Saturday, May 02, 2015

Query Question: feedback and junior agents

I have a scenario for your wonderful blog, where the readers comments are as insightful as the posts. Here’s the situation: I’ve been reading awesome agent’s (AA) blog for almost a year now. From time to time AA holds an incredible open query event for her followers, promising to provide a personal reply, even if the query isn’t right up her alley. Suspecting a fatal conceptual flaw in my manuscript, I have intended to submit to this open query event. But, being the neurotic author that I am, I waited, not wanting to blow the opportunity with a manuscript or query that wasn’t up to snuff. I’ve finally gotten my act together, but AA seems to have suspended her open query events. Meanwhile, at AA’s agency there is a new junior agent (JA) seeking in my genre and firing off #MSWL tweeter twits that look they were targeted directly at my manuscript. What’s a neurotic author to do? (1)

There are probably two specific concerns here. First, after we’ve read every bit of advice on your blog, how can we find better specific feedback than the typically vague agent rejection? A few rejections along the lines of “You certainly write great dialog, but I just don’t feel passionate about your main character,” or “I love your concept and writing, but unfortunately I’m not connecting with your story,” are nice but don’t really help. More rejections are just a flat no, or worst of all, a no reply. Your recent post on professional editing services made this approach to getting good feedbacks look like a chancy proposition at best. And my CP, despite her excellent advice on my MS has little insight into what my fatal flaw might be. (2)

The second concern is regarding the wisdom of submitting to junior or new agents. What should we be looking for in a new agent? What should we be looking out for? Is the fact that JA works for a well respected agency with people like AA surrounding her, and presumably guiding and mentoring her recommendation enough? (3)

(1) Hmmm...I wonder who that slacker AA agent is?

And let's all remember that the purpose of Chum Bucket isn't to get feedback alone. It's querying for real. And that's the problem. I've been backed up on requested fulls for more than six months. I request a HUGE percentage of manuscripts during Chum Buckets (often up to 10% of total queries) so if I'm backed up on reading, the last thing I should do is add to the inventory.

I know that's not what you want to hear, but telling people they need to wait for me to read their work in 120, 150, 180!!!! days makes me crazy.

Therefore you should be casting a wider net. Which brings us to

(2) An agent's job is NOT NOT NOT to critique your work. You can get that sometimes from requested fulls, or more likely if you meet an agent at a conference and have her look at your synopsis, with the idea of helping you identify plot holes, or look at your query to identify weaknesses. Short of that, you need to get advice from other sources.

(3) You look for a junior agent who is sitting five feet away from a fierce senior agent who will keep her out of trouble.  You look for an agent who loves your work and thinks she can sell it.  And you make triple dog sure that she isn't heading for the exit anytime soon.


Donnaeve said...

If I type fast, I might be first vommenter of the day!

I was sort a patting myself on the back for guessing AA was La Sharque herself. Then the second paragraph from the questioner gave that away, so now I must find something else to high five myself over.

Anyway, I'd snap up lil ole JA in a heartbeat - as long as they LOVED the work. As Ms. Janet said. Secondly..., who said you have a fatal flaw? (FF) If you're at the querying stage, and have used a CP, there can't be an FF unless your CP is a real slacker. I doubt that.

Something tells me a beady eyed Shark will be looking over JA's little dorsal fin ensuring no obvious errors are made. Besides if JA GOT the job, something tells me they are AJA. (awesome junior agent)

Remember Brooks Sherman?

And boy, talk about a crazy week. I received a call Tuesday afternoon stating there were two warrants out for my arrest for failure to appear for Grand Jury selection. Needless to say, FREAKING OUT became my MO (Modus Operandi) for the next several hours. Turns out it was a scam (of course I wasn't going to make those Google searches on my name that I've been incarcerated - or that I'm dead - come true!!!) There are implications of a greater menace behind the scam. This is already turning long, so I'll have to 'splain later.

Or, maybe do a blog post about it.

Donnaeve said...

