Be Miss Snark

Dear Miss Snark,

I write a combo of space opera science fiction, science fantasy, and romance all loosely wrapped in humorous chaos. Normal agents and editors do not say send me your space opera science fiction, science fantasy, and romance all loosely wrapped in humorous chaos. However I do enjoy the heck out of getting lost in my own stories and others seem to enjoy reading them. My question, am I pounding sand in my desires for finding a publisher/agent. If not, whither mightest I goest? The obvious answer mightest doest because I have not the cluest.

Thanks for firing your random neuron for me,


Twill said...

Okay, here's what I think Miss Snark would say in a polite frame of mind - like, say, immediately after seeing Oceans 13:

Write a great query with a fantastic hook that captures the flavor and essence of your book, and send it to the proper agents that might want to represent it.

Determine those agents by elimination - anyone who represents neither SciFi, Fantasy, nor Romance is out. Anyone *reputable* who represents all three of those is way in. Interpolate accordingly.

Query, rinse, repeat.

In the meantime, write something else, then repeat with that.

Anonymous said...

Queryest abnormalest agentsest. *grinest*

alternatefish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MelodyO said...

Hoo boy, do I know the answer to this one, as my novel is a comedic sci-fi thriller romance wrapped in a mystery. Heh, that was fun to say.

You're right, your book is all those things. Lucky you! Whichever genre best fits the agent you're about to query, use that one in the query letter. Ta dah! Be sensible: if they don't handle fantasy, don't try to pretend there's no fantasy in your book. The elves give it away every time. :0)

PS Miss Snark, I got my first request for a full this week! Thank you for all your snarky advice.

The Anti-Wife said...

Have you not been paying attention to this blog and Miss Snark’s excellent advice? I believe this has been addressed.

If you think your novel is fabulous and you have checked and double checked it for typos and grammar, written an incredible query letter and synopsis, and researched agents who represent novels in the range of your genres, send the queries. If it’s good, you’ll hear from them. If not you and your friends can continue to enjoy your writing in the privacy of your own homes.

Victoria Strauss just wrote an excellent piece called “Learning the Ropes” on the Writers Beware blog. Go there and do your research!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, what twill said.

I'm writing a YA novel that takes place on a space station orbiting Earth. Some might call it science fiction, but really, I don't think qualifies. The most important things are that you (we) write well, represent our work well in queries, and send our queries to the apporpriate people. Oh yeah, and that we include SASEs so that we can keep our noses above the nitwittery waters.

Maya Reynolds said...

Wow, an opportunity to play Miss Snark for an evening. Don't own any stilettos, but at least I'm not barefoot. No poodle with a tam either. Will have to make do with a cat in a hat. Bacardi instead of gin. No photo of George Clooney. Maybe a TV Guide with Hugh Laurie on the cover will do.

From the writer's letter, it sounds as though he INTENDED to write a cross genre novel, not that he is so unfocussed the book just wanders around like Moses in the desert.

I'm a little uneasy about that "others seem to enjoy reading my work" comment. That doesn't sound like a hard critique by other writers. It sounds more like "my mother and my best friend said it was great." If that's the case, the writer needs to find a critique group he trusts.

It also sounds as though the writer has not yet tried submitting a manuscript to agents or editors. As Miss Snark says, good writing trumps all. If I'd already put the book through the mill with other writers, I'd be inclined to query widely and see what kind of professional feedback the manuscript gets. Include four or five pages of the book with each query letter so the agent actually sees a sample of your writing and doesn't just turn it down on the basis of all the genres.

If the feedback is a stack of form rejections, I'd go back and read the second paragraph of this comment again.

If, however, the agents offer friendly advice, saying, "I like this, but have NO IDEA where I would market it," there are other alternatives.

The writer might do well to seek an e-publisher, or this might be one of the few times when the writer should consider self-publishing.

I mention e-publishers because they are often more flexible than traditional print publishers about what they will accept.

In addition, I'm convinced there are three times when self-publishing makes sense:
(1) When the writer just wants a book for family and friends and has no commercial aspirations; (2) When the writer is strongly connected to a niche market that is guaranteed to want the book; and (3) When the writer is trying to sell a manuscript that New York just doesn't know what to do with.

As examples of #3, I'm thinking of two women who were writing erotic romances back in the late '90s when no publisher would touch them because they didn't know what to do with such graphic language.

Tina Engler founded Ellora's Cave in order to sell her erotic novels. M.J. Rose, who had extensive marketing experience self-published "Lip Service" on the Internet and set about marketing it herself. The book was selected as a Literary Guild/Doubleday choice, the first e-book and the first self-published book to receive such treatment.

However, I would not hare off to self-publish without first getting some solid feedback from writers I trusted and/or agents and e-publishers. There are enough bad self-published books on the market already.

Good luck whatever you do.

alternatefish said...

So, having reread my earlier and now-deleted comment, I seem to have come off as meaner than I intended. Sorry. It's finals week and I haven't slept much and "cluest" kinda sent me over the edge. "Clue" is a noun. Don't do that.

All these other lovely Snarklings have given excellent, non-mean advice, so I'm just going to leave them to it and try to get this paper finished by tomorrow at 8am. Good luck with your humorous chaos.

Simon Haynes said...

I too write science fiction humour. However, my books were pitched as SF, sold as SF, and then printed and marketed as SF. Humour never came into it, except in the accompanying blurbs.

It's hard enough hitting one target. If you set up a whole row of them you're just making life difficult for yourself.

Tell them it's SF. The query letter, synopsis and first few pages should take care of the rest.

(There's another catch with mentioning humour: if you say it's a screamingly funny book and your prospective agent doesn't even crack a smile, you lose.)

Anonymous said...

