Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, July 28, 2008

Can I Get a Ruling?: "Coming of Age"

Many a query describes a novel as a "coming of age" story. I've never really understood what this means (coming of age of what?) but I never really had a problem with the phrase. At the very least it connotes a maturation process, which means a character is changing, and a character changing is officially a good thing.

But then a while back I heard (either erroneously or just oneously) that Miss Snark hated the words "coming of age." And I thought, "Huh."

Since that time, perhaps because I see it several times a day and perhaps because I have been influenced by Her Snarkness, my feeling about the phrase "coming of age" has gradually morphed from benign curiosity to morbid hostility. But then again, what if coming of age is a necessary term?

So... Can I get a ruling on "coming of age"? Two options below. Love or loathe. No indifference allowed!







85 comments:

150 said...

Why is there no "Don't care" option?

Nathan Bransford said...

150-

It's right next to the "read the post because I said no indifference allowed" option.

150 said...

*sigh*

I lose at reading comprehension. I'll be in the corner.

ORION said...

In the UK my novel was called "a coming of age story like no other..."
I personally like it- but I know it's become a bit of an over-used cliche- I think it's still can be a good description of a novel.

Erik said...

It's more than a cliche, it's vaguely euphemistic.

Yes, it's an important part of life. No, we shouldn't appear to be vaguely embarrassed by it.

Joshua Skurtu said...

It's been over-used to the point of being a cliche. Cliche = makes Josh want to smash things. It's almost as cliche as having a young, un-magical man in a fantasy setting full of magic who must save the world from an all-powerful evil. But he doesn't want to, but he must, but then he realizes he has to self-sacrifice. Then he miraculously survives. Then Frodo wakes up and all his friends are A-OKAY. (Everyone steals LOTR and calls it original)

sex scenes at starbucks said...

If you're indifferent, then don't vote.

I guess I think all novels are a coming of age story if it involves the sort of change I think a character must undergo to make a novel worth reading. Coming of age says to me "kid growing up" rather than "character growing" and sets me off cuz I'm often not interested in reading about a young age group.

Anonymous said...

Just find a better way to say it, that's all.

Anonymous said...

I'd have trouble naming a non-genre debut that wasn't at least partially a coming of age novel. Michael Chabon's coming of age Mysteries of Pittsburgh is arguably his best novel.

ilyakogan said...

Don't you get it? Age is the new recreational drug - it's when you dissolve two ecstasy pills in a can of coke. All those queries you are getting - they are from barely literate teens. It should be "Coming off age"...

Furious D said...

I think it's just a way for critics, and back-cover blurb writers to make their word count quota.

Kylie said...

I recoil from "coming of age". If that is the best that someone can come up with to describe the book, what really happens??? Probably some kid or teen is growing up. That doesn't sound original, gripping, or like much of a plot line. Sometimes growing up can be an interesting plot line (like The Catcher in the Rye) but "coming of age" usually leaves something more to be desired. The character can by all means "come of age," but please God something else had better be taking center stage in this book I [paid $19.99 for/drove all the way to the library on $4 gas/et cetera]. If the author or editor falls back on calling the book a "coming of age" story, that usually sets off warning bells in my mind that this could be a bit dull.

But that is only my opinion. Like I said, there are some truly original "coming of age" stories that are by no means dull.

clindsay said...

OMG, I see so many coming of age queries in a week. They are "charming" and "whimsical" and "heart-wrenching" and "poignant" - what they rarely are is orignal or well-written.

Feh. Coming of age (for me, at least) is right up there with "elves" in a query letter. Guaranteed to start me off in a bad mood.

(I am under-caffeinated. Can you tell?)

Colleen

Brian said...

A querier may employ the term "coming of age" if the querier is uncertain of the best way to present their manuscript.

Is it YA? Is it literary adult fiction with a teen protagonist? The line is becoming more blurred every day (witness Margo Rabb's recent NYT essay).

