Friday, March 27, 2009

Thirty-One Flavors - Agent Week - Nathan Bransford

Before I dive into info. on arguably the agent with the most coverage on the web, here's a link to the Turkey City Lexicon provided by Ojvind Bernander to utilize when you are eyeballing that draft for "turkeys". It's meant for Sci-Fi writers, but most of it is applicable to any work of fiction. I found it amusing (watch out, though, if you are the sensitive sort, there's a certain amount of...ribaldry) useful, and horrifying. Horrifying as in, "mmmm...did I do that?" (RIP, Steven Urkel and Curly of the Three Stooges).

Where Nathan Bransford fits in my flavor spectrum: Chocolate raspberry truffle with brownie bits and pralines. bubblegum.

Nathan Bransford is a literary agent with the San Francisco office of Curtis Brown, Ltd. He is best known among web-savvy authors as the bloggiest agent around, with nearly 7,000 "BranFans" checking his blog every day. Nathan's blog really is a complete treasure-trove of witty writing, great advice and information, and has garnered him somewhere in the range of 7,000 to 10,000 queries a year!

He says that just about all his clients come through his blog, and he only takes two or three new clients per year. Do the math (or ask your nearest math-competent person to do it for you). It all adds up to smokin' hot.

Hold that cone steady, 'cause here comes the scoop!

(Note to readers who write in multiple markets: There's a lot of info. out there from Nathan, and to keep this post from taking over my blog, I have not added some of the specific info. on his adult markets interests. It's out there- just check his blog or do the google thing).

Nathan is particularly interested in literary fiction, mysteries and suspense, historical fiction, narrative nonfiction, business, history, sports, politics, current events, young adult fiction, science fiction and anything else he happens to like. He does not represent poetry or screenplays, and he does not work with author/illustrators or illustrators.

He's really a sucker for: historical fiction, very well-written literary fiction and memoir, sports, fiction that takes place in other countries, philosophical science fiction, narrative nonfiction, and international affairs. Much of his knowledge about kid lit comes from the couple of years he spent in the New York office of Curtis Brown, working with Ginger Knowlton and Laura Blake Peterson and their clients.

He is always looking for an original idea with polished writing, a stellar plot, and fresh original voices.

He only takes on clients with projects he thinks he can sell, and who are as professional as they are talented. He's looking for a long-haul relationship with his clients. Nathan thinks of himself as a editorial agent, helping clients hone their own vision for a project and getting it submission ready for editors. He wants to help build careers. And once you are one of those clients, know that one of the many reasons he started his blog was to build an audience and hopefully give his clients "a boost by the publicity it affords."

Series people- perk up your ears! Nathan really, really advises against trying to start with a series when you are an unpublished writer. He says unpublished authors should focus on one book. And then a reader pointed out to him that some editors prefer series and see them as a selling point, particularly in the fantasy genres.

In response, he stated this: "I think it's very important to focus on telling one story in a query, because attracting an agent (and later an editor) to the first book is the very most important thing. That said, you might suggest in the query that while the book you are writing about can stand alone, you do have some ideas about expanding them into a series if that opportunity arises. That, to me, represents the best of both worlds -- if the agent thinks the idea is great for a single title but not a series it's OK, and if the agent thinks the idea is great for a series you've planted that idea as well. Also this is a good time to point out how much opinions vary within the industry -- please take everything I say with a grain of salt. Another agent might come on and tell you something completely different -- these are just one agent's opinions. There are lots of differing opinions on series -- some think they're a great way of building an audience, some people worry that sequels and series can trap an author into one world that can eventually be more difficult to break out of. So this is definitely one subject where you're going to hear a lot of different opinions."

On YA, he thinks a YA novel should be between 40,000 and 60,000 words, and he talks about the line between YA and adult fiction here. A recent YA debut novel from one of his clients is The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard that will come out in early 2010.

Nathan thinks e-books are the future, and since there will be a huge flood of content, branding and marketing will become even more important, and large scale publishers may respond by digging deeper into the bestseller and established authors arena, sadly, making it even harder to get them to take risks on new authors. It may be that smaller presses and publishers become more of the avenue for debut authors.

Dislikes: starting a query letter to him with a rhetorical question, lengthy queries -he thinks 85% of query letters are too long. Word counts over 175,000 words unless there's a darn good reason for it. Aspiring authors who do not research agents they are querying (but that's not you, since you are here, right?). Lakers fans.

Likes: 49ers, basketball (Sacramento Kings), The Hills, sports on high def TV.

He grew up on a rice farm in Colusa, California, and attended school from kindergarten through high school with pretty much the exact same people the whole time, which meant that they all knew each other too well, and did not really segregate into type. He'd classify himself as "the nerd who didn't get stuffed in the trash can", played some sports, and got along with everyone.

In terms of a character from a teen movie, he says "Hmmm… I’d probably go with that kid from Can’t Hardly Wait who goes from a nerd to being cool at the party back to being a nerd again."


If you really want to read all that stuff from Nathan yourself:

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