John Berlyne Interviewed at NCWGF…

A couple of months ago, John Berlyne was interviewed at the National Creative Writing Graduate Fair. In the interview John talked about the importance of doing your research when looking for agents: he is ‘looking for professional people who are serious about what they want to do.’ Check out the clip, above.

The NCWGF is an annual event for aspiring writers, where they can ‘meet with literary agents, attend workshops and panel discussions run by publishing professionals, and meet like-minded writers from the North and beyond.’

Upcoming, Brief Submissions Window

We will be open for submissions from Thursday 26 June for a limited time.

Please ensure that you read our updated submissions guidelines, which can be found here. We are unable to consider any submissions that do not follow this brief.

At the moment we are only looking for completed works of fiction over 75,000 words in the following categories:

  • Crossover fiction – especially thrillers with a sci-fi, fantasy or horror twist.
  • Horror – both adult and YA – so long as it’s about the characters
  • Accessible science fiction  – no tech-heavy, military or hard SF
  • Thrillers
  • Epic fantasy

Some Thoughts Ahead of Our Submissions Window…

I know, I know…. it’s been ages and ages and ages since we last opened for submission. Months. Maybe even a couple of years!

This has not been a plot or a conspiracy against authors – rather it’s simply down to manpower.  We’re small agency – like REALLY small. We’re also a busy agency – like REALLY, REALLY busy! With only so many hours in the day, running the affairs of the incumbent client list has had to take precedence over actively extending it. We’re also kept well supplied with material from our associate agencies in the US.

It’s worth noting that most reading publishing professionals do takes place in their own time. It’d be great to spend our days loafing around on sofas reading about magic and robots, but it ain’t so, alas.  That’s how we spend our evenings and weekends!

Stuff has, of course, slipped through the net, some of it we’ve even taken on (and sold!)  – but anything that has come to our attention has done so via personal recommendation and serendipity. I’ve been to a number of conventions over the last few years – Worldcon, World Fantasy, Eastercon, Fantasycon, and one of the reasons I attend is to make myself available to writers even when we’re closed for formal approaches. This pays dividends for both agent and prospective client, so if there are conventions or gatherings you can get to where industry pros go, it can be worth your while making the effort. And they’re fun too!

We’re looking to open in mid-June (how long we’ll remain open we’ve yet to confirm). We’ll mainly be focussing on genre fiction – SF/F/H and all the permutations thereof – and mainly on the more commercial end.  We’ll offer up further refined detail on our requirements in the coming days and weeks.

One super-important thing – please, please, please read our guidelines. Actually, let me say that a bit louder – READ OUR GUIDELINES!! This is not something we say because we’re being superior or over-fussy. Rather it’s to help you give your submission the very best chance of being considered properly. There’ll be a lot of competition for our attention during that open window. Subs that ignore the guidelines will not be as high on the priority list as those that follow them to the letter.

More anon…

Submissions Open for Authors Attending This Year’s Worldcon…

Following last year’s experiment, we are once again opening submissions specifically for folks who will be attending Renovation, this year’s Worldcon being held in Reno, Nevada from the 17th to the 21st August, 2011.

John Berlyne will be attending and will also be appearing on a number of panels. Here are the relevant and *very specific criteria* for submitting. If you can’t tick ALL  these boxes, unfortunately we will not be able to to consider your work…

  • This submissions window is open *ONLY* for people who are attending Renovation. Please include your membership number in your covering email. If we don’t find you on the membership list, we won’t be able to consider your work. Telling us that you are ‘intending to attend’ won’t cut it – sorry!
  • Please follow our submission guidelines. If you are unable to follow the guidelines, we will be unable to consider your work.
  • We’re looking for all shades of  commercial genre fiction – be it SF, Fantasy or Horror or any such permutations thereof (there are many). That said,  the most important factors for us are the excellence of the writing and the commercial hook, rather than how many rockets or wizards or ghosts appear in the story, so look to our Submission Guidelines and the About Zeno page to gauge our tastes.
  • You should submit ONLY if you have a finished novel-length manuscript to send, should we wish to see it. We’re not interested in reviewing your work-in-progress or the novel you’ve written a bit of.
  • Note that we reserve the right not to ask to see your work should your pitch email not appeal.

Good luck! See you in Reno!

The Biggest Mistakes Writers Make When Querying Literary Agents…

I came across this superb article this morning via my news feeds and thought it so ‘right-on-the-money’ that I’ve added it to our Resources page.

The Biggest Mistakes Writers Make When Querying Literary Agents

This is gold dust, folks! It’s almost impossible to overstate how important and relevant *every* *single* *thing*  mentioned in this article is to the process of querying an agent. READ IT!!!