Like YA, the meaning seems to change depending on who uses the term. For instance, I've seen CATCHER IN THE RYE described as coming of age but Kylie would seem to disagree. What is coming of age to me may differ to another set of eyes.

Does "bildungsroman" have more cache simply because it's foreign? How would you feel, Nathan, to start receiving queries labelling the manuscripts as bildungsromans? Would that ease the quandary you feel over COA?

Adaora A. said...

I don't like it at all. I have a hard time dealing with the fact that I have to label my MS as fitting under the umbrella of as particular genre, and to have to throw out the annoying "coming of age," is just as big fat no thanks in my book. I think it's an easy way of labeling - but not really having to label (again something I kind of hate doing) - your book. So glad your not so into it either.

So now I have to ask what you'd prefer. So, let it all hang out for us, if you please Nathan!

JES said...

I started out in the "Hmm, y'know, don't really care..." non-voting booth.

Then I read the phrase "coming of age" in, like, a half-dozen previous comments (out of 14), and began to get a sense of what it's like to find it in multiple queries a day.

"Loathe" it is!

Jade said...

A youth comes of age. He also comes to terms with the fact his father's serving a life sentence for murder. Which sounds more interesting? Which would intrigue an agent more?

Nicholas Tam said...

Loathe, loathe, loathe. Too many first-time authors "write what they know" and jump immediately to their most recent experience of personal development. Too many publishers mistake Copperfield for a copper mine. I read the words "coming of age" and my impression is "serial, boring, cliché". If a coming-of-age novel is at all interesting, it is interesting for more unique and marketable reasons.

Then again, I am of the opinion that, contrary to what Anonymous wrote above, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is Michael Chabon's least-best novel (yet good enough that I hesitate to deploy the word "worst").

"If you can spell 'bildungsroman', you can do better."

Random Girl said...

Honestly, if I see "coming of age" anywhere on the inside or outside of a book cover, I stay as far away from it as I can. I'm not saying they're all bad, they're just not my thing.

JJ said...

I don't mind the phrase. While I don't "love" it, I certainly don't "loathe" it, and as you said indifference was not allowed, I went with the former.

However, I have reservations about the term. I love bildungsromans in general: anything from James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man to Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. But that's because I think a "coming of age" is part and parcel of any novel, to see how a character grows and changes over the course of the narrative. I believe there are multiple "coming of ages" in real life, therefore the term as a genre label is pointless and far too vague. In many ways, I think it just comes with the territory.

Precie said...

Ick. Whether referring to book or film, "coming of age" is an immediate turn-off for me. And I don't think EVERY story about a young person experiencing character development can or should be classified as "coming of age." Just tell the story.

JohnO said...

I neither love nor loathe it. It's a useful phrase, and you'll find it defined in most glossaries of literary terms (e.g., "A type of novel where the protagonist is initiated into adulthood through knowledge, experience, or both, often by a process of disillusionment. Understanding comes after the dropping of preconceptions, a destruction of a false sense of security, or in some way the loss of innocence.")

I heard people argue (a la anonymous, comment #9) that everyone's first novel is a coming-of-age story. That isn't entirely true, but the trend is sure there. So at the end of the day, you'll need something to describe novels of that type.

Besides, more interesting is the Künstlerroman. Can't wait for the day when you get a query with that in it!

Adaora A. said...

I think using the phrase dumbs down the impact that saying what the book actually is about, would have. I mean there are SO many books out there using "coming of age" as their bait that it sort of - to me - becomes a kind of "so what" thing.

Just saying...

Sam said...

In the UK the coming-of-age literary novel is pretty much out of fashion at the moment. According to several agents it's very hard (or harder than normal, at least) to get a coming-of-age book published as a début over here (Vernon God Little being the exception that proves the rule) - which is a shame as many writers' first effort tend to be that kind of book. I know one writer who was taken on by a major publisher but told that they wouldn't publish his c-of-a novel first. They published it three of four books down the line, after he'd established himself. It was a great success.

