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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sexiest Book Alive, 2010

Confession: I am a magazine junkie. I control my habit, and don’t subscribe myself—they’re always gifts and, as such, are justifiable non-expense-related household necessities.

The magazines currently being delivered to various family members at my address include Elle (for the 15-year-old), Sports Illustrated Kids (for the 12-year-old), Parents (for managing the almost-2-year-old), Esquire (for the husband), Golf Digest (also for the husband), National Geographic (for general culture and book ideas…see THIS post), The J. Peterman Catalogue (it totally counts as a magazine, and it’s FREE! Click HERE!), and a weekly People (thank you to my college roommate Sheena!).

When I received a recent People, it happened to be the Sexiest Man Alive issue. I flipped through and noted that the majority were actors, but they try to slip in credentials that aren’t related to acting, classic model faces, or flashy abs. Men who give to charity are sexy. Funny men are sexy. Good fathers are sexy. You get the idea.

Well, it got me wondering what the annual Sexiest Book Alive list would look like for MG/YA books, and who would win the cover shot. Would it be fun & sassy young adult fiction, hilarious middle grade, scary dystopian, or even scarier issue-driven contemporary? Would it include a quiet, well-received book with a big fat chunk of heart? Would it be a Wal-Mart book (i.e., a place you can buy a lobster, tire, and pair of underwear under the same roof), with every element to speak of—adventure, suspense, mystery, romance, sci-fi, humor, horror (FYI, I wondered if I should hyphenate Wal-Mart, and Microsoft Word informed me that I should…because Wal-Mart is in its spell check…wow)? Or would it be a small, boutique book that talked about one thing, doing it incredibly well?

Here are some of the favorite MGs/YAs of the year, based on Amazon sales, American Library Association picks, the Goodreads list, and others sources (these include novels that were published between September and December of 2009 as well). If you’ve got a minute, I’d love to hear your thoughts on which novels would make the list of 2010 Sexiest Book Alive, and, if you’ve got a winner in mind, who would make the cover this year.

City of Glass, Cassandra Clare
Hush, Hush, Becca Fitzpatrick
Fallen, Lauren Kate
Linger, Maggie Stiefvater
Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green, David Levithan
Rules of Attraction, Simone Elkeles
The Search for WondLa, Tony DiTerlizzi
The Heroes of Olympus, Book One: The Lost Hero, Rick Riordan
The Night Fairy, Laura Amy Schlitz
Countdown, Deborah Wiles
Museum of Thieves, Lian Tanner
Mockingbird, Kathryn Erskine **(I loved this one)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth, Jeff Kinney
The Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan
Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different, Kristin O’Donnell Tubb

Again, these are just a very few, so please chime in with your favorites!

Have a wonderful week, and congrats to everyone who participated in NaNoWriMo!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Wishes (and two reminders)

This is my last post before Thanksgiving, so I thought I'd share some jokes and cartoons. Depending on a few traveling issues, I may not post on Friday. The top list on my sidebar is dedicated to holiday-related links, including a poem by Lucy Maud Montgomery, beloved children's author of Anne of Green Gables.

First, a couple of reminders:

1) This is your last week to enter the YA Novel Discovery Contest.

2) Shelli over at Market My Words is having an agent contest on Monday, November 29th, with Josh Adams. Check throughout the day to see when she posts it--it could be an evening thing. Not all of the contests have required a completed manuscript. **UPDATE as of 7 PM EST on the 29th- Sorry to anyone who's checked the website for this contest--it's still listed on her blog as the 29th, so I'm not sure...maybe she's delayed it.

A Bigger Turkey

A lady was picking through the frozen turkeys at the grocery store, but couldn't find one big enough for her family. She asked the stock boy, 'Do these turkeys get any bigger?'

The stock boy answered, 'No ma'am, they're dead.'

The Secret of Stuffing a Turkey

How many cooks does it take to stuff a turkey? Only one, but you REALLY have to squeeze to get him

And finally, may the joys and blessings of Thanksgiving bring even the most bitter rivals together:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Get’em In Now—Are December Queries a Wash???

Hurry up, people! Only two weeks left in November to get those queries in. Because everyone knows that December queries are basically a waste of time….right?

I’ve seen discussion about this topic around the internet and chat rooms. Here’s an example of an interaction:

QUESTION: What do agents consider the best time of the year to submit manuscripts?