Oh. And Julia wins for most comments EVER on JR's blog. I think she beat COLIN. OMG. (Oh my God) :)

Paranoid about acronyms now.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Once upon a time Janet sold her first manuscript. I wonder what it was.

Jr Agent under the fin of Sagacious Shark sounds like a good hook. Obviously if they are open to queries they've learned the currents in the reef and which fish they're interested in.

Unknown said...

A hungry junior agent with a bigmumma shark agent waiting behind is probably the best thing you could hope for.

I say query away like mad. The polishing and worrying has gotta end some time.

LynnRodz said...

That's what you get for wearing dreadlocks. All you want to do is lounge on the beach all day and drink piña coladas. Then you have a years worth of mss (manuscripts - did I really need to explain that?) that need to be read.

LynnRodz said...

Oh yeah, congrats, Donna, for being the first!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Junior agents are not junior forever. Submit, submit, submit. Sounds like fifty shades of submission again.

Hey Angie I have wondered the same about Janet.

So Janet, what is the first manuscript you sold?

Which begs me to ask fellow woodland creatures:
what's the first (you-got-paid-for) writing published? Paid for defined as, in lettuce, lima beans or copies.

I'll go first.
Aug.1988, (a lifetime ago) two op-eds on the same Sunday. Never published before and I get two on the same day, (and in the weekend edition) what was that about?
Mother knows best about childcare, The Hartford Courant).
Silent accomplice, The Day in New London)

Come on Janet, please tell.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Yee Haw Donna, first responder in PJs.

Unknown said...

I'm not sure how a person could: "make triple dog sure that she isn't heading for the exit anytime soon," unless maybe a little work history.

The fact that Junior works for a reputable agency with top Agents says a lot for her but there's always a bit of mystery and chance in querying, no? (Best of luck!)

Unknown said...

Is it a prerequisite of drinking pina coladas that one must have dreadlocks? Good grief! I never knew!
I'd better start rollin' me some dreadlocks right away!

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

First, after we’ve read every bit of advice on your blog, how can we find better specific feedback than the typically vague agent rejection?

There's no guarantee that a query will ever be just right. We read all the advice, we get our queries (and our work) critiqued by others, then do our best. I think we've seen enough by now on this blog alone that there could be too many different reasons why a specific agent passes on our work.

So we just keep on keepin' on and in most cases, write another book.

Anonymous said...

Comments on your query are really nice. I got a rejection from a AAA agent who has had my full since November yesterday. Said agent handles some of the best known fantasy works ever created, so I obviously was encouraged by their interest.

Rejection was a basic good luck elsewhere. Well, heavens yes it would have been nice to have some feedback. I have yet to get much feedback in this round of queries with FAR RIDER. Honestly, I'm happy just to get an answer since so many have gone to the no response means no interest. I've received nothing that tells me what I'm doing wrong, only a few praises and it isn't for me.

I color coded AAA red, looked up at the little sign above my desk, "Rejection is part of the journey. Dejection is a choice." dusted myself off and looked at the agent catalog again.

If there were a junior agent asking for exactly what FR is, I would be shipping that puppy off so fast your head would swim. Oh, there are a raft of them asking for it, but they all want it to be YA also. That's not happening.

Things take long enough in this industry without waiting for some arbitrary anchor you put on yourself. A darling friend of mine doubled the amount of agents she's querying the other night. After much prodding and commenting she isn't as young as she thinks she is, she sent out to a second agent. In honesty, she's in the middle of trying to sell a house and other things, so querying probably isn't at the top of the priority list, but this has been a running joke in the posse about her querying rate.

I had a little mare named Ryonstone Cowgirl. She was royally bred top and bottom with race and cutting horse champions. Pretty, sweet, fast, hard-headed at times, and a genuine escape artist. She could untie any knot. She'd worry at any latch until she figured it out. My husband, in his infinite wisdom, loaned Cowgirl to some friends to see what she'd do in the roping box without warning them about her escape tricks. They were holding a big team roping at their place.