Is it a similar story in America? I seem to think of America as the home of the c-of-a novel, so the attitude may be warmer over there. The Catcher in the Rye has to be the most famous coming-of-age novel around.

But, of course, writers shouldn't try to second-guess the market, and should just write the book that's in them, waiting to be written...

Maxxie said...

Writers use “coming of age” because it doesn’t label their genre like young adult fiction or chick lit. Coming of age implies maturing and that frankly can happen when your 30. People use it for queries because if the agent is not specifically into young adult fiction they can still query you since “coming of age” is so nice and non specific.

As far as I know you don’t exactly represent chick lit or romance but using the words “coming of age” one can easily get you read a chick lit query. I think the reason agents feel “snarky” afterwards is not that they are bored but because it isn’t their genre. They were subtly tricked.

Ulysses said...

I'm afraid I've never understood what "coming of age" really means.

I think it has something to do with being able to get into movies without adult supervision.

Unfortunately, the phrase "coming of age" is so vague it's useless as description. I think a writer needs to sell their work on details.

Eric said...

Coming of age, as most of you here no doubt know, is derived from the French "comage," whose etymology lies in cheese-making. Thus the time worn phrase, "the comage of the fromage," to denote a cheese that has reached maturity.

Dan said...

Would 'Bildungsroman' be preferable? At least it shows a greater command of the thesaurus.

Sheila G. said...

If I were reading queries, I think I would be more bothered by the self-congratulatory descriptors that Colleen mentioned than by a cliche. But maybe that is because I don't see it 20 times a day.

Do people really describe their own work as "heart-wrenching," "charming," "poignant," and "whimsical"?

I could never do that. Do I need to be less modest?

I'm curious, what is your reaction when someone describes their work in such a way?

Kat said...

Eric said: Coming of age, as most of you here no doubt know, is derived from the French "comage," whose etymology lies in cheese-making. Thus the time worn phrase, "the comage of the fromage," to denote a cheese that has reached maturity.

I knew there was a reason I find so many coming of age novels cheesy. ;-)

Deirdre Saoirse Moen said...

Miss Snark is right about one thing: everyone comes of age.

That said, the process and challenges are different for different people, and it's also obvious that there's a built-in niche for coming-of-age stories in young adult.

I suspect a lot of people who loathe the term aren't in the target market anyway.

spyscribbler said...

I love it.

Except when I don't. Then I loathe it.

Joanne said...

The phrase seems a little bit of a cop-out, a sort of catch-all that has too many possibilities. Unless it's accompanied by more details, it seems a flag that the writer hasn't thought-out the core theme?

ChadGramling said...

At Risk of being a plagiarist,

"I think using the phrase dumbs down the impact that saying what the book actually is about, would have. I mean there are SO many books out there using "coming of age" as their bait that it sort of - to me - becomes a kind of 'so what' thing."

That's pretty much it. If you use "coming of age" you are taking the easy way out of truly explaining the plot. Tell me HOW the character comes of age, WHY he/she comes of age and WHAT it means for them and/or the other characters in the work. The coming of age part should be obvious if that is done.

ChadGramling said...

BTW: Kudos to Adaora A. for the quote (see above).

RED STICK WRITER said...

The following definition is provided at m-w.com:

the attainment of prominence, respectability, recognition, or maturity

Wikipedia offers the following:

Coming of age stories may include puberty tales, loss of virginity, or trouble one has gotten into while working as a camp counselor. (See also rite of passage.)

The term coming of age is also used in reference to different media such as stories, songs, movies, etc. that have a young character or characters who, by the end of the story, have developed in some way, through the undertaking of responsibility, or by learning a lesson.

I think that "love" and "loathe" are a bit extreme. There are far too many things in this world that require either positive or negative passion to those degrees without picking on "coming of age." For instance, one can love monkey fiction and loathe missing the monkey fiction trend. Oops. I guess one could loathe a monkey coming of age story.

cc said...

