Ask Daphne! Open Thread

June 3rd, 2011 • Kate

Delphine-ChaneacAs we slowly work our way back up to full speed, and the return of our weekly Ask Daphne/About My query posts, I wanted to take a week to open the blog up to your questions. Sure, I did something like this not that long ago, but I need to take a running start at things to get going with any kind of momentum.

So, in the comments: all your questions, to be my followed by MY answers. If you have a big enough question, I may pull it out for an Ask Daphne post another week, but otherwise, I’ll do my best to answer everything in the comments. I’ll answer whatever you throw at me — my thoughts on romance in YA, agency cliques, shoes, baby Beauregard Mozark Unfeasible-Implausible, aka Beau, epublishing, trends… you name it!

And just to make things extra special, the most interesting question will win its commenter a copy of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs!

Have at it!

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39 Responses to “Ask Daphne! Open Thread”

  1. Writertay Says:

    How would you officially distinguish a novel between YA and romance? I have been told a couple different things regarding my WIP and I don't know which way to go.

  2. DaphneUn Says:

    In general, "romance" as shelved in the book store refers to adult romance. YA is an age range, not a genre. YA books often contain romance — or science fiction, mystery, thrillers, fantasy, etc.

    What age are your main characters? That's usually the first and easiest way to decide if your novel is YA or (adult) romance.

  3. tmlunsford Says:

    My MC is 26-7

  4. DaphneUn Says:

    Yeah, that doesn't sound like YA to me. Sorry!

  5. Emily Says:

    Dear Kate,

    In your last post, “Are You Ready to Query,” you stated, “Don’t say ‘there’s nothing out there like my manuscript’ because that either speaks to a lack of knowledge about the market, or an attitude that’s not going to be easy to get along with.”

    I get that, for the most part. But a writer must differentiate her work in some way. Is there a better way to say that a novel is unique? That it addresses an issue or tells a story that hasn’t been done in quite the same way before?

    Thank you for the open thread opportunity!

  6. DaphneUn Says:

    I'm going to fall back on trite sayings, and say that the best way to convince an agent that your novel is unique is to prove it with your writing: i.e., Show, don't Tell. Though, of course, you need to introduce your novel in such a way in your query letter that an agent reading it actually goes on to the pages. In that case, you should just describe your plot, or the issue the novel addresses in a unique, compelling way. And be aware of any other novels that do deal with the same issue — you might be able to convince an agent that your's is different enough by saying something like, "While Book X deals with Issue in this way, my novel does Something Different."

  7. Trina Says:

    I see kind of this tug of war in the media when it comes to content (drugs, sex, sexual orientation, suicide, physical/sexual/emotional abuse…) Some feel it's too much and there should be less. Some feel that parents should do a better job of censoring their own children rather than expecting the media to do so. This has me thinking of the challenged book list. As I write, I wonder how much is too much? My characters are true to life. I'm not that far removed from my teens so I remember what we felt, what we talked about and my characters mirror this. But then you look at the challenged list and they are challenged for real life reasons. Like they are scared for kids/teens/young adults to read about the things they are actually experiencing. As an agent, do you feel that some subjects are too hot to handle? Is it irresponsible to, for example, write about teenage drug use or sex?

    SIDENOTE: Ever since I was a teenager, I would look up the challenged list for reading material. those were ALWAYS the best books! πŸ™‚

  8. DaphneUn Says:

    Trina, answering your question on the heels of the ridiculous Wall Street Journal article about the "depravity" of YA novels, and the subsequently brilliant worldwide trending of the #YAsaves hashtag, convinces me even more than before that there are not subjects that are too hot to handle in books for teens. I don't believe that it's my place as an agent — or the media's — to censor a writer's expression. If a parent wants to say a certain book isn't appropriate for their child, fine. But saying that any books should be removed from a library or a bookstore because of objectionable material is irresponsible parenting, as well as censorship. You don't know when a book may be just the thing to save a teen, whether it's as an escape from boredom, or something more sinister.

  9. lalibrarylady86 Says:

    Do you remember what shoes you were wearing when you met Maureen Johnson?

  10. DaphneUn Says:

    It was in college, and I was a prep for most of those four years, so it was probably either my two-tones Bass bucks or plaid Keds.

