Monday, February 25, 2008

Please don't make me guess
the intended audience for your book.

Over the past several days I've received a number of queries that start out like this: "My book, The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread, is a series for young readers."

And that ends up being just about all the information I get.

A "series for young readers" is not at all helpful. In your query letter, you should be as specific as possible about who the intended audience is, the age range and the genre of your book. Because if you don't know, the rest of the world sure as hell won't.


S. E. Ward said...

Oh, come on. Everyone knows the only difference between Nancy Drew and A Series of Unfortunate Events is the cover. ;)

La Gringa said...

Um, yeah. And, also? Lemony Snicket didn't have a best girlfriend named George.

Thaddeus Glapp said...

Grrr, this is sort of thing I hate about this business. I made the mistake of writing a book that's not easily classifiable and appeals to a large range of people...therefore no one will touch it because they have no idea what genre it is. People say things like, 'go to the book store and figure out which shelf it should be on,' but guess what, it could go on about fourteen of them.

So much for originality.

Susan said...

But it *is* a business. We all want to be unique. I, forex, hate comparing myself to a published author, because I don't want to *be* them, but I do understand that from an agen't pov, professionally, they can think, well, this book has sold, therefore I can try so and so. There is a market for it etc.

Colleen's thought was that some of these novels weren't even being given an age ratio. Whereas YA can cross the bounds to adult fiction, it has to begin somewhere. A starting off point where one can say, this is similar to...

Yes, we want to be different, and, initially, I don't think any of us write to a specific market. We write purely for the love of it. But being published and just writing a book for love are slightly different. And even if a book is unique, it is still the writing that wins hands down.

But writing the thing is only the beginning.

La Gringa said...

Thaddeus -

Agents don't turn down a manuscript because it isn't easily classifiable. They turn it down because it doesn't appeal to them personally or because they don't believe they can sell it; usually a combination of both.

Plenty of odd and original books have made the bestseller lists. They just have to be well-written, too.

And yes, genres and sub-genres exist for a reason: to help people sell your books. To help a book buyer know where to shelve your book. To help a sales rep know how to position your book to that buyer. To help readers know where to look for your book.

And Susan was right: if you don't give me an age range in the query letter, you risk having me pass. I don't handle younger kids books or middle-readers. I don't read enough of them to feel that I would be the best representative for that type of work. So I'd like to know as soon as possible if I am wasting your time and mine by looking at an age level I am not interested in.

Thaddeus Glapp said...

Don't get me wrong, I understand completely and I let agents know where I think it fits. It just gets tiresome having to constantly reposition a manuscript. Par for the course I suppose.

Haven't submitted it to you, btw. Don't think it'd be a good fit so I haven't wasted your time :)