They broke for lunch. Steve tied her up, like everyone else did and off they went to eat. They came back later to find Cowgirl rescuing the last of the captives while the rest of the horses, wandered, raced, bickered, fought, and did other horsey things in the huge arena. Luckily, she'd been so busy untying all the horses, she hadn't got around to opening the gates yet. She had opened the steer pen on the way by, so the steers were roaming around with the freed horses.

So, I'm going to pull a Cowgirl and turn you all loose. For pity sakes, stop putting invisible ties on yourselves and run like someone left the gate open.

Jenz said...

Ah, I remember Brooks Sherman. He was exiled to Carkoon a long time ago, and now he hangs out there with a semiaquatic weasel. I suppose there are worst fates in life.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my gosh. Why do I stir crap up on B&W?

Someone trying to be serious about the objectification of men by some women online and I post Kari Lynn Dell's panorama of cowboy butts picture and confess I collect pictures of Wrangler patches.

I am such a vile person.

Someone take me away.

Anonymous said...


I still weep over Brooks. Every time he makes a post saying he's looking for something exactly like FR, I weep over him. I shall ever mourn him.

DLM said...

Donna, I've been bad about getting to my bookmarked blogs, but will keep an eye peeled. Hoping all is well and this won't be a nightmare!!!

I queried Brooks, but it was apparently a no answer means no there. Le Sigh.

My rejections on fulls were all of the "good writing/no passion" variety too, though there were two with detailed feedback I took to heart, from two agents whose attention I wet my pants over getting at all. For a long time, the idea of their asking for fulls kept me from allowing for the possibility that Ax is not marketable right now. Lawsy, thank Maud for the WIP.

Gossamer sends his three-year-old thanks for all the b-day wishes! He's enjoying his fleecy window-bed right now, while a siren goes by and some neighbor's incredibly cute-sounding dog sings in chorus with it. He hasn't so much as moved an ear. Ah, contentment!

My reCAPTCHA images just now would have won me a tic-tac-toe game. Woo!

Colin Smith said...

If I'm going to compete for the "Most Comments on QOTKU's Blog" title, a) the topic needs to be something I can sink my teeth into, and b) the comments so far need to NOT say everything I was going to say. This topic certainly fulfills a), but you've all been-an-gone-an-done b) for me (do you like my Southern accent?) :)

In response to 2Ns, so far I don't think I've earned a penny for anything I've written, yet. Of course, it would help if I stopped giving out freebies on my blog and actually started submitted to magazines and/or working on the WiP... :)

And to bj's comment yesterday about the age of New York, I smile. The school I went to is at least 1,000 years old. The oldest records they have for it go back to around 1382, but since it's a Cathedral School, it was more than likely founded not too long after the Cathedral. And there's been a Cathedral on that site since the 600s. There are tombs in the Cathedral that date to the 1000s--at least 500 years older than New York! There's a mind-blower for you. If you want OLD, visit the UK! :)

This has been an unpaid advertisment for the British Tourist Board--Carkoon Division.

Anonymous said...


Re, Brooks, no, I asked Brooks in a ask agent sessions if no answer means no response and he said no, all queries are responded to but *cough* some agents at TBA are farther behind than others.

That is why I weep over him. I'm older than dirt. I understand publishing takes a long time, but I have to set some limits.

DLM said...

Colin, if I want OLD, I'ma head to Uruk and Jericho. :)

I skipped 2Ns's question. I've never been cut a check by any legal entity for my writing (per se - though in my jobs writing has always been a CORE part of the work), but a rather lapsed friend of mine STILL owes me a couple bottles of Absolut for several freelance jobs I did for him like twelve years ago. :)

Anonymous said...


Speedhorse Racing Report. I sent a letter to the editor and the editor called me. She said she liked my style, would I like a job?

"I don't even have a high school diploma. I don't know how to write."

"I can teach you the nuts and bolts, I can't teach voice. Do you want a job?"

I worked for them 23 years.

DLM said...

Hm, on a quick search of my query records I can't even find the dang thing. *Contemplating whether it's worth diving back into the past-queries swamp when I've got gotten out and had a bath*

Poelle actually holds the record for longest response time, but neither she nor Sherman DO my stuff in the first place, so I never expected to get requests from them, really. Those were take-a-shot queries, I knew it going in. :)

Donnaeve said...