To Nicholas Tam and Anon 10:50--

re: Michael Chabon's, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. It is my fovorite book of his, indeed one of my top favorite books of ALL TIME!

To each his own.


re: Nathan's post. In a way, amost any book can be described as a "coming of age" novel, simply because the nature of a main character requires him to change emotionally or in terms of awareness from point A to point B. Meaning he does "come of age" in some capacity even if he was 40 to begin with, right?

That said, yeah, it's an overused phrase.

Dwight Wannabe said...

Love the concept/theme.

Loathe the taxonomy.

"Coming of age" is so 1970s. Synonymous with the ABC Afterschool Specials.

"I think we've learned a valuable lesson today, Dutch..."

...

And now I've watched my cursor blink for ten minutes and I can't think of a good postmodern replacement for "coming of age."

Maybe it's the implied passive voice: That maturation is an event that happens to a protag. Perhaps it's better when protags achieve something as a result of their newfound self awareness.

Maris Bosquet said...

I agree with Maxxie that COA is nice and non-specific, but I also think it appears ad nauseum because writers think it's what agents and editors are looking for, a perception reinforced by the marketing of books as COA stories. (Please see Orion's post on how her book was marketed in the UK.)

Cate said...

I absolutely loathe it.
Either it means- "kid grows up" ...and...?
or more and more often, "kid realizes he/she is really an angel/dwarf/greek god/monster/boring jerk" or, "this is the entire plot. Nothing else really happens."

Adaora A. said...

@Red stick writer - I don't think folks are picking on "coming of age" per say. To me, the annoyance comes from how it is a sort of security blanket in terms of coming up with a way to make a book sound interesting. To help sell it. It's an easy explanation, and indeed in reading it, folks tend to find no more need to wonder what it's about when reading the back flap. It just agrivates mne personally.

Maris Bosquet said...

So which do we love/loathe more--the phrase, or the concept behind the phrase? Are they inseparable?

And, if COA as a phrase did not exist, but the concept did, what would that concept be called, if not COA?

Lynne said...

Lovely overworked cliche. Kick it.

wonderer said...

I love a good coming-of-age story (preferably combined with the fantasy genre, but that's just me). I also like writing them. To me, there's something very powerful about that point in someone's life.

But I don't think I would use that phrase in a query letter. As chadgramling said, I'd rather mention a few of the plot details so the agent will understand that the story is about the character maturing, without my having to say so. (AKA, showing not telling. As always.)

TALON said...

A phrase that's overdone loses impact...like when you hear a song you love on the radio about a 1,000times then you start switching channels when it starts playing.

Still, nothing beats reading or creating a "coming of age" story. Those pivotal moments in our lives when we knew there was no going back to childhood are always bittersweet.

I guess there will be a replacement phrase that in years to come will be the new cliché and then we can go back to using "coming of age" and it will be regarded as fresh.

Anonymous said...

I guess I wasn't aware that people were describing their novels as coming of age in query letters.

Query letter are supposed to be short, sweet, and to the point. Your manuscript would be better served by saying, When X discovers Y he must Z and G, or else H will happen. There shouldn't be any extra room there to write the phrase "coming of age" in the query. Isn't it a given that the character WILL change by the end of the book?

And honestly, I've NEVER read "coming of age" on a published book's jacket copy or back copy like so many have stated -- Am I missing something?

Mary said...

I think you have to be old enough to put the coming in age in perspective to like the phrase :)

Elyssa Papa said...

Hm. I guess I'm in the minority. I love the term. Maybe I'd feel differently if I were reading queries "coming of age" ad nauseum, but I don't know. I think it can sum up the type of book in a simple phrase.

Cory said...

