Sunday, May 05, 2013

On Twitter-Stalking, and New Adult

The other day I saw a blog post that surprised me. Surprised me because... well, because it is ABOUT me, in part. I am the mysterious "Agent #1." I suddenly feel the need to put on a wig and sunglasses. ;-)

I agree with the thrust of the post (that one should research agents, and that twitter is a good tool to learn more about them)... so I'm not knocking the post or the author. That said, I'm not sure that I agree with all the conclusions drawn from the examples used, so I'd just like to clarify, particularly as I've gotten LOTS of questions.

Two weeks ago, an agent (Agent #1) tweeted that she was interested in New Adult books. This is great information to know if you’re querying a New Adult novel (or will be), since it’s not mentioned on her website. 
It isn't mentioned on my website, because it's not a "thing" for me yet. And perhaps it never will be. I'm reading a lot of what-people-are-calling-NA (and books that are not "officially" NA, but maybe should be) -- I'm formulating my philosophy, and how NA books would fit on my list -- in other words, it is definitely something that is on my radar and I'm giving thought to.

In any case, I certainly wouldn't take something on if I didn't love it and think I could sell it. 

Agent #1 replied and explained that she didn’t get the category, either, but she was willing to check it out.

Red Flag #1
From MY point of view, the point of that tweet was that I am interested in NA and have an open mind about it. Which I'd have thought would be a good thing? A white flag, if you will? :-)
Why would you want an agent who doesn’t “get” your genre? How would she be the best advocate for it? That’s like letting a surgeon who doesn’t “get” the function of your pancreas perform surgery on it. You want someone who not only gets your genre, she understands what criteria readers expect to see.
I actually said that I'm not sure I "get it", because I'd contend that NOBODY really knows what this "genre" is. (I'd also argue that it's not a genre at all, but rather a category... but that's another story.)

I simply don't think we can say that anything regarding NA is set in stone. Whereas the fundamentals of pancreas function are not really up for debate.

NA is a category that is very much in flux and still developing. Relatively few NA titles are actually on the market, compared to their YA brethren. It remains to be seen which titles have longevity and whether readers will embrace ALL kinds of NA stories rather than the contemps that have been best sellers so far.

This post here does a fine job of talking about what NA is, at least ideally. For the record, I disagree that NA is "sexed-up YA." But you have to admit, so far, that is a snarky but not wholly inaccurate way to describe some of the books that are doing well. This will change, if the category flourishes. But so far voicey, sexy contemp with college-age protags happen to lead the pack in terms of what is selling. Can we agree there? 

If she offers representation, you can ask her what books she’s read in your genre and what she liked about them. If she has only read two, you’ve got a problem. Also, make sure she does understand the genre. For example, if you queried her for your NA novel and she tells you NA is really YA erotica, then you need to keep looking. This is not the right agent for you. She’s clueless about the genre. 
I invite anyone to whom I offer representation to ask me about books. I read a LOT. Hundreds of books a year, on top of manuscripts. I love talking about books, and I promise you, I'm quite good at it. After all, I do it all day long, for my job.

If you've done any amount of research about me and you still think I might be "clueless"... let me stop you right there. Don't query me. We definitely aren't a good fit for one another. Why would you query somebody whose opinion and experience you don't value?

Agent #2 tweeted back that he hoped Agent #1 enjoyed the porn that would now fill her inbox... I have no idea how Agent #1 felt about the condescending tweet, but it upset the individual who emailed me the conversation. It showed a lack of respect toward a colleague in the industry. 
I'm pretty sure if we asked "Agent #2" he'd be happy to own his words. And while I appreciate the concern, it didn't strike me as condescending at all. I took it in the spirit in which it was intended: as an amusing tweet from a good friend, in the context of a lighthearted conversation. It made me chuckle. Particularly because it was actually correct -- plenty of what comes in unsolicited to the query box could be classified as amateur erotica.