  11. Emily Says:

    Sorry, one more. πŸ™‚

    Piggy-backing on what Writertay said …

    In a recent yalitchat there was a question about whether stories set in college are considered YA. I think there is so much opportunity for college coming of age stories that are relevant to the YA market, but I don't see a lot of it. Are college age stories YA? Or does it depend on the story?


  12. DaphneUn Says:

    For the most part, because of how most YA books are marketed and sold, college-set books have not been widely successful — or those that are are more the exception than the norm. As I mentioned in answering the question during the YAlitchat, I think part of that is because college students, for whom college-set YAs would be the natural audience, are often too busy with reading for classes to have time (and funds) for pleasure reading. It's weird though, since for most of the rest of children's books, the publishing industry assumes readers are reading up — which would assume that high school students would be very interested in college-set books. But perhaps the experience is just so different, that it doesn't work — or just hasn't yet been proven to work well.

  13. Krista V. Says:

    Ooh, good question, lalibrarylady86! You must be going for that copy of MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN:)

    If I can think of a good question, I'll be back…

  14. Edi Says:

    There was some discussion on Twitter a couple of days ago about whether the YA classification isn't essentially the same thing as classifying some books as being for women. Maureen said that she thinks it's different because "…the YA classification does help YAs find their books, though, in libraries and stores. The same cannot be said of gender." (!/maureenjohnson/status/75628044261404673).

    I don't understand this distinction. I asked her about it and pointed out that I read very few YA books when I was a kid, despite being a voracious reader. I was totally into nonfiction and classic literary fiction. (Yeah, I was a huge nerd.) I realize that I wasn't typical, but that's the point, really. Every kid is different just like every woman is different, and sometimes kids and adults like what stereotypically "belongs to" the other group, just like men and women do. What does "their books" mean?

    MJ didn't answer me and that's cool, and I'm not asking you to speak for her at all. I'm merely asking YOUR opinion on this question. Do you think that classifying books as being for women is the same as classifying them as being for young adults? If so, do you think it's a good thing or bad, and why? And if not, why not? What's the difference?

  15. DaphneUn Says:

    As I said above, YA refers to an age range, and within it contains vastly different genres and styles. I think that helping teens find books that might appeal to them is hugely different than classifying books for women — or men, for that case. In trying to divide books by gender, rather than genre, someone is basically compartmentalizing people's tastes — only women like romance, only men like spy novels. Just because that may be their experience, it doesn't speak to everyone's, and the moment someone says this is a women's book, instead of describing it in a more inclusive way, they're telling men not to read it. I don't want anyone to feel like they can't read a book because of where it's shelved.

  16. Alwyn Says:

    Dear Daphne,

    If a query states something along the lines of "My novel might appeal to fans of Maureen Johnson and as such I am hoping it might appeal to her representation" or "My Novel might be described as Stephanie Perkins meets X-Men" (I don't exactly know what Stephanie Perkins meets X-Men would look like, I just saw the movie last night. Maybe Mutants scaling Notre Dame. Anyway…) do you think this would work in favour of the Query or against it? I.e would you take this as a sign that someone has done their research or do you think you are likely to be tougher on the pages if the query is comparing the work to one of your authors.

    Thank you,


  17. DaphneUn Says:

    I actually recommend this for your query, so long as you can make your case as to WHY you're making the comparison. To me, it proves that you've done your research — more so than if you might just make a comparison to a random popular author, where you might not know if I like their books or not.

  18. Sophie Jo Warner Says:

    Dear Daphne,

    Will an agent specifically list chapter books (like 6-10K)as something they're looking for, or do they just assumes author's will know it falls under "childrens" or something equally ambigious?



  19. DaphneUn Says:

    If someone says they rep all children's books, than that likely would include chapter books, whereas for other agents who specifically list different kinds of children's books, if they don't list chapter books, than I wouldn't query them on one.

  20. Lalibrarylady Says:

    I was serious about the shoe question. You did say we could ask anything.

  21. DaphneUn Says:

    And I answered! I love shoe questions!

  22. Anne C Says:

    How would you feel about a YA novel with a female MC the age of 22 and in graduate school? Don't teenage girls like reading about what their life will be like in a few short years? I was always glad to read about girls that were a little older than me. Gave me an idea of what to expect.

