m a cheerleader, voice of reason, sounding board, and a swift kick in the pants depending on what is needed at that particular moment. This is also another reason why I’m a small company and will remain so; I want to keep this level of personal attention for each of my authors.

Jenn said...

Response to Mike Hays…
When it comes to the authors I sign, I’m open to both. The only thing I care about is that the author gives me their best work and if it’s good enough. That being said, I will watch authors who focus on a single genre more closely for the dreaded burn out. Other than that, I am more interested in helping the author develop his or her skill set than I am how many genres they can cover.

Jenn said...

Final part of the response to L.K. Below...

8. When it comes to movie and translation deals, it works on a book-by-book basis. This type of deal usually depends on the success of the book itself. While there are some books that producers will beg for, others will need to be shopped. Once the book is signed for a movie deal the production company will be the one to request that the author writes the manuscript or not. This again is on a book-by-book basis, and once the request has been made the author has the right to accept or refuse. No matter what the author decides, it will not affect the media contract in anyway unless the contract states that the author is responsible for the screenplay. This is very rare and most production companies would prefer to have the option to find a new writer if the author either can’t or won’t write the script.

9.When it comes to marketing to the public an agent may help some, but it isn’t part of their job description. When any author reaches some success in this industry they need to look into hiring a PR rep. The PR rep will be responsible for all of the author’s engagements including interviews and book signings. Every book deal is a team effort and to be the most successful each member of the team needs to focus on what he or she does best.

10.Mentioning books that have been epublished can be to an author’s benefit depending on the house. There are some houses that are considered author mills and when these are mentioned, it will not do the author any favors. Obviously, mentioning Avon or Harlequin books will get your foot in the door, but so will other smaller houses as long as they have a strong reputation in the industry.

If you have made bestseller lists, this is something that you should mention no matter what the format. If you are with an epublisher and your sales are high enough for them add print versions it can help your chances, again depending on the publishing house itself. When it comes to mentioning this type of experience, only mention publishing houses with strong reputations or books that have made major lists. It will give you more credibility as an author.

Hint: Muse It Up is a good one to mention on query letters. While they are new, they are developing a strong reputation.

11. When querying an agent, the author may or may not be asked for a marketing plan. I do ask fo an author where they see their book and what their demographic is, but little else until it is time to shop their material. Once the book is sent to the major houses, most will ask for a marketing plan. This is something either you or your PR member will need to provide ASAP.

12. For me, I don’t have a preference when it comes to submitting series or stand-alone books. I do want to know if the manuscript that is being sent to me is part of a series or not. If an author is submitting a series, I want to know the direction of the series and how it will be laid out. As long as the author is upfront about their intentions I don’t look at one type of submission differently than any other. I will always ask the author what they want to do with the story and then will plan accordingly.

13.I only accept books that I enjoy. The market ebbs and flows like the tides so I ensure that I have a little of everything to offer publishers. I accept manuscripts that meet both current and upcoming trends; this way I will never have to tell an editor “no.” I want to be blow away by the writing, that is what my decision is based on, not the current trends.

I hope I have answered all of your questions, if I missed anything please tell me.

Shellie said...

Thanks for the answers, Jenn. I can only imagine the value in a hands-on agent.

L. K. Below said...

Jenn,

I'd like to start by saying that not only have you answered my questions admirably, but you've helped to connect with me today. When I'm ready to start submitting my next book, I know that your agency will be on the top of my submissions list. Thank you for taking the time to explain so many things to me today.

However, forgive me, but part 3 of your answer seems to have been lost in transit :( Here are the questions in that batch:

8-Do all agents automatically work to secure film and/or foreign translation sales or is this on a book by book basis? When trying to make a film sale for a book, would you want the author to draft up a script for their book, assuming they are proficient in that art? Would you ask the author not to do such a thing?

9- This is essentially the same question which you answered for Kay Dee Royal. So no need to answer again.

10- I know that mentioning any self-publishing credits are not to an author's benefit. With the increased sales and credibility to the ebook market, is mentioning ebook credits to the author's advantage? Or is this also only applicable if said author has reached a bestseller position on a major site or received an advance? Are only certain epublishers (i.e. Avon's new ebook line or Harlequin's ebook line) considered credible in a query letter? If a certain book has been launched in print (POD), is this more or less credible than an ebook?

11- Will an author be asked for a marketing strategy for their book?

12- Do you prefer an author submits a stand-alone book? The first in a series? Or a stand-alone with the potential to expand if necessary?

13- Are you less likely to accept books that are outside of the current trends (i.e. a non-Regency historical romance)? Are you more or less likely to accept a book in a trend which is only now starting to bloom (i.e. Steampunk)?

Jenn said...

