Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ask Away! Should you query an agent's assistant?

We've been seeing more and more questions from aspiring authors in our inbox, so we're turning them into a new, semi-regular feature — Ask Away!

Do you have a burning question about the writing, revising, or querying process? Do you have a dilemma and want some advice or a second opinion from fellow writers?

Email us at firstnovelsclub [at] gmail [dot] com, tweet us @firstnovelsclub, or leave a comment on this post — we might answer your question next!

Round One!


I receive a very nice rejection (I know!) from an agent's assistant a few day's ago about my 1980s throw back YA thriller. Though the agent was a "pass," her assistant who READ THE ENTIRE THING gave me some pointers and told me she really liked it! So, wow. We chatted back and forth and now I'm wondering — can I hit her (assistant) up re: a different manuscript? What's the best way to do that, without seeming sleazy? I know there's a really thin line between take that opportunity and you're such a parasite. Advice? I have seven, yes, seven, unpublished books I'm semi full-time trying to flog. Ah me.

- Laura


Hi Laura,

Congrats on getting such a thorough, helpful rejection (seriously, everyone who's ever gotten a form rejection knows that specific pointers are worth their weight in gold!). Obviously you're on your way to getting an agent!

If the assistant isn't acquiring manuscripts yet, I would say not to try to submit anything else to her right now. But keep an eye on her on social media, and she'll likely soon be promoted at her current agency or switch agencies and start acquiring her own books. At that point, feel free to query her. She'll likely be posting the genre(s) she'd like to represent, so you'll be able to target her interests more specifically with a different book.

In the query, you may want to reference how much you appreciated her compliments and suggestions for your previous book, and that you have another book that you'd like her to consider representing ... or don't, if you don't want to remind her that she rejected your book on her boss's behalf before. That's up to you, since you know exactly what your emails back and forth have entailed.

Here's the hard(ish) truth: If this assistant loved your book enough to represent it, or loved your writing enough to ask if you had anything else you could show her (and the agent), she would've made a move. A lot of agent assistants start taking on books because there's that ONE book that they felt so passionate about that they just couldn't handle their boss passing on it without offering to represent it themselves.

As someone who's been in the querying trenches and dealt with the up and down rollercoaster of getting the absolute nicest, most helpful rejections, it's incredibly important to remember that, no matter how pretty the wording, a rejection is a rejection.

(However, that's not to say that you shouldn't send her a brief reply email thanking her for the time she took to read your manuscript, and for the helpful suggestions! Being polite and appreciative is never a bad thing.)

I can tell that you have a good handle on the delicate nature of professionalism in querying, and that's 90% of the battle.
Keep it up, and best of luck in the trenches!

- Donna


... And to get a second opinion, I asked fellow FNC-er Sara her take, and here's what she had to add:

I agree with Donna that I don't think it's a good idea to just go ahead and query the assistant now. Truthfully, it's equally possible the assistant was just being nice or that she'd actually be potentially interested in working with you. But if you feel like the assistant was more open to your work, you could email her and ask if she will be taking on her own projects in the future, and if so, would she be open to you querying her another book at that time.

- Sara

Ok, readers — what advice do you have for Laura? Do you agree or disagree with my suggestion? If you've been in a similar situation, what did you do? Leave it in the comments!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Katy Perry & Bella Swan: The Sequel!

Back in May of 2011, I pondered if Katy Perry and Bella Swan were secretly critique partners, because Katy Perry's song "E.T." seriously sounded like it was pulled straight out of Twilight.

Well, it looks like Katy Perry's at it again. This time her song is called "Dark Horse," and when I hear it, the only thing I imagine is this face:

Except, maybe more like this:

Or this...

That's right. I'm pretty sure "Dark Horse" is the sequel of their critique partnership, except this time she's not writing the story about Edward...she's writing it about Jacob.

This is how I imagine this going down. Like last time, I'm highlighting the lyrics of the song in red, so you can see what part is me and what part is the original song. Enjoy! 