I voted love, because it's descriptive, and isn't that what matters? By no means do I think that it should be the only way to describe a book. If it's a good book, there will be better and more exciting ways to describe it that are more likely to catch the attention. Still, if a big part of my story is that a character undergoes vast changes to their personality by learning and experiencing more about the world around them and growing into their own as a result, within the context of a well-told, original story, why shouldn't I be allowed to use the phrase? You can have a romance, or you can have a romantic coming-of-age. You can have a paranormal, or you can have a paranormal coming-of-age. It gives you information about the story, and considering it's an element so common in so many novels I don't think the story element can be dismissed out of hand as bad or boring, and thus the way to describe it shouldn't be, either.

If the pitch is exciting, why dismiss it based on genre?

Or maybe this is just me panicking because I was describing a future idea of mine as a paranormal coming-of-age to myself and I have no clue how else I'd pitch it.

Joe Iriarte said...

I exercised my inalienable right not to vote. Anarchy Now!

I don't doubt the phrase is over-used, but I love to read coming of age stories. I think I probably described my first trunk novel as a coming of age story. Maybe that's why it's a trunk novel. I'm with those who feel it's a very powerful time of life and fertile ground for novels.

My current novel, which I've finished the first draft of but am still revising before starting to pitch people, has a young protagonist, but it didn't even occur to me to call it a coming of age novel. *whew* Bullet dodged. The thing is, my pitch is focused on the action and the plot, of which I have, if anything, too much. As Anon 1:33 noted, I don't have room to go describing the story in such vague terms.

Colorado Writer said...

I think of "coming-of-age" as kind of a genre in middle grade fiction. And I enjoy reading those kinds of books.

Dave F. said...

"Coming of Age doesn't say much but it does remove certain things from the discussion. You couldn't say coming of age for anyone over 25 years old. A 40 year old cannot "come of age."

We would never refer to the novel or the movie "Bang The Drum Slowly" as a coming-of-age." story. The protagonists are too old and too adult. Neither would we say that Tim Robbin's character ( Ebby Calvin 'Nuke' LaLoosh) in Bull Durham comes of age. He certainly grows, but he's already an adult. He's already established. Adults grow and change their lives. Youngsters "coms of age" ...

It sets the age of a protagonist and it sets the the protagonist's personal situation or mindset. It says that the protagonist goes through a change and ceases to be one thing to become something else. It implies that the character learns about sorrowful things and loses the optimism of youth that sees everything as good.

The Red Badge of Courage can be said to have such a transformation. Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer have such transformations.

In the IMDB description of "Stand By Me" they have the line: For some, it's the last real taste of innocence, and the first real taste of life. But for everyone, it's the time that memories are made of. This refers to the death of a friend that sparks the onscreen author's story framing the journey of children into manhood. That type of transformation.

I would venture to say that Harry Potter 1-7 is a coming of age story but that Lord of the Rings is not.
Frodo remains a child with burdens. Samwise Gamgee is the one that changes. At the end of the trilogy, he's raising children. The quest has changed him for the better. Frodo turns away from life.
Harry Potter learns and changes as the novels progress. We get to see the changes in him over the years as he struggles to understand his situation.
Even Harry's cousin Dudley Dursley is not a dud. He embraces Harry when the family is sent away in the last novel. He demonstrates that he understands what is happening but cannot be of any help. That's a coming of age. His Aunt and Uncle are just too old and too much muggle to understand. A generational difference.

Corked Wine and Cigarettes said...

I just landed an agent yesterday for a "coming of age" story. Not in the query: coming of age.

In the end, the best coming of age stories are not about actually coming of age. Simply, it is a side effect of the main conflict, which is what the story is about.

Joe Iriarte said...

*nod*

And congratulations!

Chumplet said...

I'm not voting because I neither love nor hate the expression. If I have to choose, I might lean toward loathe because it's certainly overused, and a lazy alternative for a description of the real conflict.

Perhaps a better term would be "Turning Point," which can be used at any age.

susandc said...

An agent I met at a conference once described my book as a coming of age story which is something I had never considered using to describe it. But I found this phrase too cliche so I never used it in my queries.

Lynne said...

I read this morning that Google estimates there are 1 trillion blogs or websites on the internet. More news as events warrant.