Response to L.K. Below...

Yeah, I know I have actually posted them twice and have asked Lea to help me out with this technical difficulty. They will be on their way shortly.

Jenn said...

8. When it comes to movie and translation deals, it works on a book-by-book basis. This type of deal usually depends on the success of the book itself. While there are some books that producers will beg for, others will need to be shopped. Once the book is signed for a movie deal the production company will be the one to request that the author writes the manuscript or not. This again is on a book-by-book basis, and once the request has been made the author has the right to accept or refuse. No matter what the author decides, it will not affect the media contract in anyway unless the contract states that the author is responsible for the screenplay. This is very rare and most production companies would prefer to have the option to find a new writer if the author either can’t or won’t write the script.

9. When it comes to marketing to the public an agent may help some, but it isn’t part of their job description. When any author reaches some success in this industry they need to look into hiring a PR rep. The PR rep will be responsible for all of the author’s engagements including interviews and book signings. Every book deal is a team effort and to be the most successful each member of the team needs to focus on what he or she does best.

10. Mentioning books that have been epublished can be to an author’s benefit depending on the house. There are some houses that are considered author mills and when these are mentioned, it will not do the author any favors. Obviously, mentioning Avon or Harlequin books will get your foot in the door, but so will other smaller houses as long as they have a strong reputation in the industry.

If you have made bestseller lists, this is something that you should mention no matter what the format. If you are with an epublisher and your sales are high enough for them add print versions it can help your chances, again depending on the publishing house itself. When it comes to mentioning this type of experience, only mention publishing houses with strong reputations or books that have made major lists. It will give you more credibility as an author.

Hint: Muse It Up is a good one to mention on query letters. While they are new, they are developing a strong reputation.

11. When querying an agent, the author may or may not be asked for a marketing plan. I do ask fo an author where they see their book and what their demographic is, but little else until it is time to shop their material. Once the book is sent to the major houses, most will ask for a marketing plan. This is something either you or your PR member will need to provide ASAP.

12. For me, I don’t have a preference when it comes to submitting series or stand-alone books. I do want to know if the manuscript that is being sent to me is part of a series or not. If an author is submitting a series, I want to know the direction of the series and how it will be laid out. As long as the author is upfront about their intentions I don’t look at one type of submission differently than any other. I will always ask the author what they want to do with the story and then will plan accordingly.

13. I only accept books that I enjoy. The market ebbs and flows like the tides so I ensure that I have a little of everything to offer publishers. I accept manuscripts that meet both current and upcoming trends; this way I will never have to tell an editor “no.” I want to be blow away by the writing, that is what my decision is based on, not the current trends.

I hope I have answered all of your questions, if I missed anything please tell me.

Jenn said...

8. When it comes to movie and translation deals, it works on a book-by-book basis. This type of deal usually depends on the success of the book itself. While there are some books that producers will beg for, others will need to be shopped. Once the book is signed for a movie deal the production company will be the one to request that the author writes the manuscript or not. This again is on a book-by-book basis, and once the request has been made the author has the right to accept or refuse. No matter what the author decides, it will not affect the media contract in anyway unless the contract states that the author is responsible for the screenplay. This is very rare and most production companies would prefer to have the option to find a new writer if the author either can’t or won’t write the script.

9. When it comes to marketing to the public an agent may help some, but it isn’t part of their job description. When any author reaches some success in this industry they need to look into hiring a PR rep. The PR rep will be responsible for all of the author’s engagements including interviews and book signings. Every book deal is a team effort and to be the most successful each member of the team needs to focus on what he or she does best.

10. Mentioning books that have been epublished can be to an author’s benefit depending on the house. There are some houses that are considered author mills and when these are mentioned, it will not do the author any favors. Obviously, mentioning Avon or Harlequin books will get your foot in the door, but so will other smaller houses as long as they have a strong reputation in the industry.

If you have made bestseller lists, this is something that you should mention no matter what the format. If you are with an epublisher and your sales are high enough for them add print versions it can help your chances, again depending on the publishing house itself. When it comes to mentioning this type of experience, only mention publishing houses with strong reputations or books that have made major lists. It will give you more credibility as an author.

Hint: Muse It Up is a good one to mention on query letters. While they are new, they are developing a strong reputation.

Jenn said...

11. When querying an agent, the author may or may not be asked for a marketing plan. I do ask of an author where they see their book and what their demographic is, but little else until it is time to shop their material. Once the book is sent to the major houses, most will ask for a marketing plan. This is something either you or your PR member will need to provide ASAP.

12. For me, I don’t have a preference when it comes to submitting series or stand-alone books. I do want to know if the manuscript that is being sent to me is part of a series or not. If an author is submitting a series, I want to know the direction of the series and how it will be laid out. As long as the author is upfront about their intentions I don’t look at one type of submission differently than any other. I will always ask the author what they want to do with the story and then will plan accordingly.