  23. DaphneUn Says:

    I'm afraid in today's market, that just wouldn't be considered YA. It would likely be published as adult, and possibly marketed to advanced teens, but it doesn't sound like something a YA editor (or agent) would consider for their list.

  24. Kimberlee Says:

    Before a novel is accepted for publication, is it ever reviewed by a third party focus group (for YA this could be a group of fifty randomly selected readers between the ages of twelve and eighteen) or is the decision mostly made in house? I understand publishing is partly a subjective business endeavor and would love to know if there are research tools besides sales records to drive the direction of publishing trends.

  25. DaphneUn Says:

    That's super unlikely. If an editor is uncertain is a book is right for their list, chances are they'll just say no. If they love it, and want to acquire it, the only opinions that matter are those in-house — sales, publicity, marketing, other editors.

  26. Sarah Maury Swan Says:

    Are all epublishers trade publishers or are some self-publishing types? Do some have a print department also? What do the print trade publishers think of books that are originally published as ebooks? Thanks and congratulations on your beautiful baby and red shoes. Sarah

  27. LisaAnn Says:

    Hi Daphne! How do you think urban fantasies will fare in the coming years? Are werewolves, angels, fairies, zombies and mermaids on the downward spiral, or do you think they have the staying power to last through the current dystopian craze?

  28. DaphneUn Says:

    I think urban fantasies will continue to flourish, though the specifics may change from season to season.

  29. Amy L. Sonnichsen Says:

    Daphne, Do you judge a person based on their shoe choice? In other words, would it be prudent for an aspiring author to go shoe shopping prior to attending a conference where you will be a guest? πŸ™‚


  30. DaphneUn Says:

    Despite my love of shoes, I wouldn't dream of judging an author on their footwear! I may appreciate what you're wearing, but I'd never make a decision on representation based on your shoes. It's all about the writing!

  31. Mike Hays Says:

    Could you share about the process between author and agent for the second (and all subsequent) books after their initial polished manuscript was accepted for representation by the agent? Is there more bouncing ideas off one another? Do you want to stay out of the ms development until first draft is done or even final draft? Is the relationship as different as the individual authors and agents themselves? Curious to how the long term author/agent relationship evolves. Thanks.

  32. DaphneUn Says:

    Mike, I'm going to pull your question out for my next blog post. Thanks!

  33. kt literary » Blog Archive » Ask Daphne! About Book #2 Says:

    […] Friday’s Open Thread post, Mike asked: Could you share about the process between author and agent for the second (and all […]

  34. Anne C Says:

    Have you ever read Real Person Fiction? As opposed to fan-fiction where stories about Gotham City or Star Trek are embellished upon, RPF includes a known person in a fictional world. My YA novel is this. Is this something you could ever see yourself representing…or does it just depend on that ever-present bottom line: simply having a good story with good writing?

  35. DaphneUn Says:

    I'm not sure I understand. Can you explain further? Is the fictional world of your own creating, or are you using someone else's creation? Is the known person a historical figure or present-day celebrity?

  36. Anne C Says:

    Fictional world is my own, as is the MC. Known person is a present-day celebrity, the 2nd MC. And who knew Real Person Fiction existed, right? I didn’t…at least not before I researched the hell out of it. Did you know its origin is credited with a story about Eleanor Roosevelt? I didn’t, either. I didn’t even know if Real Person Fiction was legal! (Thankfully, it is.) If I had to re-write my book using Fictional Actor, I could. The idea would still work. However, I think a real actor makes the story more relatable…more tantalizing. Fictional Actor, though perhaps more convenient, may cause the story to lose some luster. But RPF is not common, so tell me your thoughts on the subject…

  37. kt literary » Blog Archive » Happy Pub Day to MISS PEREGRINE! Says:

    […] Ransom! To celebrate, as promised, a copy of the novel to the best question from last week’s Open Thread. While Mike’s question inspired a whole other blog post, I have to give the book to […]

  38. Robyn Oakes Says:

    Could you weigh in on the agent-as-publisher brouhaha?

  39. Amanda Says:

    What are your feelings concerning YA narrative poetry?