Q: Can one actually make a living as a writer without acheiving a megalomaniac dream’s of fame?
Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Good question. But what is “a living”? And where? And how good? And … Really, this is a question better directed to working writers.
Q: When it comes to YA specifically, do you have any guidelines in mind for what you want? (i.e., word count, age range, topic, morality…)
Well, the “morality” question is one we don’t have any clue as to how to address. We disdain moralistic fiction, disdain moralistic people (even John Gardner in his woefully ill-advised and specious On Moral Fiction, though we kind of sort of adore Grendel and much of his other work), and feel that good writing is, by definition, moral.
As for word count, age range, topic … if you know the realm of teen fiction (and please say that you do), you know that there is no set answer for any of these things. Word counts tend to be on the higher end—circa 75,000 words—though there are some teen novels that are so spare and short that they are like long short stories (for example, Angela Johnson’s stunning The First Part Last). Super-long manuscripts are very off-putting and a sign that the author likely hasn’t edited herself.
But the answer: There are no guidelines and easy answers, sorry. Your story will be as long as it wants to be, about who and what it wants to be about.
Q: I know you’re new as far as a company goes, I couldn’t find anything regarding your actual “founding” date, but maybe that’s because you’re so new that you want to keep things on the low-low until you get a few years under the belt.
Tempted, here, to point to this newfangled wonder of the internet, Google: Just type in “Upstart Crow Literary” and the third, fourth, and fifth entries link to things that give the company start date, more or less. But for the record, we declared ourselves “in business” on 1 August 2009. We’re not hiding anything. Or if we are, are doing an exceptionally poor job of it.
Q: Some writers actually function well when given a specific assignment. As an agent, would you ever consider providing a plot summary and general story guideline for a writer to pursue?
This is more the job of a packager. We market and work with our authors on their projects, not dictate to them which ones they should be writing. For marching orders, look to book packagers and write-for-hire projects from publishers, not to us.
Q: Some agents don’t respond to a query if they are not interested. Is there ever a reason Upstart Crow would not respond to my query or status check inquiries at all, even with a form rejection? (Assume query was confirmed received.)
There could be a delay in a response if the person queried has been traveling or direly swamped. But generally, we will get back to you within a month to two months.
Q: How do you feel about prospective writers making contact with you via Facebook, or Plaxo, or Goodreads, or LinkedIn?
We dislike it mightily. We love to connect up with others who love the things we love (assume I mean children’s books), but such connections are tenuous at best. And the email functions of those programs are not the proper route to use to make a query. Your query isn’t so important (sorry) that it needs to be looked at along with those pictures of our friends’ dogs/babies/weekend outings/what-have-you. Trust that if you query us through an email on Facebook, we will just delete your email. Life is too short.
Q: Would you prefer to receive a manuscript submission before or after a conference both you and the writer are attending?
After. There likely won’t be time to read your manuscript before the conference, and then we’ll have that deliciously awkward moment in which you wonder why we haven’t read your 350-page novel in addition to the ten-page critique sample. And we’ll explain that there wasn’t opportunity, and that we felt it was more important to read and critique the paid conference submissions before addressing those submissions.
Q: Is a “no thanks” from one agent a “no thanks” from the whole agency?