13. I only accept books that I enjoy. The market ebbs and flows like the tides so I ensure that I have a little of everything to offer publishers. I accept manuscripts that meet both current and upcoming trends; this way I will never have to tell an editor “no.” I want to be blow away by the writing, that is what my decision is based on, not the current trends.

I hope I have answered all of your questions, if I missed anything please tell me.

Jenn said...

Response to L.K. Below...

I had to post the third part in two comments. I hope it makes sense.

S.Durham said...

Hi Jenn,

I too have appreciated your thorough and knowledgable answers to everyone's questions. It helps to see the process, explaining levels of submission to smaller houses and to the bigger houses. I'm just sitting back and reading your answers like Joylene:) Thanks again for taking your valuable time today. Wishing you tons of success with your agency!



Sara

Jenn said...

Response to S.Durham....

I'm happy to be of help, it is my favorite part of the job.

Cheryl said...

Thanks to Lea for hosting and to Jennifer for taking the time to answer our questions. Someone may have asked this already, but if so, I've missed the response.

Do you have a favorite genre, or one you'd like to see more queries in?

Jenn said...

Response to Cheryl…
I don’t really have a favorite and I really like the mix that I have gotten, but if I had to choose, I would like to see a little bit more steampunk and paranormal romance. I would also like to see more gay inspired manuscripts as well.

Lea said...

Before the night ends I'd like to come in and thank Jennifer for her time and thorough answers. This is truly an educational day for writers to learn from an agent their thoughts and process in that side of the business.

Jennifer has gladly agreed to come back again at some point this year to further answer more questions. In the meantime, she's still around for a spell so please feel free to bombard her...but lovingly. LOL

Jenn said...

Thanks Lea, this has been an amazing experience and I would love to answer more questions.

lionmother said...

Thank you for hosting Jennifer, Lea.
Hi Jennifer. After reading your remarks and seeing how thoroughly you answered each question I learned a lot. My first novel is being published by Muse in September and I haven't felt I needed an agent, since working with Lea is so transparent and amazing. However, I have other novels I am thinking of subbing here.

Do you think I need an agent?
What can you offer me that I can't get on my own?

My question is, do you think the next big genre is will be problem stories with contemporary situations? If not, which genre will it be based on your experiences? Thank you.

Jenn said...

Response to Lionmother…
In my opinion, every author needs an agent because they can open doors that an author may not even know exist. This is not an industry that a lone individual can navigate successfully; he or she will need help with many of the steps they will need to take. An agent is just the first step to becoming a true success. While you have been very lucky with Lea, not all publishers are cut from the same cloth. An agent will be able to tell you which publishers are the best ones to help advance your career.
Your agent will allow you to have access to publishers that would never even give you the time of day, otherwise. They will also work with you to ensure that your manuscripts meet the exact style and voice of the publisher that you want to work with. Your agent will also be able to give you leads on other members of your team such as your PR rep. Bottom line is that your agent will work in the background to build your career from the ground up and make you look like a genus.
As far as new trends are concerned, the problematic manuscripts will not really go well with the current market. For the most part, readers don’t want complicated stories because their lives are complicated enough. We are really in an unusual place, at the moment, because there are many turns that the market can take, but to be sure, horror, steampunk, some gay/lesbian genres, lighter fantasy, and historical novels will be popular. Once the paranormal bubble actually bursts literally anything could slid into its place.

Charlie said...

Hi Jenn,
Thanks for sharing yor wonderful expertise on the MIU blog today. It's been truly enlightning.

My question to you is does an author's platform make an impression on an agent? Blog, fb, twitter, website, etc. If the author has these in place, is it easier to find a home with an agent, providing the story and writing are of the quality they are looking for?

Thanks for your time and talents!
C.K. Volnek

BarbaraB said...

Lea,
Thanks for this very informative interview.

Jennifer,
I'm glad you mentioned historical novels because my next story is in that genre.
I very much enjoyed your answers to the Muse questions.

Jenn said...

Response to Charlie…
All authors need to have an online presence; it makes life easier when it comes to shopping out manuscripts to publishers. That being said, if an author meets all of my other guidelines when it comes to the quality of their work and their workability I will help with him or her establish and grow their online platform. Some agencies will not accept an author unless they have already taken this step; others will work closely with the author to fill in the gaps. It really just depends on how much time the agent wants to spend building up the author’s marketing foundation.

Jenn said...

Thank you to everyone who has dropped by and participated in this interview. This has been a wonderful experience and one I would love to repeat in the future.

Jenn said...

