March 14th, 2008

books

letters from the query wars and thoughts on WFH

# of queries read this week: 141
# of partials requested: 1
# of partials upgraded to full manuscripts: 1
genres: fantasy (1), mystery (1)

Casualties: I got a papercut underneath the nail of my right-hand index finger. Ow. Ow. Ow.

I got a query for a novel set in the world of Eberron (yes, heinous_bitca, really) with a long explanation about shared-worlds and role-playing. I've been playing D&D since high school and a number of other games from college onwards, so I always find it sort of interesting to read what the author thinks an agent unacquainted with the medium might need to know. It tends to come across awkwardly. But, what strikes me when I get these or Star Trek (published by Pocket Books) or Star Wars ideas, is that people don't have a general understanding of licensed properties and how they work and the copyright issues involved therein.

Now, Wizards of the Coast does publish novels in the Eberron setting -- there are guidelines here: http://ww2.wizards.com/books/Wizards/default.aspx?doc=main_wartornguidelines -- of course, that was an open call back in 2004 and it looks like they now have a closed stable for the line as it says on the website that they aren't accepting unsolicited submissions for the shared-world lines. This happens with a lot of licensed material -- the publishers become comfortable with a small set of writers who already have the confidence of the Licensor (the owner of the shared world) and can make the often-tight deadlines involved with "work for hire" (which is the category nearly all licensed work falls into). Not very many agents dabble in WFH (the money tends to be small, and the publisher keeps the copyright and all the rights, so the future is about the brand not the author) -- I've done a few, mostly because my clients are fans of various properties (e.g. suricattus did some work in the Buffyverse, jimbutcher wrote Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours, and Craig Shaw Gardner wrote a BSG book). So, I'm not saying that I wouldn't consider a novel based on a licensed property - I have a lot of fun with them, and sometimes score some sweet swag. But it needs to be self-evident that the writer is aware of the realities of this kind of work and what's involved in securing permissions even just to submit in the first place and I hope they'll also have ideas for original fiction because most WFH deals are labors of love, not money, in my experience.

Of course, the oddest thing was that the protagonist was a Bugbear. I didn't even know they were a PC class.

The weather is clearing up and that may be sunshine I'm seeing hints of, so I'm taking the afternoon "off" to sit away from the computer near a window, and read manuscripts with a big bowl of popcorn....
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books

re-querying : a minor skirmish in the query wars

When I say it is okay to re-query me, I do mean it. But what I want is a re-imagining of the pitch, or a new book altogether. What I do not want is a mulish attempt to bludgeon me into saying I'll read something. If you do what I am about to describe -- you will not convince me to change my mind. If you send me the exact same query 5 times in 6 months and all you change is the title of the book (and sometimes not even that), there's every chance that I will recognize it and feel spammed instead of pitched. One of the advantages of being an agent is getting to choose the projects you want to work on and the authors you want to work with. It's a creative aspect of building a variety of projects to represent that I enjoy. I want to be hooked and feel compelled; not the victim of a hard-sell that won't take a polite rejection as an indication that it's not working.

And now I'm really going to go read even though it's clouded up again.