Since we opened for submissions earlier this month, we’ve been swamped. Indeed if you’re waiting for a response, consider that reading each query takes time, as does responding to each and that we have plenty of things we need to do in our working day that are a higher priority than our submissions pile. This is a fact of life – deal with it!  Be patient. We’ll get back to you in due course.

Zeno Now Accepting Submissions…

We’ve opened for submissions and (presuming you don’t overwhelm us) our intention is to stay open to the end of the year. As ever, we’ve a wish list (see below) that you’d be wise to consider when sending your stuff in. If your project doesn’t fall into any of the categories below, do think twice before sending it in. Unless it is utterly, mind-bendingly brilliant, chances are it’ll get bumped down the reading list and it may be a long, long time before you hear from us.  If your material does fall in line with our current preferences, do please, please, PLEASE follow our submission guidelines – if you don’t, the likelihood of a rejection is virtually guaranteed! Here – very specifically – is what we’re currently looking for…

  • Traditional Fantasy – in short we want to find the next Peter V. Brett. If you’ve read his work, you’ll know where in the field it lies and that in order to compete with this we’re only looking for work of the very highest standards of excellence. Additionally it means we want projects with a wide commercial appeal that we can sell into English and Non-English speaking territories – so don’t send us your six volume, 250k word fantasy epic, because it’s unlikely a French or German publisher will want to pay for it to be translated!  Peter’s work falls into a very specific fantasy niche, so please don’t send us urban fantasy or stuff with angels or vampires or zombies – that’s not what we’re after at the moment.
  • Thrillers – Science Fictional elements are fine, but we don’t want hard SF books right now. Ideally real or near real world – if you’re familiar with 24, we’re after that kind of high-concept, seat-of-the-pants thing. A fast-moving, high-stakes, big-budget page turner. A ‘big’ book – not necessarily in word count, but maybe in body count!
  • Any lady crime writers out there? We’d really like to hear from you!
  • YA is a buoyant market at the moment – we’re looking for something that rings the ‘dystopian‘ bell. The nearest analogue might be THE HUNGER GAMES. We’re definitely looking for YA – SF, perhaps post-apocalyptic, but very definitely nail-bitingly exciting. A teenage, contemporary LORD OF THE FLIES would be nice.
  • We’re also in the market of ‘quality’ non-fiction.. and I’ll leave that definition tantalisingly loose, though do please note the meaning of the word ‘quality’!

Submissions For Worldcon Folks Now Closed

Thanks to all the Worldcon attendees who sent their stuff in during the recent submissions window. There was an interesting mix of fantasy, SF and horror, along with a smattering of YA material thrown in for good measure and it was really great to get acquainted with all the current trends in the Aussie genre scene.

I’m really grateful to everyone who contacted us and will be happy to chat through my comments if you come and say “Hi” in Melbourne. Do note though, that we received lots of submissions and so don’t be insulted if I ask you to remind me which one was yours!

I don’t yet have a confirmed schedule of my programme commitments, but all being well they’ll be posted on here before I leave for Australia, so you’ll know where to find me at the con.

Submissions Open for Authors Attending This Year’s Worldcon…

Are you going to be at the Melbourne Worldcon in September? Are you an unagented author based in either Australia or New Zealand who will be attending? Are you an unagented author from somewhere else, but somehow independently wealthy enough to be going to the con? In either case, are you any good??

It’s looking increasingly likely that I’ll be attending Aussiecon 4 later in the year – volcanic ash permitting! My intention, having schlepped all that way, is to return with the pick of genre talent in my agently pocket, thus we’ve decided to open for submissions, but only for authors who will be attending the con. (Don’t try and hoodwink me – as I’ll be checking the membership roster to see if you’re on it! If you’re not going to be at Worldcon, your submission will not be considered in this window.)

What am I looking for? Well, all areas of genre fiction basically. That means SF, Fantasy and Horror and the various combinations/permutations thereof. As always, the salient factor is that of the excellence of the writing and the commercial hook, rather than how many rockets or wizards or ghosts appear in the story, so look to our Submission Guidelines and the About Zeno page to gauge our tastes.

Come on Australia and NZ – let’s see what you’ve got!

Top Ten Query Mistakes…

It’s entirely possible that we’ll be opening for submission at some point soon, so anyone considering sending stuff in to us should be sure to take careful note of our Submission Guidelines. We get so many queries – almost simultaneously – when we open the gates, that authors would be wise not to count themselves out by simple errors of formatting and suchlike.

I just recently came across this post – The Top 10 Query Mistakes – as posted on the blog of US agent Rachelle Gardner. Read and learn, people.

I’ve added Rachelle’s Web Site to our Resources page under the ‘Agents Who Blog’ heading. If anyone has a writer’s resource they feel should be on our resources page, so please le me know via the comments.

Closed Says Me!