Diane, when I lay out the what if's to the scam scenario it literally takes my breath away.

Colin, just so you know, my "most comments ever" comment stemmed from yesterday's post, and actually, if I may politely "correct" you... :)...., since when have you ever held back due to topic? Isn't our forte to go off topic, thereby hijack Ms Janet's blog and end up with...oh, like 86 comments? LOL! My word.

Anywho, that's what happened yesterday, and Lord have mercy, Julia who came out of the shadows was on a roll. (not to be confused with Julie Weathers - which I almost did)

reCAPTCHA - I got steaks!

Colin Smith said...

Donna: Off topic? Moi?? :D Well, trying not to spend my life in the comments and maybe actually working on OTHER writing things may also play into how often I contribute to the dialog here. I keep reminding myself that (to 2Ns' question) if I ever want to get paid for writing something, I need to write something worth selling... :)

Donnaeve said...

Colin, amen and amen to that.

Dena Pawling said...

Re commenting – I get hives if I even THINK about posting more than 2-3 comments in a single day, not that I could even attempt that during the week anyway, so I'm never gonna win any awards in that arena. And I remember one weekend day, several weeks ago, when there were NO comments and I waited over an hour until someone else posted a comment before I did, because I did NOT want to be the first one. Sigh

And now apparently it might have been my response [or am I just too full of myself?] several days ago wherein I *gasp* disagreed with the Shark that's made people nervous about acronyms. Double sigh

And since 2Ns asked, my first paid writing gig was like DLM. My JOB is to write, and talk and argue. Gotta love it. But I suppose that wasn't the gist of what 2Ns was asking. Triple sigh

I've sent out 19 queries [in 3 batches]. So far I've had 10 responses, 9 rejections and 1 request for partial. It's time for me to send out another batch.

If there was a junior agent at awesome agent's agency who wanted my genre and whose tweets sounded like my ms, I would fire off that query to JA just as fast as I could type it and click “send”. In fact, I've sent off two queries to agents like this, who've tweeted a wish that sounded like my ms. One has already rejected, the other is still out.

If you want to connect with agents to get some feedback but the conference idea is out of your price range, maybe sign up for a class taught by an agent who will critique for the attendees. Or join a writer's group. My group's meeting this month includes a speaker who is an agent and her topic is about querying. Plus several of my group's members have agents, so if I was wondering about something, I could ask them also. Or, find another CP to increase the feedback you receive. You mention you have one. I have one also, my other two had to back out because their lives got too busy. I'm looking for another one. If you think you could tolerate someone who writes women's fiction [and trying a few other things], not yet published, who's a lawyer and basically obnoxious [read my blog lol], send me an email and we can see if we'd make a good fit. Or not. Up to you.

Good luck in whatever you decide. It's a cold, cruel, shark-infested world out there, and yes, we're all chum. Good think one such Shark believes fish are friends, not food.

Donnaeve said...

Dena - DLM? You mean, Diane Major a.k.a. DLM on this blog paid you to write something? :) Okay, I know that's not the case - but you're doing "it" again.

I.e. this Acronym - DLM? Driver's license manual? District Lawyer Must-haves? :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Thought I'd add that in '88, after having three unpaid "reader's write" pieces published locally, the two I mentioned earlier paid 35 bucks each. Considering inflation, world economy, the housing crash and war, I'd say that 35 bucks is now worth about 5 dollars. How's that for a successful career as a writer.

Julie said...

@Donna, Colin, et al...

Running for Benadryl and whatever-that-mystery-substance-is-that-people-use-when-stung-by-jellyfish.

And this would be why I lurk. Fear. Fear and surprise. Surprise and fear.

Ducking back into the coral.

VERY Small fish

DLM said...

Awright now, Donna, let's not start playing with my namecronym, now shall we? *Eyebrow rises imperiously*


She said her job was like mine - writing was key, but she wasn't being paid to be a writer as-such (and, oh yes, I totally typed as-suck there for a second!).

