You’ve heard a lot from me this week, and tbh I don’t actually aim to send more newsletters. (We all have enough newsletters.) But we have a lot of new people here (hi!!) and we haven’t had an open thread in a while, so let’s do it!
The rules are simple: No pitching your book. But otherwise, got a question I or the rest of this lovely community can answer? Want to talk about something you’ve been thinking about recently? Read any good books lately? Have at it!
Not a question, but just a general thank you, Kate, for doing what you do! I’ve been publishing for a decade now, but of course you never stop learning in a field like this. Appreciate all the insights and advice you share on your SS! 🖤
Hi all! I am loving this newsletter - not just great for info but its funny too! I'd love to learn more about ghostwriting or writing for IP :)
Lost my dad in Feb. Have not done any writing. Any ideas on how to get back into it?
Hi Kate! Apologies if you’ve answered this before: I have what I think is a decent request rate (around 20 percent) but none of my full rejections have come with feedback. Should I take that as a bad sign or do most agents just not have time for feedback on fulls? Thanks!
Kate McKean, thank you so much for doing this open thread today. The comments and replies are quite helpful. I always am happy to find your newsletter in my email inbox (who says we're
tired of newsletters), but today has been a special treat. Thanks!
Hi Kate, (or anyone who is savvy at kid lit)
Is there a "space" in between picture books and early reader? Something that is essentially a picture book, but with text between 1500-2500?
I recall seeing longer stories, with more advanced vocabulary, but illustrated. (An illustrated fable perhaps? For example, an adaptation of the Brementown Musicians comes to mind. )
If there is a place for such work, what's the proper way to frame this if one were to query it?
Or is it as Apollo Creed shouts when training Rocky in Rocky IV, "There is no in-between, Balboa, there is no IN-BETWEEN!*"
Thanks for being so awesome, Kate.
* I don't think that is really what Apollo Creed shouted, but that was the voice I heard in my head.
Good morning from Chicago! I'm Christine Wolf, a memoir coach from Chicago, and SO happy to be here :) I LOVE talking to writers about craft, and I'm grateful for this thread. I have a question for the group:
How many of you have heard of expressive writing as a therapeutic tool? I've been working with Dr. James Pennebaker (the pioneer of expressive writing), and will use his evidence-based expressive writing protocol (writing for 20 min/day for 3-4 days about a tough subject) during an upcoming Write to Heal retreat I'm hosting in May. As I craft my workshops for the week, I'm trying to gauge familiarity levels with the practice, and how many of you are open to "writing through" the hard stuff, rather than "writing around" it or avoiding it altogether.
Sincere thanks for your feedback!
Hello, I just joined this week so I’m sorry if this sort of thing is covered a lot or if it’s outside the usual purview.
I am nearly done with the first draft of my manuscript and I am very excited to print out a bound copy and read through it like a real book before I dive into the hard work of editing.
With that being said...
As I get closer to that mile marker, I keep feeling worse and worse about what I have. I have always told myself that maybe this novel would never be published and that would be okay, I would simply take it as a learning experience and start the next one. But it’s starting to feel like trying to polish it and send it out would be a waste of time. Is this a normal thing to be feeling? Is this a situation where you are supposed to listen to your gut, or is it a situation where you are supposed to ignore your gut and press on?
Thank you this column is so helpful!
I would love anyone's tips for how to complete a manuscript while having a regular job. Weekends need to have some resting time and household chores too, so... how?!
Hello! I'm a newbie. Thanks for having me! I find the newsletter really fun and informative.
My situation: I’ve finished three full drafts of my first novel (about 52k words). I’m very lucky to have a very patient, helpful wife who has given me feedback along the way, as well as two old friends - one of whom is a writer, the other a voracious reader - and they are also giving me feedback as well… BUT I WANT MORE AND I WANT IT FASTER! 😅
Waiting for busy people with busy lives to be kind enough to read my manuscript is harder than writing IMO!
Does anyone have any experience with professional editing services that they would recommend? There are quite a few out there. They are all pretty expensive. It would be great to hear about any experiences people have had with these before considering using one.
Even better than paying someone would be an amateur group of like-minded souls convening for this specific purpose: swapping their manuscripts and giving each other feedback. I joined writing.com but it’s tumbleweeds so far! Again, anyone else have useful tips or experiences?
I know we can’t pitch our novels here, but can we pitch setting up feedback communities?