Bethanne said...

Sounds like a women's lit. Ugh. On the other hand...what story isn't Coming of Age? The question is...what age? The age of careerdom, the age of sexual discovery, the age of motherhood, middle age... the age of purple hats and purses.

I voted against it.

Michele said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristin Laughtin said...

I honestly can't say I loathe it, but I do tend to find myself recoiling from the term a little bit. I'm all for maturation for every character, but "coming of age" has, at least for current literature, become almost synonymous with teenagers becoming adults for me, and I want a little more plot than JUST some person growing up. I tend to be more interested in adults growing and changing at this point, and most of my reading choices (and the ages of my own characters) reflect that.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

wow, we hate us some coming of age.

Anonymous said...

Looking back on my own life, my "coming of age" definitely involved sex. Not allowed in YA, I'd assume, so the whole concept to me is nonsense.

If coa includes having sex in a graveyard after picking beans all afternoon, let me know. I might have a story to tell.

Too much information, so I'd better post anonymous.

Elissa M said...

I think I hate the term mostly because of the implication that it applies only to young people turning adult. As if no other point in a human life is as important a change or merits a novel. Bleh.

gingersea said...

Elissa, you made me think: How about if we give other age groups a break and combine two overused cliches to create "coming of a certain age" for women entering that part of life where they become both mature and wise?

Anonymous said...

uhhh...exactly what age is "coming of age?"..It could also be...40's, 50's, 60's...there are novels that also address that age gender...people change at different periods of their life...

Ms. Snark, of course, is AGELESS!!!!

Caroline Steele said...

Here's a better way of saying it (possibly this belongs on the favorite words post): Bildungsroman.
There.
As for me, I don't hate the phrase, but I'm not fond of the connotations that come with it. Not my thing.

zc said...

Loathe, because, to me the term seems a quick way to get out of describing what your story is actually about.

Anonymous said...

It tells me exactly what kind of a YA I'm going to get into, especially a movie.
I think: Freaky Friday and think, this is going to be fun.
(I suppose it could get old if every other manuscript you get is described that way. But then, not every one is right about itself, I presume.)

Abbie said...

I think people say "coming of age story" because it sounds better than "a tale of puberty" or similar.

For the most part, I don't enjoy tales of puberty, but I do understand why people seek pleasant ways to describe them.

Min said...

I voted for "love" because I've found that I am drawn toward many books and movies that are described by their marketing people in that way.

However, I don't use the phrase in my own queries anymore. So, it would seem that I don't *completely* love it.

The Disgruntled Bear said...

I love the phrase "coming of age." It's an old English phrase that originally meant that a person was old enough to take on adult responsibilities and/or take direct control of their inheritance. It has a charming, Old World quality. Think Jane Austin; it's the kind of thing that she and her contemporaries would have used to describe someone. BTW, the age, usually, was 21 back then. COA (can I interest anyone in an acronym?) has been overused in literature, though, and now basically means that the person "grows up" in the story, regardless of their actual, chronological change. With this meaning, there are some great examples of COA stories in modern times: the original Star Wars trilogy is the one that stands out best for me. Are there some other great examples, both well- and lesser-known? New thread possibility!

jess said...

Nathan, I believe the official term is "bildungsroman". I think there is still a place for a TRUE one of those.

But most books labelled "coming of age" these days are navel-gazers. Blech.

Tammie said...

I always thought "coming of age" simply represented moving from one phase of life to the next so it isn't specific to one genre per say.

However, I'll admit I assumed it was used mainly for a child moving into adult phase but I'm guessing thats wrong.

Anonymous said...

You people are very funny with all of your generalizations. As if everyone who uses the term "coming of age" is too lazy to think of something else! Although it is a cliche, it can be used well to describe certain aspects of the book in three words, and then something more concrete can be used to describe this character's particular coming of age story. And for those of you who think it is unspecific ("What age does this apply to?") it's actually a specific term only used to describe the transition from teen (or occasionally preteen) to adulthood, the period during which a character discovers something(s) about herself and/or the world that inspires her to face things with a newly mature attitude. What she has to face depends on her specific character.