I'd actually be very happy to get a fresh new agent. Eager, hungry, at the beginning of a career. Old as I am, I feel I'm in the same position, with this "unpaid job" I've taken on as a pre-published woodland creature.

Julie said...

(Peeking back out) Also, I'm stuck waiting for my own AA (Agent Anonymous) rather than writing my darling usual MC's. This makes me nuts. No Arwein (my MC), no sanity. It's like suddenly being off Xanax. You people are my Xanax. Lucky you. (Packing for Carkoon).

Anonymous said...

Hi, original poster. BJ chiming in, because ... well... it's BJ...

Have you only had one critique partner? If so, no matter how wonderful this person is, how great a writer or how insightful, they're no longer fresh eyes. They've probably seen more than one version of the correct novel, and have ideas in their minds that might not be what's actually on the page anymore.

So I would suggest finding someone else - preferably another writer who can see writerly flaws - to go over it with fresh eyes. Fresh eyes are invaluable.

As for junior agents - yes, if they belong to a highly respected agency, you can bet they'll be guided by good agents. Janet had a caveat I hadn't heard of before - not heading for the exit anytime soon. I suppose a junior agent isn't as committed to the job yet. I once pitched a junior agent at a conference when the senior agent became ill not long before the conference. Neither of these are still in the business. I look at that pitch now as simply a practice pitch.

Carolynnwith2Ns: I had to wait until I started writing professionally to actually get paid for it. I mean, I'd written a few reports and stuff in previous jobs. But I finally landed a technical writing job in 2003 where I learned so much. It was only temporary, but it started a whole new career. Haven't sold any fiction for pesos, yet, though. Still working on that.

Also, 2Ns? Back then, $35 was worth $71.21. (Found a new calculator: Inflation calculator) That's pretty good.

Anonymous said...

I had to write a whole separate post to respond to Colin's comment about old places. I'm sorry it's so long. It's something I'm passionate about.

I know exactly how old England is. I've always wanted to go. You can't dig a hole there without finding something historical or prehistorical in the dirt. The sense of lives past would travel up my legs and into my heart. I crave that sense of past.

I have a degree in anthropology with a specialization in archaeology. I've done papers and projects on the archaeology done in Britain. There are sites (some not far from London) that have layer of layer of artifacts starting from the times when the Celts were the main culture in England (before the German-speaking Angles and Saxons moved in) and on up to the middle ages. In a class, I did a talk on Hengistbury Henge (that one itsy bitsy penninsula) that was supposed to be 20 minutes, but there was just so much prehistory there that I spoke a full hour - and no one stopped me, because it was so interesting. And I still didn't get to it all.

But, while the east coast of Canada has been populated for as long as the east coast of the US, here in the west, settlement didn't happen much until the 1800s. In 1905, this are was divided into 3 equal-ish sized provinces. (Saskatchewan is about the size of England and Scotland together, if I remember correctly.) My city became our capital then... then, in 1912, a tornado blew most of the city down. There is very little 'past' here. Which is why I feel the past in other places more intensely.

Again, sorry for the length.

I had to type "Rua Patr4e Raposo" into ReCapcha. What's that about?

Phoenixwaller said...

Regarding the fatal flaw.

I saw at least one other person say it, and I'll say it again. If you've only had a single CP, find some more.

Some will say look for other writers, and that's good advice for CPs. But for a fatal flaw I'd look for heavy readers as well, and put them in your beta reader group.

To me a critique partner is good for pointing out a lot of different things because they're looking at it from a "make notes, improve the work" perspective.

But a handful of beta readers, whose only job it to read the work and then let you know at the end... I've had them catch some pretty big things before that CPs didn't.

How you get beta readers is up to you. I usually just put out a call on my social media site of choice, and accept about 10-15 people who are always discussing books. But do what works for you.

Colin Smith said...

Oh, my first job in the US was as a technical writer. I suppose that counts. Wow. Strange I forgot that. :)

bj: The sad thing is, I never truly appreciated the deep and rich history of my home town until I moved away.