Hi, Kate! Thanks for this open thread!
I’ve been querying a novel for a few months now, and I’ve gotten a few full requests. Every time they come back, though, the agent rejects based on the pacing (too slow). Do you have any advice for keeping up a good pace in a book? Or how to improve a slower paced read?
Hi Kate (and others)! I'm curious if folks have thoughts about the authenticity of setting a novel in a real place--like, does it bother you if, say, 80% of the places are real and 20% are invented (or some other ratio), or no big deal? I don't think I notice this much when I'm reading, but in my own writing I often find myself going back and forth on this. And what about stretching the truth in terms of small things that readers who know the place might notice? Thanks! Love the newsletter!
Hi :) Been following this newsletter for a while and really enjoy it. I'm an indie author hoping to also break into trad publishing, and was curious how sensitivity reading happens on the trad side. Is the author still responsible for finding sensitivity readers, or does the agent or publisher do that? Who pays for it? At what point in the editing process does it happen? Thanks!
Hi Kate, I’ve been loving your newsletter for a few years and wish I had your wisdom to guide and encourage me when I was writing my first book with great angst 30 years ago. Three books later, my agent and I have parted amicably, no drama—after three decades, we’ve both changed and it wasn’t working anymore. I have a some book ideas, including a fictional follow up to my last nonfiction book, which has been optioned for film, but none are near the query stage. My question is should I wait till I have a ready query (or fiction ms) to start looking for a new agent, or is that something a published author should get moving on any time? And thanks for all your great advice! ps, the angst never goes away…
What's some good advice / resources for writing a synopsis - struggling to get mine down to 1 page :(
Hi Kate! Thank you so much for the newsletter! I love reading it and have learned so much about writing and publishing over the past few years from it and I love your book recommendations.
I have a question about querying. I’ve been querying for about a year and a half now and I’ve received 19 rejections so far (counting no response after 3 mos. as a rejection as well). I know that if you aren’t even getting requests for fulls, that usually means there’s something wrong with your query, but I’ve spent months poring over query examples from QueryShark and I’ve had multiple people look at it and give me feedback and I just don’t know if there’s something wrong with my query or if I just haven’t sent it to the right person yet. How can I tell if it’s my query that’s the issue?
Thank you again for everything you do and hope you have a gorgeous day!
Hi everyone! Apologies if this has been covered before, but I'm thinking a lot about the differences between traditional memoirs written like fiction; memoirs told through essays, for instance Lauren Hough's essay collection, Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing; and lyric/experimental memoirs like Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts. I am of course asking about this selfishly... in that I'm trying to figure out which genre / structure / world of possibility I'd like to be working in. Curious if anyone has thoughts on discerning how to structure nonfiction and which genres you'd like to participate in. (I'm also sort of guessing that like short stories, memoirs told in essays are often less marketable? Though not always?)
I am starting my book proposal for a non fiction self-help/memoir. 2 questions.
1. Do my sample chapters have to be sequential?
2. I would love the structure of doing this in a course. Any proposal writing classes coming up?
Being honest helps strangers but hurts those you love, how can you write and not lose your family?
Hi Kate! Thank you for this open thread. I have a querying question. Almost all of the agents on my list specify what they want, like first 12 pages, first chapter etc. But one of the agents just says “send queries and manuscript proposals for NF to (email address).” In this case, do they really just want a query with no pages from the manuscript? Would it be presumptuous to query them with the first chapter/12 pages? Should I do it anyway:)?
I am new to this so please bear with me. I have submitted my nonfiction manuscript to several literary agents and book publishers but none have responded positively. I am thinking of self-publishing. There are so many self-publishing companies and I have heard horror stories about them. Can anyone suggest a reliable self-publishing company? Appreciate your help.
Also curious—how do you manage working in publishing and also being a writer? I also work in publishing sometimes and at times find my "writer-identity" in conflict with my "work-identity," for instance sometimes wishing the business side didn't matter (though obviously it does matter! and in particular, it matters for me to continue having a job ha), or having been rejected from things that people I'm working with have been accepted into etc. Do you find yourself ever being challenged in juggling these roles and identities?
I am curious how you follow up with other agents if one is interested and the others haven’t responded. It’s hypothetical at this point but I’d like to do it correctly if it does happen! Thank you.
Along with a number of great agents in the US, I've found some that seem like a great fit for my writing but they're located in Canada & England. Do agents based elsewhere consider US authors? If so, are there reasons why I should only query agents within my home country?