That's not because that's what NA is. That's just the nature of the slush pile. Just as the majority of what comes in when you open your doors to picture books, are rough drafts, or stuff that would be better suited to the inside of a terrible greeting card... not because picture books suck, but because a lot of queriers aren't ready yet and/or simply don't know how to write picture books. The same is true in every category.

The point I'm making is actually very similar to Ms. Lindenblatt's. It's a fine idea to acquaint yourself with agent's twitter feeds if they have them. It's one tool that should be used in addition to the others (looking at their website, reading interviews, reading the books they already represent, etc.) Of course the fact is, every agent-author relationship is different; it does have to do with chemistry in some ways, and you can't always know if you'll be a fit until you at least have the chance to talk to each other. Still, twitter can be fun and informative, and give you a sense of their personality and taste.

If you hate how they come across on twitter -- by all means, don't query them. But it's not an accurate way to gauge what somebody will be like to work with, or how they'll react to your work. And it's certainly not fair to cherry-pick a couple of random tweets out of context and assume that gives you an accurate snapshot of a person's worldview.

Anyway, don't spend TOO much time twitter-stalking. We want you to finish those manuscripts! :-)

13 comments:

  1. What's so interesting to me is that many people act like agent-hunting is a spectator sport, and that agents aren't the same as "normal" people. Whereas the truth is, agents aren't magical book wizards--they're professionals. They're career partners. They're book lovers. And generally, they're human beings--twitter feeds should be taken in this light and not parsed line by line.

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    1. *takes off wizard hat sheepishly*

      ;-)

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  2. Anonymous7:54 AM

    The term NA (New Adults) is misleading and it's nothing more than YW (Young Women) and should be in the WF (Women Fiction) category. Otherwise we will get an avalanche of new categories created as marketing tools. What about MA (Mature Adults), SA (Senior Adults) ect.? Readers don't want more categories. They want good books to read. About 55% of YA Books are bought by adults, showing that it's not the category but the content. Naturally, I would love to have a new category just for my diaries, like NF (Nuns Fiction) but it is too much to ask. Chantilla the Nun.

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  3. I was fist-pumping as I read this. There tends to be this impression that just because we can *see* agents talking with each other, that we see the entire conversation and are qualified to pull out true meanings and agendas.

    I don't understand how people still don't get that TONE cannot always be properly interpreted on the internet.

    Haters gonna hate. I don't know. I think that getting to know and watch people on Twitter is a stellar idea, but damn, don't base your entire career off a few out of context Tweets, you know?

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    1. "There tends to be this impression that just because we can *see* agents talking with each other, that we see the entire conversation and are qualified to pull out true meanings and agendas."

      Summer, you are the Queen. That is all.

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  4. It's a sunny Sunday morning, am I allowed to ramble a little bit?

    On the topic of New Adult: I adore reading New Adult books. The proto-genre has an age category that personally fascinates me as a reader and a writer.

    As a reader, the come-of-age aspects of 17 to 22 age range is more visceral than the escapism found in YA. To me it's more reflective. I find most NA books from small press/independent authors on Amazon, avoiding the plethora of NA that is simply "romance-y" NA.

    As a writer, ho-boy (and ho-boy is a technical term), writing a New Adult book was difficult. When you've read YA books for, like, forever, it's easy to say "hey, how we can be a bit more adult-like here" in characterization but that's the whole crux of the difference. The "pull" of the YA "rules" tugs at the manuscript mightily and can result in a NA book that never lives up to it's potential.

    Which leads me to my disagreement with Anonymous at 7:54 AM. When I finished my NA book, I handed it off to my beta readers which in essence is a small undersized platoon of women. These beta readers reacted very differently than when reading YA books and it wasn't simply my skill as a writer. I am completely convinced based on their reactions that the underlying come-of-age thematic outside of the YA genre fascinated them greatly. Every beta reader except one confessed they were reduced to tears and I know it wasn't me simply being a emotionally manipulative bastard (which I am). Part of it was the emotional draw of the genre itself.

