Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, April 26, 2010

Be An Agent for a Day II: A Sort of Scientific Test of the Query Process

On Thursday we discussed the query process and whether or not queries adequately reflect a underlying work's quality. Can someone really make an assessment of a book project based on a query? Really really?

Let's test it out. Here's how this is going to work.

Today I will be soliciting queries from you, the esteemed readership of this blog. I will semi-randomly select five of them. (I say semi-randomly because I'm going to choose one genre from which to select the five queries, which should eliminate any possible Internet genre bias.)

Tomorrow I will post the five queries on the blog. There will be a poll and everyone will have an opportunity to vote on which one they would request if they were an agent.

On Wednesday I will post links to the first thirty pages of these novels so that everyone will have an opportunity to take a look and vote on which partial they think is the most likely to sell to a publisher (and like any busy agent, you need only read as much of each as you need to make a decision).

On Thursday we shall compare notes, see if the most-requested queries corresponded with the most-liked pages, and discuss What We Think and What We Have Learned.

On Friday we dance!!! (Just kidding, on Friday we recap This Week in Publishing).

If you'd like to volunteer your query and first 30 pages for public consumption/semi-competition, please e-mail said query and pages to [redacted]. UPDATE 9:22 PM PDT: ENTRIES ARE CLOSED! THANKS TO EVERYONE FOR ENTERING! It would be great if we could leave the sample pages up as long as possible so that people can continue to check out this sort-of-scientific experiment, but after the contest concludes if you need/want me to take your pages down for any reason I shall do so, and of course all rights belong to you. If you are chosen, please keep your identity/participation top secret while the experiment is going on so as not to compromise the voting.

In case you missed last year's Be an Agent for a Day event, the posts can be found here.

SCIENCE!!

Well, sort of...







96 comments:

L. T. Host said...

I'd LOVE to send my query and pages, but I think they'd be easily recognizable as belonging to moi. I'll be an agent, this round. Should be fun!

Margaret Yang said...

So...are we the genius or the insane? Just askin'.

"So, what are we going to do today, Nathan?"

"Same thing we do every night, Bran Fans, try to take over the world!"

algonquinrt said...

Are attachments allowable for the contest?

Nathan Bransford said...

alognquinrt-

Yes, please!

Ink said...

My sister was once addicted to that cartoon. One of her cats is named Brain. Though whether it likes being named after a mouse, I don't know.

Gonna get my agent hardhat on. Mmmm, queries. Tasty.

sagelikethespice said...

I love that we're losing the genre bias :D

Amanda said...

Oh, how fun!

And this is the second time in less than a week where I kick myself for not being finished with my revisions. Guess that tells me I need to get off my butt.

So, for this contest, I shall put off the role of Lax Writer and put on the hat of Busy Agent :)

shellder said...

You realize there's still the gap between "most likely to be requested by an agent" and "best".

Peter Dudley said...

Nathan, if another agent ran this contest and you subsequently received (and recognized) one of the five selected queries, would the fact that the partial had been posted on the internet taint your view of the submission in any way?

Second question: Would the voting results influence your decision to ask (or not) for the full?

Nathan Bransford said...

Peter-

No and no.

Mira said...

Okay this is just too interesting. Darn you, Nathan.

Love the video, very funny.

Love that you're doing this!! Kudos to you - sounds really fun.

The odd thing is, right now, I'm busy typing a paper that's due in four hours. And it's a critique of research studies.

So, I'm in that mode, and I have some concerns/suggestions about your design. :)

Are you open to my comments about that either here or by e-mail? Or do you pretty much already know it, and prefer to just go with what you've got as a sort of mini-scientific test?

Either way, it's cool and sounds fun.

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

Nathan, you better do this contest again. In, say, three months. =) Maybe then my first thirty pages won't be in ruins. But, I do have a great query...I hope.

Can't wait to see how this all plays out.

D. G. Hudson said...

Good Luck to all participants! I'll just watch from the sidelines. (and offer my voting).

Debra Driza said...

What an awesome contest--can't wait to read the entries! Thanks for doing this, Nathan--a good way to prove agents aren't *really* insane (or...are they? :D)

Nick said...

Count me in on the agenting front. Now, what have I done with my glasses and tweed jacket?

Francis said...

Oops, I didn't send it as an attachment! Sorry :-(

Looking forward to read those queries. Query Shark is barely able to quench my thirst!

Great event, thanks for organizing it! Lost's a rerun this week, we should have one more extra hour to read entries!

J.J. Bennett said...