Hi Kate! I've loved your newsletter for awhile, but especially NOW, since I'm headlong into the query process at long last. My question:
In your (very informed) opinion, is "grimdark"/gritty epic fantasy (think GRRM, Joe Abercrombie etc.) out of vogue right now with agents and traditional publishing in general? I ask because in my research, it feels like pretty much Zero agents are actively looking for stuff like that, if ManuscriptWishList is anything to go by. Of course, I like to think that my novel is more than just a sub-genre tag like "grimdark"...but at the same time, the shoe does indeed fit and there's no sense in me shying away from it.
But big picture, it feels like I've yet to find an agent in my research who i feel would actually be a good fit, given what I've written. Do you think I just need to query/research harder, or pursue an alternate publishing route? Or (ugh)...both?
Hi Kate! Thank you for doing this and I love your newsletter. A common theme I see in your advice on querying is to articulate the stakes. Do you have any advice on how to communicate this for an essay collection where each story has slightly different stakes? Thanks in advance! :)
This newsletter and the community is great. :) Nice idea today.
I'm working on a query letter and wondering how much to put in the bio. I mean, I've seen a bunch of examples and used my own version in the past, but if you are pitching a novel, does it matter that you have published nonfiction (with a 'big house')? Does it matter if you have self published a novel? The more we can squeeze in the better...or is it a turnoff and we should just highlight what we are doing now?
When you read a pitch or manuscript, are you ever evaluating for potential adaptability to film/TV?
As a former filmmaker, it’s a dream of mine to be adapted. But curious if Publishing™️ cares about that at all at the outset.
Something I've wondered for a while now, especially based on some of your recent 50 Queries Club posts... is it a bad idea to try to pitch a first novel with an unconventional pace or structure? If things aren't kicking off in the first 15 pages or the plot isn't shaped around a normal sense of urgency by design, are you better off saving that one until you actually have an agent who will just have to read the whole thing and see what you're going for?
Not sure if it's too late for a question. I am working on a memoir and looking to read TONS of great ones. Any recommendations from the gallery and if you are recommending, can you share why you think it's great? Thank you!
Hi Kate! Would love to hear your thoughts/suggestions on how authors should pitch their projects that aren't in vogue/on trend in the market. (Urban Fantasy for example, which I've heard agents say is dead/not selling and so they don't want to Urban Fantasy Projects).
Thank you for doing this, Kate! I've wanted to write a personal essay collection/reflections about some key transitions in my life, and just started. I need help with (1) settling on the format other than I like to see things in print (inner voice says you should just do a blog. Why a book?) (2) pitching help because it's not fiction and I have zero connections to this field.
I was actually asking for a friend, but the way I'd do it is to add the m&p info to the bio paragraph. For example, to make something up:
"I'm a veteran journalist who worked at The LA Times and who's also written for Salon, Slate and New York Magazine, to name a few, which has earned me 96K followers on Twitter. I will leverage those followers and my many media contacts to support the book, including XX, YY and ZZ who've already offered to blurb it and tout it to their own, more substantial social media followings. In addition, AA will write a foreword."
To extend this example, if you have one big m&p element, I'd lead the query with it. So: "My 'Modern Love' piece for the NY Times was one of their most popular, getting [engagement stats], and the many questions people asked in the comments inspired me to turn the piece into a memoir. It will tell the full story of [experience] and appeal to readers off BB, CC, and DD."
If you want to be really tricky, make BB and DD recent popular titles for the same target reader and CC a book repd by the agent your querying.
Granted this example is a person will a lot of things going for them, but the template should get most people started.
Any advice for if you're querying a nonfiction book proposal on a super-saturated/politically hot topic? I report on abortion policy and am sending out a book proposal on that subject, but it turns out so are 1 million other writers right now, and I've gotten positive feedback from agents who are responsive to my writing, but concerned they can't sell a book on this topic with so much competition. Should I keep querying? Wait until the deluge slows down? Scrap it and query a proposal on something else? I'm a beat reporter on this subject so it's not like I'm in a huge rush to secure a book deal—I have space for this work already—but I do want to write a book!
Hi Kate from Ho Chi Minh City! I'm a new subscriber and have a question that has stopped me working on my first book (a memoir) for way too long now.
I started writing last year with an approach I thought was good and finished two-thirds of the book. But then I read some advice books about writing memoirs which made me see the flaws in my approach, and now I want to try a new one.