ANSWER: I'm not sure the best time but I do know the worst time. December. Not only are people stressed from the holidays and more likely to be away from the office, but as I hear it agents are flooded with hastily written novels from November's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) so much so that I have heard December referred to as the National Novel Rejection Month.

This is, of course, just that person’s opinion, but there are several thoughts floating around the blogosphere regarding the same idea, the three main ones being:

-Agents assume December queries are based on very quickly/non-revised NaNoWriMo novels that didn’t have time to rest.

-Agents already have a backlog and won’t get back to you until January anyway…and if you wait until they reopen in January, you’ll A) get them when they've cleared their plates of holiday queries, and B) possibly have a stronger query.

-Agents are like the Grinch, and look forward to ruining our dreams of being published during the holiday season (this was a prevailing JOKE, OF COURSE).

Well, on one hand, you might figure that agents who already have a query backlog of around 4 weeks will not be getting to your query in December anyway. But it’s not a waste of time to get in line—don’t necessarily expect an answer back before the holidays, but you never really know.

I’m gonna go with no—December queries are not a wash, unless you submit to Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary or Louise Fury of Lori Perkins Agency, who are both on query breaks until the New Year (you actually have until 11/30/10 to send a query to Ms. Fury). On that note, several agents do announce a short query break during the holidays, so be sure you check your agent’s website, blog, and/or twitter page for updates.

Final Note: Here’s an interesting interview with Mary Kole of Andrea Brown Literary Agency. It’s from last year around this time and touches on her opinion of National Novel Writing Month. The first question addresses the idea of December being NaQuRejMo (National Query Rejection Month):

Interview with Literary Agent Mary Kole about NaNoWriMo and Queries

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Call for Middle Grade Manuscripts!

I'm not sure if you follow Jill Corcoran's blog (she's an awesome agent with The Herman Agency), but she posted THIS on Sunday:


1) Click on the link below,
2) Give it a read,
Jill Corcoran Books: LET'S TALK MIDDLE GRADE

Here's a link to Jill's Publishers Marketplace page.

Here's a link to THE HOW'S AND WHY'S OF SUBBING TO JILL CORCORAN, HERMAN AGENCY - she just posted this today, November 16th.

FYI, it doesn't indicate it in this particular post, but I've read in other places that Jill only accepts queries from published authors or SCBWI members. She may have changed her policy, but to look into becoming a member of the Society for Children's Book Writers & Illustrators, click HERE. It's $85 per year, and they have different levels of membership, so you don't actually have to be published to join.

The Herman Agency also represents Young Adult fiction (one of their clients is Janet Gurtler, who wrote THE WEIGHT OF BONES).

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Few Reminders/Tidbits of Agent Info

Happy Friday! Today I only have a few reminders of recent agent information given via their blogs:

Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary- Taking a Hiatus 11/15-1/5. Note- Marissa Walsh is also at FinePrint and takes MG/YA queries as well. HOWEVER, she is currently closed to queries. Check her agent page for updates.

Louise Fury of Lori Perkins Agency- Won’t be accepting new queries STARTING 12/01/10. That leaves you about two weeks to query her in 2010. Her interests: She is seeking high concept Young Adult fiction and fun, imaginative and engaging Middle Grade fiction--think humor, adventure and mystery. The characters must be authentic and original. Louise really loves historical (especially Regency and Victorian), paranormal, steampunk romance and some horror. She's passionate about connecting with South African authors--anything about South Africa, or by a South African author is on her wish list.

Elana Roth of Caren Johnson Agency- Still open and quick to respond- is staying on top of her query stack. Last month she received 337 queries and made 6 requests. She says she’s responding within a week. Her interests: Elana Roth is focusing her list on children's and young adult books, and is primarily looking for high concept middle grade and YA fiction. She will consider picture books from author/illustrators only. She'll also consider a select number of adult projects in the areas of narrative nonfiction, pop culture and pop science. No vampires. Young adult- she is looking for high-concept hooks that don't scrimp on strong characters. Self-aware narrators, biting wit, or a dark or quirky sense of humor are always winners. Middle-grade- she gravitates to similar traits as the YA in terms of voice and hook. She'd love to see a new approach to a middle-grade mystery, and she'd also like to see great humor and adventure in MG.

Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown, LTD will no longer be an agent. His popular blog and Forum will continue to exist. See his post detailing the transition HERE . If you like Curtis Brown as an agency, you might try Anna Webman- she's looking for realistic fiction, both contemporary and historical, and would love to find a middle grade series. She also reps picture books and YA.

Kristin Nelson and Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency always close around the 18th, 19th, or 20th of December, and are closed through the new year…so, if you’re thinking about querying them in 2010, polish up your letter in the next few weeks. Their website’s Frequently Asked Question page (click HERE and scroll down) even tells you how to write an attention-grabbing query letter (seriously, they have links to Kristin’s personal posts about pitch paragraphs, etc.). YA/MG for Kristin must be high-concept and have a commercial bent. Sara likes YA set in the real world, among other genres.

Have a wonderful weekend, and stay warm (it’s been snowing here in Colorado~ I’m about 2,000 feet higher than Denver).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Agent Top Ten Lists- Most Queried, Most Accepting, Most Rejecting, Most Non-Responsive

There’s a lot of interesting information for free over at Query Tracker, so I thought I’d post some of their top ten lists regarding agents’ response rates and genre preferences, etc. Keep in mind that (to my knowlege) all of these statistics are based ONLY on info submitted to QT, so I'm not sure how accurate they are to the query pool overall.

I don't know that these particular statistics matter much in terms of your agent search, and they certainly don't mean that you should judge an agent in any way for being listed, but the side of me that loves celebrity gossip and silly magazines still enjoys reading these kinds of lists :)

Top 10 Most Queried Agents

2 Kristin Nelson @ Nelson Literary Agency, LLC
3 Ethan Ellenberg @ Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency
4 Diana Fox @ Fox Literary
5 Andrea Somberg @ Harvey Klinger, Inc.
6 Ginger Clark @ Curtis Brown, Ltd.
7 Joanna Stampfel-Volpe @ Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation
8 Jennifer Jackson @ Donald Maass Literary Agency
9 Holly Root @ Waxman Literary Agency
10 Laura Bradford @ Bradford Literary Agency

Top 10 Most Accepting Agents (requesting partials or fulls)

1 Denise Little @ Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency
2 Scott Eagan @ Greyhaus Literary Agency
3 Jessica Sinsheimer @ Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency
4 Sandy Lu @ L. Perkins Agency
5 Claire Gerus @ Claire Gerus Literary Agency
6 Anne Bohner @ Pen and Ink Literary
7 PJ Mark @ Janklow & Nesbit Associates
8 Mary Sue Seymour @ The Seymour Agency
9 Laura Bradford @ Bradford Literary Agency
10 Kate Lee @ International Creative Management

Top 10 Most Requested Fiction Genres

1 Young Adult (yay!)
2 Fantasy
3 Literary Fiction
4 Thrillers/Suspense
5 Romance
6 Women's Fiction
7 Commercial Fiction
8 Middle Grade (yay!)
9 Mystery
10 Historical Fiction

I'm a little under the weather, and will not be posting links with the top ten most rejecting and non-responsive agents. Please see the QT Top Ten page for links by clicking HERE.

Top 10 Most Rejecting Agents

1 Stedman Mays @ Scribblers House LLC
2 Angela Rinaldi @ The Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency
3 James Schiavone @ Schiavone Literary Agency
4 Laura Dail @ Laura Dail Literary Agency, Inc.
5 Paul Levine @ Paul S. Levine Literary Agent
6 Kathi Paton @ Kathi J. Paton Literary Agency
7 Anne Hawkins @ John Hawkins & Associates, Inc.
8 Victoria Sanders @ Victoria Sanders & Associates
9 Laura Nolan @ DeFiore and Company
10 Lisa Leshne @ LJK Literary Management

Top 10 Most Non-Responsive Agents (to be fair, many of these clearly state on their website that No-Response = No)

1 Ethan Ellenberg @ Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency
2 Ginger Clark @ Curtis Brown, Ltd.
3 Russell Galen @ Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency, Inc.
4 Jenoyne Adams @ Bliss Literary Agency International, Inc.
5 Laura Rennert @ Andrea Brown Literary Agency
6 Jamie Brenner @ Artists and Artisans Inc.
7 Jennifer DeChiara @ Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency
8 Loretta Barrett @ Loretta Barrett Books, Inc.
9 Alexandra Machinist @ Linda Chester Literary Agency
10 Robert Astle @ Robert Astle and Associates Literary Management

That's it for today. Have a great week!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Permission to write a boring synopsis…granted!