    I'm probably making a hash of that explanation, but until one starts seeking NA books and reading them, the draw of the genre isn't obvious.

    Which leads me back to Jennifer's point of her post, in a way. Agent Stalking was a part-time hobby of mine several years ago as I was learning the ropes but now is sooooooo pre-2010. I now only follow two agents, Kristin Nelson, because SuperAgent Kristin is awesome, and Jennifer, who has equally awesome insights on this blog that goes beyond selling of books to publishers. I came here specifically because Jennifer talked about New Adult on Twitter. I wasn't even following her on Twitter, either.

    So it is with vast amusement that she's getting "red flagged" for talking about a market and genre that's still shaking itself loose from the mighty quantum singularity that is the Young Adult genre. It's one thing to enjoy a book. It can be quite another to sell it. Jennifer could find a NA book, love it, think it's the very definition of NA, yet come up blank thinking which editor she knows would want to buy it. That's not a red flag, that's life.

    Love me some NA discussion. More please.

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  5. First, thank you Jennifer (a.k.a. Agent One) for pointing out Stina's blog. I've just signed up as her latest follower, er, stalker. Interesting.
    Researching agents on Twitter never occurred to me. Actually, nothing about Twitter appeals to me, so I stay twitless and pristine. This is no doubt a disadvantage in the world of commerce, but then the most precious time has to be devoted to actual writing and what is left is reserved for real reading and LIFE. if I ever get an agent I will let agent do all the stalking agent deemed necessary. What are agents for?
    Isn't it better to communicate (confidentially) with clients/former clients of agents? I would think.

    You seemed defensive in your response to the questioning of Agent One's professional acumen if said agent "doesn't get NA." I found the original comment on the blog, just as you retorted, pointless. It doesn't raise even a white flag. A statement that a newly invented classification is questionable but agent is open to exploring it says nothing but *good* about agent.

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  6. Anonymous5:01 PM

    Anthony asked for more NA discussion. Checking Webster Dictionary we find that YOUNG is being in the first or an early stage of life, while NEW is having recently come into existence. There is no logical progression from being YOUNG adult (YA) into being a NEW Adult (NA). Logical progression will be if we have a category of teenagers fiction (ages 14-18) who will grow up into young adults (ages 19-25). NA assumes that people have periods of about 5 years in their lives and that every 5 years deserve its own category of books. But after some age (let says 20 years old) we grow up based on events and experiences in our lives, not based on having more years. This blog doesn't allow emails from Yahoo, so that's why I appear as anonymous. Chantilla the Nun.

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  7. So to put this out there, I am not twitter stalking you for representation. I just find your blog interesting and informative. :)

    But on the concept of twitter stalking:
    The concept that I, as an aspiring author, read little snippets into agents' lives in an attempt to be more prepared to query is unsettling. It feels wrong, yet I still do it. I file twitter/blog/facebook stalking under the category of "unfortunate but necessary evil." I blogged about it not too long ago, but the idea behind my rambling post was an apology to agents for our creepiness and seeming lack of morals.

    Thanks for your perspective on the matter.

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  8. Just curious. Would something like THE SECRET HISTORY be considered NA if written today? What, beyond the age of the protagonist, makes a book NA?

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  9. Anonymous1:07 PM

    First off, I don't do twitter activity period; getting in the habit of expressing yourslf in 140-character soundbites is poisonous for a writer's technique. Secondly, I think NA is mostly an urban legend, unless you count books that sold in some other catagory that obviously failed to place as YA, such as CITY OF THIEVES from a few years ago....Kevin A. Lewis (not really all that anonymous)

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  10. Anonymous12:45 PM

    So I take jt you are still looking for ya. What about paranormal romance. I ask as I consider you very knowledgeable in the market! Is there still a market for this or has the shop sailed??

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    1. Paranormal romance is not my cup of tea. Sorry.

      I'd say the market is pretty saturated and it would be difficult to sell para romance nowadays... BUT, as with anything, awesomeness trumps all. So if you have a killer, unique premise, go for it. :)

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