AMA: Your Publishing Questions Answered (Part II)

Hey Swooniverse,

Thank you to everyone who submitted questions for our AMA! We’ve answered them all to the best of our ability. In fact, there were so many great questions that we’ve split the answers into two blog posts. Click here for Part I!

Please note that these answers are based on our personal experience in the industry, and that every publishing house has its own style and opinions. Your mileage may vary!

We hope you all find this helpful on your publishing journeys.

8.) When it comes to SFF NA fiction VS adult SFF, what do you feel differentiates them the most, assuming there isn't much in the manuscript that could be compared to real life (e.g, graduating, moving out for the first time, etc.)? I've always assumed it's NA if the hero/heroine is under 25 and it's their first adventure/mission, but I'd be interested to know what your take on this is as I don't feel like it is discussed a lot.

You’re right, it’s not discussed a lot. A big part of why that’s the case is that New Adult (NA) is a category that hasn’t quite found its groove in the publishing industry yet. Instead, books that would fall into that category tend to be put in either the YA bucket or the Adult one.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist! The biggest difference between NA and Adult (regardless of genre) isn’t necessarily the age of the main characters, but that can certainly be a factor. The themes and experiences of those characters are more important. In NA, the protagonist is usually going through certain life milestones for the first time, such as getting an “adult job” for the first time, like in The Devil Wears Prada. In Adult, those experiences are usually behind the character, and the plot hinges on later life milestones like marriage / divorce or having kids or moving up / moving on in a career.

For sci-fi/fantasy specifically, those experiences might translate to something like being in command of their own starship for the first time, or ascending the throne after the death of a parent, or starting their own poltergeist-hunting small business. Since the “real life” experiences aren’t as applicable, it’s even more amorphous here. :)

So, yes, characters who are around 20-30 years old are more likely to be the protagonists of NA, because that’s the age when the majority of us are going through those kinds of experiences. But that’s not a hard rule. The theme of a story is more important to determining NA vs. Adult than strictly the main character’s age.

9.) How do you get an agent? Do you have to pay them right away or do they get paid as your book gets picked up? Do the manuscripts they represent always get picked up? If not, what happens then?

Writers can find their agent through a lot of different channels. They could connect with an agent at a conference. They could be referred by agented writer friends. Almost all agents accept queries via email. But it’s imperative that you do your research to make sure your manuscript fits with what the agent is looking for AND to make sure you’re querying in the format the agent requests. (Some agents just want a pitch letter, some want a pitch plus first three chapters, etc.) Or there are regularly held events on Twitter such as PitMad, Pitch Wars and DVPit where writers are invited to post a pitch for their work-in-progress, and agents can “like” any pitches that sound interesting to them.

Any “agent” who charges you a reading fee or asks for payment up front before pitching your book is a scam! No credible agent charges up front for their services. They get paid when YOU get paid by the publisher—industry standard is a 15% cut.

Unfortunately, no. Not all manuscripts that an agent agrees to represent will ultimately get a publishing deal. What happens after that really depends on the author and agent. They might agree that the author should try writing a different project, or author and agent might even part ways. It really depends. Don’t be afraid to ask your agent what happens if your book doesn’t sell. That is a really good conversation to have before you sign on with an agent!

10.) If your book deal comes with an advance (like swoon reads' offer) at what point do you actually get it? does the book have to already be fully edited or... I know it can't possibly be the second you agree to publish the book/author accepts the offer to publish…

Actually, it is pretty close to the second you and a publisher agree on a deal! :)

Most advances are split into at least two payments. Usually you would get half of your advance when you sign the contract with the publisher, and then the other half after you finish the editing process and your publisher deems your book “delivered and accepted.”

11.) How do you get your manuscript read by a traditional publishing house without a literary agent? How do you send it/bring it to the publishing house on your own?

We think we covered this in Part I, Question 1, but let us know in the comments if you have any follow-up questions!

12.) How do you find a literary agent? What’s the process like in regards to finding them along with working with them.

We covered the first part of this in Question 10. As for what it’s like working with the agent, that honestly depends on the author and the agent themselves. But the primary purpose of an agent is to get you a book deal, then coach you through the entire publishing process. An agent is meant to be your advocate, someone you can trust to look out for your best interests. Plenty of agents will even work with you editorially on your manuscript before pitching to editors, or assist with marketing/publicity once your book is done.

13.) Is it a good idea to write in multiple genres or is it best to stick to one?

We recommend checking out our answer to Part I, Question 4, which covers this. But we’ll also reiterate that you should always write the book that you want to write. Don’t worry so much about what you “should” do or what you think readers want!

We hope that answers everything! Please don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments if any of you have follow-up questions.

ICYMI: Click here for Part I

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