Nathan must the book be finished? Or can we use something we are working on for the test?

Nathan Bransford said...

j.j-

Doesn't have to be finished.

Chibi said...

Wow, this sounds so cool. I'd be incredibly tempted if I had anything even remotely close to that stage. It should be really interesting to see what comes up.

Moira Young said...

Nathan, are you going to create a cut-off point, or can we submit all day? (Asks the one on her coffee break at work who would rather submit something in a non-frenzy after she gets home.)

Nathan Bransford said...

moira-

No cutoff point, but I'll probably pick them sometime late tonight.

Jaycee Adams said...

BA*D! You do this now, when I'm in the middle of rewriting my story and haven't got a tolerable beginning any more... And no query-writing talent to speak of... And I'm busy visiting family and friends I haven't seen in years... And I'd better get a 3-month raincheck or I'll never hold my breath until I turn blue again!

Rot in heck, Nathan. May cats jump on you while you try to sleep. May dogs never do what you tell them. May you live in interesting times.

[/hatemail]

Have a good day.

Marilyn Peake said...

Your contest sounds like fun! ... although to be truly scientific you would need a random sample of writers that include non-readers of your Blog and judges that are trained as literary agents. :)

PINKY AND THE BRAIN - that was one of my family's most favorite cartoons ever. LOL. Love the opening lines!

Anonymous said...

I think there is a small flaw in this experiment. Since your primary audience is writers, their tastes will differ from the general population. This experiment would be more interesting if you had a wider population of readers.

Nathan Bransford said...

As I said, it's a semi-scientific experiment - it's a very small sample size, there's no control group, etc. etc. etc. This is just so people can get a sense of whether they think queries and sample pages correlate in quality.

Entertainment and educational purposes only!!

Polly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dara said...

Sounds fun! I shall be an agent this round :)

Plus that video makes me smile. Takes me back to elementary school...

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan,

Sounds like fun! I did notice that you called this "A Sort of Scientific Test of the Query Process". I wonder, now that you mention it, who the control group might be. :)

Mira said...

Nathan - okay. I do have an eensy suggestion....which I'll say really fast so you don't get too irritated and that is to pick randomly from the same genre.

But either way, no big.

And I promise that's the last you'll hear from me on that. It's just terrible timing, since I'm frantically typing a paper on this topic as I speak.

The whole thing sounds very fun, and you're undoubtedly putting in alot of extra time to do this, which is appreciated.

I'll look forward to the entries - good luck everyone!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

But we don't know ahead of time what the genre is going to be?

Looking forward to stepping into your (impossible to fill, because you are really a robot from the future) shoes! :)

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it save you some time if you told us the genre? Or am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

Um, crap -- I just entered but didn't redact my name from my query -- was I supposed to, no, wait, you will, right?

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

I'm not sure what the current genre breakdown of WIPs is, so rather than trying to guess at which genre is going to be best represented (for a larger random sample size) I figured I'd see what comes in and then whittle down from there.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Yeah, I'll redact names.

Em-Musing said...

Are you going to tell us the genre you're selecting?

Katy said...

this is an awesome idea -- i am excited to read! also, you are going to get several hundred volunteers, i bet. hope you weren't planning to get any work done this week...

Mira said...

Oh for goodness sakes. I made a suggestion that you were already following. Lol.

That's funny.

Gosh. Hope I didn't do that in my paper too.

Bet I did. :)

Fun, Nathan. Your blog is so fun.

Leah Petersen said...

I love this, if nothing else, to see what others are doing with queries and try to figure out how to get mine right. Can't do too much of that.

Margo said...

What a great idea. No queries from me, but I'm up for the reading, voting, and learning!

jamesg said...

Nathan

'I'm going to choose one genre from which to select the five queries...'

What's the Genre?

Chuck H. said...

Okay, I'm in, query and pages sent and everything. Lookin' forward to the agenting part.

I loved Pinky and the Brain. I still have an awsome T-shirt my kids gave me for Christmas with the Brain on the front.

WV: bermer - combined bummer and berm as in when you swing a little wide on a curve and hit the edge of the road. Bad for motorcycles - bermer!

J.J. Bennett said...

I'm dieing to see what ends up coming in and is posted. It's like Christmas morning and I get to unwrap gifts!

J.J. Bennett said...

I hope there's not an ugly Christmas sweater in the bunch...

Other Lisa said...

Great, another procrastination opportunity... :D

Joseph L. Selby said...

It's great that you love your job. I am not so masochistic as to want to be an agent. The last Agent for a Day reinforced this notion. :)

Kristi Helvig said...