Anonymous said...

I can believe that, Colin. It must be like moving from the comforting embrace of the deep to shallow water (or no water, if you came this far north and west).

Someday, I want to go to the UK. Maybe make it as regular a trip as NYC is for me now. I'd want to see all the history, visit archaeological sites, see all the museums... It sounds like heaven, to me.

Working as a technical writer is as much writing as publishing a bunch of fiction. You don't get anything published in your name, unfortunately, but it's writing, and it pays. And the more writing you do - of any kind - the better you get at writing. Like jogging versus playing tennis: it's not the same thing, but both will help you develop your physical abilities so you can do the other better.

Craig F said...

Also a CP is not a beta reader. Find someone and hand your manuscript to them. Let them read it and report on it. If it isn't what you wanted ask them direct questions.

Two of my betas stayed up all night to read my manuscript. That was almost a win because I place pacing high on my list of things to accomplish when writing. Then I asked about a couple of characters and found that I had not grounded them well enough to even be remembered. Force the issue and ask about a flaw somewhere.

On junior agents or associate agents. I was turned on to Query Shark and thence to here by an associate agent. I wish I knew who she was but was only allowed at say she was associate to B. Lowen..

More on Junior agents. They probably do a better job than many regular agents because someone is checking their work.

Being their first contract might be a great thing. Humans all have a soft spot for their first, it might be a wonderful relationship.

Freaking Sushi again

Christina Seine said...

Come to Alaska, and your perceptions about oldness go out the window. It's a harsh place to live - in many ways. The climate grinds away at almost all building materials, and earthquakes tend to finish them off. So you'll see businesses that proudly state "since 1999" like they belong on a historic register or something. Plus, we're just a young state. And I'm a history but! I go nuts for all the historic places whenever I travel.

Christina Seine said...

Oh yeah, and the topic at hand (why start now? Lol) ... I'd rather have an eager young Junior Agent who's in love with my MS (as long as there's an AA within poking distance) than be a guppy in the pond of an AA who has many bigger fish to fry ... I mean, agent.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

BJmuntain in a past life you were a Brit. Go for God's sake. Life is too freaking short.

Matt Adams said...

My first paid writing job was covering high school football for the Florida Times Union in Jacksonville. $25 bucks for 200 words that were never used and a stat box, all filed from a payphone on US441 at about 11 pm on a Friday night.

Good times.

S.D.King said...

I queried Brooks and heard nothing back. His website says if you don't hear, resubmit the query because they respond. I resubmitted and still crickets. I suppose I could re-resubmit but I don't think he's looking for a long-term non-relationship.

Dena Pawling said...

Well Donna, speaking of your reference to “Driver's license manual”, today I had to go back to the DMV to pick up another rule booklet because my younger 2 kids are both learning how to drive and they lost the study booklet I picked up for them a few months ago, that they were so insistent I get for them RIGHT NOW because they want to get their learner permits RIGHT NOW. And these 2 irresponsible waifs want to be licensed? *Shudder*

But yes, I'd love for DLM to pay me for my writing lol. Let's talk =)

Donnaeve said...

DLM - ah, see? That's what I get for skimming lengthier comments. She meant possessive, as in DLM's job, etc. etc. and simply left off the 's.

Dena - Ha! Been there, done that. My some "blew" up his first car when he was sixteen b/c he thought oil was like gas. Let it run out and then fill'er up.

Double shudder.

Donnaeve said...

My son ... not my some.

Me tired. Been planting flowers all day. And I ran this morning.

Off to sip on a beer. Maybe two.

Kate Larkindale said...

If that junior agent wants what you write, send it. They're at the beginning of their careers and don't have a whole lot of existing clients to juggle alongside reading queries and MSs. They're eager to succeed and have experienced agents around to back them up and give advice.

My agent is one of these, and so far I'm extremely happy with how things are going.

Amy Schaefer said...

What Kate Larkindale said.

