Since becoming a literary agent, I’ve been fairly impressed with myself. It became obvious, almost immediately, that (judging from people’s respect for and faith in me) my IQ climbed 20-30 points and my expertise tripled once I began accepting clients. So, as you might imagine, I field quite a few questions. And some I know the answers to. Here are a few examples of recent questions I’ve been asked and remarkably astute answers I’ve given:
Q: I learned another book has the same title as mine. Does that complicate things?
A: Not necessarily. A book title can’t be copyrighted, so it’s a judgment call as to how familiar the title is (I don’t recommend calling your next book The Catcher in the Rye) or how likely it is that your title will confuse or mislead readers.
Q: Would a traditional publisher be interested in publishing books 2-3 of my series (I self-published the first).
A: No, I don’t think so. That might happen; but it’s very unlikely unless the first sold thousands and thousands of copies in a short time, becoming something of a phenomenon. Otherwise, the assumption is that the sales of book #2 won’t exceed the sales of book #1, so if book #1 hasn’t already won a LOT of readers, book #2 has even less of a chance of success.
Q: I’m on a search for a literary agent to help with marketing and promotion for my published book.
A: I believe you want a publicist or marketing consultant, not a literary agent. Agents represent as-yet-unpublished works, while publicists and marketing people help with marketing and promotion.
Q: What does “first five pages” or “first fifty pages” mean? I’m sure a specific font size and spacing of those pages is assumed, but I don’t know what’s standard.
A: You’re right; the assumption is that the margins will be 1″ all around and the text on those pages will be 12 pt. Times New Roman, double-spaced (though a book proposal is single-spaced except for the sample chapters).
Q: I feel like my novel is so relevant, about one of the hottest issues in everybody’s mind right now. It’s frustrating that it takes so long to get an answer from a publisher.
A: No doubt about it, the wait can be frustrating. But there’s a downside to writing “relevant” or “current-issue” stories; and that is that by the time the thing is published, bought, and read, there are different “relevant” or “current” issues in everyone’s mind. So my advice is not to try to “time the market,” so to speak. Just focus on great stories compellingly told, and let God worry about the rest.
Q: I’m going to a large Christian writers conference soon; and while I’m working on my novel manuscript, I won’t have a complete manuscript until a few months after the conference. I can write a proposal for the story since I’m working from a detailed synopsis, but I’ve read where fiction editors only want to hear from debut writers with complete manuscripts. What should I do?
A: Take a one-sheet with you and, if you’re able, take a proposal too. You can show it around at the conference and gauge editors’ interest there. They might give crucial feedback and make valuable suggestions. And, if they show interest, you’ll be much more motivated to send the proposal once the manuscript is complete.