I'd love to be an Agent for a Day, so while I won't enter myself, I can't wait to see the entries.

@ Margaret Yang. Jodi Anderson wore your Maass-keteer hat while introducing Donald on Sunday - it was hilarious! :)

Liberty Speidel said...

As someone who's been working on her query lately, I'm all over this contest! Just hope my genre is the one that gets picked! Thanks for the opportunity.

Mike Jastrzebski said...

I'm looking forward to test driving your job. My guess is that it will be a lot harder than we think.

Kimber An said...

I'm Pinky! Narf!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Aw. I was all excited about dancing on Friday.

Sun Up said...

I am excited. This was so much fun last year. I can't wait. -bounce bounce bounce-

I'm not submitting anything. I JUST JUST started back on my own manuscript...but goodness...I would love to have submitted something. My query writing needs a bit of brushing up. It's pretty good...but I'm a perfectionist with certain things.

Oh..Nathan this is just the next best thing to dipping hot McDonald's fries into a strawberry milkshake.


Crap...now I want that. And taco bell.

Josin L. McQuein said...

DangerMouse is better than Pinky & the Brain any day. He had an eye patch!

Are you getting many entries, Nathan?

WriterGirl said...

Very exciting! Can't wait to read the queries and pages.

Emily Anderson said...

After reading a few blog posts about putting your work online, I'm leery of submitting myself (maybe I'll change my mind as the day progresses). Either way, I can't wait to see what you pick and come back and vote.
I love Pinky & The Brain.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing the genre will be YA.

Flint Ory said...

My only regret is that I missed this last year! What a great idea for a contest!

Rick Daley said...

This should be fun, I'm eager to read the entries.

Narf.

Jaycee Adams said...

I know what the genre will be. I'm not saying, so as not to jinx it. I think it'll be obvious once it's revealed and you'll all kick yourselves.

Wow, two early comments for me!

Ee Leen Lee said...

I love Pinky and the Brain
let's take over the world!

Cynthia Reese said...

The Husband and I adored Pinky and The Brain ... thanks for the reminder!

And bless you, all good agents everywhere, for your job is a hard one and so under-appreciated!

Fawn Neun said...

Interesting idea... can't wait to see how these come out.

Sarah said...

Guess what I'll be humming the rest of the day?

Elaine AM Smith said...

Oh, yeah! Learning Day, again? Er...
maybe not ;)

WV: primp? It took a bit more work than that.

Caledonia Lass said...

Jaycee... My beginning is intolerable as well. Just send it, it is an experiment after all, right?
I sent mine. I must be the insane to have sent it.

Kelly said...

Can't wait to see the queries! This should be a lot of fun.

Yat-Yee said...

Sounds like a great plan! Can't wait to compare notes.

And, Friday we will all dance.

Sage said...

I'd love to submit, but I think 30 pages is a LOT to be posting online. I'm not worried about people stealing the work, but I am worried about whether the work would be considered "published" at that point.

Chrystal said...

Well, I'm hoping to throw my query into the public consumption/semi-competition fire. This will be my first time out, when is the last day for submissions? and will there be an acknowledgment of receipt?

Nathan Bransford said...

chrystal-

I'm going to choose them sometime tonight, and no, I'm afraid there won't be acknowledgment of receipt.

P.A.Brown said...

At first I was going to submit my query and pages then I realized my novel might be a little to raunchy noir with a lot of language and racist language (it's a historical 1929) So I'll just come around and check out the ones that get posted.

Chrystal said...

That's fine Nathan, I'll check back tomorrow or Wednesday to see how things are progressing. Good luck in your selection process.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I do wonder if 30 pages is too much to post online?

Mary McDonald said...

Okay, so I'm trying to get my entry put together, and my nine year old daughter keeps talking to me. "Look, Mom! It's Justin Bieber! Can you find that youtube video of (insert some teen idol)?"

I finally had to ask her to please let me finish, that I was trying to enter a contest. Her eyes got big as saucers. "What can you win?"

"If I'm really lucky, maybe an agent."

Her face fell. "Oh. I thought you might win a DS Lite." (I won one a few years ago and she got it.)

So, sorry Nathan. You rank lower than a DS Lite in my daughter's eyes. ;-)

Nathan Bransford said...

I don't feel that posting an excerpt is going to compromise anything you plan to do in the future, but everyone should make their own determination, and if you're concerned no need to enter as we have plenty of entries.

K. E. Carson said...

I'm really excited for this. I sent my query in. I really hope I'm picked. :) If not, I still think this is a great experiment.

Kate Lacy said...

I'll volunteer to play agent this time around. We're hassled about playing on the computer with personal papers while we're supposed to be teaching America's youth to save the universe from humankind.

ryan field said...

I love observing these things. I always learn something I didn't know.

TiffanyD said...

I have submitted my stuff but I'm fairly sure it won't be my genre that is picked. Nevertheless, just screwing up the courage to email all that junk to you, Nathan, has made me feel very daring and brave! :)

Emily White said...

Excellent...excellent...

*said in my best Mr. Burns voice*

William said...

Yay, first time I commented on this blog!

This sounds like fun. I'm going to submit my query, even though I'm not ready to really send it into an agent. Too bad my genre probably won't be picked.

Go Pinky!!

Helen said...

Writing a query is a different skill from writing the book. I look forward to seeing how other writers handle the challenge.

Amanda said...

Okay, so I'm only posting on that Pinky and the Brain bit! HAHA! My cousins and I still quote Animaniacs!

Remus said...

Darn it. Every time you have an open call like this, Nathan, I'm on travel and can only post through my iPhone.

Love to join in, but I'll have to wait until next time...hopefully.

pensees said...

Looking forward to it. What a great way to get feedback on a query!

Anonymous said...

Dang I missed the deadline.

I guess the world shall never get to see my social commentary masterpiece with five strong female characters, blown to shreds by the winds of change: when one of their members, (pardon the pundit) has to adapt to life before during and after a sex change operation occurs among the small seaside town's group of five fellow travelers: its the best version of Freddy Kruger meets The Bronte sisters currently surfing the market. An explosive cliche ending of mass slaughter revealed on the first three pages and slowly resolved through flashbacks, diary readings and gritty black and white surveillance videotapes. Sheik modern disgusting. A must read for wackos everywhere.

Ms. Writer Thang
(Critic/Agent At Wily Hasben Agency)

OK....

I'm not a woman but I play one on TV and I'm sure you'll recognize the tagline "Mom its my birthday."
Yikes I'm an agent.
To much pressure, to much pressure,
to much pressure: sedate me already!!!

Steppe said...

Maybe you took the Brain and Pinky theme to serious Anon. The Zen of Critique is more in line with the task.

Kimber An said...

I made the deadline!

Unfortunately, I corrected a mistake just before I sent it, only to realize afterwards that I'd left a glaring mistake in its path. And it was only on page four. (bangs head on desk) Oh, I hate it when that happens.

I sent Mr. Bransford an email about it, so maybe it won't be in the running after all. Oh, well.

I won't be heartbroken. I'll just have a bruised forehead. (kidding!)

It'll be fun for everyone and I'm sure we'll learn a lot too.

Ted Cross said...

Darn, that was too quick. I would have entered if I had seen this faster. I would love to see what the community thought of my first 30.

Kate Evangelista said...

Aww, I missed sending in mine. Oh well, I'll vote.

Anonymous said...

Nathan - any chance of having separate polls for "most liked" and "most likely to sell"?

(I think there can be overlap, but the two are definitely not the same.)

mpe

Jaycee Adams said...

Thanks Caledonia Lass, I probably should've done it anyway, but I really feel it's not ready for prime time. I might've driven someone to insanity. And then trying to compose a query letter on such short notice when I've barely been able to understand the Shark's teachings as of yet. No, I'll take my lumps and wait 'til the next one.

I got the word out to one of my friends who IS ready for primetime, and I'll live vicariously through her. She promised me a steak dinner if she wins. She will. Or I'll dump a few tons of dihydrogen-monoxide on all of San Fran during the next rainy season and see how they like it. That stuff is dangerous if you breathe it in liquid form!

Diane F. said...

Very cool contest Nathan! I am new to the blog and happy to be here! My manuscript is not quite to the 30 page mark....but I sent you a query and attached it just the same. If it doesn't qualify for this contest, that's ok, I will happily read the ones that do, and patiently (well sort of : ) wait my turn!

Claire Dawn said...

Contests just keep getting better!

Kathleen MacIver said...

Neat idea! Make sure you adjust the meta tags to keep the google bots from indexing those 30x5 pages, though, or their first 30 will be permanently floating in cyberspace, retrievable through quite a few different methods.

Harbinger of Truth said...

"Crystal Blue" is a novel worthy of your time. I sent you a sample chapter and summary as part of the contest.

ms.gail said...

Been busy as a long-tailed cat on a porch full of rocking chairs. Missed the deadline uhmmmm.....
ms.gail

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