Thursday, March 25, 2010

Quick Answers: Adults, Nuclear Arms, and Movies

My MG manuscript has been rejected by 30 agents (mostly at the query stage, but a handful at the full stage). The only agent who is excited to represent it is a top notch adult agent with only a few sales in children's. Should I be worried? What do you think of adult agents moving into children's in general? Are they as likely to be successful as any other newbie agent on the scene?
An experienced adult agent is probably a bit more likely to be successful than a complete newbie agent. But the current rush into YA by agents who don't know the market and don't read YA doesn't particularly thrill me-- or anyone else who thinks children's books are worth our time as well as our money. I would ask that agent careful questions about what books he/she thinks are competition, and which publishers would be interested and why.
Would there be a market for a book that is 1/2 fiction and 1/2 non-fiction, alternating chapters. Basically, splice together a 40-50k word non-fiction work with a novella about the same subject (i.e., narrative non-fiction about nuclear arms spreads and fiction story about arms dealer that finds himself brokering a North Korean nuke to Al Qaeda).
I don't know what "nuclear arms spreads" means as a topic, but leaving that aside, this sounds like a perplexing problem for a publisher. What title/image do you put on the cover to convey this mixed content to the reader? More importantly, where would such a thing be shelved, when bookstores have sections for fiction and nonfiction? I think you're making things unnecessarily difficult for both of these books by forcing them to cohabit.
Hi, my name is Jennifer and a new writer for children books. Recently, I wrote a couple of them and I am thinking to look for a self publish method (but I have not done anything yet to contact book agents and editors, etc., because I am afraid of a long, awful period of waiting in-line to get attention. ) The reason that I want it faster is because my stories are also a movie script and now I am working with a foreign investment for the production, and I suppose publishing a book is a better way to protect my rights and contents rather than just registered them in WGA. So, is it a good idea? Then I have a second question: if I go to self –publishing first, do I have a chance to go to mainstream publishers later and how?
Self publishing is not the way to protect your rights. You should do some more reading about self publishing: what it does, and what it does not do.
But publishing-- trade publishing, not self publishing-- can be a way of nailing down the content so that a studio doesn't feel they have free license to change everything about your story in production. So I do recommend you choose: which do you want this to be first: a movie, or a book? Once you choose, put your efforts in one direction, rather than in both.


Abby said...

Re: Fiction/Nonfiction book -

Deborah Wiles has a "documentary novel" about the Cuban Missile Crisis coming out from Scholastic in May. I wonder if that's the sort of thing this author has in mind? What makes Wiles's title so neat (in my opinion) is the many images and quotes she included that really set the tone of 1962. The book is called COUNTDOWN, it's the first of three such books.

And, as a librarian, I'll put it in the fiction section. :)

Anonymous said...

Re mixing non-fiction/science and fiction in alternating chapters:

Terry Pratchett's The Science of Discworld series (with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen) does exactly that, and very successfully. But then, by the time he published the first one, he was already a well-established author and Disworld had millions of rabid fans all around the globe. With a name like that, you can probably do whatever you want. :)

(Great books, by the way - I recommend them to anyone who hasn't yet read them.)

Anonymous said...

EA, you are the second editor I've heard elide MG and YA as if MG were a subset of YA. Is it?

I ask because I have some MG books out-- if they're YA, why ain't I making more money?

C said...

Doris Lessing's recent book Alfred and Emily is a biography of her parents in which the first and larger section is fictional.

I don't think Lessing's book is very relevant to the question that was submitted because not only is it for an adult audience, but I think you are given quite a lot of room to experiment when you have a Nobel Prize on your resume.

But, given this question along with the previous comments, this may be a trend worth watching. Nuala O'Faolain wrote that she turned to fiction after being a non-fiction writer because she wanted to be able to write something more true, and I don't think she was the first to express a similar sentiment.

Anonymous said...

"... by forcing them to cohabitate"
Cohabit is a really good word. No need to extend it.

Editorial Anonymous said...

You're right, Ivan!
Thanks, I've changed that.

Stories of Online Dating said...

When I was a kid there was an entire series of archeology books aimed at kids that worked sort of like that - they'd have a little novella about a person who lived in the town/ship/etc. that was being excavated, and break it up with periodic (and much lengthier) nonfiction sections focusing on what the people working the dig were discovering and how they were doing it. It was totally effective and directly led to me reading encyclopedias for fun as a preteen. But the novella parts were also considerably less of each book than the actual history and science, and they weren't very long books (usually 50-60 pages if I recall) to begin with, so the stories were probably only about 3000-5000 words long.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer Armstrong's PHOTO BY BRADY is nonfiction with a short fiction scene between each chapter. I thought it was a really good book--except for those sections of fiction. It seems to be marketed as nonfiction.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the informative post. I found the questions and answers to be very thought provoking and helpful.

Brian Anderson said...

"You sell a screenplay like you sell a car. If someone drives it off a cliff, that's it." -- Rita Mae Brown.

The same is true of selling a book to Hollywood. The fact that it's published in book form means nothing. We've all seen plenty of novel adaptations go flying off cliffs in the theaters, and they're readying the next one even as we speak.

Script registration with the WGA is only used for writing credit arbitration. It does not protect your legal rights and is not a substitute for registering the copyright.

And EA is right -- decide whether your story works best as a film or as a novel, and put all your efforts into that.

Leslie said...

Gosh I hope Jennifer is being careful. The mention of a "foreign investment" gave me pause.

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