Best of Ask the Agent: The First Pancake

Plus, a companion book to the award-winning GEORGE comes out today!

Hi and welcome to another edition of Best of Ask the Agent: The Newsletter. I’m your friendly neighborhood literary agent Jennifer Laughran, of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and I’ve had an #AskAgent tumblr account where I’ve been taking anonymous questions for years — but honestly, there’s A LOT there, there is zero organization due to the nature of Tumblr, and I know that some of the questions are often top-of-mind for authors, so this newsletter aims to curate the most useful questions and answers. (If you want to ask your own question, hit up the Tumblr!)

This week it’s a two-fer — Do agents REALLY want us to keep querying them? And will I REALLY sell my very first book? The key to both answers lies in the fact that authors tend to get BETTER the more they write, or, the First Pancake analogy…. read on to see what I mean.

“If an agent who I have previously queried rejected the previous query with "I'd love to hear about any of your future work" or something to that effect are they just blowing smoke?”

Speaking for myself: I simply don’t have the time or inclination to encourage people to keep trying if I know the material they are writing will never be a fit for me. So if I said “I’d love to hear about your future work,” I meant it – I would NEVER say that if I didn’t mean it. 

If I say that and I only read the query, it means that I think I can tell you have good ideas but this one didn’t quite make it. If I said that and I read the full, it means I was on the fence, it was good but wasn’t QUITE there, or I can’t take this one on but I can tell we have really similar taste. PLEASE DO try again with your next ms! Authors tend to get better the more they write — I have taken on clients for new work after having previously rejected earlier work. No smoke-blowing!

“Just HOW crazy is thinking I might actually be able to publish, via the traditional route, the first book I write?”

Hmmm I’m not such a fan of calling things “crazy” – it’s not “crazy” but it is UNUSUAL. Let’s be real: Most people don’t emerge from the womb (or even from college) knowing intuitively how to write a novel. Most people, when they are learning, write kinda terrible stuff at first. So most debut authors have a couple of “let’s not speak of this” manuscripts in the closet.

I say oftentimes that the first book is like the first pancake. You have to write it in order to move on. It is likely going to be a mess. And that’s OK, you can feed it to the dog. It’s still IMPORTANT - it’s the book that teaches you how to write a book, you know? That isn’t a bad thing, it’s just normal. 

That being said: I have successfully sold books that were the author’s first book. For example, GEORGE by Alex Gino. However, Alex also worked on that book for ten years, and it went through many revisions and iterations in that time - so while technically it was their “first book,” it was also, really, a few different books over the years. 

I would say that it is relatively unlikely that you’d sell the first book you ever tried to write without MASSIVE time spent on revision. Maybe not a decade… but a significant amount of time. 

But hey, ya never know. Prove me wrong.


New This Week: RICK by Alex Gino

From the award-winning author of George, the story of a boy named Rick who needs to explore his own identity apart from his jerk of a best friend.

Rick's never questioned much. He's gone along with his best friend Jeff even when Jeff's acted like a bully and a jerk. He's let his father joke with him about which hot girls he might want to date even though that kind of talk always makes him uncomfortable. And he hasn't given his own identity much thought, because everyone else around him seemed to have figured it out.

As they did in their groundbreaking novel GEORGE, in RICK, award-winning author Alex Gino explores what it means to search for your own place in the world . . . and all the steps you and the people around you need to take in order to get where you need to be.

RICK has earned four Starred Reviews so far, from Kirkus, SLJ, Booklist and Publishers Weekly, and is available today wherever fine books are sold! Click on the book jacket for more info.

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