(And if you haven't heard this song yet, scroll down to the bottom of the post to see the video. Please ignore the ridiculous misappropriation of Egyptian mythology & culture.)


Jacob walked up to Bella, smirk playing on his dusky lips. "I knew you were," he said. "You were gonna come to me. And here you are." He tossed his wet hair from his face. "But you better choose carefully, cause I'm capable of anything."

"Of anything," Bella breathed. "And everything."

She let Jacob pull her close. Rivulets of rain ran from his slick hair down neck, soaking his shirt and revealing his muscled, broad chest. "Make me your Aphrodite," she teased, but another part of wondered--what if?

"Make me your one and only," Jacob replied, pushing her away. "But don't make me your enemy, Bella." He pointed to the right, the path to Edward's house. "So you wanna play with magic? You should know what you're falling for."

Bella looked away. A part of her knew Jacob was right. Edward was dangerous. All the Cullens were. "But do you dare to do this?" She asked. Was he really going to fight Edward for her?

"I'm coming at you like a dark horse," Jacob stared at her, and she shivered. Or a wolf, she thought.

Thunder rumbled in the clouds above the reservation. The rain would come soon again. Jacob reached for her, pulling Bella against his chest once more. "Are you ready for a perfect storm?"

"A perfect storm," she repeated, whispering.

He leaned in, pressing his face against hers. "Cause once you're mine, there's no going back." His breath brushed hot against her cheek. "Mark my words, Bella. This love will make you levitate. Like a bird without a cage. You don't need Edward's magic when I have my own."

Bella blinked. "I don't know, Jacob. I'm down to earth. What if I choose to walk away?" But could she? Could she walk away from her best friend? Especially when he could give her everything Edward could--and he wasn't afraid to touch her like he was.

He arms tightened around her. "Don't walk away." His lips trailed across her neck and she gasped. "It's in the palm of your hand now, baby," he whispered against her skin. "It's a yes or a no."


"No maybe."

She could feel herself melting against him. Her resolve, her thoughts of Edward, everything was being washed away by the rain that had begun to fall. All she was left with was Jacob. His love. His arms wrapped around her. His lips, so impossibly close to hers. "I just need to be sure, Jake, before I give it up to you..."

He touched a finger to her lips. "Give it up to me." And then his mouth was on hers.

Annnnd, end scene! I hope you enjoyed Katy Perry & Bella Swan's second critique session as much as I did. Let's hope they go for a trilogy!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Salvage: Review (in gif form!) and Giveaway!

Do you like space? Do you like strong female main characters? Do you like islands made of trash? If you said yes to any of these, then you should definitely check out SALVAGE, by Alexandra Duncan. It's out from Harper in April and thanks to Children's Book World (my most favorite-est of book stores) I was able to grab an ARC of this book.

I have to admit, when I saw the cover I was like:

Because I'm kind of way over the whole girl-in-a-dress thing.

But then I read the back of the book: "Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean, in this thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood."

and I was like:

So I started reading.

And the world building took a little getting used to, but it was pretty solid. So I felt like:

But I was pretty sure I knew where the story was going. But THEN Duncan through us a curve ball! 

And I was all like:

And I just had to keep reading! If anyone tried to interrupt me I gave them this look:

I totally fell in love with the world of SALVAGE. Between the merchant tribes in space, the Gyre, and Mumbai...I just looked around Duncan's world like this:

At the end, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was like this:

But on the other hand, I was like this:

Because it was over! And I wanted more! More Ava! More love interests! (Yes, there are a few!) More merchant tribes in space!

Really, I just want to be part of their world.

Alas, my reading of SALVAGE is over, and I will have to content myself with Internet stalking Alexandra Duncan (who, by everything I can tell from her blog, is adorable) and re-reading SALVAGE. But one of you lucky people can win a copy of SALVAGE, and experience it's awesomeness before it releases on 4/1, just like I got to!

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