I stared at the blinking cursor for a couple of minutes, hoping I had something better to add. Nope. Not today. My youngest is already pestering to go fishing, so perhaps I'd better get some breakfast then wander down to the reef.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I want an wahhhh...
There's no whining on Janet' s planet...wahhhh

Anonymous said...


Yep, we're having the "FAR RIDER is YA" discussion again. It would be an easy pitch if it were, but at this word count agents are going to say, "WTH are you thinking?"

It's a conundrum.

b-Nye said...

I probably have the only pics of Ms Reid in existence and though my life rest on them being mislabeled and forgotten...I want sooo badly to photoshop dreads and a rasta cap on just one...
just one.

Anonymous said...

Totally off topic, but that was a good Derby. I'm thrilled for Baffert, who certainly paid his dues, as must we all if we want to succeed.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: Which topic was that off? :)

Anonymous said...


Writing, and junior agents in a woodland creature sort of way. ;)

Heaven knows we circle the wagon many times in many ways on any given day.

AJ Blythe said...

Like many of you my first 'paid' writing gig was for work, so it doesn't feel like it counts.

Am I the only one glad that Chumbucket is going to be a late bloomer this year? Gives me time to get ready, 'cause I'm not yet and I desperately want to be (being the Woodland Creature I am I'm always certain if I don't do it *now* the opportunity will pass and I'll never get to again).

Anonymous said...

I'm curious, Julie. Is the only reason you don't consider the novel YA (young adult) that it's too long?

My brain is a bit off today - but it's fantasy, right? Fantasy can be longer.

If length *isn't* the only reason, then don't worry. If the only reason *they* think it's YA is because of the age of the protagonist, then they're off the mark. Adult books can be about younger folk.

If length *is* the reason, you might want to reconsider. It might be difficult to get a long YA published, but it might be less difficult than trying to get a YA novel sold as an adult novel. I'm sure you see the same agent comments on #tenqueries that I do, about "Trying to sell this as adult when it's YA. I don't rep YA."

I don't know your novel, your themes, your events, your characters, your writing style. All I know is, length is a rather arbitrary reason to choose a genre on. Character age is less arbitrary, but still not a given. There are many things that separate YA and adult fiction. Basing a choice of genre on only one of these things wouldn't make sense. Whether it's you or the folks arguing the other side (and I know, I've seen arguments like 'she's under 20, so it has to be YA' when everything else is definitely for an adult audience.)

Just my 2c Canadian, which isn't worth a lot right now.

Anonymous said...

Sorry. That should be 'choice of category.' YA and adult are categories, not genres.

It's been a long day. My brain is fried.

Oh look. Squirrels!

Craig F said...

This started as a post to tell Julie about what happens to me when she tells a horsey story.

I got side-tracked. The Science channel has a new show on called Outrageous Acts of Psych. If you are a writer you should watch it. It is about responses to things you would not expect.

Commercial break and back to Julie.

My brain plays James Keelaghan's Number 37 every time. It is a lovely song about a barrel racer with chestnut hair who gets the most from her horse with tender, loving words.

Maybe there is an Albertan out there that can publish the lyrics. I can't find them anywhere.

To you Albertans I think Keelaghan is a better Albertan songwriter than Corb Lund based on the strength of "Cold Missouri Waters".

Anonymous said...

I'm not Albertan, but we're right next door. I've never heard of Keelaghan. I might have to look him up to see if he'll be in Saskatchewan any time soon.

Thanks for the tip.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...


"...length is a rather arbitrary reason to choose a genre..."

My word count is 625 per column. Does that mean I'm lazy?
I just got home from work.
Ya know, at my age I shouldn't have to work. All I should have to do is write, eat, watch David Muir for half an hour before I have a snack, count my money and go to bed. Which means if that's all I did, by Christmas I would have to have my stomach stapled because my lap top would not have a lap to sit on top of, not that I actually write with a laptop on my...oh never mind.

I want an agent wahhhh ... I'll take a junior's junior agent. I'll take an agent that rides a Big Wheel to work.

I would never be like Donna who writes, runs and looks young. I look like my mother and she's been dead for nine years.

