Welcome to the first installment of the Publishing Q&A series! As I explained in the announcement post, this is a monthly opportunity for authors to ask their writing and publishing questions and have them answered, in-depth, by industry professionals. This installment addresses querying tips, genre trends, and whether to hire a freelance editor. Here are the answers:
I’ve sent about 30 queries but haven’t had any requests. Any advice?
First, if you’re querying a manuscript, I assume you have critique partners who have read both your first pages and your query? If not, this should be your first step.
Second, have someone read your query who hasn’t read your manuscript. Someone who is completely unfamiliar with it will be able to pinpoint things in the query that are confusing.
Consider whether the problem is the premise, the query, the first pages, or other submission materials, and try to determine what the problem might be. Is your premise one that’s been done frequently in your genre? Have you carefully proofread your first pages? Is your opening compelling?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions and your critique partners can’t pinpoint the problem, you might want to consider hiring a freelance editor to take a look at your submission materials. An experienced editor who regularly evaluates queries should be able to help. (If you’re interested in hiring a freelancer, I offer query critiques, synopsis critiques, first page evaluations, a pitch package, and a full submission package evaluation for all of your submission materials.)
For more in-depth advice on queries, synopses, and first pages, take a look at these posts: 10 Tips for Writing a Query Letter, Query Letter Red Flags, 7 Tips on Writing Engaging First Pages, 8 Tips for Writing a Synopsis, and What to Avoid in Your First Chapter.
What are the big trends in publishing right now? Which genres aren’t selling well?
It really depends on which category we’re looking about. Adult fiction is much more divided by genre and isn’t as dependent on trends as other categories. New Adult books, as a whole, can be difficult to sell to traditional publishers, but there are some houses, including mine, that have NA imprints actively seeking submissions.
As for young adult and middle grade . . . it’s difficult to say. Dystopian and paranormal aren’t as “dead” as they used to be, but I wouldn’t say they’re trendy again. As far as trends go, I’ve noticed that YA fantasy with strong dystopian elements (or dystopias with fantasy elements) are doing well right now. We’re also seeing the emergence of some genres that weren’t popular in YA before. Westerns, for example, are pretty rare in YA, but there have been several popular ones this year—Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman, Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson, Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee—and I recently found another fantastic one in my submission pile. Basically, YA is all about something that’s fresh and original, whether it be a blend of genres or a genre we don’t see often.
Of course, this is all just my experience, and whether or not a genre is “dead” is sometimes a matter of opinion. I wouldn’t worry too much about what is or isn’t popular; after all, by the time you finish the book and get it published, the trends will all have changed. And if you having difficulty selling something because of its genre, set it aside for awhile and work on something else in the meantime. Trends come back around, and you might have more success with it in the future.
If critique partners and beta readers all like the manuscript, but the author still has serious doubts, should they begin the query process or hire an editor?
As a freelance editor, obviously I think that having a professional editor evaluate your manuscript can be incredibly beneficial. However, I will approach this question as an author.
If the “serious doubts” are something that the writer can fix, then by all means do so. If you know that something is an issue in your MS, address it. Make your MS as strong as you possibly can before you query.
However, if you can’t pinpoint any particular problem with the MS and are just questioning whether or not it’s “good enough”? It’s probably time to start querying. It’s understandable to be nervous about it, and not necessarily a sign that something is wrong with your manuscript. I’d recommend sending out a small batch of queries to start out with and gauging those responses. If you don’t get the response you were hoping for, then as I recommended in the first answer of this post, it might be time to consider a freelance editor.
For a more in-depth discussion about this, see When to Hire a Freelance Editor.
That’s all for this installment of Publishing Q&A! The next post will be on November 7th. If you have a question you’d like to have answered in that post, leave it in the comments down below or by using my contact form. You can also ask me on Twitter (@cecilialewis) using #pubqa so I know the question is intended for this series. I will include your name/username in the post along with the question unless you ask to remain anonymous. Please post your questions no later than midnight EST on Wednesday, November 4th, so that I will have time to compile them.
Next month’s questions will also be answered by me, but we will have guest authors and other publishing professionals in the future! (If you are an industry professional who is interested in hosting future Q&A posts, contact me here.)
Have advice regarding any of these questions? Is there anything I missed? Let me know in the comments!