Thanks to everyone who sent their submissions in to us during the recent “open” window. Not so much thanks to those out there who did so blindly, without bothering to read our specific submission guidelines! If you’re wondering why we passed on your particular offering it may just be becuase you didn’t send in what we asked for.

We’ve got enough reading to keep us busy for some weeks now and want to give proper consideration to those manuscripts we’ve asked to see – so we’re closed again until further notice. We’re still particularly interested in YA and tradtional crime type  stuff, so when we do get round to re-opening (not before please!), that’s what we’ll be looking for.

Open Says Me!

We’ve tentatively opened up once more for submissions – and I’ve not the faintest idea how long we’ll be able to remain thus. I fully expect the usual deluge and once my mailbox looks like it’s about to burst, I generally close knowing that I’ve enough material to keep me going for a good few weeks! If not months!!

I’m really hoping to come across some great YA material during this round of submissions  – this is a market that continues to flourish and publishers are hungry for quality material to add to their lists. I’d also like to get some thrillers and crime stuff in as these markets remain buoyant in the recession, with folks wanting to escape from the daily grind by reading of either the adventures or the woes of others! Whatever the reason, there are publishers looking for books in all these areas.

Of course we remain committed to genre fiction, but with the caveat that we will only consider material of the absolute highest quality- so if you’re sending in science fiction or fantasy, be very conscientious about not giving us any reason to reject your work – this generally means getting your enquiry right for starters. Read our Submission Guidelines.

Finally we also interested in serious non-fiction – take a look at our client list to get a clear idea of what we mean by this. We handle work by Iain Sinclair, Mark Adkin, Tobias Capwell, Andrew Hodges, Sir Roger Penrose, Rachel Lichstenstein &etc.

Submission Status now CLOSED.

Thanks to all who sent in their fantasy novel submissions during the recent brief window of opportunity. We opened for a exactly a week and received just under fifty fantasy submissions. Of those fifty I have called for maybe eight samples (which I’m now working through) and so far have only requested one full manuscript. Tough odds, huh?

Interestingly, I was surprised at how few of the submissions we received fell into the area I’m looking for – **and specifically requested**. Not a single submission hit the nail exactly in the head (as outlined in my previous post) – which is worrying. There was also a disproportionately high number (I’d say about 80%!) of stories that centered on angels, or some sort of fight between angels and demons, or a conflict between heaven and hell. This a kickback from the urban fantasy trend which shows no sign of abating – but my feeling is that the market is already saturated with this stuff as it is – and publishers are currently buying up books for publication in 2011 and 2012 when it will be even more saturated. I may be wrong, but at some point the bottom will drop out of the market for this type of fiction and – from what I’ve seen this last week – they’ll be nothing to fill the gap!

Gimme something else, folks! But only when we re-open, please.

We’re OPEN for *specific types* of submission…

From our Submissions Guidlines page…

As of June 10th, we are currently ONLY looking at novels that fit comfortably into the fantasy genre. By this we mean traditional, high, heroic, dark, historical, or urban. Do some research if you don’t know what these subdivisions are.

Carefully note that we’re not looking for anything that attempts to redefine the genre or reinvent the wheel. Nor do we want derivative rehashes of your favourite Sword and Sorcery stories. Be aware that the tale of the great quest to recover the ancient, lost ring of hochty-mochty and thus bring harmony to the warring dwarf kingdoms is extremely unlikely to excite.

In short we want intelligent and commercial fantasy fiction. Need examples? Look at some of the recent market leaders, both in critical and commercial terms… THE FIRST LAW TRILOGY by Joe Abercrombie, Brent Week’s NIGHT ANGEL TRILOGY, Patrick Rothfuss’s THE NAME OF THE WIND, Brandon Sanderson’s MISTBORN sequence, Peter Brett’s THE PAINTED MAN, Steven Erikson’s THE MALAZAN BOOKS OF THE FALLEN  – all of these are excellent examples of what I want to see … and if you’ve not heard of any of these, don’t bother contacting us! Note no mention here of classics like Tolkien, Brooks, Donaldson or even GRRM. We are looking for submissions from folks familiar with the current, cutting edge of market. So, if yours is the next name on this stellar list of fantasy talent, drop us a line.

Submissions. For anyone wondering…

… why we are still closed for submissions, or why we’re taking so long to get through stuff sent in before we closed, take a good, hard look at this article by Shawn Speakman entitled The Busy Agent that appeared on Suvudu today!

Zeno Currently CLOSED to Submissions

For the time being, we’ve closed the door to unsolicited submissions.  Since our formal announcement of the company back at the end of November 08, we been absolutely swamped with submissions, receiving far more than we can comfortably handle.  Once we’ve cleared the back-log, we’ll post a status update here and welcome your queries.

Note that while we’re closed, this status will be reflected on our Submission Guidelines Page. Please note that if you send anything in during this time, it’ll just get binned!