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Queries and Agents => Literary Agents => Topic started by: justwrite on October 01, 2007, 02:50:30 PM

Title: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: justwrite on October 01, 2007, 02:50:30 PM
SB asked me if I could "leak" this out about his agency, Donald Maass and what they are looking for from month to month. So have at it...Apparently it changes from month to month. You heard it here on Querytracker, first!

http://www.maassagency.com/thismonth.html
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: joanjunkmail on October 01, 2007, 02:53:05 PM
interesting take on plot - it oddly coincides with the youtube patrick posted earlier today....
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: Patrick on October 01, 2007, 03:20:32 PM
Holy Cow!  That is one specific list.
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: audal on October 01, 2007, 03:59:17 PM
Holy Cow!  That is one specific list.

 :agree:

Luckily, I have had an idea on the shelf that fuses several of their needs.  Tell me what you think - It's a Huck Finn-like ghost story fantasy featuring a Muslim detective rafting down the Mississippi with an idiot savant dog.

I just hope no one else has written such a book.

Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: Patrick on October 01, 2007, 04:08:57 PM
Throw in the fact that the main character is black and has a magic ring, and I think you have a hit.
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: Chelc on October 01, 2007, 04:39:02 PM
seriously? basically they're "looking for" rewrites of old classics?
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: audal on October 01, 2007, 04:48:58 PM
seriously? basically they're "looking for" rewrites of old classics?

It does seem like a fairly uninspired wish list... But hey, they're the ones who know the market.  We're just hoping to join the club.

So... I'm toying with another high-concept project for the agency...

An African-American noir novel that weaves in scientists, raft trips, magic and Muslim dogs and is about today’s underclass, illegal immigrant anti-terrorism ghosts.

Am I getting close?
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: Cole Gibsen on October 01, 2007, 05:22:26 PM
seriously? basically they're "looking for" rewrites of old classics?

It does seem like a fairly uninspired wish list... But hey, they're the ones who know the market.  We're just hoping to join the club.

So... I'm toying with another high-concept project for the agency...

An African-American noir novel that weaves in scientists, raft trips, magic and Muslim dogs and is about today’s underclass, illegal immigrant anti-terrorism ghosts.

Am I getting close?


 :rof2: Only audal
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: audal on October 01, 2007, 05:35:40 PM
seriously? basically they're "looking for" rewrites of old classics?

It does seem like a fairly uninspired wish list... But hey, they're the ones who know the market.  We're just hoping to join the club.

So... I'm toying with another high-concept project for the agency...

An African-American noir novel that weaves in scientists, raft trips, magic and Muslim dogs and is about today’s underclass, illegal immigrant anti-terrorism ghosts.

Am I getting close?


 :rof2: Only audal

Thanks.

I'm tentatively calling it Sherlock Finn and the Call of the Color Purple.

But as always, I'm open to suggestions.
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: Patrick on October 01, 2007, 05:54:09 PM
As we've talked about before, they don't really want original.  They want stuff with proven sales records, that is just barely different enough to avoid plagiarism.
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: audal on October 01, 2007, 06:12:10 PM
This the great shame - the call for manuscripts that are simultaneously original and derivative. 

I guess the trick toward fitting in is to tell the derivative story in a unique & fresh voice?

Seriously, though.  Senshi - you're midwest - Are rafting trips down the Mississippi still all the rage?  Because I feel like I'd get laughed off of the slush-pile if I were to submit a query with such a journey as its center.
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: Cole Gibsen on October 01, 2007, 08:53:36 PM
Well if you changed it from rafting to tubing and made the main characters extremely drunk while they were doing it - that would be more accurate.
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: Miss Java on October 01, 2007, 09:30:21 PM
This the great shame - the call for manuscripts that are simultaneously original and derivative. 

I guess the trick toward fitting in is to tell the derivative story in a unique & fresh voice?

Seriously, though.  Senshi - you're midwest - Are rafting trips down the Mississippi still all the rage?  Because I feel like I'd get laughed off of the slush-pile if I were to submit a query with such a journey as its center.

I live 2 miles from the Mississippi.  Maybe I should go sit by it and get some inspiration.

Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: joanjunkmail on October 01, 2007, 09:38:01 PM


I'm tentatively calling it Sherlock Finn and the Call of the Color Purple.

But as always, I'm open to suggestions.

that's another pinot-splatterer, that is.  aud, i'm sending you the computer repair bill!
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: joanjunkmail on October 01, 2007, 09:44:18 PM
but, hold on - reworking classics isn't a bad thing.  ask william shakespeare, for instance - he did it all the time. i actually like the idea of taking a classic and making it relevant today - much as I dislike foreign language theatre without subtitles (basically, elizabethan drama), i actually GOT romeo and juliet when clare danes/leonardo dicaprio did it, and let's not forget west side story.  it's just that these folks seem to be taking classics that had something to say and reworking them into shallow page-turners with that all-important 'new and improved' twist. 

the question is:  will they take it if it's also a well-written piece of actual literature?  if the answer's no, then i think we can snipe away without remorse.

just a thought.
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: Miss Java on October 01, 2007, 10:59:13 PM
Quote
I live 2 miles from the Mississippi.  Maybe I should go sit by it and get some inspiration.
There's a thought. It worked for some fellow named Clemens.  ;)

But how does one work fantasy into it...maybe the lockness monster coming out of the Mississippi? 
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: justwrite on October 01, 2007, 11:05:06 PM
Phew..don't slay the messenger!
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: audal on October 01, 2007, 11:31:56 PM
Phew..don't slay the messenger!

OK, JW - you're off the hook ;D  It's just frustrating - the whole battle betwixt originality & psuedo-plagiarism.  My Hollywood years will so full of executives basically looking to remake the last blockbuster.  I felt I'd get more freedom in publishing, but to see this just disheartens a bit.  Won't slow me down, won't make me alter the course of my story, just makes me say, "Ugh.  Another obstacle."

And then I'd go like this:  :bang: :bang: :bang:
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: LeahClifford on October 02, 2007, 10:04:51 AM
Yes, they're all idiots there.  No one query until at least November.  Don't bother at all...


 I'll be swooping in with my contemporary ghost story by the end of the month!  :clap:
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: Legionsynch on October 19, 2007, 09:09:01 AM
This is from Jennifer Jackson's blog, and sheds a little more light on what they're looking for by a "contemporary ghost story."

The "ghost story that's truly contemporary" seems to have netted some interest but people are confused about what was meant by that. I asked Donald Maass for clarification and with his kind permission, post it herewith:

So, what do I mean by a “truly contemporary” ghost story? Remember the Amityville Horror? When Jay Anson’s novel hit in 1977, it shocked in part because it introduced a haunting into a contemporary (then) suburban home. What, then, in 2007 would be a contemporary setting in which one would not expect to find a haunting? I would love to read a (well-written, of course) novel about a malevolent spirit in a mall, perhaps with a night security guard protagonist? Can you see the ghost animating toys, mannequins, shopping carts, etc? It’s always a challenge to frighten jaded readers. There are tricks to it, including long and deep build up with bridging conflicts to keep us reading until we’re thoroughly sucked in before the horror starts. (Read Jaws.) Once hooked, the unexpected can help overcome the yawns induced by old houses, fog and other clichéd devices.

What about a high tech office building? A house-techno nightclub? A NASCAR track? What about ghosts that manifest through iPhones, JPEG’s, California closets, etc.? Also, what about living protagonists who aren’t ghost hunters (yawn), suburban moms (yawn) or other obvious choices? What about skateboard dudes, ska musicians, hip-hop grrls…people you wouldn’t have met ten years ago? I wonder if there are any ghost novelists who’ve got the personal knowledge or research dedication to make such things detailed, credible and genuinely frightening?

One thing I’m not anxious to read is yet another conventional haunted house novel. Although there are wonderful classics (e.g. Hell House), the job of making that sub-genre fresh and chilling is going to be next to impossible. It would take Richard Matheson pull it off.
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: LeahClifford on October 19, 2007, 09:49:38 AM
Ah crap. Thanks Lege once again for smackin the dreams down.  :rolleyes:
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: audal on October 19, 2007, 10:10:59 AM
Well, if you ask me, pretty much the majority of those attending NASCAR races are already possessed by something demonic...

I'm pondering a project about an office temp who goes haywire and takes over the entire office.  It's called Lord Of The Files.
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: joanjunkmail on October 19, 2007, 03:36:23 PM
Well, if you ask me, pretty much the majority of those attending NASCAR races are already possessed by something demonic...

I'm pondering a project about an office temp who goes haywire and takes over the entire office.  It's called Lord Of The Files.

that's very very good - very aud-esque, and i am going to steal it on tuesday when i go into my temp job...which, btw, MIGHT turn into a permanent job (woot).

but, my boss on tuesday will hear the idea for 'my' new book.... can't wait to see his face!
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: Legionsynch on October 20, 2007, 08:43:31 AM
Well, if you ask me, pretty much the majority of those attending NASCAR races are already possessed by something demonic...

I'm pondering a project about an office temp who goes haywire and takes over the entire office.  It's called Lord Of The Files.

Awesome.
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: JeanneT on October 25, 2007, 12:59:08 AM
And of course let's not forget that you should be a male writer--or have a male sounding name anyway.
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: joanjunkmail on October 25, 2007, 05:25:10 AM
And of course let's not forget that you should be a male writer--or have a male sounding name anyway.

that was recent discussion (on a different thread) and I still am not sure that holds true in a cross-the-board sexism way.  it might in a genre way, is my conclusion - thrillers need to be male authors, romancers need to be female, and mysteries can be both?  as far as 'literature' goes, the majority of the booker prize finalists in the last few years have been women (surely a new phenomenon).

i dunno - did QT come to a consensus on this?
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: JeanneT on October 25, 2007, 09:45:12 PM
No, you evidently didn't read the Maass website.

Quote from the Maass website:

A literary romance with a heroine for all time and a tragic ending, preferably written by a man.

As for sexism in publishing in general, that is another subject. It exists and Maass is hardly the only one to  prefer male authors but this thread is about Maass and what they are looking for. They make it pretty clear they are looking for MALE authors.

Edit: And although I hardly think Maass cares, it did indeed cause me to cross them off my list of agencies I would submit to.
Title: Re: A message from Stephen Barbara
Post by: joanjunkmail on October 26, 2007, 06:27:17 AM
no, i didn't read the Maass website, but their preference for a male author in a romance genre is hardly proof of sexism - it could very well be an attempt to be different from crowd, as a way to get publicity. 

i don't read romance novels, but if i did, i probably would not choose ones written by a man, not unless it was recommended by someone i knew.  not deliberately, but subconsciously i would choose a female writer, and i'll bet i'm in the majority with that.

sexism within the industry is endemic, for sure - no argument there. i just think one needs to look at the situation with a more discerning eye to mount a valid critique.