Write well. Query widely.

Unknown said...

If the romance is central, call it paranormal romance. If not, call it science fiction. And then let the agent decide which publisher is most likely to buy it, and the publisher decide what genre to market it as.

Anonymous said...

Science fiction. All the rest of it can be conveyed in the hook.

David Macinnis Gill said...

If none of the normal agents and editors will read your genre/sub-genre tome, then send it to the abnormal agents and editors. There are more of them, anyway.

Bernita said...

What Simon said.
The humour and the romance are a plus. Let them discover it for themselves.

LouthMouth said...


Glenda said...

1. Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction.

2. Science fantasy (not at all the same thing as fantasy) is a subgenre of science fiction.

3. Romantic subplots are common in science fiction.

4. Humor, if not precisely common, is not unusual in science fiction.

In other words, what you write is...science fiction. Query agents who represent...science fiction.

In your query, that's all the genre description needed. Title is a NN,000 word science fiction novel. If you absolutely must, you can use the words "humor" and "space opera" later in the body of your query, but ideally, those qualities should be apparent without explicitly saying so.

Kelly McCullough said...

I write and sell novels that have been variously tagged with the words fantasy, science fiction, humor, romance, and cyberpunk. My publisher Ace (Penguin) calls them fantasy, which is what I tend to call them as well, but they do partake of the others and it has even been suggested that I started my own sub-genre of cyber-fantasy. Pick the dominant thread, or whatever you're most comfortable calling your work and send to agents who represent that kind of work. If the book is good it will find a home.

Anonymous said...

I second all of the excellent advice above, especially the suggestion to find a good critique group before you submit.

To expand on what melodyo said: Don't mention all of those genres in the same query letter. Pick one genre (depending on agent) and let your hook convey the rest through your description of character, plot, and setting.

Write your hook in the same voice as the novel, if you can. IMHO, this is especially important for humour. (That doesn't mean you should write your hook in first person. Just make sure that the agent won't expect a dead-serious novel from your tone.)

Look through the Snarkives for the various Crapometers. They'll teach you a lot about what to do and what not to do in a query letter.

Read widely in your genre to find out who is currently writing stuff like yours, what they are writing, and who their agents and publishers are.

Best of luck!

Andrew said...

Imagine you're walking into a bookstore. You're just a customer, looking for something to read. Which direction would you walk if you were looking for a humor-sci-fantasy-romance? If you can imagine a bookstore customer doing that, then market it as such.

If you can't imagine a bookstore customer doing that, there's probably a good reason. (genre) fans go to the (genre) section looking for (genre) books. People won't buy a book if the story doesn't give them a good reason to.

Maybe it would be best to take a few years away from the genre-mashup and develop your career. Prove that you can write a damn good fantasy novel. Or prove that you can write a damn good romance novel. Then, once bookstore customers have grown accustomed to your name, then they'll be interested in seeing what you can do when you mix it up.

Anonymous said...

I've asked a similar question, and I've always been told to first query agents that handle all the genres (if such exist) and then to query agents that handle some of the genres.

However, rewrite each particular query to make it sound as if your multi-genre book is mostly of the genre(s) that that particular agent handles.

The worst they can do is reject you. When you've got a multi-genre book, there's only so much you can do to try to adhere to agent genre guidlines. After you've made an honest attempt to partially adhere, just stop obsessing. Let the rejection process do its work.

Helen DeWitt said...

[word verification for the day is yeqch]

No idea what Miss Snark would say. To me this looks like a case of "Show don't tell."

Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett are the only sci-fi writers to have reached a mainstream audience of millions, because they were very very very very funny. So any agent who found the next Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett in the slush pile would be very very very very happy. But it would NEVER do to say "I'm the next Douglas Adams" or "I'm the next Terry Pratchett" because anyone can say that, and most of the people who do are very very very very unfunny.

If you are very very very very funny, agents whose preferred genres bear a family resemblance to one of those you mention will be very very very happy to hear from you. So I'd pick a handful and write a very very very very funny query letter AND synopsis and fire 'em off. If the agent reads and laughs OUT LOUD, this will not go unnoticed. If the agent rushes out of his/her office to read out favorite passages to colleagues, who all roar with laughter, this will not go unnoticed.

This does not work if the submission is unfunny.

I am not a number! yeqch! qffmdht!

Unknown said...

Find some authors whose style/content is similar to yours.
Find out who their agents are.
Ta da!

Anonymous said...

And if you cannot find anyone that comes close to yours, you are in trouble.

Other author wannabes, don't make it so hard on yourselves. Science Fiction can be sold, but is not red hot right now. Sci fi/romance/space opera/comedy is really not something editors are begging for.

Anonymous said...

I would first like to say that everyone else has given damn good advice, and probably know more than I do.

I'm not sure what "getting lost in my own stories" means, but if it means that you're enthusiastic about your stuff, great. Keep that up.

I think there are a couple of things you could do about your problem:

1- pick the element that you think is the most prominent. Then join a writers group and have people you don't know tell them what they think it is (without you telling them what you think it is).

2- query agents who represent one or two of the generes listed and change your pitch to match that genere.

I think that many books, regardless of the genere, have elements of humor and romance. So, I would say sci-fi's your best bet, unless the romance drives the plot. And remember that any agent you might work with could change the genere to fit a pitch they are making.

And, no matter what you do, remember that twisting your words to sound Shakespearian (sp?) is never cute/funny. If I do say so myself, it sounds rather nitwitish.

Maya Reynolds said...

Visit Bookseller Chick's blog for Sunday to read Marta Acosta's essay on genre-bending.


Anonymous said...

Douglas Adams

I mean, he did get published, somehow -- with the same title and how many different stories (the title being of course, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe).