Sunday, August 15, 2010
Sunday Feature 1
Q & A with Hannah Rogers,
Novice Literary Agent
Will a 500k word count impede my chances of a film deal?
Les Miserables has over 500,000 words. I haven't read it, because hello, it has over 500,000 words. But it was made into a movie and a musical, so the word count didn't hurt this Victor Hugo guy.
How would Hannah Rogers answer the commonly heard complaint that old novels (and very successful old novels) could never be published today because in this electronic world, the expectations of agents and editors are either so high, or so commercial, or so literary, or so success-oriented that a novel such as Moby Dick would be rejected as insufficiently introspective?
I, for one, wouldn't reject Moby Dick just because it's insufficiently introspective. For one thing, I don't even know what that means. But I do know I don't like authors using two consecutive "in" words. Variety is the spice of life when it comes to prefixes. I'd still reject Moby Dick, because I understand it's about killing whales, which nobody wants to read about.
The current trend in visual literature like movies and TV shows has lots of exposition explaining the backstory or the entire setup of the episode. This is usually in the form of dialogue and to use NCIS as an example is typically the explanation of how the most recent deceased subject died, what their rank or social position was, and how they might have come in contact with the latest killer, terrorist, bad guy or whatever. Should I mimic these successful shows in my fiction?
Some of my favorite TV shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance are on opposite NCIS, so I've never seen it. I will say this: Bruno Tonioli and Adam Shankman are my favorite dance judges. They're handsome and funny and I wouldn't mind getting into their pants! There, I've said it.
Is it a mistake to use a neologism in a query? I've got what I think is a great query ready to go that includes the word "werepire". Would that be confusing or do you get it right away?
A neowhat? Are you sure you didn't make that word up? Don't try to put one over on me, or I'll put you on my lists of agenttricksters and wordmakeruppers. Werepire I don't get, although backwards it spells eriperew, which is the sound this annoying bird makes outside my window every morning at six o'clock. Wait, is it a pirate that turns into an animal when the moon is full? That's my guess, a pirate that turns into a parrot!
Do you believe in the latest trend of dedicating your autobiography to a body part like Marky Mark dedicated his to his penis?
His p***s?! Are you another agenttrickster? I'm not answering until I see first-hand what Marky Mark dedicated his autobiography to.
So once I submit my manuscript and you find me a publisher, how long will it take to become published?
That depends on too many uncontrollable things to give an answer. On another subject, Have you considered making out a literary will?
For how long do you weep after writing at length to inform passionate would-be authors that their submissions have been unsuccessful, BITCH?
Whoa, Nelly! I only put the queries in my Yes pile or my No pile or my You Decide pile. Then my secretary, Gollum, gathers the piles and writes to the authors. As for your question, he's weeping pretty much every time I see him.
How many agents work at your agency?
Three: Me, myself, and I! I was hoping someone would ask that so I could say that. But since nobody did, I asked it myself. Of course there's also my unpaid intern Chelsea, but I only hired her so I'd have someone to go to lunch with when I don't have any client lunches on the calendar and also so I'd have someone to gossip with about other agents. There are a lot of other agents; some days me and Chelsea don't get any work done!
Your submission guidelines say to just send the first sentence. My question is this, should I focus more on crafting a powerful opening word, or do you like reading a powerful end to the sentence? I mean, have you ever read the first word of a novel and known right then and there it was all downhill and thrown it out?
The first word should be the main character's name if it's an interesting name like Manuel Peach. If it's a boring name, start with her occupation: Undercover caterer Jane Smith . . . The last word should be the word "murder," even if there's no murder in the book. For instance: Manuel Peach had always wondered what it would be like to imagine committing a murder. Or: Undercover caterer Jane Smith knew two things: she was in love with ace homicide detective Zack Martinez, and her corn strudel had not been used to commit murder.
If my husband offers to slip you his F***ing pizza-coated "manuscript," you had better say no if you know what's good for you. PS, How do you get your bangs to do that, Hon? That's so cute.
That's Mitch. No one touches my hair but Mitch, Hon.
Hannah Rogers is president of the Hannah Rogers Literary Agency. She regrets that she is unable to answer every question submitted, as she has six-figure contracts to negotiate.