Some of you may have missed an interesting post by Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary on Tuesday. After attending a conference and fielding several questions about writing the dreaded synopsis, she came up with a few bullet points:

• Keep your synopses down to two pages (unless the agent or editor you're sending it to specifies otherwise)
• Your synopsis should be single-spaced, with a double space between paragraphs
• Have your title, author name, and word count on top as a header
• And don't forget, in a synopsis you're clear to give away the ending, in fact, you need to.

Those are all fairly straightforward. The part of the post that really caught my eye was this lovely quote:

The most important thing you need to know about a synopsis: It's ALLOWED to be boring. It's actually supposed to be boring.

WHAT??? Hallelujah! Something we send to agents is supposed to be boring??? I have seriously stressed out over synopses in the past, and was under the impression that they had to be as compelling as a query letter, and that a certain amount of voice was expected (and I’m sure those kinds of synopses are appreciated by some agents, but apparently they are not necessary). The way Suzie describes it is simple and to the point, so if you’re having trouble with a synopsis, please check out her great post.

PLEASE NOTE:The word “boring” does not mean that poor writing is excusable or that your overall plot can be boring. It means a simple book-report style description in narrative form is fine. No frills necessary.

Just like Suzie noted above, keep in mind that different agencies have different policies (the statements above have the FinePrint stamp of approval, which means both Suzie and Marissa Walsh, another MG/YA agent there, are behind them). That said, if an agency doesn’t specify, I think it’s reasonably safe to send a 1-2 page single-spaced document as Suzie suggested. Some places DO specify, and sometimes you have to read the website with a fine eye to catch it. For instance:

Elaine English Literary (who has a newish agent, Naomi Hackenberg, representing Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction) clearly states that with a partial submission they want to see a synopsis of approximately 3-5 pages, double-spaced.

That’s all for today. Have a wonderful weekend!

REMINDER: You still have three weeks to enter the YA Novel Discovery Contest.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Building A Book Bridge

Periodically, I'll get a large stack of books from various locations around the house and build book bridges for my tw0-year-old.

Some might consider it book abuse, but I stand by the fact that building the bridges for my daughter to walk on:

A) Increases her appreciation of books (they save her from the pretend hot lava, aka, the floor).

B) Gives her a fun path to walk around over and over so I can get dinner on the table.

Most of the time I use cookbooks or photographic coffee table books, with the occasional hardcover novel in between. Yesterday she stomped happily from American Colonial Homes to The Tree: Wonder of the Natural World to Moby Dick to Morton’s Steak Bible to Hans Brinker to Wine Tours of the World.

Of course the activity also struck me as a metaphor. Bridges take us from one place to another, and the whole concept of a book bridge made me wish I had kept a list of what I was reading at various stages of my life, so I could view the work-in-progress. It would be fascinating to see it weave its way from Berenstein Bears to Roald Dahl, from Dickens to Faulkner and Twain, from David James Duncan to David McCullough to David Sedaris, and to late-to-the-party love for Toni Morrison. And it would be particularly significant to see how, through the influence of my own children and crossover books like Harry Potter, my bridge returned to middle grade fiction.

Now that I have children, I feel a certain responsibility to expose them to certain authors/titles. And I certainly don’t underestimate the staying power of being read to at an early age. Twenty-five years later, I can still hear my mother’s voice reading me the words,

“Oh drat!” said the littlest voice in the world."

That’s the first line of King of the Dollhouse, a chapter book by Patricia Clapp.

I don't know that the book is one of my favorites, but it's a milestone in my bridge that I'll never forget.

What materials make up your life's book bridge?

We have relatively little time on Earth, and I know that I’ll never get to many books on my To-Be-Read list. I have to wonder how the books that are in my book bridge mirror my life as a whole. Would you recognize your friends or spouse by the books in their bridges? I still see book titles and am transported to a certain period of my life—seeing them on my shelf is like looking at a photo album, memories bound between covers.

It also makes me wonder whether or not our reading choices have the power to affect the next step in our lives, or the actions we take in the present. My youngest is just starting her book bridge, and I’m glad to be there for the first few miles.