I'm outta here before I say something stupid. Too late.

Anonymous said...


FR is epic or possibly high fantasy, whether it's adult or YA seems to be the debate. There seems to be debate about that also.

An agent's minion said it reads like classic epic fantasy. Others have said similar things.That isn't bad; it's what I'm going for with a generous twist of humor. Anyone who knows me knows there's going to be warped humor involved.

Other people have commented I have a voice that would appeal to the YA crowd and the book would probably do well YA with some minor adjustments for language and sex.

It will definitely appeal to YA. At 152,000 words, I don't think there's an agent on earth who would touch it for YA and I am not trying to cut 70,000 words. I'll start working on a new project, which is what this would be.

Who knows, maybe I'm confused, but when I read #tenqueries and see agents say "YA 150,000? WTH are you thinking?" I don't think so. I see enough harping about not wanting stuff over 120k even for epic.

If FR doesn't find a home, there are other projects.

Unknown said...

Huh, I always loved epics as a teenager. Heck, I loved 'em when I was ten. I started with Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, and went on to Tolkien and Jane Austen.

I think it's a pain in the neck when agents/publisher say YA can't be longer. There are still a heck of a lot of kids out there reading long, epic fantasy/scifi.

It sounds like you've got a YA there, Julie :D Voice and content are what really matter. Crummy that you can't market it because of preconceived ideas :/ Not all teens/preteens are stupid, or have the attention span of a goldfish. Maybe one day publishers will realise that and you can earn your millions from an awesome book :D

Oh, and Harry Potter, anyone? Not short books, eh.

(Edit: Oooh, oooh! I got to pick sushi! My life is complete!)

Julie said...

OMG Am I banished, or not? (Dying.....)

Anonymous said...


Who knows? I'm going to keep pitching it as adult epic. If fabulous agent to be named at a later date determines it will go better as YA, we'll cross that bridge then.

It isn't that all teens have short attention spans, it's more about shelf space.

The first Harry Potter book was 77,000 words and she didn't break 100k until the third book. When the series is that successful all rules go out the window. The fourth book was nearly 200k.

Anyway, it is what it is and I am not a special little snowflake.

Unknown said...

Julie, sounds like you have the write (ha!) attitude :D I'm sure you'll be fine.

And you're right- may as well leave the genre/agegroup wrangling to the agents and editors.

Anonymous said...

Julie, just because a novel will appeal to the YA audience doesn't meant it's a YA. Stuff all those others. Epic fantasy with twisted humour is needed for adult audiences. And you know something? The 'YA audience' will read 'adult' books, too (as WR attested above). Don't let those others sway you from your vision.

It made me choose sushi. I looked at the picture it gave me, then looked at the others - and there was only one picture of that sort of sushi. It was hard to tell if other pictures were a different type of sushi or something else. I picked what looked like wonton soup with something that could have been sushi - and it screamed at me "INCORRECT ANSWER". Then it made me choose burgers. Luckily, burgers rarely look like anything but burgers.

Anonymous said...


Correct. Elizabeth Moon's DEEDS OF PAKSENNRRION, Brooks, Eddings are all classic fantasy and were and are widely read by many ages.

FR is what it is. It will find the right home.

My youngest son, Will, used to come tearing in the house yelling, "Mom! Mom!"

"What is it?" You'd think there was some grand emergency, and there was.

"Sunset alert!"

So we'd run out to the corral, sit on the top rail and watch a particularly beautiful sunset together.

That's what I want in an agent. Someone who understands what's important to me.

Unknown said...

@ Julie Weathers Off topic indeed. It was an awesome Derby race. Go Baffort.

On topic: “I love your concept and writing, but unfortunately I’m not connecting with your story,” Hey! You've been reading my incoming emails!

Anonymous said...

Unknown, aka Donna, yes, it was a good race. Bob took a lot of heat from the TB people when he started training. Obviously Quarter Horse trainers know nothing.

I guess he's proved the naysayers wrong and I am thrilled for him.

Yep, lots of love going on in those rejection letters, just not enough.