Let’s get to it!
K asks: I have exceptional grammar and never misspell words. I almost won my state spelling bee and was this close to going to Nationals. When I see a typo in a book or online it sets my teeth on edge. Aren’t I doing the writer a service by telling them about the typo? I should email them when I see it, right?
No. You should not email them when you see a typo. Ok, ok—I confess. I made up that questions. I am K above. You might have noticed a PS at the bottom of the last few newsletters telling you I am dyslexic and please don’t tell me about typos in my newsletter because it makes me feel bad. This is 100% true and 100% my specific experience. Other people might really, really like it and appreciate it! But I don’t. And I don’t particularly care about typos and/or if I have a comma misplaced here or there. The goal of writing is not perfection; it is communication. And if you can still understand the sentence whether I write dose or does, then we are ok. Imperfect, but ok. So please, for the love of god, do not email me about typos in my newsletters. Those of you who have, I do not harbor any ill will. I know in my heart you have the best of intentions and only mean to be helpful. But it is not your job to correct the world’s spelling and grammar. It brings you more pleasure to be right (I presume) than it does benefit the recipient of your correction and tbh, no one but you is keeping score on this. Some of the loveliest people I know are full-time copy editors and even THEY do not correct my spelling or grammar even though I KNOW it drives them batty. Because when we are texting or whatever, they are not on the clock and thus do not need to copy edit my work. You do not need to do free copy editing for people. Use your energy where it can be of better use. (Literally do not copy edit that document I just linked to jfc.) If the intensity with which I feel you should not correct people on the internet hurt you, I am sorry. But your messages about this hurt me. Please stop.
IF IF IF you see a typo or mistake in a printed book, and you MUST tell someone, do not email the author. They have no control over the typesetting of their manuscript. You can email the publisher’s customer service department, likely found on their website, and I promise someone will look at it. It could get changed very quickly in the ebook, but it could take a long time, if ever, for reprinted copies to make it into circulation. THAT’S OK. The world will not end over the wrong their/there/they’re.
H asks: Is it bad form to query fiction and non-fiction at the same time? I’ve been querying a novel for several months, and in that time I’ve also gotten to the point of being nearly ready to query a totally separate nonfiction project. Some of the agents I sent the novel to also do nonfiction, and some of the agents I’ve researched for the nonfiction also do novels. Is it better to wait until I either give up on the novel or find representation for it, or is it okay to do both at once and on the off chance one gets picked up, explain that I also have this other project out there?
Thanks so much for this newsletter!
Good question! And one I’ve seen many times before. Writers contain multitudes, so it’s no shock you might want to query two books in different genres at any given time. My answer here goes for any scenario where you might have two different subsets of agents to query—not just fiction vs non-fiction.
First, you can totally query two books at the same time if you want. There’s no rule against it, even if I don’t usually recommend it. Your two submission lists may include some of the same agents, and that’s fine, too. In those overlap queries, you might say something like “Thank you for considering my novel, which I queried you on/you passed on/etc. I’m also working on X book.” and then proceed with your regular query. Agents may feel differently about this. I sometimes think oy I can’t sell all these books at the same time!!! and it feels a little overwhelming. But that’s just me and other agents might think oh goody goody more books! You cannot account for everyone so just go forth in good faith.
Second, you have to consider the best/worst possible scenario. It’s possible you get two offers of representaiton from two different agents, and each only wants one of the books. Let’s go with fiction vs non-fiction for ease here. Writers have certainly had two agents before and it’s fine. But it takes some fancy dancing and coordinating and you have to be the proactive one to keep each informed. What if both of those books go out on submission at the same time, to some of the same editors? Would they be able to buy TWO books from you? (We should be so lucky to have THIS problem.) Your book contract(s) have a “next book” clause which promises the publisher that they have your very next book coming out. You’ll then have to juggle the publication dates for each publisher, so that the fiction publisher knows that your non-fiction book is coming out first and that’s just how it is. Is that a problem? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ depends on the book and the author. This is a very unlikely scenario, so you probably don’t have anything to worry about. It hinges on both books being ready at the same time, bought at the same time, and published about the same time. Any part of that could change and be juggled and be fine. This is only one wrinkle that could come up. But do you want to deal with any of it? And do you want to manage TWO agents doing that? Wouldn’t it be easier to have one agent looking over all of it?
Ideally, you will have one agent interested in both your projects. That’s a high bar, but it can be done. I certainly have clients writing in multiple genres. At the query stage, I would cast your net wide and see what comes up. If and when you get an offer, talk to them about your whole body of work, and see what they say. You may have to make a tough choice about taking one path over another for now, i.e. focusing on non-fiction and letting the novel mellow for a bit, but that’s ok. Publishing is a long road.
Take care, friends. Be safe.