I will be around for a few more hours if anyone wants to know anything else.

Rosalie Skinner said...

Thanks Jenn for your wealth of information, shared so generously. It has been an eye opener.

Thanks Lea for hosting such a wonderful guest.

I think all my questions have been answered in full.

I guess we all hope when the bubble bursts, the next big thing will be our particular genre. In the meantime it is vital to keep honing our skills, polishing our query letter and keep writing.

Thanks again Jenn, Lea and all who asked great questions.

Toni said...

Hi Jenn, How kind of you to answer our questions. As an Australian author I am wondering if you represent non-American writers. And since my books are set in Australia would it improve their marketablilty if I were to 'translate' the locales to America?
Thanks

Debra K. Dunlap said...

Thank you to Lea for hosting and to Jenn for being here! Sorry for being so late, but I just got home from work.

If you're still here, Jenn...I've read several agent blogs indicating an interest in dystopian novels. Do you feel this is possible trend? Would your agency be interested in a dystopian YA novel?

Thanks again,
Debbi

L. K. Below said...

Jenn,

Thank you very much for answering my questions. You've really helped to open my eyes today, not only about agents in general but about your agency. I know you will be receiving a sub from me at some point in the future.

All the best,

Lindsay

Victoria Roder said...

Hi Jenn,
Very interesting and informative blog. I noticed that you are closed to submissions at this time. I'm wondering if you have plans for opening to submissions soon?

Thank you,
Vicki

Tonia said...

I guess she's gone and the shop is closed!

MuseItUp Publishing said...

Jennifer will most likely check for any additional questions and respond perhaps later tonight or even tomorrow so please come back and check. Also, please consider following us because there are more guest spots and workshops coming up for free.

Click above on the left hand side JUNE BLOG CONFERENCE for details about our month long daily workshops and how to register.

Thank you

Larion aka Larriane Wills said...

oh, I missed Jennifer. I was out most of the day and exhausted when I got home. Hi, Jen.

lionmother said...

Jen, if you get back to read this, thank you for your answer to my questions. I will definitely think about getting an agent after seeing your answer. I, like you, will be wondering when the paranormal bubble will burst and what will rush in to fill the void.

Jenn said...

Hi everyone, I’m back for a little bit and will check in throughout the weekend if anyone has questions for me to answer.
In response to Toni….
That is a very good question; I do represent non-American authors with the understanding that all transactions are conducted in USD. Basically, all this means is that when your commission check clears my office I will transfer it to you using US currency.
As far as your books are concerned, leave them exactly the way they are. There are a few reasons for this but it really all boils down to the fact that Americans have a had a love affair with everything Australian for over two decades and that trend shows no signs of slowing. Not only that, but there is a real purity when a person is talking about their native country, this is especially true in fiction. While your manuscript would probably be just as good if it were “translated” into an American background, it would still lose the intangible quality that makes a good story great.

Jenn said...

In response to Debra K. Dunlap….
Dystopian novels have always had a place in the literary industry along with the contrasting sub-genre of Utopian novels. These two sub-genres have actually withstood the ebb and flow of the market and have become an underlying constant. While I do see their popularity increasing, I wouldn’t really classify it as a true trend since they both are comparatively “the little black dress” of the literary industry. As an agent, I am always interested in dystopian novels both general and YA. I do hold these two sub-genres to a much higher standard because of their enduring nature, as will other agents and publishers.

Tonia said...

Jenn - How extraordinary that you say that about not "translating" my books. I have had a lot of encouraging feedback from American agents BUT without exception they claim that I need to use American settings! So thank you for your advice - I will stand firm and keep my voice uniquely Australian.

Jenn said...

Response to Victoria Rodger….
Yes, my submissions are currently closed because I have reached my limit on the amount of manuscripts I can shop at a time. This goes back to what I said earlier about maintaining a personal level of service to all of my authors. I do foresee reopening submissions before the end of the year and encourage everyone who is interested in submitting a query to keep checking back.

Jenn said...

Hi, Larriane I hoped to see you today. I hope she doesn’t mind me spilling the beans, but Larriane is one of my authors and I foresee great things coming from her.

Jenn said...

Tonia—Please stand firm when it comes to not “translating” your books to American settings. No one can write about Australia like an Australian and with the popularity of books set in your country you would literally be throwing away a gold mine if you did something like that.

Jenn said...

Again, I would like to thank Lea and everyone who participated for such a wonderful experience. I can’t wait until I can do this again and be peppered with more of your questions and comments. I will be checking back throughout the weekend so if anyone wants to ask me anything please feel free. My job is to make sure that authors have as much information as possible to make well-informed decisions and I take that duty very seriously. Remember, the only stupid questions are the ones that are never asked.