Friday, December 05, 2014

Query Question: I'm afraid I can't get an agent for a mainstream publishing deal

I have finally completed my first novel, and I've gotten some very positive reviews from my beta readers. I'm afraid though that I may not be able to break out into mainstream publishing and/or get an agent.

It's a New Adult LGBT novel and the advice from a friend is that I may have to go to publishing sites such as Dreamspinner, Carina, or TotallyBound. I really feel that it can be more than just a M/M novel because of the different issues that are presented. Unfortunately, I may have lost my chance because I've tried querying with agents that are LGBT accepting but my query might not have been strong enough to get their attention.

I don't even know how hard it might be for an agent to sell that kind of genre. Should I go with one of the aforementioned publishing sites or stick with self-publishing and spread the word myself?  Any help would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you for your time.

Confronted with this dilemma, the first thing you want to do is make a list of questions:

1. Is your query strong enough to entice an agent to read your book?
2. Is your book strong enough to entice an agent to take it on and send it on submission?
3. Is it hard for an agent to sell LGBT books that are M/M themed?
4. Do you want to self-publish?

When you have the list, look at each question and ask yourself if you have enough information to answer the questions with FACTS, not fears, suppositions or someone else's opinions.

And from what you've written here, you do NOT have enough facts to answer any of these questions, and thus what you need to be doing is getting more facts, not making decisions.

How do you get facts?  First, you need to know how strong your query is.

You can visit query revising sites (Absolute Write runs one and there are others) or you can attend a writing conference. Take your query letter to a pitch session. Ask the agent for her opinion on  your query.  You might be making some very-readily-fixable errors. You might be using a word or phrase that's a red flag.  Use that information to answer your first question.

If you find an agent who requests your full manuscript, generally you're going to get some kind of feedback that will help you on Question #2.

And a writing conference, with panels presented by agents on various topics, is a great way to learn more about Question #3.

And of course, you'll want to do a LOT of research to answer Question #4.

Bottom line: don't flail around wondering what to do. Assemble facts, analyze them, do research, invest in your career, and make decisions based on information not fear. Fear will kill your writing career faster than a bad agent.


Kitty said...

What is an M/M novel?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey Kitty, it's not candy. It's men loving men. Actually that does sound like candy :)

Amy Schaefer said...

The query revision portion of Absolute Write is very helpful. I recommend it if you have the time to dedicate to critiquing for other people first.

(Two short flights down, two killers left to go. Man, I hate airports.)

Unknown said...

I Googled M/M. M&M Meat shops showed up. Not very helpful. Must download Acronym Finder.

Cara M. said...

One thing that isn't mentioned here is that there are quite a few LGBT small press publishers who take direct submissions from authors. Agents are not always into taking LGBT books that they can't sell to a mainstream press, but the alternative is not simply self publishing.

Publishing with a small press sans-agent is not easy either, especially finding one that's unlikely to fold and run away with your rights, but some LGBT presses have been around for a long time. Do research is still the watchword here.

Anonymous said...

Carolynn was close.

The official meaning of M/M is Male/Male. I Googled "LGBT M/M meaning" and found the answer that way.

My work for the day is done.

Unknown said...

I second Craig's comments. And self-publishing isn't always the best answer. Just thinking of having to self-publish (promote, market, distribute)...after I've spent countless hours of writing? It's exhausting thinking about it.

And I loved JR's advice here. Facts vs. Fiction (fear).

Unknown said...

Also, take heart that LGBT* books may not be as difficult to place mainstream as they used to be, even five years ago. I don't work in publishing nor do I have a book out so my comment falls squarely in the "opinion" category NOT "fact." But judging from agents' Twitter feeds and hashtags like #mswishlist, more and more people want and care about diversity in their books.

Just last week I saw an agent excited about their latest request--lesbian meth kingpins. I'm already hooked.

Karen McCoy said...

Great advice, as always. I'd like to add that in addition to doing research for the first book, feel free to start a second book that's completely unrelated (i.e. not a sequel). Then, if an agent says, "I'm not sure if I can sell this, but do you have something else?" you can show them the second book.

Anonymous said...


First, you should have been in #pitmad on twitter a couple of days ago. If you weren't there, it was something like this:

I got a request from a publisher who was looking for YA/NA in the 15k-45k range. Now if I can just shave 100k words and get rid of all the gritty parts and rewrite it and forget about wanting an agent I might be set.

Anyway, if you had been there and seen how many agents were requesting LGBT material and how much was being pitched, you wouldn't be so anxious to settle. Honestly, with all the people pitching YA/NA and the requests for them I felt I was really in the wrong place at the wrong time. Also, you can go to twitter and type in #mswl and find a place where agents post what they are currently looking for. Quite a few are looking for LGBT.

#pitchmas is coming up Dec. 12. Hone your 140 character pitch if you're interested in participating.

I wouldn't be so quick to think you have to jump to self pubbing. I see posts from agents constantly where they discuss clients or potential clients asking them to help get them out of a contract with a publisher. If you're going to self pub or indie, then forget that book for anything else and move on to your next book.

I'm not even an agent and I can't tell you how much it irks me when someone says, "Well, I don't want to have to go through the query process. I can be published tomorrow. If it doesn't do well then I'll get an agent for it."

Yeah, good luck with that plan.

Follow the shark's advice. If you start getting rejections on the query, then you know you have a problem with the query. If you get requests, but rejections on the pages you have a problem with the writing or story, but at least put it out there before giving up.

Sarah said...

There are some NA authors out there selling M/M, and NA as a whole is really picking up steam. Find some similar books, find out who their agents are, and query them.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

I knew what M/M meant, because I'm a Romance author. (I tend to write M/F, because I'm a raving heterosexual.)

Anyhow, dear author, you're in luck, as Diverse books are very much in demand at the moment, if the social media buzz is anything to go by. Don't worry about whether or not an editor will be interested, because chances are, they will be. Be confident and start pitching several agents.

Many agents, such as Sara Megibo of the Nelson Literary Agency, are LGBT-friendly. is your friend, as it a cleverly-worded Google search.

Listen to the Shark of Much Wisdom and get your query letter polished first. (I assume your novel is as polished as your current skill level can make it?) The most brilliant novel in the world will not hook an agent if the query letter doesn't catch their attention.