Just_Me said...

If I see "coming of age" on the back cover or the reviews it goes right into the pile with "epic love stories" "tragic loss" and "chosen hero."

I don't care if the character *is* growing up during the book. If the only plot you have is a character getting older I'm not going to stay interested for 300+ pages.

nona said...

If coa includes having sex in a graveyard after picking beans all afternoon, let me know. I might have a story to tell.

Too much information, so I'd better post anonymous.

Anon:
There's no such thing as "too much information." That's why we write.

Anonymous said...

To just_me:

Why would you assume that if it's a story about a character coming of age (growing up, whatever), that that's the only plot element?!?!??! The growing up is what happens as a result of the plot, it's not the plot itself.

Anonymous said...

I think writers care about cliche phrases like this. But I don't think most people in the mainstream would give it a second thought.

If you took the time to research how many successful mainstream books have been promoted with this phrase, you'd also find there was a very successful agent behind them. And the phrase didn't bother them in the least.

And we really don't know who Miss Snark was or what she represented, so it's hard to take her advice on this topic seriously.

Joe Iriarte said...

Miss Snark wasn't giving advice so much as expressing a personal preference. That said, I would recommend taking her advice seriously, based on the number of other, non-anonymous publishing professionals who have validated what she posted over the years.

A few weeks ago, someone asked if anybody here followed the links to other posters blogs and read them. Heck, I don't think most commenters here even read the other comments right here!

By the way, it's also called a bildungsroman. I don't know if anybody here knew that . . .

Joe Iriarte said...

*posters'

When I rule the universe, blog comments will be editable.

Adaora A. said...

I think writers care about cliche phrases like this. But I don't think most people in the mainstream would give it a second thought.

If you took the time to research how many successful mainstream books have been promoted with this phrase, you'd also find there was a very successful agent behind them. And the phrase didn't bother them in the least.




Mainstream....that's a loaded word which is used in more then one discipline. It means something available to the public. Perhaps what made it 'mainstream' is the hype and buzz that might have generated enough interest to make it mainstream? Indie artists, and 'mainstream' artists. Agents have some authors who are more sucessful then others. It doesn't mean that only the 'mainstream' authors and thier 'mainstream' books, are in two different stomping grounds. One might be further to the net though.
Mainstream was indie at one point.
I think 'mainstream' writers would probably care. Hopefully - even though they are making a ton of money as they've
become 'mainstream' - they care enough about their book to have an interest in how it's packaged and displayed to the public.

It doesn't matter who Miss Snark was though... she's in the publishing industry. What that means is that she knows these things just as our host in these parts does.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Bransford - I had been randomly lobbing bumbling queries out into the agentosphere for a while before I tumbled upon your blog by way of Snark.

Determined to become a "Nathanal Enquerier" I quickly concocted a profound and elaborate new letter which I first ran past a trusted friend, who, after eliminating Pages 2 though 5 and part of 7, inserted the fanfaric phrase "a coming of age story".

I did not and do not entirely get what that means in general, nor how it applied to my tome in any case, but it had a certain je ne sais quoi - like as if my friend knew his jazzy memetic stuff - so I left it in place and fired the query off to you.

Then I began following your blog and reading the Bransfarchives, and in one post you linked to another blogging agent (with whom you apparently agreed - not Miss Snark)who had posted a list of top ten phrases which would get a query tossed in the crapper, including "set in the 1970s" and "a coming of age story".

Imagine my shock and despair.

I thought my pants might never dry.

Jeff said...

"Coming of Age"...it sounds like a bad Movie of the Week on Lifetime...

Ryan Field said...

I love it. I loved LOTTERY, too.

Anonymous said...

Um, love it. You don't f*ck with a bilsdungroman.

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