Question: there are so many different approaches we can use to write a book (memoir in my case). How does one proceed when trying one approach over another involves starting over from scratch? Do we just keep starting new drafts until we're happy? Is there a way of landing on the right approach for the book without rewriting it several times over?
Thank you and looking forward to diving into the content in this newsletter!
Thanks for answering, as I know it was random. Have a great weekend!
Hello Kate and all! I’m looking for advice on becoming a copy/line editor. I’m a teen who will start work on an English associates degree next semester and may or may not continue to a bachelor’s. What are some good steps to take now? What do agents and publishers look for?
Hi Everyone! I'd love to know if you have any favorite resources for outlining. I've used the Snowflake Method before, but I'm curious what else everyone likes. I'm starting a new project (dual timeline, dual POV), so I'm in desperate need of an outline to keep myself straight.
Agree with others here who appreciate how funny you are. This question might not fit, but I am curious about how folks get into the audio book field (the folks other than the author who do the audible version). Thanks!
Oops, one more question! If I were to comp my book to something huge like I'm Glad My Mom Died along with two regular books, would an agent automatically assume I didn't do my comp research? Specifically, I'd like to say the mother-daughter relationship dynamic is similar to that of my story (not just comp the entire book), but I worry too many people use I'm Glad My Mom Died as a comp and it'll make my query more likely to be rejected.
My short story collection is under consideration by an editor at a publishing house and I still have a few stories in submission to lit mags, including one that was solicited by the magazine editor. If a story gets accepted, I'm wondering what are the issues with publishing it there? Thank you!
Hi Kate! Thanks so much for doing this. Another agent told me to add MORE information to the bio of my query because it's nonfiction/memoir. She said nonfiction writers need to demonstrate their platform and credentials, especially since I'm querying with a manuscript rather than a proposal. So I've included a large paragraph about my career (related to the book), past speaking engagements, articles I've been interviewed for and ones that I've written, podcasts I've guested on, who's offered to blurb, where I studied writing, and where I attended grad school and undergrad. It feels quite long, even though the agent said to include all these things. I'm not sure if I should keep it this way or if not, what to cut. Thanks for any advice!
Is switching pen names to switch genres still the way to go? No massive online following to leverage, but thinking about putting down the indie romance and trying something new!
Right, I'd like to talk about Audiobooks. Now that we have AI apps that can morph my voice into another, (a speech sample of less than 10 seconds will work fine), there is technically nothing to stop me narrating a whole novel and then using AI to morph the voice of each character (in dialogue) to another voice. For instance in a crime novel I could voice the main criminal as Al Capone.
I'd guess that narrators won't be too happy, but authors will be.
Look at this from the economics point of view.
It's an unfortunate fact that, unless you're a famous author or can show substantial sales, you won't find a great narrator to voice your book on a shared royalty basis. No, the narrator will ask you for, say, $1500 in fees. Are you ever going to earn that back? Doubtful. So what would be the point of publishing a loss-making version of the book?
I've been investigating the legality of using a famous voice. I can't find any kind of protection for a voice. In theory I could have (EG) Barack Obama narrate it.
Oh, by the way, before you comment "but AI voices are recognisably AI and banned on Audible", the method I have described is a morphed original, not an AI generated voice, the output is completely natural-sounding.
One more question, please: If you get an offer of rep from agent, you should tell the other agents you subd to that you got an offer. If you get a full ms request, should you tell the other agents that? Or only those agents you also request a full ms?
I have a picture book manuscript that I'm preparing to send out. It's science-y and I imagine this text having end matter. Is that something I should write ahead of time and send with the manuscript or something I should wait to do in coordination with the publisher?
Question re pitching agents memoirs, which I think of as real-life novels (just as true crime is real-life horror):
Does a memoir need a full proposal if the ms is complete, or would an agent be OK with getting just a query letter, provided it spells out any marketing and publicity aspects, along with a sample?
What is the best way to convert a novel to a screenplay? Thanks~~
I have a novella (45k words) that feels very "small independent genre publisher" in spirit, and most of those accept direct submissions. Should I send it to these publishers and to agents simultaneously? Or try to exhaust one pool first? Or not bother agents at all with this one -- but then when I send out my novel later this year (fingers crossed), hope that the cover letter can say "My novella X was recently accepted by X and is due out soon, ergo I'm already quite a big star."